Located in the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, at the heart of East Java, the largest volcanic region in the province is Tengger Caldera. There are four volcanoes standing next to each other and creating a majestic image: Mt Bromo (2329 m), Mt Batok (2440 m), Mt Penanjakan (2770 m) and Mt Semeru (3676 m) – the highest peak of Java. Periodically erupting every 20 min, the volcano is one of the most active in Indonesia.
However, it is Mount Bromo (2329 m) that attracts most of the tourists, hikers and photographers.
BROMO-TENGGER-SEMERU NATIONAL PARK
Gunung Bromo is very active and easy to recognise, as its entire top has been blown off and the crater inside constantly belches white smoke. Mt Batok is inactive and the greenest of all, and most popular with photographers.
The fit ones will want to reach the summit of Gunung Semeru, but it won`t be an effortless hike. Generally, the best spot for the famed sunrise-views across the entire area is from Mount Penanjakan. From here, the visitors will get to enjoy the side of the caldera, aptly dubbed the Lautan Pasir, translated as ‘Sea of Sand’, is an area of 10 sq kilometres coated with fine volcanic ash.
The jewel of the plains is Pura Luhur Poten – a sacred Hindu temple set at the foot of Mt Bromo. Compared to the surrounding lush, emeralds highlands this large ashy desert lends an eerie and unsettling effect.
THE TENGGERESE CULTURE & KASADA FESTIVAL
The national park was partially named after the local residents – the Tenggerese, who are deeply devoted to Hinduism. The ethnic group has been walking the highlands of the Tengger range since ever, living almost entirely from agriculture.
On the 14th day of the month of Kasada, they gather at the rim of Mt Bromo`s active crater to present annual offerings of rice, fruit, vegetables, flowers, livestock and other local products and ask for a blessing from the Supreme God – Hyang Widi Wasa.
PURA LUHUR POTEN TEMPLE
Right in the middle of the spectacular Segara Wedi sand plain there sits Pura Luhur Poten. The temple holds a significant importance to the mountain villages of Ngadisari, Wonokitri, Ngadas, Argosari, Ranu Prani, Ledok Ombo and Wonkerso.
The religious Yadnya Kasada Festival is held annually and goes for 4 weeks. On the 14th day, the grand ceremony starts, when the visitors can watch the local Hindu crowds proceeding along the crater edges of Mt Bromo where, by old tradition, offerings are thrown into the crater.
JAVANESE FOLKLORE AND MOUNT BROMO
According to an old legend, the Kasada ceremony dates back to the time of the Majapahit Kingdom, during the reign of King Brawijaya. The queen gave birth to a daughter, Rara Anteng, who married Jaka Seger, a young Brahmin. They fled together as Islam expanded in java during the 15th century. Although together and in love, they were not able to have any children, so they decided to climb up to the top of Bromo and pray for help. The God of mountain listen to their prayer and promised to give them a lot of children under one condition – they would need to sacrifice one of them in return. After the 25th child was born and the promise broken, the God got angry and the last child was thrown into the crater. From then on, every year there must be a ceremony of offering as a punishment. And so it is..
CLIMBING MOUNT BROMO
The two main gateways to the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park are Probolinggo (with the starting point in Cemoro Lawang village) and Pasuran (with the starting point in Wonokitri village). You can reach both towns via Surabaya, Malang or Banyuwangi (if travelling overland from Bali). There are three options to climb Mount Bromo.
1.ORGANIZED TOUR FROM BALI/JAKARTA
Tourists who do not have much spare time will want to take an organised three-day tour from Bali or Jakarta that seems a good option for holidaymakers. Such a tour is also to be arranged directly in Surabaya at any local travel agency. You will be looked after for the entire time of the journey – all inclusive. However, that can cost you up to USD 500 per person.
2.SELF-GUIDED TOUR VIA PROBOLINGGO/CEMORO LAWANG
Independent travellers can reach Mt Bromo by Patas shuttle bus from Bungurasih Bus Terminal/Purabaya in Surabaya to Probolinggo (3hr drive). This is the most popular and most visited route.
There are also minivans available in Surabaya ideal for larger groups of travellers. Optionally, you can travel by train from Surabaya, as well. From Probolinggo bus terminal you will need to get to Cemoro Lawang village, using the local yellow minibus Sukapura or Ngadisari. Stay at one of the guesthouses in Cemoro Lawang.
NOTE that in the peak season, weekends and local holiday time accommodation in Cemoro Lawang often get fully booked.
Ojeks and jeeps to Mount Bromo run every morning from 6 am, and they are suitable for elderly and visitors who prefer comfort. Besides, there are horses available for the “lazier” to take them to the last section of the trek which needs to be conquered on foot – 249 concrete stairs.
Otherwise, anyone can easily walk the entire length; apart from the stairs up to the rim, it is more of a stroll than climb. It will take you 45 minutes to get to the crater from Cemoro Lawang, and the trek and the crowds marching one after another like ducks are so evident that even at dawn there is no need to hire a guide which you will likely be offered several times. You will only need to pay the entrance fee to the national park which is around USD 25 per person (it might vary from person to person or a mood of the officer, and it increases year by year).
3.SELF-GUIDED TOUR VIA PASURUAN/WONOKITRI
Alternatively, there is another access to the volcanoes (less popular but also less crowded) – from Pasuruan. A bus ride from Bungurasih Bus Terminal/Purabaya in Surabaya to Pasuruan takes about 2 hours. Then the starting point to Mount Penanjakan for the Mount Bromo sunrise trip will be the village of Wonokitri. You will need to stay at one of them overnight to organise your trip.
The 15 km long trek starts at Wonokitri and takes about 3 hours, so if you want to make it before sunrise, you will have to get up pretty early. Otherwise, you can hire a 4WD vehicle and a driver who will take you there. You will only need to pay the entrance fee to the national park which is around USD 25 per person (it might vary from person to person or a mood of the officer, and it increases year by year).
The base for most of the trips in the national park is the village of Cemoro Lawang, where most of the visitors stay. It is recommended to hire a scooter and explore the park independently at your own pace. There are beautiful villages with traditional houses, waterfalls, lakes and other volcanoes to climb.
ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES IN THE BROMO-TENGGER-SEMERU NATIONAL PARK
HOW TO AVOID SCAM
Sadly, the whole Mt Bromo area is filled with the scam, and you need to be aware of it at all times. You will frequently be attempted to be ripped off and told lies by the locals, so use your common sense and always try to negotiate the price when hiring a scooter, car or paying for any services.
You will only need to pay the entrance fee to the national park which is around USD 25 per person (it might vary from person to person or a mood of the officer, and it increases year by year). Also, all prices during the peak season might double.
HOW LONG TO STAY
Organized tours from Bali or Jakarta typically take 2-3 days. If you arrive independently from Surabaya, you should allow a day or two just to look around and arrange the trek. Overly, you will not need more than three days for the whole trip to Mt Bromo unless you intend to climb Mount Semeru (allow 2-3 extra days).
WHEN TO TRAVEL
The dry season generally goes from June till September which is also the peak season – Bromo gets extremely crowded and overpriced, but the visitors will get the best views. Between December and February, it rains abundantly and the chances of taking a good photograph decrease – however, there will be not as many tourists.
Perhaps the middle season (Oct-Nov, March-May could be a good option, excluding weekends and the Indonesian public holidays when the local students often arrive in large groups. Nevertheless, the Bromo area is almost always busy and filled with people, so do not expect unspoiled beauty.
NOTE – there are constant eruptions occurring in the volcanic reserve and the park often gets closed. Always check out for the local volcano activity updates and weather forecast.
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly to Jakarta/Java or Denpasar/Bali first (these international airports are well-connected to any Asian or Australian Airport).
Then you will need to catch a domestic flight to Surabaya or Malang. From either of the cities, depending on the access point, you will need to get to either Probolingoo/Cemoro Lawang by bus or train or Pasuruan/Tosari and Wonokitri.
The tourist infrastructure here is excellent and transport very good. It is always advisable to hook up with other travellers for safety and better deals.
For all domestic Indonesian flights check out www.garuda-indonesia.co
MAP OF MOUNT BROMO TRACK (FOR SELF-GUIDED HIKING)
MAP OF RANU KUMBOLO-RANU PANI-RANU REGULO CIRCUIT
MAP OF THE GREAT MOUNT SEMERU (MAHAMERU) TRACK (2-3 DAYS RETURN)
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