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Not screwing up Mount Bromo without a tour

Updated: 25th August 2015

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Mount Bromo is one of the most famous volcanoes in Indonesia, located in Eastern Java. Given its popularity as a tourist destination, you would think it pretty easy to access solo but sadly that isn’t the case. As with much of the country, public transport is not as easy to navigate as some of its neighbours.

On first look, it may seem easier to jump on a tour from Bali or one of the big Java cities such as Yogyakarta or Surabaya. In reality, doing Mount Bromo without a tour is relatively easy with a little planning and the perfect stop before or after visiting Borobodur and Prambanan temples.


If you want to make it to the famed ‘viewpoint’ for the sunrise that the crowds descend on then you need to rise early. When I woke up at 4 am, cursing at my alarm clock, I knew it was too late to make it to the top.

Suddenly, rocking up late the night before to do Mount Bromo without a tour seemed a bad idea.

But as the sun crept out, lighting up the mist and clouds that were now below me, I realised perhaps this was going to work out better than planned.


The Bromo Sunrise View

So at 2:30 am when I should have been up and hiking to the top of Mount Penanjakan with everyone else I was blissfully snoozing away. By 4 am I realised that the two-hour trek to the top to see sunrise was not going to happen.

This is the same viewpoint all the jeeps head to on the tours, also totally doable by foot or asking a local with a bike to zip you up. I ended up wandering as far as I could before the sun started appearing and made it to the first viewpoint of the handful that marked up the Mountain.

There were three Indonesians and two tourists to make up the crowd, a bit different from what I have heard the view at the top is like. Needless to say, I was pretty happy with the photos and sunrise I got and managed to avoid the battle for best photo spot that many online reports summarise the highest summit like.

The Sea of Sand

To get to the actual crater and peak into it, you need to cross the ‘sea of sand’. After walking back down the Mountain, or grabbing a lift on a bike, you will arrive back to the village.

From there you can actually walk over the sea of sand in under an hour by taking the path the local horsemen use (right next to the main hotel looking onto Bromo).

Alternatively, for 80k IDR I grabbed a local bike driver to whizz me over there and back. There is meant to be a ticket to enter (about 300k IDR I believe at weekends) although, I totally missed where this was meant to be paid and as such didn’t.  This isn’t the most organised, or regulated attraction, so don’t go expecting any orderly queues for ticket offices.

The crowds taking the stairs to view the crater were insane. As such, others and I just climbed up the sand to get there avoiding the stairs. Just step to the left or right of the main staircase and power through the sand to the summit. Once there get ready to knock a year or two of your life breathing in that stinky sulphur goodness.


Getting There

The train network in Java is pretty affordable and easy to master. You can book tickets online and check timetables here.

Taking the train into Probolinggo from Yogyakarta after seeing the temples there, or from Surabaya is easy enough. Transferring on a bike to the bus station quickly and then grabbing a local bemo (bus) to Cemoro Lawang is simple. Ok, maybe not quite that simple when you throw in the odd scam and lack of information but trust me, it is totally doable.

Getting out can follow the same process, most buses leave the village around 9:30 am from the top of the hill near the main hotels and can take you into Probolinggo (though it might be cutting it fine for the 11 am train transfer). Alternatively, grab one of the share buses that can take you as far as Bali and occasionally leave directly from Cemoro Lawang.

On arrival to the village, you will have to pay the 10k IDR village entrance fee which is fairly common, it was the same as when I visited Dieng in Central Java.

Getting Around

Once you are in the village, getting around is as easy as walking on foot as there is not a whole lot here. You can take some treks through the fields and explore the small plots around but ultimately you are coming here for Mount Bromo and a one night visit should be plenty.

Bromo Sunrise

Where To Stay

There is a fair bit of accommodation in Cemoro Lawang with plenty of (slightly overpriced) homestays and guest houses as well as a couple of larger hotels. As with much of rural Indonesia, online booking has not spread to all accommodation providers. I usually recommend Hotels.com due to their loyalty scheme, though the selection does seem to better on Agoda in this part of Java. If it is not peak season, you should be able to rock up and arrange something on arrival but be mindful, this is an early to bed town.

Want a tour?

If you do decide the logistics or timings, are just easier with a tour there are local operators in most big cities that can arrange this for you. Viator offers an overnight trip from Surabaya which is over priced but which can at least be booked online.


Top Tips

Don’t ride the horses: Another way of getting across the sea of sand is on a horse, however, I am very against animal tourism, especially when it involves breathing in that shit day in all day. These guys look miserable and it’s a practice that needs to stop in Bromo.

Do visit Ijen as well: If you are also interested in visiting the famous Sulphur Mine and Blue Fire of Ijen then my friend Liesbeth has a great guide on doing Kawah Ijen with or without a tour – Most people pick one or the other, but both are unique and well worthy of your time.

Got any more Questions or want to chat adventures? Find me over on Instagram and ask away! Safe travels, Dan

42 replies
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  1. Tonkin-Travel Vietnam says:

    Oh my god, your photos in this post are so stunning and inspiring. They make me desired to conquer Mt. Bromo immediately. You think DIY travel (I mean to this mount) is quite easy, all right? Thanks for the great post!

  2. Alex says:

    Hi dan!!

    Thanks for the great tips!

    I’ll be visiting Bromo end July 2018. Just wanna see what you think about my plan, since you’ve been there before!

    26 July Thursday
    4am train from Surabaya to probolinggo
    Reach Probolinggo around 6.30-7am

    Do angkots or minivans operate this early?

    Say if they do, I may reach Cemoro Lawang at 12pm, and I plan to start trekking Bromo after checking in at a hotel. I plan to see Bromo in the afternoon and then wait for sunset at about 5.15pm.

    Next day I’ll wake up at 3am to see the sunrise and then leave Cemoro Lawang before 11am.

    Does this plan sound feasible to you?

    Thanks a heaps


  3. Marie-William says:

    Hey Dan!
    As I am a woman traveling alone, I am a bit scared of doing this alone without a tour… But I took a look at the price with Viator and it is almost $500 US. That is incredibly expensive!!! How much did the whole thing cost for you (transport, accommodation and all)? Like a $100 US? I really don’t want to spend $500 on a tour it’s just ridiculous… Do you think it’s safe for me to do it alone?

    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Hi Marie-William.
      I’m also wary of answering this question as a man as I know it is sadly different but I know a few female friends who did it solo and had no troubles. Generally, Indonesia and Indonesians are a really friendly bunch, the most hassle you will likely have here is the same as most places, scams for tickets and people harassing you to buy things. I think all in with the buses/trains and hostel it was likely more $60 but that obviously depends where you are coming to and from. Regardless, that tour price is insane, that’s more than my monthly rent was in Bali. I don’t really know any local tour operators in that area but do Google and get some other quotes. Generally most of these things are arranged through Whatsapp in Indonesia, even with some of the bigger tour companies, so don’t feel like it’s a scam because you communicate in that way, usually you won’t pay until they meet you anyway. Another option would be to try and meet up with other travellers nearby and share driver costs etc which again, would come no-where near the $500 cost. If you are in Banyuwangi, Malang or Surabaya, chances are most other travellers you will meet there will also be going to Bromo so a fair few people to share the costs with and then you don’t need to go solo. Have an awesome time when you make it there!

    • Mary Liem says:

      Hey Marie,

      I am not sure if you have went on the tour. There is actually a tour agency called http://www.tourmountbromo.com that does female only public tour. I went on the top and it was quite nice. It ‘s only females so it is pretty safe. Thought you might want to check it out.

  4. Kawah Ijen Tour says:

    hi Dan, nice tips and info. i am Harys from Kawah Ijen Tour Service, here i would to bridge your friend or all people who to visit bromo or ijen, we have special package, we hope we could help to make your ijen bromo tour easier, just email me or visit our web. do not hesitate if you need more information or any assistance,,
    thanks Dan

    • CH Tan says:

      Hi Harys,

      I am a solo male traveler from Singapore who will be traveling to Surabaya fro 13Aug to 18Aug. Will like to join the tour to mt bromo n Ijen crater.

      Mind to send your quotation?

  5. Laura @ Design Think Travel says:

    Wow, great photos and great job of seeing Bromo without using the tour mafia. We skipped Bromo because we were so put off by all the scams and overpricing. It’s almost like there’s a conspiracy to prevent independent tourism.

    We did get an aerial view of Bromo on our flight from Yogya to Bali, so we can kind of say that we’ve seen it!

    • danflyingsolo says:

      Haha. Yeah, the tourist mafia makes everything a bit harder in Indonesia – but well worth it in the end. Thanks for reading :)

  6. Shaun Lee says:

    Hi, its really great that youade it up there without tour! May i know how to book hostel online? And im going there on august, do you think walk in and bargaining for hostel is bit risky?

    • danflyingsolo says:

      Accomodation options are pretty limited, I also went in August and booked online the morning before – I have no idea which website it was on but it was certainly not one of the usual ones, maybe Travel Zoo? There was only two places with rooms still left when I checked so you might be able to get a room walkin but there is a risk you won’t (and it is freezing up there at night!) Good luck and have a great time!

  7. Justine of Travel Lush says:

    I’m really not a huge fan of tours but for some reason I still signed up for the tour when I visited Bromo in February 2014. Worst mistake ever! I took a Jeep up to the viewpoint, waiting with what seemed like a billion other tourists for a good 40 minutes in the cold, rainy darkness. When the sun did finally rise we were shrouded in a thick cloud. I never even glimpsed Bromo from the viewpoint. Visibility was at about 15 feet. It was really sad. All the Jeeps then went down to the crater. And come 9am I looked up at the viewpoint and realized the fog had burned off. Lesson learned in not doing that tour during the rainy season! Next time I’ll do it independently to avoid the crowds and the fog :)

    • danflyingsolo says:

      Oh no! that’s worse than many of the other stories I read! How unfortunate about the cloud, we didn’t even get the fog around the Cauldra! Luckily it’s a lot easier than I thought to do independently. Did you also visit Ijen?

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