To experience Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park in Indonesia is to experience the earth itself.
If you could imagine the planet in its infancy, long before humankind hammered down its footprint, it would probably look something like this barren moonscape.
Bali may be Indonesia’s traveller’s mecca. But there’s no greater adventure on the archipelago than watching Gunung Bromo spew out brimstone after scaling its narrow crater.
How to Get To Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park
The most popular route to Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park is from Probolinggo. Although you can book Gunung Bromo tours that include accommodation and transportation from other cities in Java, traversing the route independently is a more flexible and more cost-effective option.
On the one and a half hour drive from Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang via Sukapura, wave goodbye to the normally hot and humid Javanese climate. You’ll immediately notice the colder temperatures and damp mountain air as you slither into the highlands. If you’ve only packed for Bali, you may want to pick yourself up a warm sweater and windbreaker before heading up the mountainside. You’ll thank me later!
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After a dizzying ride through pleasant mountain villages on impossibly narrow roads, you’ll probably rest your weary head in Cemoro Lawang. This small village, perched on the edge of the caldera, is the best base for exploring Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park.
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Accommodation in Cemoro Lawang is, at best, basic and, at worst, unsettling. The Lava View Lodge and Cemara Indah are the two most popular options in the village. While short on style and often lacking in amenities (hot water, for instance, is at a premium up here), the location can’t be beat. If you’re eyeing a pre-dawn hike, you’ll love how close you’ll be to the park.
If you’re looking for more comfortable accommodation, consider staying in Tosari. It’s just up the road from Ceomoro Lawang and accommodations are much better. The Bromo Cottages and Jiwa Jawa Resort Bromo are excellent options, if being right next to the park is less of a concern.
The Panorama of Gunung Bromo
At daybreak, the rising sun lifts the ominous mist from the caldera—hanging in all the right places—to expose the most iconic landscapes in Indonesia. In this oft-captured scene, Gunung Bromo, with its characteristic blown-off top, looms to the left alongside its less rambunctious brother, Gunung Batok, while the massive Gunung Semeru perpetually puffs brimstone into the sky from its crater.
Viewpoint #1: Gunung Penanjakan
Budding travel photographers will need rise well before the birds. Be prepared to hop out of bed as early as the ungodly hour of 3:30 am for a chance to snap this enchanting image. The most popular panorama is at Gunung Penanjakan, or Viewpoint #1, most easily accessed via Tosari by jeep. At time of writing, roads were in rough condition due to the recent volcanic activity. Always check conditions before solidifying your plans.
A little less than serene, the Gunung Penanjakan viewpoint is almost always over-crowded with tourists at dawn. If you want that picture-perfect postcard shot of Gunung Bromo and friends, get there as early as possible to pounce on the few choice spots along the guardrails.
Viewpoint #2: Hike From Cemoro Lawang to Gunung Penanjakan
Another option is to hike to Gunung Penanjakan from Cemoro Lawang, taking in the fascinating daybreak vista en route. The so-called Viewpoint #2, about an hour walk from Cemoro Lawang, is a quiet alternative to the main lookout. In fact, if you’re really lucky, you may not even have to share the scene with anyone else!
The panorama point is about halfway between the village and Gunung Penanjakan. To find it, walk up the road from Cemara Indah in Cemoro Lawang. The road will soon turn into a narrow over-grown trail. Don’t be alarmed. It’s okay! Follow the trail up the mountainside to a stairway. After ascending the stairs, you’ll find the viewpoint.
A word to the wise: this trail is susceptible to washouts. On with the reduced visibility on your pre-dawn hike, you may not be aware of all the dangers. Ensure you are wearing sturdy hiking shoes and carry a good travel flashlight if attempting the trail in low-light.
Staring Into the Earth at Pura Luhur & Gunung Bromo
After snapping the perfect travel photo, head to the Sea of Sand (Pura Luhur) for a up-close-and-personal glimpse of Gunung Bromo. That is, if you can.
How to Climb Up Gunung Bromo
When Gunung Bromo is less excitable, you can ascend to the crater to stare into Bromo’s mysterious depths. Most pre-packaged Bromo tours, when conditions allow, will drop you off at Pura Luhur near the base of Gunung Bromo. From the parking lot near the Pura Luhur Poten Hindu Temple, it’s a leisurely stroll on flat ground to a 250-step stairway. (If your early morning wake up call drained you of your life-force, you can alternatively hire a horse to take you to the base.)
The stairway to the crater looks far worse than it is. Anyone who’s reasonably fit should be able to slink up to the top without too much difficulty.
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Once atop, the views over the barren landscape will prove that your morning cardio wasn’t in vain. The crater of Gunung Bromo is truly something otherworldly. As you breath in the sulfurous fumes and gawk at the molten lava washing about far below, you’re reminded of just how fragile the planet can be.
Coming face-to-face with Gunung Bromo’s bubbling wrath after seeing it from afar is a highlight not just of Bromo-Tengger-Semuru National Park, but of all of Indonesia. If you get a chance to witness this unofficial wonder of the world, go for it!