Everything You Need To Know To Visit Mount Bromo, Indonesia

“Looking down the crater of an active volcano is a thrilling experience. But Mount Bromo, in Indonesia, is much more than just that.”

I have not always been a volcano-nerd. In fact, before visiting Central America, I had never really considered the possibility of hiking a volcano. News of the eruption of Etna or Stromboli, in Sicily, reached me regularly. It looked like quite a show, but a far away one that I wasn’t meant to enjoy from up close – despite the fact that it only takes one hour to fly from Sardinia to Sicily.

Then, I traveled to Central America, and volcanoes became part of my every day life. In Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, I woke up to the gorgeous view of 4 volcanoes, and every night I would see clouds gather around their crater, and a lightening show that was fascinating to observe. In Antigua, Guatemala, I could observe Volcan Fuego throwing smoke every half hour or so.

Other travelers I had met in Guatemala mentioned that they had been on a volcano hike, and the fact that volcanoes were so easily accessible convinced me that I no longer had an excuse not to hike one. That’s how I went on my very first volcano hike, on Pacaya.

To read more about my experience on an active volcano, read my post “What to expect when hiking Volcano Pacaya, Guatemala.”

Mount Bromo, Indonesia
The crater of Mount Bromo – photo courtesy of Seth Carnill

Eventually, I moved from Guatemala to travel further south. Driving across El Salvador on my way to Nicaragua, I stared out the window, fascinated by the huge mountains that proudly rose in the middle of nowhere. But it was only when I reached Nicaragua that, once again, volcanoes became an every day reality.

After the incredible experience on Pacaya, I had resolved to go on more volcano hikes and Nicaragua was perfect for that. But when I asked around about volcano hikes, I was told I could actually go volcano boarding on one of them. I had little idea of what that implied, but that sounded adventurous enough for me. In fact, it turned out to be an exhilarating experience.

To read more about my experience on Cerro Negro, check my post “What to expect when volcano boarding on Cerro Negro, Nicaragua.”

With all these incredible premises, it’s easy to see why I am always keen to hike more volcanoes. Imagine then my excitement when I got an invitation to visit Indonesia and later on realized that the country is packed with volcanoes, and that not only I’d be seeing a few, but I would also be hiking one. I’d be going on a tour of Mount Bromo.

Mount Bromo
The incredible view of Mount Bromo and the surrounding volcanoes – photo courtesy of Seth Carnill

Indonesia And Its Volcanoes

I didn’t know much about Indonesia, other than the fact that Bali is part of it. But when I received an invitation to visit, I accepted eagerly. It would be my first time in South East Asia – or shall I say, Asia altogether – and I was happy to see a different part of the world. The itinerary of the trip didn’t matter much to me. The avid traveler in me just wanted to go, regardless.

It was when I took a closer look at the trip itinerary that I realized that I’d be visiting the crater of two extinct volcanoes, and that I’d go on a Mount Bromo tour – in fact I’d also be hiking Mount Bromo. This was meant to be one of the most fun things to do in Indonesia.

To read about the other attractions of Indonesia, check my post “Fantastic things to do in Indonesia.”

When I finally took time to read more about Indonesia, I learned that there are many volcanoes scattered around the country, a few of them in Bali. Indeed, Indonesia is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, with no less than 127 active volcanoes listed in 2012, the most explosive one being Mount Merapi, called Gurung Merapi in the local language and located close to the beautiful city Yogyakarta.

But it was Mount Bromo that I would be hiking. At 2329 meters, this isn’t the highest peak of Indonesia, but it is its most well known volcano. Its name, Bromo, derives from the Javanese pronunciation of Brahma, the Hindu creator god.

Mount Bromo volcano
Mount Bromo is a mighty sight – photo courtesy of Seth Carnill

Mount Bromo is part of the Tengger massif, together with Semeru, Batok and Widodaren. It belongs to the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park and it is located in a plain called the Sea of Sand. It is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Indonesia, to the point that seeing the sunrise on Mount Bromo and then doing a Bromo tour, which involves walking up to its crater are almost rites of passage.

My Bromo tour was quite eventful, and I have already talked about it in another post. The following is a shorter recollection, with a few tips on how to organize a visit to this spectacular volcano and make the most of it.

Mount Bromo
The sun hardly made an appearance at sunrise – photo courtesy of Seth Carnill

Seeing the sunrise on Mount Bromo, Indonesia

A typical Mount Bromo tour consists of viewing the sun rise over it, and then going all the way up to the crater. The overall experience can be really enjoyable, provided one knows what to expect. Remember to keep one word in mind: “crowds.” This will help in understanding what to expect.

The best viewpoint to see the sunrise over Mount Bromo is that of Mount Penanjakan. Jeeps and cars usually drop passengers off as close as possible to the entrance to the park, from where they have to walk all the way to the viewpoint.

This would hardly be an issue, where it not for the fact that, although it is still completely dark outside, the area is incredibly crowded already, with cars and jeeps parked on each side of the road, forcing pedestrians to walk in the middle of the street. All the while, more cars, jeeps and motorbikes (the latter offering an additional taxi service to the entrance) drive by, completely disregarding the presence of pedestrians.

Once at the entrance of the park, a footpath leads all the way to a viewpoint, where the crowd cheerfully sits and waits for the sun to rise, selfie stick ready. I suppose it is possible to spend the night over there, because I can’t otherwise explain why, arriving no later than 3:30 am, the place is already packed and it is hard to find even a small place to sit or stand, not to mention to place a tripod.

A good thing to keep in mind when planning a Bromo tour, then, is that given how popular an attraction this is with the locals, it is probably better to go during the week and to avoid Indonesian national holidays.

Another thing to consider is that Mount Bromo weather is quite unpredictable, and the sun may or may not make an appearance. When I visited, I waited in vain for the sun to show up and eventually gave up – there was no sign of Mount Bromo on the horizon. Luckily, as the jeep was making its way towards the Sea of Sand, the sun finally came out and we were able to stop along the way to enjoy the view and snap a few pictures.

Mount Bromo, Indonesia
Walking along the crater of Mount Bromo – photo courtesy of Seth Carnill

Walking to the crater of Mount Bromo

Having crossed the Sea of Sand, the crater of Mount Bromo is actually within easy reach. It takes about 45 minutes to one hour to walk all the way from the point where the jeeps drop passengers off to the crater.

Once in the parking area, there’s lots of men offering horse rides all the way to the staircase that leads to the crater. However, I really recommend not riding one. Indeed, the horses offered during a Bromo tour aren’t kept in good conditions. They are incredibly thin and in visible distress, and they are whipped hard so that they move faster, even when they are carrying tourists that may well be heavier than they are.

It is a really sad sight, and it is infuriating to know that the same tourists that eagerly ride those ill treated horses come from countries where animal welfare is part of the culture. Sure, Mount Bromo is far from being listed among the cruelest animal attractions, but I’d like to think that we care for horses as much as for elephants and lions.

The walk to the crater isn’t hard in and of itself, but the fact that the floor is sandy and that most people ride horses to the top, means that there’s a lot of dust flying around. That’s why most people wear masks or a bandana or scarf on their face, to protect their nose and mouth. One of the most important things for a Bromo tour is to be properly equipped, indeed.

Once at the top, the sulfuric gas emanating from the crater impregnates the air, with its typical rotten egg stench. This is the case for all volcanoes, actually. Yet, it is quite impressive to look down the crater of an active volcano and see smoke coming out of it.

Mount Bromo, Indonesia
The Sea of Sand – photo courtesy of Seth Carnill

Practical facts

Mount Bromo is located in East Java, at around 4 hours drive from its capital Surabaya. A Mount Bromo tour from Surabaya typically is a full day tour. A good access point to plan a trip to Mount Bromo is Probolinggo, a lovely village which, considering how busy and crowded Indonesia feels, appears to be in the middle of nowhere. Jiwa Jawa Resort Hotel is a good place to stay.

The following is a list of places to stay in the area of Mount Bromo:

Sunrise, Sea of Sand and Mount Bromo Crater tours usually depart in the early hours, when it is still completely dark outside. Mine left Probolinggo at 2:15 am. Indeed, the best time to visit Mount Bromo is early in the morning.

The benefit of going on a Bromo tour is that it makes the most of the time available, so it is better for people who don’t have much time to spend in the country. If picking to go on a guided Mount Bromo tour, make sure it is with a responsible company – respectful of the environment and not offering rides on horses that are ill treated.

These are some good guided Bromo tours:

Read my post The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”

It is possible to visit Mount Bromo independently, using public transportation. Needless to say this requires a bit more planning and way more time, especially if wanting to see the sunrise and then also walk to the crater.

Whether going independently (though mind you, I do not recommend hiking alone, for a variety of reasons you an read here) or with a group tour, once again allow me to stress that in order to make the most of Mount Bromo, it’s necessary to avoid visiting at weekends or during national holidays, when it is more likely that it will be even more crowded than usual.

Visit Mount Bromo
Bracing ourselves against the cold and the crowds during our visit of Mount Bromo

What to wear for Mount Bromo (sunrise and crater tour)

Deciding what to wear for Mount Bromo is fundamental. Though it hardly ever gets cold in Indonesia, the area is at quite an elevation and on my Bromo tour I felt really cold, especially while waiting for the sun to rise. Here’s an essential list of what to wear for a Mount Bromo tour:

  • Bring a torch or a head lamp when the jeep drops people off at the entrance of Mount Penanjakan it is still dark.
  • Wear layers: it’s actually freezing cold at Mount Penanjakan. Wear a cotton shirt and a thermal shirt, a thick sweatericon
    , a pair of Hiking Pantsiconand a good, warm jacket. Add a wool hat, a scarf (which can be used to protect against the dust later on) and gloves too. I promise it is not too much.
  • Wear good hiking boots: the soil on the way to the crater of Mount Bromo is sandy, and good ankle support means easier, smoother walking.
  • Wear sunglasses: it’s so dusty that sand may easily get into the eyes, and that is painful.
  • Carry a small daypack: it will come in handy to put all the warm clothes once the sun is up and it warms up, and to carry some water.
  • Don’t forget to carry a camera: the scenery is amazing and it would be a pity not to have a photo of it.
  • Carry a tripod, it helps getting better pictures.
  • Do not carry a selfie stick. There’s already enough around.

Want to know I normally put in my backpack? Check out “My ultimate packing list.”

Have you ever visited Indonesia? Did you go to Mount Bromo, and what was your experience?

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25 thoughts on “Everything You Need To Know To Visit Mount Bromo, Indonesia”

  1. It’s nearly 10 years since I went to Bromo, but I remember it being exactly as you describe (minus the selfie sticks – I don’t think they’d been invented then!) I’m glad you didn’t take a horse as there really is no need and they didn’t look that healthy when I was there either.

    Reply
      • I was there two weeks ago, and the sight of the horses unfortunately still is just as upsetting as you describe. It would never have occurred to me to mount one of those poor creatures.
        We visited on a Monday, and the sunrise experience is indeed human madness. The best way to view the sun coming up is on one of the thousand smartphones stuck up in the air. Skip it and enjoy the view later during the day. It really is too beautiful to let it get spoiled by crowds and fumes.

        Reply
  2. Thanks Claudia! This 58-year-old-aunt’s bucket list will never run out due to your inspirational insightful posts!

    Reply
  3. A trip to Indonesia seems as an unreliable dream for me. But I love your photos and the feeling of inspiration!

    Reply
  4. Indonesia has interesting places to visit one of them beaches, vacationing to Indonesia is not fun if you do not visit the beach let alone have beach spot surfing

    Reply
    • Admin note: I removed the link as my comment policy doesn’t allow to insert links to commercial websites. Thanks for respecting this rule. Claudia Tavani

      Reply
  5. I watched the sunrise at Mt. Bromo nearly 30 years ago. I was working in Jakarta and a few of the employees took 3 of us for this nighttime adventure. I don’t think it was as popular then and wasn’t so crowded, but there were an amazing amount of people for the middle of the night. I’m nearly 60 now and am planning a trip with my daughter to Asia this spring. I was thinking of sharing the experience with her. Thanks for letting me know how it has changed. I don’t think we even had cell phones then, but I do have some great pictures. For me, and most of the people do did the trek, it was a spiritual experience.

    Reply
    • That’s how it should be! If you are into volcanoes, then you may consider going to Stromboli in Sicily. Now, that is a GREAT volcano hike 🙂

      Reply
  6. Excellent and helpful article. We are going this January (WET SEASON!), it is my wife’s home country. Will look out for the horses. This will be my third volcano. Did Tankuban and the white crater. Hard to believe these are active volcanoes! Looking forward to taking some pictures but more excited about the experience!

    Reply
      • Hi Claudia, I found your post as I was researching on Bromo. Few friends and I intend to go there via Malang & Surabaya next weekend (its a long holiday in Malaysia).

        I am not into hiking as I am not as fit (I’m 60years young) but would love to see all the beautiful sites. Is it possible to see the whole view of Picturesque Bromo and surrounding mountains from the hired vehicle without having to hike up?

        Thanks for any inputs.
        Zuraidah

        Reply
        • Hey Zuraidah, thank you for commenting on my post. If you want to look into the crater, you really have to walk up to it. You can ride horses – the issue with that is that many many companies don’t treat the horses very well. You can try to go, and see if you can get a good horse, one that is treated humanely.

          Reply
  7. great content! I have been there in 2019 and I got the dirt bike. I can’t tell you how amazing I felt being there it was like I am on another planet and sadly the poor horses thing still continues..

    Reply
  8. Thanks so much for this detailed and honest article on Mount Bromo. When I first moved to Indonesia (Jakarta), this was literally the first trip I took and it literally changed my life and made me want to explore the country so much further than the typical Bali. Thanks so much for sharing your opinions and views on this incredible destination.

    Reply

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