Indonesia seldom strikes as a preferred travel destination among tourists these days. With the emergence of Japan and South Korea as the top destinations in popular demand, an occasional trip to the lesser-known gems of Indonesia could be a surprisingly pleasant addition to your travel list.
In April 2015, I had the opportunity to travel to three places in Indonesia – the Ijen Crater at Banyuwangi, Mount Bromo volcano at East Java, and the ever popular Bali island. The trip lasted 6 days – 3 days at Ijen and Bromo, and 3 days at Bali.
So, here’s a guide on what’s in store in these three places…
We arrived at Surabaya airport, and immediately made our way to Banyuwangi for our first destination – Ijen. The car journey took more than 4 hours, so do prepare some snacks and water. We spent the night at Ketapang Indah resort – well, sort of – we had to wake up at 2am the next day to begin our hike for the Ijen crater.
The hike for Ijen is relatively easy – you can reach the crater within an hour. However, as the hike starts at around 3am – to be able to catch the blue flames in the crater and the sunrise – the terrain may be dark and slippery, so do bring lights and do not hesitate to use hands as support where necessary.
The best time to view the blue flames in the crater is around 4 to 5am, as these flames disappear into clouds of sulphur smokes at the slightest bit of sunrise. The sun rises early in Indonesia, well before 6am (around 5.30 to 5.45am), so it is essential to make plans for timing. Also, make sure to either bring or rent gas masks, the pungent smoke from the sulfur can be unbearable, and sharp towards eyes.
The journey down from the crater is equally breathtaking, with views not seen previously due to the dark. With the sun up, the entire landscape becomes visible and you start to realize what a beautiful setting you are actually in.
Nearby the exit of the crater, you can find a waterfall where you can have a simple picnic breakfast after your hike. The water is sulfuric, though, so don’t touch it!
I’m not exactly a foodie, so there aren’t a lot of information on food in these guides, but one thing I know from my travel in Indonesia, is that to have authentic Indonesian food, eat like a local! Get food from streets or warungs (Indonesian stalls) and eat with the locals to avoid overpriced and ‘internationalized’ food.
Right after lunch, we headed straight for Mount Bromo, which of course, is another 4 hours car journey away. So remember to prepare snacks and keep hydrated!
We checked into Lava View hotel, which is the highest hotel up the road of hotels towards Mount Bromo. The hotel entrance faces the volcano directly, showing why it is known as the top of the crop.
Similar to the first night at Banyuwangi, we could not afford to have much sleep. 4am next morning and we were up and running to get to a nearby mountain, Mount Pananjakan, before we headed to Bromo.
You can choose to hike up to Mount Pananjakan which would take around an hour or more, or hire a jeep (plenty of those around) to take you up in no time. People often come to the peak of the mountain to catch a sunrise over Bromo.
We took the jeep to Mount Bromo. The journey there was a fun ride, with the jeep making bumpy jumps and turns in the black sands towards the volcano. Right at the moment you can see Bromo in your sights, do not be surprised to be swarmed by horses and horsemen trying to get you to hire horses to hike up the volcano. You can choose to go by foot or on a horse.
The centre of the volcano was a fascinating sight, as we get to see the main pit of the volcano, with smoke spewing out from it, though the sight has been polluted by rubbish thrown into the crater by inconsiderate tourists.
After having breakfast back in the hotel, we made our way to the airport for our flight to Bali. This was the longest car journey yet, just a little short of 6 hours from Bromo to the airport. Don’t forget to stop by every now and then for some street food breaks!
Been to these places? Share your experiences and opinions in the comments!