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Yogyakarta to Bali via Bromo & Ijen

When we decided to travel from Jogjakarta to Bali via Gunung Bromo and Ijen, we needed a quick, cheap and convenient option. Working as digital nomads, we have to be responsive to our clients, which means we can’t always choose the alternative travel routes, especially in places like Indonesia where internet access is limited.

There are a number of ways to do this trip, although our research led us to believe that the do-it-yourself options were not that simple, nor were they that much cheaper than taking an organised tour, and would almost certainly mean spending a night somewhere along the way which we just didn’t have the time for. So we found ourselves a reputable tour company and paid the all inclusive fee to get us to Bali, via Bromo and Ijen as quickly and conveniently as possible.

Our journey began in Yogyakarta, Java’s cultural capital
Our journey began in Yogyakarta, Java’s cultural capital

Being in the back of a minivan at the mercy of the driver (or the dictator as we like to call them) is not one of our favourite ways to travel, as its usually quite uncomfortable and the driving standards are questionable to say the least – we had a few hair raising moments on this trip that’s for sure – but we had no option. Taking the train would mean heading back to Surabaya to change, and local buses were just going to take too long. We just had to smile, make sure we got the back seat (for no reason other than it’s furthest away from the front) and try to relax and enjoy the scenery.

In hindsight, it turned out to be a great option for making what would otherwise have been a slow and difficult trip, into an enjoyable and hassle-free one, and we got to make some good friends along the way too.

The first day of the trip is just a long travel day with little to see or do – a great ipod day.

Smoke rises from Bromo as morning cloud swamps the caldera
Smoke rises from Bromo as morning cloud swamps the caldera

On the second day, very early in the morning we took a jeep to the edge of the huge Tengger Caldera – an ancient crater in which Gunung Bromo and four other volcanoes reside – for a spectacular sunrise. A surreal lunar landscape was revealed to us as the sun rose and thick early morning clouds formed a river across the enormous caldera. Bromo wasn’t the highlight here, but the entire landscape combined that made it so spectacular. Jurassic, colossal and still alive, breathing puffs of white smoke from the bowels of the earth. This place is on fire!

Trying to get a glimpse amongst the masses at 5am
Trying to get a glimpse amongst the masses at 5am

Access to the sunrise viewing platform can be made either by foot or by car, so it’s a very easy place to reach and although the vista during sunrise was truly awesome, don’t expect a very personal or moving experience. The combination of locals on a weekend trip and foreign tourists meant that the entire platform was packed to the rafters, making it a rugby scrum of elbows which battled for optimum position.

The unreal landscape in the caldera as the cloud rises
The unreal landscape in the caldera as the cloud rises

The very best part for us, was later that morning when we were able to get down into the caldera and walk up to the steps (yes, there are stairs going up the side of the volcano) to the very edge of a smoking Bromo and stand on the rim peering into the black smokey void below. The entrance to the bowels of the earth.

Horsemen offer to take tourists to the edge of Bromo
Horsemen offer to take tourists to the edge of Bromo
Literally on the edge
Literally on the edge
Smoke rises from the centre of the earth
Smoke rises from the centre of the earth
Doing good tourist deeds. You get a sense of the ledge.
Doing good tourist deeds. You get a sense of the ledge.
Careful Silke! If you’re gonna fall, go left! NO RIGHT!!
Careful Silke! If you’re gonna fall, go left! NO RIGHT!!
Bromo is also a spiritual place where offerings are left by locals
Bromo is also a spiritual place where offerings are left by locals

Heading back to the hotel in Cemoro Lawang, there are great views of the caldera and the village that sits on the very edge of the crator, a few more days here would’ve been brilliant if we’d had the time (or wi-fi).

The village of Cemoro Lawa
The village of Cemoro Lawa

The remainder of day two was spent hurtling along in the minivan reaching our basic accommodation close to Gunung Ijen as dusk fell.

Day three meant another ridiculously early start.

As we approached Ijen’s summit, the landscape around us is revealed
As we approached Ijen’s summit, the landscape around us is revealed

The minivan dropped us off at the beginning of the pathway that led up Ijen. This was good, and certainly no theme-park. Those crowds were all at Bromo, and so in our small group, it was a pleasant hike up the mountain in the cool morning air.

No crowds here, although a few very friendly locals insisted on a photo or ten
No crowds here, although a few very friendly locals insisted on a photo or ten

One hour later, we arrived at the top to view what looked like a scene from a James Bond movie. Steam rising out of a huge volcanic crater which bubbled away whilst bee-like workers mined the bright yellow sulphur rock – how these guys carry this stuff out of the that place is a miracle, each basket weighs 25kg (and they carry two).

Ijen’s core is a bubbling, living, breathing monster
Ijen’s core is a bubbling, living, breathing monster
A miner carrying 50KG of sulphur. How?
A miner carrying 50KG of sulphur. How?
No chance. Didn’t move it one millimeter!
No chance. Didn’t move it one millimeter!
The scene on top of the crater is simply breathtaking
The scene on top of the crater is simply breathtaking

By the time we arrived back to the van it was getting on for lunchtime so a few snacks were in order. Not long after, we were at the port. We opted not to buy a ferry and onward bus ticket from the tour company, we decided to go it alone from here on in – I mean, how difficult could it be?

 

Things to be wary of: When we were sold the trip, we were told we would be in the ‘good’ hotel on the first night in Bromo (Yoshi Hotel) however, when we reached the town of Probolinggo, the minivan stopped at a tour agency and we were told that our preferred hotel was not available. Insist that you’ve paid for it and don’t let them change your booking!

Tip: if you’re offered the buffet menu in the second hotel, just order one for two people, it’s enormous!

Comments

Claudia Espinoza
Reply

Hi Mike!
When did you visit Indonesia? I plan to go on february 20’s to Yogya and february 28’s to Bali, and I’m a little worried about the weather. Also, I really don’t know if 8 days in Java will be enough (want to visit Borobudur, Prambanan, Bromo and Ijen) or if it is too much.
Thanks!!

Donald
Reply

Hi Mike,

How much did you pay for the tour package?

Mike
Reply

Hi, sorry for the delay in responding. We don’t have the figures to hand, but I seem to remember it was around 3.6 million Rupiah for two people.

Cassandra
Reply

Hey there, Mike and Silke!

What an informative and lovely post.

My boyfriend and I will be visiting Yogyakarta end of April 2014 and we are still deciding on which tour operator to book with for our trip to Mount Broom then to Ubud. Which tour agency did you go to?

There are way too many online and we aren’t sure which are the reputable ones.

Thanks a bunch!

Mike
Reply

Hi Cassandra, sorry for the late reply. There are tons of places to book this tour with in Yogyakarta if you’re leaving from there, I’m pretty sure they’ll all be cheaper than booking online too. I can’t remember exactly the agency we used, but we stayed in the Bladock Losmen & Restaurant on Jl Sosrowijayan (one of the main streets for hotels in Yogyakarta) and the agency we used was just a few doors down from there. We used them first for a tour to Borobudur which we thought was worthwhile and they were nice guys too. Good luck with your trip and have fun.

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