Being one of Java's premier attractions, Gunung Bromo and the Tengger Caldera area get their fair share of visitors with many travelling straight from Yogyakarta via some sort of pre-arranged tour. It’s not a bad option to take a tour from Yogyakarta, but one thing is almost guaranteed: you will be travelling via the town of Probolinggo, staying overnight in the town of Cemoro Lawang on the lip of the Tengger Caldera and the next day you will either be travelling to Kawah Ijen, Bali or back to Yogyakarta. A whirlwind tour if you like. But there is another alternative for those not wishing to take organised transport.
If visiting Malang, it is possible to reach the Tengger Caldera and Gunung Bromo much more quickly than taking the circuitous route of heading to Probolinggo and then up the hill to Cemoro Lawang. Better still, you can head to Bromo one way and depart the other, allowing you to see two totally different but spectacular sections of scenery that truly are a joy to behold. Malang is easily reached by a seven hour train trip from Yogyakarta.
The route from Malang starts on the side of the road, looking for an angkot to take you to the Arjosari bus terminal. Luckily for you angkots travelling to Arjosari pass most main roads in town frequently from early in the morning to late at night. Look for any angkot with the letter A on the windscreen — such as an ADL or GA — and it will get you to the terminal for 2,500 rupiah.
Once at Arjosari, catch an angkot to Tumpang, 24 kilometres away for 5,000 rupiah. The whole trip from Malang shouldn't take more than an hour or so. In Tumpang, things get interesting.
There are two ways of getting to the Tengger Caldera, Gunung Bromo and accommodation in Cemoro Lawang. The first and easiest way is to charter a motorbike taxi (ojek) to carry you and your luggage for 100-120,000 rupiah up the steep ridge, which affords some absolutely magnificent views. It gets cold along the way and long pants and a jacket are a good idea. Without stopping this should take around an hour -- two if you stop to enjoy the scenery along the way.
The second way of getting to the top is by jumping in a shared jeep, which departs from the Tumpang market, for 60,000 rupiah. Expect to be asked for 500,000 to 700,000 rupiah to charter a vehicle. The problem with this method is that the jeeps only leave when there are enough passengers, meaning that a long wait could be in order. Worse, they simply won’t depart at all if enough people don’t show up, so it’s advisable to arrive early and with a backup plan to use an ojek if the jeep option doesn’t materialise.
The good thing about heading to Bromo from this direction is that you get to pass through the savanna at the back of the caldera which is an incredible contrast to the Sea of Sand around the front — something the vast majority of visitors to the area simply do not see. It is so impressive that we reckon it’s a must-see if already in the area. The other good thing about this route is that it’s easy to make a slight six-kilometre detour to the town of Ranu Pane where hikes to Java’s tallest volcano commence from.
Of course, you can do this entire journey in reverse for the same price. It’s a great way to do something a little bit different when visiting Gunung Bromo.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.