I’m a culture lover, and the Indonesian island of Java has plenty to offer in that regard. But even for spectacular nature, you’re in the right place here. Java has a whopping 45 active volcanoes, often resulting in majestic sights. Some are dormant, while others occasionally puff smoke from their tops. During my journey through Java, I visited the two most famous volcanoes: Bromo and Ijen. For this, I arranged a three-day tour from Malang to Banyuwangi. Read on for my thought about this.
Malang – Exploring Jodipan and Relaxing
My starting point was Malang, a city in East Java with a slightly cooler climate due to its higher elevation in the mountains. The most enjoyable thing to do here is to visit the rainbow district of Jodipan. As for anything else, I would recommend relaxing, as the volcano tour involves very early mornings.
Day 1 – From Malang to Cemoro Lawang
In Malang, we were picked up around noon by guide Anzhar and his 4×4 jeep. A rugged vehicle that is quite necessary to tackle the steep mountain roads to Cemoro Lawang, the village near the Bromo volcano. In all honesty, sitting in the back of the car is not the most comfortable ride of your life, but you do get to enjoy beautiful views along the way. The journey to Cemoro Lawang includes several interesting stops.
An impressive and very green waterfall. The entrance fee was 15,000 IDR per person, but it was included in our tour. The path down is in good condition and takes about 15 – 20 minutes. As you descend, the sound of the waterfall grows louder, so you’ll know when you’ve arrived. Be cautious of slipping near the waterfall, as the mist makes everything slippery and wet.
As you climb into the hills, you’ll also pass by picturesque Ngadas. An agricultural village with fields scattered across the hills of the mountain. The cool climate makes the land suitable for crops like potatoes, corn, and spring onions. Everything here is planted and harvested by hand.
After Ngadas, the ride gradually leaves the hills behind and takes you into the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park. This name includes the two mountains of the park (Bromo and Semeru) and the local Tengger people who live in this region. The drive goes through a valley with green hills, followed by a vast savannah area (Savannah Hills). The exact look will vary with the seasons, with more greenery during the rainy season. I was there at the beginning of the dry season.
Entrance fee for Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park: 220,000 IDR on weekdays, 320,000 IDR on weekends (price was included in our tour).
Day 2 – Early start for the Bromo volcano
We spent the night in Cemoro Lawang at a simple homestay. You shouldn’t expect much luxury, but that’s not what anyone comes here for. You eat and sleep here. The next morning, the alarm went off incredibly early. At 03:00, we were in the car, bundled up in thick sweaters, heading to Mount Penanjakan for a sunrise view of the Bromo volcano. Just like every other tourist in the village, by the way. In convoy style, all the jeeps drove up the mountain until you couldn’t go any further. It did not help that we were there on the weekend, which is the busiest time of the week.
Sunrise view of Bromo
Mount Penanjakan has various viewpoints. The most famous is King Kong Hill. I wouldn’t know exactly where we stood. It wasn’t a platform with a railing; it was an open hill with a wide view. Make sure to wear enough layers, as the wind was cold!
After sunrise, we craved warmth, so we had coffee in one of the stalls along the mountain road. We ended up at a table with a family from Borneo and their Italian “daughter” (an exchange student from Sicily). It was heartwarming to see how warmly she had been embraced by the family!
Walking on the rim of the crater
Then it was time to get a closer look at Bromo. In convoy style again, we drove down the mountain and crossed the Sea of Sand (a large sandy plain). The last stretch involves walking uphill from the parking lot, with a staircase at the end. Along the way, horse rides are offered to make the walk easier or faster. I’m not a fan of touristy horse rides but to each their own. Once at the top, the smell of sulfur is impossible to ignore, but the reward is a magnificent view of the gigantic crater! You can observe from behind the railing or continue walking along the edge (without a railing).
After visiting the Bromo crater, we went back to the village, had lunch at Kusuma restaurant, checked out of the homestay, and continued to the next volcano, Mount Ijen.
Day 3 – Early start again for the Ijen crater lake
Our homestay at Mount Ijen was again simple, but it provided everything we needed and had a great location: right at the starting point of the Ijen hike. We dropped our bags in the room, had dinner, and headed to bed. This time, the alarm went off at 3:30 in the morning. To wake up, we had coffee at the homestay and walked to the starting point.
No blue fire for now
Mount Ijen is known for its crater lake and the blue flames in the dark hours. Unfortunately, visitors cannot see the latter anymore since January 2023. Due to volcanic activity, the opening hours have been adjusted to 4:00 AM. By the time you reach the top, it’s too light to see the flames. Climbing into the crater is also no longer allowed due to the toxic gases, although I still saw some tourists descending. Also, miners keep on doing their job and walking down to mine sulfur.
Baby blue crater lake view
Even without the blue fire, I found Kawah Ijen (kawah means crater) incredibly beautiful. It’s a place of extremes: the world’s largest crater lake but also one of the most toxic places on Earth. The water contains sulfuric acid. The hike to the crater lake was more challenging than the walk to the Bromo volcano. It takes about 1.5 hours uphill, with the first hour being particularly steep. Fortunately, we had an enthusiastic guide with us who kept our energy up and seemed to know everyone. He used to be a miner but now, for the sake of his body and health, works as a guide for tourists. For those who don’t fancy the hike or are in a hurry, there are men around (often former miners too) who offer a “taxi” in the form of a wheelbarrow.
Entrance fee for Ijen: 100,000 IDR on weekdays, 150,000 IDR on weekends (price was included in the tour).
Heading to Banyuwangi for the Ferry
After walking down from the crater, we had breakfast with our guide, checked out, and headed to the port of Banyuwangi for the ferry to Bali (ticket price included in our tour). Along the way, we made a lovely lunch stop at a coffee plantation.
All in all, I look back on a fantastic Bromo and Ijen volcano tour, thanks in part to the guides. I read about this tour through the blog Salt in Our Hair (thank you!) and got in touch with Anzhar via WhatsApp (+62 813-3604-2045). You can also find them on Google under the name Papin Travelmate. Malang was our starting point, but the Bromo and Ijen volcano tour can also be done from Banyuwangi or Surabaya.
Have you seen the Bromo or Ijen volcano?