Last autumn, I headed to Indonesia with a plan to explore Bali, Lombok and Java – all of which were new destinations for me. After a fantastic 8 day learn to surf trip starting in Bali, it was time to leave the water and find out what other adventures Java Island has to offer!
Rainy season is Java is a serious affair, so it's best to avoid the monsoon if you're hoping for those stunning sunrise views over Bromo. During the rains, the sunrise is likely to be obscured by thick fog and cloud, which can feel like a real anti-climax after making the trip to Mount Bromo. I strongly advise you to stick to the dry season in Java, between April to October. During this time, May to August is the clearest, brightest period with the lowest chance rain and fog.
The short flight from Denpasar in Bali across to Malang or Surabaya in Java takes just over an hour. Surabaya is around 90 minutes by road to Bromo, while Malang is a little closer. For most travellers, Malang is the gateway to Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park with its amazing volcanos including Mt Semeru, Mt Batok and of course Mount Bromo.
The sunrise over Mount Bromo is the main bucket list experience, with the low mists rolling around its cone and the sun rising from behind the volcano. If you're after the sunrise experience, you can book an excursion from Malang or stay in Probolinggo, which is much nearer. From Probolinggo, you can even walk to the Penanjakan viewpoint (around 3 hours) or take a jeep before sunrise.
Even better, you can book a little guesthouse in Cemoro Lawang, which is the hamlet on the very edge of the National Park. From here, you can explore the volcanic landscape on foot, with no need for an organised guide. The accommodation is usually more expensive, but it's worth it for the freedom to discover Bromo independently. This is what I did, and looking back, I'm sure I made the right decision.
If you're staying in Probolinggo, you’ll find plenty of minibuses and jeeps that will take you to the small hamlet of Cemoro Lawang on the edge of the National Park, or you can arrange a private transfer (which involves much less hanging around waiting!). Cemoro Lawang is the starting point for climbs up Mt Bromo and has the best viewpoint for early morning sunrise views.
In the hamlet of Cemoro Lawang, on the edge of the national park, I stayed in a lovely little guest house (there are plenty) next to a small ‘warang’ (small local food stall) which served delicious food and hot tea. After some hot refreshment, it was time for a sunset walk to Mt Bromo - the best-known and most climbed volcano in Indonesia, complete with spectacular views.
The walk to Mt Bromo involves a 2000m increase in altitude, so if you’ve been happily travelling around in the warmth beforehand, it’s time to dispense with the shorts and flip-flops. I had to dig out my hat, gloves, coat and walking boots.
From Cermoro Lawang it takes about 45 minutes to walk to Mount Bromo. The volcano sits in the middle of a vast plain called the ‘Sea of Sand’, and as you can imagine, the walk to reach it is reasonably hard going as you’re walking over sand.
Approaching the volcano, I was surprised to see dusty looking steps leading up, so you can peer into the steaming crater. This is one of the most active volcanos on earth which is pretty exciting! The whole experience is noisy, smelly ('eggy', due to the Sulphur!) and utterly ‘otherworldly’ at sunset – a beautiful sight.
After a chilly night’s sleep and a 3 am wake-up call, we were up and ready for our next walk to the sunrise viewing point. Walking this route in total darkness was amazing, guided by nothing but bright moonlight and a fantastic array of stars. The hike to your first viewpoint takes about an hour and a half, and when you arrive, you’ll find some hardy locals are waiting with tea - which is most welcome.
Then, it's a case of waiting patiently for the big reveal; the most beautiful sunrise with perfect, panoramic views over Mount Bromo and the surrounding Volcanos – certainly worth the very early start!
So after my incredible experience at Mount Bromo, it was off to Borobudur; an incredible Buddhist temple which was the main reason for my trip to Indonesia before Sara convinced me I needed to learn to surf.
You can take a leisurely train journey up to Yogyakarta for about £15 – you can buy train tickets from any ‘Indomarket’ supermarket (like a 7-11). I loved the trains; they’re a great way to see the countryside and less dangerous than most Indonesian roads.
Borobudur temple is a beautiful spectacle. It’s a ninth century temple that has survived everything from earthquakes to volcanic eruptions and terrorism. While the area around it is developing rapidly, a visit to the temple still feels like a step back into another time.
Set within lush paddy fields amidst palm trees and volcanos, Borobudur is beautiful at sunrise. I've previously visited Angkor Wat in Cambodia which is also spectacular, and this is definitely on a par.
You can while away a few hours here as the sun rises, and give yourself enough time to enjoy the views and the misty mountains in the distance – I’d spend a few hours here at either sunset or sunrise to see it at its best.
In the same area, you can also see Candi Prambanan (a Hindu temple) and Ratu Boko. I was expecting this complex to be overrun with visitors, but there were equal numbers of tourists and local children on a school trip, which was pleasantly surprising.
I finished my time in Indonesia with a few days in Yogyakarta; a great city with opportunities for some shopping and some to find very cheap massages for my tired limbs. If you’re seeking out Indonesian souvenirs, especially batik items – this is the place to look.
I loved Indonesia, and with all the travelling I've done, I'm surprised it took me so long to get round to visiting Indonesia. This definitely won’t be my last trip Indonesia – there's plenty more to explore on subsequent trips.
If you’d like to explore this part of Indonesia, we can arrange every aspect of your trip, from multi-stop flights that let you see as much as possible, to tailor-made Indonesia holidays and small group trips to Java. Call us on +44 1273320580 or request a quote by email to start planning your trip.