Locally known as Gunung Bromo, the volcanic massif of Mount Bromo is one of Indonesia’s most fascinating landmarks and possibly Java’s most popular attraction. Although it is neither the largest nor the most active within the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, it is probably the most picturesque and especially so when admired at sunrise. Rising from the sandy basin of an ancient caldera better known as the “Sea of Sand”, Mount Bromo is not only flanked by the likes of Mount Batok and Kursi but is also surrounded by the towering walls of such a depression. Whilst climbing this volcano is what draws all so many visitors, the opportunity to step back and admire such an extreme landscape from afar is also a major part of its appeal.
Although visiting Mount Bromo on your own is fairly simple and straight forward, Jeep tours are however by far the most popular way of getting around. With the possibility to enjoy a couple of very alternative experiences offering contrasting perspectives, hopping onto one of these half day tours will enable you to submerge yourselves in such serenity and fully appreciate its remarkable beauty. In all honesty there is also something quite quirky about zipping across the volcanic sand in some retro jeep.
Located in East Java, most visitors arriving from outside Bali will likely fly into the city of Surabaya. A bus ride along Java’s northern coastline will take you to the town of Probolinggo from which you will head inland, up into the national park and onto the small neighbouring village of Cemoro Lewang. Literally sat on the edge of the Tennger Caldera, this small township offers the ideal place to spend the night as early starts are part of the charm.
With a flamboyant golden glow cast over the terrain most mornings, being able to catch that first light over Mount Bromo and the Tennger crater is something that should not be missed. As it maps the Northern edge of the crater and rises well above Bromo, the towering heights of Gunung Penanjakan offers some unrivalled vistas across one of the most fascinating landscapes you will ever set eyes on. In order to enjoy those magical first few minutes, a 4am start is essential in order to make your way up to the highest view point of King Kong hill before any sign of light. Remember, you will most likely be joined by a couple of hundred other jeeps so just a heads up that there will be a fair few people with you. Despite the numbers, IT IS TOTALLY WORTH IT and the wide open spaces does ensure that you are able to enjoy unobscured views. Adding to these iconic panoramic views is the sight of Java’s highest peak and one of its most active in the distance, Gunung Semeru. Found to be in near enough constant eruption, a relentless belching of smoke will also add that extra dimension and active feel to those impressive photos.
Once having been left a little star-struck, most will join the trail of jeeps in the slow crawl back down the mountain and into the crater. Despite the very tranquil morning, once those tyres hit the “Sea of Sand” things are likely to get a little more energetic. With nothing but open space, a short whisper in the driver’s ear is all it will take for him to release his inner Jeeper and take on some pure Indonesian drifting across the soft volcanic sand. A brief stop at the base of Mount Batok is also fairly common and where most take their oddly iconic compulsory photo with their jeep which pretty much goes hand in hand with the caption … “I Visited Mount Bromo!” … Guilty!
A little like clockwork, most will dart across the open plain and head for the foot of Mount Bromo where a fairly straight forward set of 253 steps (as counted) is all that separates you from the ridge of this active volcano. Although the ground at times was a little uneven, the climb itself is a relatively non-taxing, half an hour climb which seldom requires any assistance. The reason we stress the nature of the climb is because there is the option to be hauled up on horseback, however we can’t say we quite agree. For those completely able and a little tempted despite lack of novelty attached to it, you may want to think long and hard as to how they might feel. Although getting to the top alone may be a little tiresome and somewhat sweaty, the quick scramble to the top is a memorable part of the visit as you excitedly push yourself in anticipation of what you are about to witness.
A spine tingling moment is probably the best way to express those first impressions. Such the combination of extremes in both proportions and beauty, these extents will almost certainly stop you in your stride. Shaped as if it was cast from a mould, this near perfect symmetrical crater funnels down ominously into a gaping smouldering pit which today continues to belch out the fine aroma of sulphuric gases and one that can probably singe a little more than your marshmallows.
With visitor numbers well into the hundreds at times, the immediate viewing platform may well become somewhat overcrowded and a little overwhelming. However for those with a little more energy and a burning desire to dash from the plethora of selfie sticks, as you climb the soft ridge you will still struggle for words. Rising to a height of 2392m, as you make your way up and around along the rim, not only do you get away from the crowds, but the views do continue to impress as you climb that little bit higher above the inner crater. One thing to note however is that once you venture out beyond the main initial viewpoint, there is no longer any safety barrier and purely a simple pathway about a metre wide. Although it is a permitted walk and one that we wouldn’t say is dangerous, if you do however happen to slip down the inside, let’s be honest … you will be in big trouble. If you are in anyway intimidated or feel slightly uneasy, sticking to the confines of the designated viewpoint is probably a wise move.
Derived from the Javanese pronunciation of Brahma, the Hindu creator god, it is easy to see how the name came about as you sit and appreciate such a fascinating formation of precision and extremes.