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Mount Bromo

In which we take a jeep ride to a volcano summit and hike through a caldera - before breakfast!

Now a sunrise visit to Java’s Mount Bromo volcano inevitably entails an early start. Very early. The reward for this short night’s sleep though is a truly unforgettable and we reckon unique experience and some truly awe-inspiring vistas (plus there’s plenty of available siesta time later in the day for the sleep-deprived). We’ve heard a few grumbles beforehand but never afterwards.

Indonesia, Java Overland. sunrise at Bromo Volcano
Mount Bromo, East Java

We arrive in Brom National Park – or Bromo Tengger Semeru-Arjuno to give it its full name – the day before and check in to our well-placed lodgings in a small village on the range’s lower slopes by mid-afternoon. The low-key and super-friendly Bromo Terrace is our accommodation of choice with comfortable individual chalets in a garden setting. A delightful spot where the most popular late-afternoon activity appears to be sitting in the garden with lashings of cold Bintang.

Bromo Terrace
The Bromo Terrace lodge

The following day then (or later that night to be more accurate) is a 3 o’clock kick-off. (That’s a.m. not p.m. by the way.) Personally, I like to make it 2.30 to allow for a hit of wake-up caffeine on my chalet verandah then it’s time to board our transport. Private transport (thankfully) isn’t permitted on the steep, narrow lane that winds its way up and down the mountainside so rather ancient, but amazingly well-maintained, Japanese jeeps are the mode of choice.

In the caldera
In the caldera

It’s then a 45-minute or so ride in the pitch dark through the village; down into and across the dune-filled caldera and up the vertiginous slope to the summit viewpoint on the far side. Ok, but why so early you may ask? The thinking behind the apparent madness is that, without any parking area as such at the summit, jeeps are lined along the narrow verge leading down the lane and with only 4 Western-sized passengers per vehicle, on a busy day that can mean a long row of parked Nissans and Toyotas. Get up there early to avoid a long uphill walk and choose a coffee shop to ensconce ourselves in is the plan. There’s no shortage of very welcome little wooden shacks selling pre-dawn teas, coffees and snacks along the roadside.

Coffee and tea stalls atop the mountain
Coffee and tea stalls atop the mountain

It can get busy with local visitors – particularly during weekends and holiday timeĀ  – but for anyone who’s experienced sunrise at Angkor, for instance, this is far from crowded and anyway our tour-leader Ari just happens to know a top viewpoint that no-one else does. (And…you can even take your tea or coffee with you!) The light conditions, colours, mist in the valleys and crater are obviously beyond anyone’s control but being atop a mountain with views down into the caldera and across a whole series of volcanoes along the horizon is pretty much going to guarantee some spectacular views whatever the weather’s doing. (Note to self; despite being close to the equator, 4.00 in the morning at 3,000-ish metres is definitely nippy so thanks Greta for the loan of your woolly hat and I’ll make sure I’m better prepared next time!)

Mount Semeru on the horizon
Mount Semeru, Java’s highest mountain, on the horizon and ‘Baby Bromo’ in the foreground

We linger for an hour or so, depending on stamina and conditions, then head back down the mountain into the caldera itself with stops at other viewpoints on our descent. The caldera or crater itself. housing the perfect little volcano within a volcano known colloquially as ‘Baby Bromo’, comprises of a stunning, lunar landscape of very fine, grey-coloured ash dunes edged by vegetation-covered escarpments on all sides. (Since it was dark on the way up we hadn’t been aware any of this earlier.)

Bromo. Mist in the caldera
Mist in the caldera

Time for a hike – or even pony ride – through the surreal scenery and of course another snack and tea break before heading back to Bromo Terrace for a cracking and well-deserved local-style breakfast. Not a bad morning and we’ve left the afternoon free so you have the choice of a siesta, relaxing on the balcony or, for the more active, a village walk or hike to one of the national park’s picturesque waterfalls.

Our Mount Bromo sunrise visit is included as part of our 2-week Java Overland tour. We’re hoping to be able to offer this trip for October and November of this year while for 2021 the intention is to have both a 12-day Java Overland (Yogyakarta to Denpasar) tour and an 18-day Sumatra to Bali option, (Medan to Denpasar.)