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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. robert says:

    Mount Bromo Tour so really nice, until right now a lot of place for sunrise :
    1. View Poin1 (penanjakan 1)
    2. Perahu Hill
    3. Kingkong Hill
    4. Love Hill
    5. Seruni Point

  2. Ilham Agus says:

    Thank you so much! It’s really great article about Ijen. Anyway, I would like to welcome anyone who wants to visit Ijen at my homestay, I have special deals for it. I can also provide you an up-to-date informations about Ijen. My place is suitable for solo traveller, couple or even a family. Having the entire house for yourself will ensure the privacy you have. The place where you can feel like home & take a break before you continue your journey to Ijen. Immerse in our culture, connect with the people, and enjoy living like locals.

    I’m also offering:
    1. Bike to rent if you plan to go to Ijen by yourself (It’s the cheapest option).
    2. Sharing tours if you want to go to Ijen by car and don’t mind sharing the tour with other people.
    3. Private tour if you plan to go to Ijen by car and want to have the entire tour just for you (The car, the tour guide and etc).

    If you guys are interested you can book my homestay on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/agushiddenhomestay/ or http://bit.ly/Agushiddenhomestay

    However, if you want to book a personal & independent tour guide, I recommended you to book Pak Hamid on ijenwithhamid.com, He isn’t a licensed tour guide, but he’s working like a professional.

    Thank you & see you guys!

  3. Travel Jember Malang says:

    Unique experience and highlight of our tour. Got up early (around 3 am) then transferred by jeep, followed by 45-minute hiking to the volcano crater. This is a place which looks something out of the world. Stunning.

  4. Zarut Suriyaarunroj says:

    Hey Dan,
    I want to explore Mt. Bromo, but I have limited time as I will be flying from Jakarta and reach to Surabaya almost midnight. Then, I may have to leave Surabaya back home on Sunday at 15:00 or even 13:00! I would like to maximize my time around Mt. Bromo and explore the area as much as possible on Saturday, so I don’t know if it is possible to do the tour on my own as I am travelling with luggage due to the fact that I have business trip in Jakarta before arriving in Mt. Bromo.

    At this point in time, I don’t know if I should the following;
    1. Traveling directly to Malang or Mt. Bromo after arriving at Surabaya on Friday night or Saturday at midnight (Depending on how you look at it.) Then, go back to Surabaya on Saturday night.
    2. Because I don’t know if there is train or a bus coming to Mt. Bromo from Surabaya at that late evening, I may have to travel to Mt. Bromo on Satuday morning and come back on Sunday morninjg, but I don’t want to miss flight, so I don’t know if there is a public transportation that I can take from either Malang or Mt. Bromo back directly to Surabaya airport before noon.

    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Hi Zarut,

      When I went, nothing seemed that organised or sticking to a schedule. You would certainly be able to find someone at accommodation there to store your luggage I’m sure for a price, and some of the cafes and hotels have 24hour staff on. I was last there two years ago so I’m really not sure if the buses and public transport options have improved, you might want to look at hiring a driver for a day to be safe or asking with someone who has been more recently.

      Have an amazing time!

  5. Kanika Bakshi says:

    Thank you so much for this informative post. Actually, I am planning a trip to Mount Bromo, I have no any Idea about Bromo but after reading this post I feel Bromo is the amazing place and I will definitely go there in these places.thanks for sharing such informative post.good luck.

  6. Brendan says:

    Hi, I just wanted to say that I found this blog entry SO HELPFUL in planning my travels to Cemoro Lawang. I literally just finished the Bromo sunrise and crater visit and both were amazing! Thank you so much for putting such a detailed helpful guide together, without it I might have been too uncertain to go it alone but it gave me the self assurance I needed and it was defintely worth skipping the jeep tour.

  7. Bine says:

    Thx a lot for sharing your experience! My boyfriend and me wanna see Mt. Bromo as well but I’m not sure if everything will work out for us… we’re arriving Surabaya on a Tuesday afternoon and I thought of doing the trip on our own, starting the morning after. Like taking publics to Cemoro Lawang (or somewhere close as possible) to the sea of sand, walk up Bromo and head back to Surabaya after, on the same day. Do you think this might be possible or too much on just 1 day self organized?
    And how long would be the actual walking from Cemoro Lawang up to the crate?
    Thx for any help :)

  8. Michelle says:

    Hi Dan,
    So glad I found this blog! I’m heading to Indonesia this August and was planning to hike Bromo without a tour. How easy was it to navigate the way up to the top from Cemoro Lawang? Were there signs at all?

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