Mount Bromo without a tour
Tours are nice for people who have little time or don’t want to deal with the adventure of finding their own way. Of course, there are acceptations, but the Mount Bromo sunrise is not one of them. (And Mount Ijen too!) If you would like to spend countless hours on a packed minibus, eat at designated tourist restaurants and have the same cookie cutter experience with a thousand other people, then book it. Or, go your own way and have a unique experience for much cheaper by taking on Mount Bromo without a tour!
After seeing the price of the Mount Bromo Sunrise tour, it initially looked like a great deal, everything is taken care of and minimal effort is required. That’s what vacation is all about, right? I was tempted to book a tour for Mount Bromo after reading some of the stories of travelers having a hard time finding their way or being a victim of the scams and touts in Probolinggo, but with research, I felt prepared for what was to come. It was overwhelming at first, but quite simple after all was said & done and we had a spectacular experience.
Getting to Camoro Lawang
We made our way to Probolinggo via train and took a minibus to the small town of Camoro Lawang, the base of Bromo, where we found a cheap homestay for the night. We arrived in the night but still had time to catch a nice meal at the Lava Cafe, a popular cafe and tour operator. Aside from food, they also have a lot of helpful information on the different routes and places to watch the sunrise in the area.
At 3 am we set out for Gunung Pananjaken, a mountain just east of Mount Bromo. Pananjaken is outside of the park so it is free to visit, and overlooks Mount Bromo. Since people go to watch the sunrise over Mount Bromo, it would only make sense not to be ON Bromo, right? We also chose this location because we knew there would be ALOT fewer people. I was told there could be around a thousand people at the top of Mount Bromo…
We had a beautiful full moon lighting our way down the road and up the trail. The route is not difficult and is along a dirt road for most of the way before turning into an obvious path. By 4:45 am we reached the first viewing point where we decided to watch the sun rise. The viewpoint on the top of the mountain is where the Jeep Tours park and is full of tourist, a place I was not interested in.
By 7 am the sun was up and casting beautiful shades of orange across Mount Bromo, the perfect time to get a picture. Nobody on the Bromo tour could have had this experience which is just another reason to do Mount Bromo without a tour!
We hiked down Gunung Pananjaken and headed towards the base of Mt. Bromo by crossing the Sea of Sand. About half way across we were stopped by park security and who insisted we pay him 250,000 IDR since we were now in the national park, but we declined since we had already seen the best views and decided to hike back to town.
The National Park would usually cost 217,000 IDR, which is quite outrageous considering it doesn’t seem to be used to maintain the park at all. I would gladly pay to support the park if I felt it was being used properly, but I don’t feel like that is the case here. Either way, this was an incredible place and I would highly recommend going!
How to do Mount Bromo without a tour:
Take a train or bus to Probolinggo. I took the train from Yogyakarta.
If you arrive by train, take a CITY BUS to the BUS TERMINAL. There are a lot of touts in Probolinggo because most foreigners arriving there are heading to Mount Bromo without a tour, watch out for scams, especially near the train station. It is common for a driver to stop at tour agency and tell you it’s the bus terminal, be firm and make sure you go to the correct bus terminal.
From the bus terminal, walk south until you find the blue/green mini buses going to Camoro Lawang. They should be a 10-15 person bus and cost around 25-35,000 IDR. They leave when they are full, if it is not full they will charge you the difference for the empty seats. We arrived at 4:30 pm and left by 5:30 pm.
Find a cheap homestay in Camoro Lawang. We arrived at night and a man offered us a double room for 150,000 IDR. It was nothing special obviously, but we only needed to sleep there for a couple hours.
We started hiking at about 3:30 am, but it really depends on how fast you hike. The hike shouldn’t take more than an hour and a half to reach the top.
Tips for the hike:
Always have Travel Insurance when hiking or climbing! Best to be safe when you are hours from the nearest hospital!
Gunung Pananjaken has multiple viewpoints, there is no need to be in a sea of tourist.
Avoid weekends and holidays as they will be busier.
The trail can be dusty, a bandanna is nice to cover your mouth at times.
To take photos, get your camera set and snap some photos occasionally, but don’t watch the sunrise through your lens the whole time, enjoy it with your eyes!
If you still want to hike Mt. Bromo, you may have to pay the fee but don’t pay any more than the actual price. You can catch the trail near the bottom of Gunung Pananjaken to cross the Sea of Sand and up Mt. Bromo. Going after the sunrise will allow for all of the tour groups to leave and give you a much better experience!