Climbing Mount Bromo : An Alternative Backpacking Route
Surabaya – Mount Bromo – Malang
Looking for a weekend getaway?
Hiking Mount Bromo(2,329m) is a simple trip that can be easily done over a weekend. In fact, only 1 day is needed for Mount Bromo. It only takes 15 minutes to climb Mount Bromo from the base of it.
Most travellers either book a pre-arranged tour or take the conventional route which is from Surabaya – Mount Bromo – Yogya/Surabaya. This is almost always done through the Probolinggo Bus Terminal Route.
My suggestion is to do this alternative circular route, which pays a visit to Malang. From Bromo – Malang, the trip itself takes you through the mountains and exceptional scenery. Malang itself is also an amazing city that is worth a visit. From there, you can take a cheap bus back to Surabaya to complete the trip.
It is a very cheap trip that can be completed within a budget of $200-$300, depending on how you travel and eat. Travelling with more people reduces the price of transport. Listed below are my essential trip expenses and is my suggested way of doing it. This is just a reference for the prices you can look for especially when haggling for transport prices. It should be a very good gauge. Buses are pretty much standardized rates, but shared vans and motorbikes require haggling. I was travelling with one friend, who happened to be an Indonesian Chinese ( thank god) so she did all the haggling. There is also an entrance fee to Mount Bromo, which has been increased to a crazy expensive rate. The current ticket fee stands at IDR 10,000 for Indonesians and for foreigners it has increased from IDR 75,000 in 2013 to IDR 217,500 or 320,000 on weekends and on public holidays since May 2014. However, there are a few ways to avoid this which will be explained later.
Essential Trip Expenses :
Budget for Trip : SGD 200-300
Tiger Airlines SG-Surabaya Return Trip : SGD $144
Yog Homestay @ Cemero Lawang : 150,000 IDR
Hotel Helios Deluxe Room @ Malang : 175,000 IDR
Surabaya – Bromo
Taxi Transport from Surabaya Airport to Cemero Lawang : 550,000 IDR
Ojek (Motorcycle Taxi) down Mount Penanjakan to Bromo : 75,000 IDR
Ojek to Ceremo Lawang from Bromo : 25,000 IDR
Bromo – Malang
Ojek to Tumpang : 125,000 IDR
Angkot(Mini-Van) from Tumpang to Malang : 8,000 IDR
Angkot to Arjosari Bus Terminal : 4,000 IDR
Bus from Malang – Surabaya : 25,000 IDR
Damri Bus from Surabaya Bus Terminal – Airport : 25,000 IDR
Airport Tax : 200,000 IDR
To get to Mount Bromo, you have to get to the base village which is Cemero Lawang. It is possible to get there via Bus and it is cheap. However, you have to make many changes. This is okay if you have time. From the airport, make your way to Bondowoso bus station and head to Probolinggo. From Probolinggo, you can take an Angkot to Cemoro Lawang. It should cost around 30,000 IDR. From my research, the yellow colour small vans are the Angkot to bring you. However, the issue is that it takes around 5 hours to get to Probolinggo. Most of the flights from SG-Surabaya reach around 12pm. By the time you reach Probolinggo, it would be hard to find an Angkot to bring you to Cemero Lawang, or you have to find a taxi, which increases the cost of the trip. Therefore, it would be advisable to just take a Taxi straight to Cemero Lawang because you reach there in 4 hours and it is not too expensive especially if you have people to split the cost with. To make the timing of a weekend trip, that would be the best. No matter how you go, NEVER EVER PAY for the entrance fee if they happen to bring you there. Luckily for us Esti was awake, so we just walked away when the taxi brought us there and tried to trick us into paying the entrance fee. You do not have to pay for the entrance fee before you climb Bromo, as there is no entrance fee for entering Cemero Lawang, only an entrance fee for BROMO itself(which can be avoided).
The all famous view of Mount Bromo is actually taken from a viewpoint off Mount Penanjakan. In fact, there are 2 viewpoints on Mount Penanjakan. Most tours will pick you up in the morning, where you chug along in a jeep to the viewpoint cramped with all the other people waiting for the sunrise, before being ushered down to Mount Bromo. However, it is possible to do it by yourself, without having to pay money for all of that. Here is a reliable picture of the area. It is taken from the ever-useful wikitravel page which has almost everything you need to know for Mount Bromo.
Difficulty of Mount Penanjakan Climb : Easy, till you breathe in the toxic gases on the road.
To make it for sunrise, give yourself at least 1.5 – 2 hours, depending on your speed. Sunrise in Indonesia is around 4:30am, so setting off at 2:30am is about just nice.
Before we set off, as it was my first time there, I did ask around as well as do a slight walk to make sure I knew my way around in the dark. Most of the locals there will not advise you to walk, saying that it is slippery, or dangerous, or offer their services as a guide for a very steep price. It is really not needed. It is frankly an extremely easy route.
The route is as mentioned, make sure to turn right from Cemera Indah Hostel ( The expensive grand looking hostel) and walk down the road all the way, till you cross the bridge and you will reach this part with short steps and it is viewpoint 1. It is a very peaceful walk most of the time, because almost nobody will be walking up. If the sky is clear, you should able to see the stars as there is little light pollution. On the way there, there might be a few vehicles, but mainly you will see people with horses asking you if you want a lift. If you’re going on the same path as them you can be assured it is correct.
To get from viewpoint 1 to viewpoint 2 is slightly confusing. From Viewpoint 1, when you face out, just look up at the grass/hill area(should be on the right side), that is where you need to go, up. There is a very small trail you must find and just follow. It splits slightly at the start but after that there is only one trail up. Luckily for us, there were some locals walking down to set up some stalls so we managed to find the way.
You will basically just go zig-zag up, and soon you will hear some sounds, and reach a pavement, but it isn’t viewpoint 2 yet. However, it is possible to view Mount Bromo from there and it is less crowded.
Continue going forward, and you will reach a road where it is a chore to go up because you will see how horrendous tourism is. The number of Jeeps and motorbikes parked along side, breathing in the gasoline, and being one of the few people walking up, coughing and being annoyed at the constant touting as well as honking. You will know viewpoint 2 when you finally reach it, as it is preceded by numerous stalls selling souvenirs, food, and some corn, and a whole bunch of tourists camped just waiting for that moment in sunrise. My advice? Get the corn, choose a juicy one, sit back and relax.
Most of the tourists are part of a tour have a guide so they will leave within an hour. If it happens to be cloudy, like what happened to us, my suggestion is for you to stay till around 9am. So what happened was that we reached at 4+am, got turned off by the crowd, realized it was too misty, so we went down to chill at the benches, before going back up to the viewpoint and decided to stay for 4 hours. Why 9am? No idea, we just took a nap there. It was a pretty good nap!
The clouds clear around that time, hopefully. Of course, weather in the mountain is unpredictable. From my experience in hiking, I notice that there is a slight chance from 8-9 in the morning period where the clouds might start to clear. Just like it tends to rain more often in the afternoon/11am onwards. Don’t take my word on that! Anything can happen on the mountains. So pray, and good things might happen.The mist/fog stayed until 8:30am, where we were about to leave, before it suddenly cleared! We started screaming and jumping around and laughing those who didn’t persevere! It was seriously crazy cause I had no idea what made us stay, just on a whim. If i was alone, I wouldn’t have done it most likely. We were just really lucky. On that note, sunrise is overrated if you don’t get to see it.
Once done, make your way down (either via hiking, or take a ojek down). Transport options get lesser as the crowd thins, so if you stay till 9am, there will be very few options left. If you walk, simply follow the map as above. There is a pathway behind Cemera Indah Hostel, which basically goes zigzag down into the sand. Going on the ojek is the choice as you save time plus they will bring you to some other viewpoints for you. You can easily skip the entrance fee as there are many ways in. They will bring you to another route rather than back to Cemoro Lawang, the route is actually pretty amazing as you go downhill.
Mount Bromo is quite an amazing sight, especially the sea of sand. The walk up itself takes only 20-30 minutes.
Difficulty of Bromo : Easy, except slow because of the volcanic ash.
If you stay for too long, the ash particles might get annoying, or at least it got annoying for me such that I started coughing and feeling uncomfortable.
You can choose to walk one round around the crater, which might be more fun that just standing around. Ash is however, slightly annoying to trudge on. Make sure you have a mask/bandana to protect against the billowing ash as the winds are very strong. It is also very easy to get sunburnt as you will not feel the sun. Especially if you are there at like 11am, like us. We got so burnt that we peeled for a week. Of course if you are there early with a tour it wouldn’t matter.
From there, you can choose to walk back to the village which isn’t very far (45 minutes), or you can be lazy and take another ojek back. One thing you can do is actually ask the ojek to bring you around the sea of sand, because it is a very big area around Mount Bromo. However, this can simply be covered if you go to Malang.
Bromo to Malang
The must-try Route : Bromo-Tumpang via Ojek!
This is one hell of a ride. Your heart will still be thumping against your chest, hair on your skin still fizzing like the engine of the motorbike. This was one of my favorite experiences, and the events that transpired in the morning (waiting 4 hours for the view of Bromo, trying to find transport to Malang) made it all the more sweeter.
From Cemero Lawang, we went through the sea of sand again. The amazing but sad thing is that most people only get to see part of the “Sea of Sand” as they only go through it to climb up the front of Mount Bromo. However, surrounding and beyond it, lies lush green savannah. As it started to drizzle, I couldn’t take much pictures plus it was foggy, but that just enhanced the experience. With mist and rain peppering your vision, looming mountains and wheels on volcanic ash, flowers and grass that line your path as if to salute you, what more can you expect?
Except, that was only the start. Slowly, you will make your way up to mountain route, going past blind bends, narrow ridges, with Mount Semeru in the distance taunting you, come, climb me! You will go past the various villages. This path is generally a path where locals take and it is more accessible via the motorbikes. yes, if you had to ask, no helmets. Wind is good for your skin, just kidding, I hate helmets. You could try to take a 4WD(Jeep) like the ones you see in the picture below, but it will be very expensive. I believe it should be at least 600,000 IDR. You also wouldn’t get the same feeling as the wind brushing your hair, and your knees gliding just above the road as you round the bends.
Our asses started to hurt afterawhile, so did my hands because of the vibration of the motrobike when you grip the back handles. I was ever ready to jump off, in case there was an opposing car or motorbike round the bend. The road is not always well-paved like in the picture, but it is mostly okay, with a few bumps and potholes. Luckily, we took a short break at the waterfall.
On the way to Malang, you can stop by this waterfall. You will have to pay 70,000 RP I believe. There is of course a local and foreigner price. My advice is just to not talk if you are a foreigner, pay the local price and just walk through.
The spray from the waterfall is pretty strong so prepared to be slightly wet once past the steps. It takes around 45 minutes to walk from the entrance to the waterfall.
To get to Malang, the ojek will only take you most likely to as far as Tumpang city, where the fun ends. You will understand why, because the route takes you up the mountain through the different villages, before going all the way downhill where you will reach Tumpang. I believe Tumpang is the lowest point so it becomes meaningless to continue and it is pretty close to the city. Therefore, you will have to find an Angkot to take you to Malang, it is quite easy to spot or you can ask around. Just take the van that has the Arjosari name on it, or A, it is usually a green coloured mini-van.
Malang is a vibrant city that on the surface seems like any other ordinary city, but it makes a good 1-2 day stopover. The best part, for me as a Singaporean, Malang has a focus on food. It is almost a “Food Haven”, where there are popular or famous food places that the locals will go. Just plan a food trail around the area, from the bakso, to the pangsit mee (like the picture below). The pangsit mee was seriously one of the best noodles I have tasted. It had a fabulous texture, and it was extremely cheap(1.50 SGD?), plus there was live music, that was so good that the miser in me actually donated.
On top of that, Malang has many other markets like Pasar Malam (night market) and street markets. We went to one morning market and tried the local street food! Really awesome but sinful.
Drop by the flower market to relax as well as to allow your senses to be invaded by the vibrant colours and flowers!
Beside it, is also the bird market. Frankly, I felt pretty sad when I saw the birds caged up. I was never a fan of animals being caged up, but this was still an interesting insight into the culture. It was crowded, and I really wonder why do these people buy these birds? One of the most heartbreaking scenes was when these group of 4 birds, was jumping from branch to branch, till they hit the top. And they kept hitting the top, and falling back down, as if wondering why they can’t go up. They were like frogs, hopping up and back down again.
A question Esti asked was, ” Do you think the birds were born caged? Would they be different?” That concept struck me and I thought, “Yeah, look at those birds caged up, thats what a Singaporean is somewhat like?” It can be really comfortable, you can be really happy, but wouldn’t you wonder, whats out there when you gaze out? If you don’t travel or explore, we are like these birds in this very small cage, but a whole world lies out there. This is not a negative analogy, more of just how big the world is. I can just relate to the caged bird. As a Singaporean, was I born in a cage, or was I plucked from my freedom and put into a cage? Perhaps I am like the bird, always trying to hop out.
Perhaps, perhaps my soul sings to spread my wings, for a certain flight into the sky.
Perhaps, I don’t want to ever stop exploring.