Secret Bromo

One of the best trips I have been on thus far has to be Mount Bromo. Bromo is a bit of a tourist trap, and with good reason. It is spectacular. If you are someone happy to visit just for the photo opps and the view, then a guided tour is perfect for you! But if you are after a bit more challenge and adventure, this is how we made Bromo our own…

Getting there

Bromo Tengger Semeru Taman National is a massive national park in east Java. It is a volcanic complex, with some of the coolest volcanic landscapes you can see and get up close and personal with.

The largest nearby city is Malang, while the smaller town of Probolinggo is a slighter closer large settlement. Both of these places are easily accessible from popular spots like Yogyakarta or Bali, and if you are planning to get a tour, getting a hostel in one of these locations will easily enable you to organise or jump on one.

We made our way from Yogyakarta in a shared mini-bus (which cost about $3) all the way to our destination. We went via Probolinggo, and most people would have to change here, in order to get a smaller bus or lift up into the mountains to the smaller village of Cemoro Lawang.

Cemoro Lawang is the perfect place to spend the night prior to hiking Bromo yourselves. It’s about 2km away from the national park entrance, so well within walking distance. We paid about $5 for a shared room, however I have to say that this was one of the most comfortable, clean homestay’s I have stayed in! There are plenty of little homestays in the village, you could look ahead on Booking.com or wing it, it’s quiet enough here that you will find somewhere!

Get Hiking…

We started at 2am. The road from Cemoro Lawang to the national park is one, long hill, straight up. We used Maps.me to plan our route (image included below). You keep walking until there is a fork in the road and you take the route to the left. It looks like less of a road and you end up at a dead end- but don’t panic! This is where a little dusty footpath appears alongside a house right at the dead end. Follow this! It is dusty as hell and a little steep in places, but it takes you right down onto the sea of sand, right in the Bromo complex!

Find the lookout point circled in red- this is where the little trail starts!

Warning: Guys on dirt bikes will try to make you go with them on the road before the secret path and if they spot you walking across the sea of sand. Just keep walking. We felt that we spent a lot of money throughout different communities throughout our travels and very much believe in supporting local economies. We weren’t skipping the tours because we didn’t want to pay, we skipped the tours because we felt it was less fun and adventurous. We spent money in Cemero Lawang buying food, accommodation, transport etc.

When you hit the flat land of the sea of sand, you have some choices. You could make the trek towards the famous photo spot at King Kong hill. This is a long trek and will meet the tours.

We saw a little note on Maps.me with a viewpoint labelled ‘For hardcore trekkers’, so obvously we had to find out what that meant!

The rough route we walked across the Sea of Sand.

It led us up on top of the famous cone visible in the foreground of most pictures of Bromo at sunrise. The trail was narrow, incredibly dusty, and a little bit steep but nothing too challenging. It took us about 40 minutes to get to the top. And once we did, of course we were the only people around. We couldn’t even see where the crowds at King Kong Hill were…

Secluded sunrise

So, we managed to get a Bromo sunrise with absolutely no one else around. If you have travelled in Asia, you may be aware that this is NOT common in popular tourist spots. I had been saving Bromo for last and had extremely high expectations, so I knew I had to work to make it special. One of my pet peeves is being hassled by people trying to sell you things or take selfies with you in these moments where you really want to be left alone (and where you have usually paid to enjoy in peace). This was perfection.

To put the icing on the cake, Gunung Semeru in the distance provided us with a few decent belches of volcanic gas as we watched the sunrise. I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite as amazing as this landscape.

In order to continue to avoid crowds further, we decided we would wait until the tour groups had been and gone from the crater before heading down. We had come prepared with food and drink, plus a hoody to have a little volcano nap on. Is this the coolest place to have a nap ever? Maybe.

Climbing the crater

We made our way down a couple of hours later. The route down was a bit more challenging due to the loose sand, as well as being able to see how high up we actually were! But we made it in about half an hour and walked across to the steps up to Bromo’s crater.

The route down and around the crater of Bromo. Note we turned LEFT at the sunrise point!

If you were on a tour, you would have a limited amount of time to explore around here, however as we were doing it ourselves, we were able to follow the trails around the edge of the crater to get some incredible, unique views of this awesome landform.

Looking back across the crater to the peak we climbed for sunrise.

Note: Once you are at the top of the stairs to Bromo, take a left, not right. The path to the right is more fragile and much easier to get trapped on. While we were there we spent time helping some people trapped on the trail to the right. Be careful. Follow the trail around the crater to the left as far as you can. Make sure you don’t go anywhere that you can’t get back across. Falling into that crater would be a death sentence. Respect it.

We made our way back after a couple of hours exploring the same way we came. We found a little Warung back at the fork in the road, so we stopped there to eat before heading back for hot showers (It’s quite a bit colder up on Bromo, but of course once the sun comes up you will still be vulnerable to the equatorial sun, so make sure you take sun cream!).

We loved our homestay so much we decided to stay another night and were able to wangle a lift from the owners back down to the main bus depot in Probolinggo.

Our next stop was Malang, for Air Terjun Tumpak Sewu en route to more amazing volcanoes up on the Dieng Plateau, so we jumped on a bus for $4 and headed off for the next!

What should I pack?

  • Warmer clothes. It is cold up there, particularly before the sunrise, so make sure you have layers.
  • Sun cream. Although it is cooler, the sun is still just as killer up here.
  • Decent shoes. We all did it in trainers and were fine, Walking boots would work too.
  • Decent socks, longer around the ankles. The dust gets right in your shoes, so a longer pair of socks will help reduce the amount in your socks and reduce a bit of friction.
  • Small back pack. You don’t need to bring loads, a small bag will be enough.
  • Food and drink. This was particularly good when we decided to wait out the crowds.
  • Wearing a buff or facemask was also quite useful in the dust!
  • Some cash to grab food after, you’ll definitely be hungry!

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