Last autumn, I headed to Indonesia with a plan to explore Bali, Lombok and Jakarta – 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 has to offer!
The short flight from Bali across to Malang in Java takes just over an hour. Once you arrive, you’ll find Malang is the gateway to Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, with its amazing volcanos including Mt Semeru, Mt Batok and of course Mount Bromo.
From Malang, you can arrange an organised 4WD trip into the National Park, which is definitely worth considering if you’re travelling with 3 or more people. It’s pretty expensive if you’re travelling alone, so hiring a motorbike is also a pretty good option. If you’re short on time, this is the quickest way to see Mt Bromo without hanging around for buses.
As I was travelling on my own, I decided to take a bus from Malang to Probolinggo and enjoyed chatting with the locals who mainly wanted to ask me about Manchester United (which is not my chosen specialist subject!)
When you arrive in Probolinggo, you’ll find plenty of minibuses that will take you to the small hamlet of Cemoro Lawang on the edge of the National Park. This is the starting point for climbs up Mt Bromo and has the best viewpoint for early morning sunrise views.
Be aware that this involves waiting for enough people (12) to fill a minibus and also involves bit of bartering, so patience is definitely required. Once the required 12 people have arrived, you’ll be on your way!
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 I had been carting around for a couple of weeks.
I found a nice little guest house to stay in (you’ll find there are plenty) next to a small ‘warang’ (small local food stall) which served serving delicious food and hot tea. After some hot refreshment it was time for a sunset walk to Mt Bromo.
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 on sand.
Approaching the volcano, I was surprised to see dusty looking steps leading up, so you can look into the steaming crater. This is one of the most active volcanos on earth which is pretty exciting! The whole experience is noisy, smelly (egg, due to the Sulphur!) and utterly ‘other worldly’ at sunset – a beautiful sight.
After a very cold night’s sleep and an early 3am rise, we were up and ready for our next walk to the sunrise viewing point. Walking this route in total darkness means you’ll see an amazing array of stars and you’ll be guided by nothing but the bright moonlight. The walk to your first view point takes about an hour and a half to and when you arrive, you’ll find some hardy locals are waiting with an array of tea which is most welcome!
Then you wait patiently for the big reveal; the most beautiful sunrise with perfect, panoramic views over Mount Bromo and the surrounding Volcanos – certainly worth the grueling early start!
There are plenty of walks around this area so I spent the rest of the morning exploring the national park before returning to the ‘sea of sand’. This time I took a comedy (and slightly dangerous) lift home on a motorbike; 3 people on one motorbike, driving over sand is probably not to be recommended, but it was fun!
So after my amazing experiences at Mount Bromo it was off to Borobudur; an incredible Buddhist temple which was actually 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 to Jogjakarta 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 is an amazing spectacle. It’s a 9th century temple that has survived everything from earthquake 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, the temple is beautiful at sunrise. I visited Angkor Wat in Cambodia a couple of years ago and this is definitely on a par.
You can while away a few hours as the sun rises enjoying 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 it to be overrun with visitors but actually there were equal numbers of tourists and local children on a school trip! A must-see whilst you’re in this area.
I finished my time in Indonesia with a few days in Jogjakarta; a great city with opportunities for some shopping and some to find very cheap massages for my tired limbs. If you’re looking for Indonesian souvenirs, especially batik items – this is the place to look!
I loved Indonesia and I can’t believe with all my travelling I have took so long to get here! It definitely won’t be my last trip Indonesia – it’s great.
I flew to Bali and the over to Java and returned from Jogjakarta. I can arrange direct flights for you or show you how to include Indonesia in your multi-stop flights.
I travelled independently using local buses and trains, which is an affordable way to get around. If you’re looking for something more sociable, you might like to try a small group tour, which will include all your accommodation, local transport and services of a guide (plus some meals).