Mount Bromo is an active volcano and part of the Tengger massif, in East Java, Indonesia. At 2,329 metres it is not the highest peak of the massif, but is the most well known. The massif area is one of the most visited tourist attractions in East Java, Indonesia. The volcano belongs to the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park.
Mount Bromo sits in the middle of a vast plain called the Sand Sea (Indonesian: Lautan Pasir), a protected nature reserve since 1919. The typical way to visit Mount Bromo is from the nearby mountain village of Cemoro Lawang. From there it is possible to walk to the volcano in about 45 minutes, but it is also possible to take an organised jeep tour, which includes a stop at the viewpoint on Mount Penanjakan (2,770 meters) (Indonesian: Gunung Penanjakan). The best views from Mount Bromo to the Sand Sea below and the surrounding volcanoes are at sunrise. The viewpoint on Mount Penanjakan can also be reached on foot in about two hours. From inside the caldera, sulfur is collected by workers.
When timing any activities in the area, bear in mind that sunset is soon after 5 PM and sunrise is correspondingly early at around 5:30 AM. This means you will usually need to get up by 3:30 AM or so to get to a watchpoint in time for dawn.
For the keen hiker, this park is a dream come true and you can make your own schedule. There are so many possibilities once you are away from the obvious well known area at Mount Bromo.
- Mount Bromo edges tinged with sulphur and always bubbling, is the main sight here and sadly, for some tourists it is the only sight. To reach it on foot, pick the left fork at Cemoro Lawang’s solitary crossing, then head down the ramp into the caldera and then across the caldera to the Hindu temple (Poten) at the foot of the mountain. From the temple a steep path of 250 concrete steps leads to the edge of the crater and a precarious meter-wide ledge from where you can gaze into the steaming crater. Local jeep-hirers will often try to persuade tourists that the journey to the mountain is not within walking distance in order to hire them jeeps or ponies, but the walk from the tourist centre to the top of the mountain should take no longer than 90 minutes and is about 3km.
- Mount Penanjakan (2,770m), located just north of the caldera, is a mountaintop viewpoint accessible by paved road from Tosari and hence popular with jeeps and even tour buses. Most of the crowd comes to see the dawn at 5 AM and you will likely have the large concrete observation post to yourself if you arrive later in the day. A steady hike from Bromo to Batok and then around the rim to Penanjakan will take about three hours and the last ascent of about 500 metres is very stiff indeed but truly worthwhile. Ancient Javanese Hindu texts tell of how Bromo-Penanjakan-Semeru (or Mahameru as it was then) was the spiritual axis of the universe and the point of all creation. The view from Penanjakan will explain why – it is truly breathtaking. This is where most of those iconic picture postcard views are taken from. After you have had your fill of the views, a hike back across the sea of sand to Cemoro Lawang will take about two hours.
- Mount Semeru can be climbed over two days but it is a venture for serious trekkers only and requires a high level of physical fitness. A permit must obtained in advance and would be climbers should be very aware that the mountain will be off-limits during periods of eruptive activity. This is a very active volcano. If you do decide you are up for this you should be able to find a guide to go at least part of the way with you at the park office in Ranupani. That office is also the best source of information for an assessment of the current state of the mountain and for hooking up with serious climbers from around the world.
- Viewpoint #2, along the trail from Cemoro Lawang to Mount Penanjakan, is an excellent way to get a stunning view of the caldera without the crowds. To reach it, head west from Cemoro Lawang (past the Cemoro Indah hotel) for 6 km, passing Tenngerese farms and fields. The paved road eventually turns into a twisty mountain trail that ends with a flight of stairs on the right, and the viewpoint (with concrete shelter) is at the top. Allow 90 minutes hours for the climb up at a steady pace and bring along a flashlight if attempting this at night. From here, you can continue onto Mount Penanjakan by following the trail upwards, after which the trail merges onto the paved road to the viewpoint (total time about 60 minutes one way). If planning to return the same way, mark the spot where the trail emerges onto the road (if you pass a stone lantern on the way down you have gone too far!), and note that descending on this section can get slippery due to loose sand and rocks. As of September 2008, the direct route from Cemoro Lawang up to Penanjakan and Viewpoint #2 is severely damaged because of landslides. The path is still passable, but it can be tricky to spot the dangerous parts in the dark — each vistor should have their own flashlight.
View of Bromo
By far the most common activity in the park is visiting the collapsed but still smouldering Mount Bromo, located in the huge, unearthly moonscape of a caldera known as the Sea of Sand (Pasir Lautan). The much photographed view of steaming Mount Bromo surrounded by the Sea of Sand, its rather serene neighbour Mount Batok and mighty Mount Semeru as the southern backdrop, is one of the great iconic images of Indonesia.
Mount Batok (2,440m) is a brown volcano at the north centre of the caldera. Unlike the other nearby peaks it is no longer active and actually has some vegetation growing on it, mostly casuarina (cemara) trees that somehow manage to survive even on volcanic ash.
The wonderfully coloured and immaculately tidy Tenggerese houses. The Tenggerese culture is unique and an effort to understand these fine people, where they have come from and how they live in this sometimes difficult environment, will be rewarded.
The Upacara Kasodo (also Kasada) is held every year at the full moon of the 12th month of the Tenggerese calendar and it is the most demonstrable Tenggerese religious ceremony. The Tenggerese invoke the approval of the gods to ensure a successful harvest, to be spared from any natural calamities and to be cured of disease. Selected Tenggerese men climb down to precarious ledges on the Bromo crater wall and catch the offerings thrown down by their excited neighbours above. A scramble ensues for possession of the offerings and whole thing is both exciting and rather terrifying as it is not unknown in all the mayhem for a “catcher” to slip off his ledge and fall. You can check the date of the next Upacara Kasodo at the East Java Tourism Office in Surabaya
Madakaripura Waterfall. These spectacular falls in the foothills of the park are easily reached by anyone visiting with their own transport. From Sukapura take the north-heading road towards Tongas and after about 6 km close to the village of Sapih the turning to the falls is signposted on your left. Continue down this small road to reach the car park for the falls. There are often lots of hawkers in the car park waiting to hire or sell you umbrellas to protect from the spray. There are actually seven waterfalls here some of which drop over the access path during the wet season, so an umbrella is not as silly as it sounds. Legend abounds here: bathing in the chill waters is said to be an elixir of life, the water is regarded as holy by the Tenggerese and is used in their important ceremonies, and the great Majapahit prime minister Gajah Madah is reputed to have meditated here. A very attractive and relaxing spot.
in The Poten. This is the Tenggerese Hindu temple that sits looking eerily beautiful in the sea of sand close to Mount Bromo. There is something quite magical about this place and the frugality of its decoration and austere design seems very appropriate for the location. Easily found, you really cannot miss it.
Lakes Ranupani and Ranu Regulo. These small, serene and always misty lakes are adjacent to the village of Ranupani on the south side of the crater. The village is the usual start point for ascending Mount Semeru and there is a park office here. Most visitors to this side of the crater will be happy though to take in the beauty of the small highland lakes and leave climbing Mount Semeru to the professionals. Ranupani is an extremely mystical village even by East Javanese standards and the rather ghostly lakes only add to the feelings of spirituality here. If this side of the crater appeals to you, it should be possible to arrange some simple homestay accommodation in Ranupani – ask at the park office.