Indonesia is a wonderful place to visit. Me and my buddies went for a long weekend trip to Kawah Ijen and Mt. Bromo. Being a bunch of young kids we prefer to plan our trips on our own rather than taking package tours. While it sure does require more planning it gives freedom to plan the trip to our need and satisfaction. To help my fellow friends and travelers I'm sharing some tips and markers towards planning your own trip. Also I have shared some amazing pictures that I took while on the trip. The landscapes are absolutely breathtaking and it is a must place to see for all nature lovers.
Our Trip: We started from Singapore and headed towards Juanda International Airport - Surabaya. Both Bromo and Ijen are places to visit in the night, Ijen being farther away from Surabaya was first on our list. Getting a good hotel near Ijen can be quite difficult because of language barrier and because of the fact that none of the hotels there are listed online! moreover these hotels are very badly maintained and one has to keep expectations low from them.
A failed attempt at star trail photography....We didn't have enough time after climbing up the Ijen crater, the sun rose within 15 minutes!!
If you want to stay close to the Ijen crater you should chose Arabica Home Stay but in my opinion staying little farther is actually a good idea. We stayed at hotel Rosali in Sitobondo which is 50 Km (2 hours) from Ijen crater. Most people start for Ijen in early morning around 3 AM, but I would highly suggest to start much earlier around midnight. It is a tough 2.5 hrs trek to the top of Ijen from which one can actually descend to the bottom of the crater where the sulphur is mined. The sulphur is set on fire (it burns with a bluish flame) and allowed to melt; this looks absolutely breathtaking in the night. So if you would like to experience it you must start much earlier. Keep in mind that it gets really cold in the night at the crater. Temperatures can go as low as 5 C, so you better be prepared for it. A good pair of sports shoes is a must else trekking will become next to impossible. There is Blawan waterfall on the way back from Ijen which I would highly recommend visiting. After that we directly headed back to Sitobondo and took some rest and then started for Bromo.
Bromo is 5 hours from Sitobondo, again the trip for Bromo starts early in the morning at 3 Am. Again you may stay very close to Mt. Bromo or little away from it in the city of Probolinggo. I would suggest staying in the city, not only is it cheap but also you have more options for food. We stayed in hotel Lava Lava, which is quite nice. You have to hire a 4X4 jeep at Bromo to climb the steep and ash filled mountain. There is still a bit of climb that you may complete on foot or hire a pony. Once again Bromo is also going to be very cold so be prepared.
Indonesia is quite cheap relative to Western standards so you should hope for an inexpensive trip. We got hold of a very nice driver (Mr. Rudi) from a renting agency who really made the trip worthwhile. Here is the details of the travel agency:
Fortune Rent Car (http://www.fortunerentcar.com) Phone No. 081-5520-5033, 081-1234 49 7777. We got an Innova for three full days for as little as 1.58 million IDR exclusive of fuel and toll tax.
PS: In case you decide to stay at Sitobondo and have some time to spare I would recommend going to White Sand Beach.
Distance Info: Surabaya to Sitobondo 5 hrs; Sitobondo to Ijen (Sempol) 2.5 hrs; Sitobondo to Probolinggo 3.5 hrs; Probolinggo to Bromo 2.5 hrs; Probolinggo to Surabaya 3.5 hrs
4x4 jeep at bromo will charge 450k IDR (2012 prices). Jeep is not required for Ijen.
Roads are fine, though all roads are one lane and quite difficult to drive even for an expert. So I suggest you do not drive on your own. Roads leading to Ijen (some 15~20 km) are really bad.
Now here are the photos; believe me the photos are not doing justice, you need to see the place with your own eyes.
Mount Bromo Sunrise
Wide angle view of the mount
Sun rising through the mist
The 4x4 Jeep that transports you to the spot
The jeeps waiting for the visitors
The stairs are quite difficult to climb, especially with tonnes of volcanic ash skidding down
A view from the top
On the way to the top of the crater
That's where we started
On the crater
Climbing down towards the sulphur mines of Ijen (must start quite early for this)
Kawah Ijen Sulphur Mines
The blue flames - it feels out of this world
Wide angle view of Ijen from the top (That lake is the most acidic lake in the world)