Sunrise at Bromo, for Free and Without a Tour

Visiting the Mount Bromo, contemplate the sunrise or sunset, can be done easily for free and without a tour.

First, you need to reach the small town of Cemoro Lawang, find a room and overnight there. If you arrive during the day, I recommend visiting the Bromo crater that day, after the tours left.

I woke up at 3.20am and left to the hike to the top of Mount Penanjakan, by myself, and could be easier. The trek uphill is about 5km long so you need some good 2 hours.
It’s important to have a good torch, proper shoes and warm clothes, its frizzing cold during the night, remember that you are at 2,217 meters above sea level.

Hiking to the top of Mount Penanjakan during the night

First, you walk on the concrete road for half of the journey and then you go into a rocky mountain trail, The hike is not difficult but you need to have a reasonable level of fitness. Its deep dark but using the offline map app maps-me makes the tasks pretty easy, as long as you have a light source with you.

It’s amazing to stop occasionally to look at the starts here, the visibility is just superb.

On the day I did my hike, I only pass through a couple of small moving light points from other travellers. This is not the same route taken by the jeeps (tours) and there are not many people climbing up this way.

After a while, I reached a viewing point that I liked (you will find many) and waited there for the sunrise. Slowly started to get brighter and brighter… It was magical, such a stunning and magnificent view over the caldera with Semeru volcano in the background.

I contemplated the sunrise wrapped in a blanket and stayed a bit longer having breakfast (that I carried in my backpack) looking at the views.

The weather was getting warmer and I went down to town, sat for a coffee, rest and finish an amazing morning.

The journey was tiring but completely worth it.

photography โ€“ all rights reserved โ€“ Ana Rocha

Ijen Crater, chasing the blue flames, without a tour

Ijen Volcano, Acid Lake and Blue Flames

The Ijen volcano is located near the eastern tip of Java island, and anyone visiting the island is probably planning a visit to the vast volcanic region of the Ijen plateau.

This region has three volcanos, the Ijen (2368m), the Merapi (2800m) and the Raung (3332m). The vast majority of visitor goes only to the Ijen.

Hiking the volcano, contemplate the Acid Lake, the Blue Flames and the sunrise can be done easily independently without a guide or a tour.

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Getting There

You can get to Ijen via Bondowoso or Banyuwangi. 

Java is well connected by bus so its easy to get to one of these towns from any place in Java.

To get to Ijen you will need to rent a scooter or hire a taxi. If you are used to drive a scooter, the roads to Ijen are really good, and because you do it during the night there is no traffic, plus the route is quite straightforward and well sign-posted.

At the entrance

Once you arrive you need to go in direction of the building where you can buy the entrance ticket. It costs Rp.100,000 (~ยฃ7.10) on weekdays and Rp.150,000 (~ยฃ10.60) on weekends for foreign visitors.

Ijen – chasing the blue flames

To chase the blue flames its starts with a midnight hike to the crater edge, although is a steady walk up a hill, it’s no easy task.

Once you get to the crater rim, youโ€™ll find lots of guides offering to help you on the way down, but itโ€™s up to you whether to get one at this point, to be fair you don’t need one at all.

Whatever you decide to do, the only thing that really matters is to put the gas mask on and keep it at all times, the sulphuric fumes are toxic, corrodes the skin, stings the eye and cause breathless.

Descending to the volcano crater

When you start descending the terrain turns to boulders and rubbles and its important to take care where you step. The rocky path down to the crater is breaking up because of the number of people walking on it daily.

Be mindful that you will not be the only person doing this journey, the place is completely packed with tourists plus you have the miners making their way back up with their baskets full. Its horrible to see the miners working in conditions that can only be described as hell โ€”a portrait of bone-crushing physical labuor.

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Once inside the crater, you can see the blue flames of the sulphur mine if the weather allows it. The ones I saw where quite small, much more impressive than the flames are the miners work in such harsh conditions, where is almost impossible to breathe.

The ‘Blue Flames’, are Sulphur gas escaping from the walls of a dormant volcano igniting to 300 degrees when in contact with oxygen.

At the time I visited the Ijen, it was really cold and very very windy, that means that the visibility was terrible plus the fumes were blowing in all direction. When the fumes are on top of you, you can’t open your eyes and is really hard to breathe, would I repeat the experience, probably not.

After you’ve explored everything inside the crater,  climb up to contemplate the sunrise overlooking the landscape.

Once the sun is up, the views over the largest acid lake on earth are quite nice, this lake has a pH lower than that of battery acid, caustic enough to dissolve metal, can you believe it?!

The way down from the volcano rim is not easier than the way up, I’m sorry to say it..  the downward slope is absolutely killer on the knees.

Essentials:
  • gas mask
  • rain jacket/windbreaker
  • warm clothes and gloves
  • proper shoes
  • head torch
  • snacks and water

The rest of the Ijen plateau area is worth exploring, with its breathtaking views, countless streams and hot springs and coffee plantations. There are also a few nice isolated settlements.

Ijen6.JPG

If the crowds, toxic smokes are nor for you, you may prefer visiting the magnificent  Mount Bromo.

photography โ€“ all rights reserved โ€“ Ana Rocha