- Cemoro Lawang (Mt Bromo) Accommodation: Café Lava Hostel ($35/night, private bathroom). It was overpriced but it was convenient, clean and even had hot water. Plus we were able to book the sunrise jeep tour through them, which was really helpful. I’m not sure if there was A/C but we definitely didn’t need it because the temperature was cool up in the mountains.
When we were in Bali we did a lot of research to figure out how to get to Mt Bromo. I thought it would be relatively easy to figure out but since we weren’t staying in Kuta where most of the hostels are located it was difficult to find much information online. Finally Rosie found a tour company online called Perama Tour with an office in Kuta, so she sent them an email inquiry about transportation from Bali to Java. They responded promptly and said they could take us to Bromo and then onto Yogyakarta for 400,000 rupiah/person, excluding meals and accommodations. We thought it sounded like a pretty good deal and since we couldn’t find any information about bus schedules from Denpasar to Java we decided to do the “tour”.
We were a little nervous about the 8 passenger mini-van because Rosie gets very carsick and I had a feeling the roads would not be very good, but we didn’t really have any other options. I told her to take a lot of Dramamine and get that barf bag ready! Since we weren’t staying near Kuta and didn’t want to trek all the way up to their office just to book the tour we actually managed to just book the whole thing online via email, which I guess was kind of risky but Perama had good reviews online and seemed pretty trustworthy. We met at their Kuta office at 8 or 9am the morning we were to leave so the van could pick us up. About an hour later a mini-van with 2 other American guys picked us up and we began the 10 hour journey to Mt Bromo. We quickly learned that they use the term “air conditioning” very loosely. Apparently the A/C was on but you most certainly could not feel it in the backseat. It was essentially a sweatbox on wheels. And the roads were crappy and windy, plus the driver was a borderline psychopath behind the wheel. His favorite manuveur was to be texting while simultaneously passing 5 cars in the row, in the dark on very narrow roads. So this made for a fun adventure. It was a 4 hour drive to the ferry from Kuta, then a 1 hour car ferry to Java, and then another 3-4 hour drive in Java to Probolinggo. Once in Probolinggo we switched drivers for the final 1.5 hours drive to Cemoro Lawang, the base town for Mt Bromo. It was a very long day to say the least. Not only did I fear we might suffocate from the heat in the car, but our driver insisted on driving 100 mph while also texting, swerving in and out of lanes, flashing his lights and overtaking trucks on narrow one lane roads. It was a miracle that Rosie did not get sick. After having taken over 30+ bus/van rides in Asia I can still say that was one of the worst!
I definitely recommend booking the Bali-Bromo-Yogya trip through a tour operator because it’s very confusing to figure out all the connections on your own. Plus there’s probably not much of a difference in price between traveling independently vs booking it through a “tour.” We met a girl who took a bus from Denpasar to Probolinggo, but the bus didn’t arrive until 3am and they dropped her off on the side of the road. So she had to convince a stranger to drive her to Cemoro Lawang at that time of night, which ended up costing her more than what we paid. In my opinion it’s not worth the hassle to try and figure it out on your own, but if you have a lot of time to spare and are really strapped for cash then I suppose you can get there some other way.
We stayed at Café Lava Hostel in Cemoro Lawang, which Rosie had booked online ahead of time just by emailing them. It was nice to already have figured out a place to stay because we ended up getting in pretty late.
We woke up at 3:30am to watch the sunrise from Gunung Penanjakan over Bromo and the surrounding area. We took a 10 min jeep ride (which we booked through the hostel), then a 20-30 minute uphill walk to reach the viewpoint. You definitely need a flashlight to see where you’re going. We lucked out and got a beautiful morning with a breathtaking sunrise – definitely one of the best I’ve ever seen in my life. The cool temperature also felt refreshing after having been in such hot weather. Next we drove to the base of Bromo and climbed up the side of the volcano to peer inside. It was actually a pretty strenuous walk with a series of over 200 steps towards the rim. But I was also in really poor shape then so I’m sure most people don’t find it that difficult! We sat on the rim of the volcano and peered inside. You don’t see hot lava spewing out of the center, but it’s still amazing how there were no guardrails. I kept wondering how many people had fallen into the cauldron over the years. It is still a very active volcano with the most recent eruption in January 2011. It was closed to the public for 6 months afterwards while scientists investigated. The surrounding landscape was very barren; it almost felt like we were on the moon.
After we got back from our Bromo excursion we packed up our bags, ate breakfast at the hostel and waited for our mini-van to pick us up to bring us to Yogyakarta. After an hour of waiting we started to think that the tour company ripped us off and wasn’t coming now that they had their money. When they finally showed up they said that the first driver got into a car accident. I’m not sure if that was actually true, but seeing the way people drive around there I wouldn’t be too surprised. After 12 hours of driving we finally arrived in Yogyakarta. The funny thing is that it’s really not very far (232 miles), basically like driving from New York to Boston, but since there aren’t any highways in Java it took almost triple the amount of time. We had a great day visiting Bromo and I highly recommend seeing at least one volcano while in Java (I heard that Ijen is really cool too). Since over 40% of the world’s active volcanoes are in Indonesia, it’s definitely a must see.