I’ve never actually heard of Mt. Bromo and Ijen Crater until about a year before my trip. After researching so much online, I’ve decided to head over to Surabaya, Indonesia! It was definitely one of my most memorable and enjoyable holidays. Mountains, crater lakes, starry skies, breathtaking views, what more could I ask for?! 😀
So I started looking for recommendations for tours and private guides online and it seemed that there were soooo many untrustworthy and sketchy ones. I was kinda worried that it’s gonna ruin my trip actually! But HEY! Our guide was super friendly and he chuckles a lot, which made the trip so much more fun. Talk about infectious laughter.
Before the trip
Decided to head over during the September period because the best weather is apparently May to September (less rain). I avoided July and August, as it’s supposedly the super peak tourist season. I heard it gets quite cray!
Initially wanted to do everything ourselves since we’re not a fan of tours, but I felt it was necessary for this trip.
Looked for a reliable tour guide, found one and emailed him to ask about the cost and of course, the itinerary outline, which they sent in a PDF format. Turns out, we only needed 3 days to complete the full tour. Isn’t that awesome?! Only one work-leave needed for this whirlwind weekend getaway.
Our trip: Surabaya – Ijen – Bromo – Surabaya
Booked my flights (SIN-SUB) via TigerAir and JetStar since we needed very specific timings. As long as we can reach Surabaya before 11am, it’d be great because there is a grueling 6~7 hours car ride waiting for us!!!!
Day 1 (3rd September 2015)
Arrived in Surabaya at about 9.30am and our guide is already waiting for us! So we set off to Ketapang Indah Hotel.
Honestly did not check how the hotel looked like, and for once I completely left the whole trip to the guide. Thank goodness it was worth it! Our guide mentioned that our hotels in Ijen and Bromo are one of the best and yup, I believe it! I was preparing myself for some sort of dirty rundown type of hostels but not bad, not bad at all.
Image taken from Agoda. Didn’t have a chance to take any photos of the accommodation but yeah it was like a resort with a pool. Was not expecting that in this part of Java!
So by the time we arrived at our destination, it was already dark.. at about 7pm? The tour usually starts at around 4 or 5am but since we wanted to see the Blue Fire, we had an earlier wake up call at midnight! Paid extra Rp100,000 to head down to the crater.
Day 2 (4th September 2015)
Alarm rings at midnight and off we go! Arrived at the Ijen carpark at about 1.30am and the hiking begins.
Difficulty level: At first, it was pretty chill – a steady incline. (1st km – easy walk – 80% flat trek) After about half an hour I started to feel the steepness. I also had difficulty breathing because of my altitude sickness but it was manageable, everyone just had to pause and wait for me to catch my breath (2nd km – 40degree aslant – 30% flat). I was really starting to feel tired, out of breath and super unfit hahaha! Finally, the difficulty eased and it was back to a relaxed incline. (3rd km – easy trek – 90% flat trek).
The view we had whilst we were trekking up to the Ijen crater rim. The starry skies were amazing, but we were unlucky to not see any milky way that night. Wrong timing, I guess. Our guide told us it was usually visible though, so you might be lucky instead!
Finally reached the crater rim and it really felt like an alien planet. Starry skies, vast crater, like we’re on the moon.
Made our way down to the acid lake that sits inside the crater, because that’s where the Blue Fire is located. It took us quite some time to reach the bottom of the crater and I swear it didn’t even look that far. I’ve definitely underestimated this part of the trek. It was also quite dark (and that’s why you need a headlamp!) and steep, and sometimes slippery.
Photo by Santi Sukarnjanaprai
Didn’t take any good photos of the Blue Fire phenomenon but you can expect to see something like this. It was filled with sulphuric smoke. You are gonna smell of hard boiled eggs after this!
Ascended back up to the crater rim to catch the beautiful sunrise above the clouds. The feeling was pretty amazing, and I enjoyed the sound of the wind a lot. Never felt more at peace, despite feeling so worn out.
The paddle pop skies were nothing short of wonderful.
Didn’t know what we were actually trekking around until the daylight sets in. And finally, it is so clear! The beautiful turquoise lake is said to be the largest acidic lake in the world. The location of the initial hike down to see the Blue Fire is right at where the smoke begins.
See how tiny these humans are? I couldn’t get over how massive this crater was. Sometimes I feel like my camera doesn’t do Ijen crater justice!! This is where the miners come to extract the sulphur back up to sell.
They carry about 70-90kg of sulphur out of the crater about twice a day. That’s too crazy!!! They made it look so effortless… and I feel super ashamed for feeling tired whilst hiking up Ijen. Tsk tsk! 😦
Finished and reached the base at about 9am. Felt super dead due to the lack of sleep! Made our way back to the hotel, showered, packed, and moved off to Mt. Bromo at about noon. Another 5~6 hour journey ahead of us. The rides were pretty crazy… at some point I was fearing for my own life haha but that’s just the way they drive here.
Took the same way back (shorter way). Finally reached at about 6pm but the sun was already setting by the time we reached Lava View Lodge. The accommodation was simple, but I thought it was the best because we were the highest one on the hill. We literally could step out of our hotel and see the whole Sea of Sand and Mt. Bromo right there. I was honestly so pleased with the choice of stay!! Well done guys!
Photo from TripAdvisor
Time to sleep because the wake up call was 1~2am!
Day 3 (5th September 2015)
The Milky Way appeared before we needed to head off to Mt. Penanjakan (the viewing point for Mt. Bromo) and the skies were so starry. A breathtaking moment for a first-timer noob like me 😛
We set off at 2am compared to the normal 4am because we wanted to get a view of the milky way band across the sky under Mt. Bromo but just like at Ijen crater, we were unfortunate and I’m guessing it was due to the particular starry ‘season’. So it was mostly just waiting, holding on to my hot coffee and cup noodles because it was getting quite cold. Up side to this was… we get a front seat view of the whole Sea of Sand!
Slightly before dawn. You could already start to see a bit of the mountains. I WAS FEELING VERY EXCITED ALREADY! And also wishing the sun could bring some heat to me.
Aaaaand hello sunrise!!! It got real crowded real quick and it’s time to take our Jeep across the Sea of Sand to Mt. Bromo!
Time to take hipster photos with our Jeep, of course. HAHA!
Parked, and there were two choices: to walk, or to take a pony up. We decided to walk. I felt a little sorry for all the ponies. They looked quite exhausted 😦
The horse could only bring tourists up to the staircase, and from there on it’s a mini workout up Mt. Bromo.
Standing on the crater rim of an active volcano!!! (Heard it erupted some time late last year…) I was scared I might get too clumsy and fall off into the crater but nah I was fine. Quite exciting to walk around the crater rim though hehe 🙂
Finished around 11am and I was dying for a shower! So much sand.
We still had a lot of time before our 8.45pm flight back to Singapore and so we took the optional Madakaripura Waterfall which was nearby anyway. Was not expecting much but hey!!!!! The waterfall area was pretty fun. Ponchos and a guide was provided, and I kept on holding onto him because it was soooo slippery!! I would’ve stayed longer to play and enjoy the cooling mist and rainbows but we weren’t really prepared for any swimming.
Do drop by if you have time to soak in more nature! 🙂
So this concludes the end of this whirlwind trip. It was pretty surreal to be going up a volcano and exploring this waterfall on the same day we are flying off. Honestly felt like it was such a good use of 3 days period. Off in the morning, and back by night. No time wasted. AWESOME!
Cost of trip per pax (estimated)
Return flights (TigerAir + Jetstar) = SGD142
Tour package = Rp2,950,000 / SGD300
Ijen entrance tickets = Rp200,000 / SGD22
Bromo entrance tickets = Rp227,500 / SGD24
Local guide for Blue Fire = Rp100,000 / SGD11 per group
Local guide for Madakaripura waterfall = Rp100,000 / SGD11 per group
Optional (didn’t take this): Horseriding at Bromo comes at Rp100,000 per pax
Total: SGD510 not including any other food expenses and tips for drivers and guides!
So it’s safe to say I spent around… SGD600 for this whole trip? Not bad for such an amazing experience though! Loved every bit of it, minus all the angst from tiredness hahahahaha!
Recommended packing list
Prior to the trip, I did not know what to bring. Kinda had to lurk around many different blogs to gauge, so now hopefully this can give you guys an idea. I dressed warmly since it gets really cold if you are not doing anything else, but during the hike I only needed one layer because it got tooooo damn hot.
What I wore:
- Comfortable hiking boots (heard running shoes would do, but might be slippery)
- Warm socks
- Heat tech top and bottom
- Dryfit shirt
- Warm jacket/windbreaker (something you wouldn’t mind stinking up!)
- Beanie (preferably ones which cover your ears)
My extra gear:
- N95 mask or Buffwear (helpful during Ijen’s sulphuric smoke & sand at Bromo)
- Headlamp (definitely needed this, I couldn’t see properly in the dark)
- Walking stick
- Water bottle
- Heat packs (for all the idle waiting in the cold)
- Altitude sickness pills (if you are like me – I can’t handle high altitudes!)
- Motion sickness pills (long car rides… oh lord)
Extra, extra gear like an auntie lol:
- Food poisoning/charcoal pills
- Hand sanitizer
- Wet wipes
- Tissue paper
- Mosquito repellent
That’s it! Hope this helps. Thank you beautiful Indonesia, you are ALWAYS a delight. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! I’m always happy to help. 🙂