Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen

The clock strikes midnight, and there we are, in the heart of the night, packing our bags at our hotel in Yogyakarta. We’re gearing up for the midnight train ride to Malang! A major shoutout to the hotel owner for letting us own the day without the night charge. 

Yesterday we came into contact with a tour guide via Facebook. This guide helped us put together a double volcano climbing experience (Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen) including all the transport, accommodation, and even a ferry ticket to our upcoming destination, Bali! So exciting, as this was our very first volcano experience in Indonesia

The six hours pass by slowly on the night train but when we finally arrive at Malang Station, our tour guide is already happily waiting for us. Yay, our adventure can officially begin! He brings us to his homestay where we get some breakfast (the classic fried rice with a little egg) and we are able to spend the rest of the day here. We try to get some sleep since we are exhausted and realise that we have to wake up at midnight again this night because we are visiting Mount Bromo. The day goes relatively fast and we get a couple hours of sleep in and watch some TV. Our tour guide also told us we could take his scooter and explore the area, so we did! 


At 23:30 our alarm goes off, we get out of bed and start packing our bags. Now it is officially happening! It is about a two-hour drive to Probolinggo where we can drop off our luggage. Then we drive further for about 90 minutes until we arrive at the entrance of the park. We wait a bit before our jeep arrives and then we drive to the top. We first visit a viewpoint that looks over Mount Bromo and other volcanoes with the sunrise and then we visit the actual crater. On this jeep ride, we met a girl from Ukraine, who was also taking the tour. The driver brings us close to the top of the hill but then stops the car and tells us that we need to walk the rest of the way. We get out and start walking up the road that is filled with jeeps that are parked at the side, a ton of scooters that ride up and down the hill offering people lifts for way too much money, and a lot of people hiking up the hill the same way we are.

Our jeep driver told us it was only a 5-to-10-minute walk to the top, at least we thought that is what he said. But after walking for about 30 minutes, we can finally see the end of the hill. The sun is already starting to rise, so we are getting excited and trying to rush a bit further to get a better spot in the big crowd of people. We finally get a good spot, and get out our phone cameras and our GoPro, ready to shoot all the action, only to realise we are at the completely wrong spot. 

HOW? How was this even possible? How did we get to a spot where you couldn’t even see the volcano? Yes, the spot has a great view of the sunrise, but we obviously wanted to see the volcano as well. So, we quickly checked Google Maps and navigate to “King Kong Hill”, the place we actually wanted to be (we are very sorry, random Ukraine girl, for all this rushing and running that you had to endure with us), but the sun was already rising and we were getting stressed and anxious, we couldn’t miss this! A random scooter comes by and we ask him if he could take the three of us to King Kong Hill and he (obviously) happily obliged. We pay him about €3,33 and the three of us climb on the back of his scooter. We all hang on for dear life but we make it up the hill safely. We get there barely in time as we rush up the last part of the hill to see the first rays of sunshine coming over the hill. Yes, we did it!  

Mount Bromo, Mount Ijen, Indonesia, Asia Travel, volcano, climing a volcano

The winds are very strong at the top of the hill and all our bags, clothing and even our teeth are full of sand and dust. Kobie wasn’t very keen on this because she has been having throat issues for the last few days and this really isn’t helping.

After this, we walked back (calmly this time), to the jeep and he brought us further to the bottom of the actual volcano crater itself of Mount Bromo. We walked up the crater which wasn’t too difficult and once on top we were able to see straight into it. Due to the heavy wind, it was quite hard to see and the smell of sulphur was pretty bad. We thought it was a cool experience but the crater itself was a bit disappointing to us, possibly also due to the wind and dust.

At this point, we were also completely exhausted from the trip but also from the strong winds that quenched our throats and above that, there were sandstorms. It was time to get back to our jeep.

Once back in the jeep, a French couple joined us as well and we rode back down to the entrance of the park again. When we were here, we had some breakfast (yay more rice) and then rode back to Probolinggo to pick up our luggage. Arriving there, we had to wait for about 90 minutes before we would leave for the next homestay, near Mount Ijen. Damn.. we would love to take a shower and brush our teeth by now since we are so dirty from the dust and sand. 

After a dreadful 90 minutes, a group of guys and girls also come in to take the same trip to the homestay before Ijen. The ride towards the homestay takes much longer than any of us expected, as we drove for about 8 hours to the location. At this point, we are so exhausted that we message our tour guide, telling him that we actually wouldn’t like to do the Mount Ijen tour this midnight but rather the next night. Kobie is feeling unwell, her throat is acting up and she is losing her voice. I am just super tired so I hoped we were able to move it a night. 

We get a response back that he will “take a look”. He doesn’t answer any of our calls and he never responded back after this message. We had to make a decision, to either skip the entire Ijen volcano or just push through, wake up at midnight again and just go for it. As we are extremely tired and ill there is only one logical thing to do…

So, we wake up at midnight once more, pack our bags, and get in the car again to drive to the entrance of mount Ijen. We have to push through and see how beautiful this volcano is! We cannot pass up this once-in-a-lifetime experience. So, when we arrived, we walk quite a steep path up. There were these little cars pushed and pulled by two people where a person could sit in, to get you all the way up. That must be an incredibly hard job…

Anyway, throughout our hike to the top, the night sky is beautifully lit with more stars than I’ve ever seen. Impossible to take a picture of unless you have a telescope of the sort. Once up top, we climb a rocky “path” down into the crater to see the famous “Blue Fires of Ijen”. This blue fire phenomenon happens due to the sulphur that is at the bottom of the volcano together with the immense heat of the lava. This can only be seen before sunrise so that is why we had to be there at night. There are still miners active who carry sulphur all the way to the top. After a pretty rough climb down (no injuries though!), we had to put on our gas masks for the toxic chemicals that are fuming down there. 

The fire was exceptional to witness. It was like a small wall of about 10squared meters filled with vertical lines of blue fire, with a ton of smoke coming off. 

But now we have to climb the exact same rocky path up again to see the sunrise at the top of the volcano. While climbing back, it slowly started to become a bit light again since the sun was already rising. Looking backwards, we could see the huge crater filled with acidic water. This was a beautiful sight to behold. 

Once all the way at the top, now with the lights turned on, we could see our surroundings and it was jaw-dropping. On the right, you had the immense crater lake, and to the left, there was a view above the clouds onto other volcanoes. This was the most beautiful view we both had ever seen and this gave us such an energy boost.

It was time to take the same route back down the mountain, and the entire walk back we were just amazed by the sky, the clouds, the volcanoes, the mountains and everything else! This was truly the highlight of our experiences thus far. 

Once we arrived back at the foot of the mountain, we were brought back to the homestay for some breakfast (you guessed it, RICE), and got some time to clean up and get some rest. After an hour or so, we were brought to the harbour and got placed on a ferry to Bali. 

Total cost

If you want to climb Mount Bromo and/or Mount Ijen yourself, you must be very carefully when booking a trip. There are tons of tour operators offering a package to one or both of the volcanos, some even include visits to waterfalls. As this is a more expensive experience, we did some research before booking a trip. At one point, we decided to do Mount Bromo all ourselves as we found a secret free pathway to Mount Bromo. But since the volcano is hard to reach from any city, we wanted to do a tour anyways. So we posted a question in a Facebook group if a duo or trio wanted to share a car with us to split the price. Instead of other travelers answering our Facebook post, we got approached by different tour guides.

We bargained with a tour guide who offered us a tour to the two volcanoes for 2.500.000 IDR for the both of us. We thought this was a good deal since a lot of tours already ask about 2.000.000 IDR per person. We negotiated and got the price down to 2.300.000 (€ 154) and we would receive a pick-up from Malang Station, an accommodation to spend the day, and ferry tickets to Bali.

So it’s all about bargaining. Don’t be afraid to ask for more and bargain for lower prices, as this is common to do in Indonesia.

What we got for our package:

– Pick-up from Malang station to homestay in Malang

– Breakfast

– One day/night use of homestay in Malang

– Transport from homestay to Mount Bromo (2 taxi’s and 1 jeep)

– Entrance fee Mount Bromo

– Breakfast

– Transport to homestay close to Mount Ijen

– One night at homestay close to Mount Ijen

– Entrance fee Mount Ijen + guide and gas masks

– Breakfast

– Transport to Ketapang Port

– Ferry ticket from Ketapang to Gilimanuk (Bali)

For us the transport was very important. From Malang to Ketapang is already 300+ km, without the stops for the volcanos. That would be very expensive when managing this all by ourselves. Also the ferry ticket was a big bonus, the driver literally bought the right ticket for us and dropped us on the ferry, so we didn’t have to deal with scammers or looking for the right ferry.