A Morning With Mount Bromo

by Brenna Holeman

Mount Bromo 8

I woke up shivering, my teeth chattering louder than the alarm clock screeching its salutations. I glanced at it: 3am. Its dull blue digital screen was the only light in the room; it would be hours before the sun would rise. I threw off the scratchy wool blanket and rolled out of bed.

Before planning to go to Indonesia, I had never even heard of Mount Bromo. Perhaps I had seen a photograph of it somewhere without knowing what it was. In my research I learned that it was an active volcano on the eastern side of the Indonesian island of Java. Right from the beginning, I knew my route; I’d fly into Yogyakarta, then travel east until reaching Bromo. Then, Bali, where I’d visit Lovina’s black sand beaches and Ubud’s cultural centre before ending my journey on the Gili Islands.

Mount Bromo 5

But before I could reach the ocean paradises of Bali and the Gilis, I wanted to spend a morning with Bromo. Gunung Bromo in Indonesian, it is part of the Tengger massif. Tenggerese people consider the volcano a significant one, and once a year offer vegetables, fruit, flowers, rice, and animal sacrifices to the Hindu gods, climbing the volcano and throwing them into the caldera. I wouldn’t climb Bromo, but I would climb Mount Penanjaken in order to watch the sun rise over the massif.

To get there had been a bit of a hurdle, taking a horribly rickety bus from Yogyakarta. We stayed in a small village nearby, bunked in freezing cold rooms with faded hospital-green walls and a bathroom with no door. In order to see the sun rise over the volcano and its surrounding sisters, we’d have to wake up at 3am.

When the alarm jostled us awake we were delusional, giddy with lack of sleep. Already wearing most of my warm clothing, I had borrowed a down jacket from the tour company for the chilly morning climb. A few pieces of toast and a strong cup of Indonesian coffee later, we were in the van again, where it would drive us to the dropping off point for the climb up Mount Penanjakan.

Mount Bromo 6

I have referenced this many times on this blog: I am not a hiker. I do not enjoy climbing mountains. Knowing I had a nearly two-hour hike to get to the viewpoint, at this time of hour, was akin to one of my worst nightmares. Often in life, however, it is necessary to do things we don’t enjoy, especially when the payoff is one like the one awaiting me at the top.

The climb was difficult not because of the incline, but because of the darkness. Equipped with only little hand-held torches, we huffed and puffed our way slowly but surely, our breath escaping us in small white clouds. Once in a while horses would pass us carrying those tourists who didn’t want to do the climb, so the only sounds we heard were the murmur of voices and the clip-clop of hooves.

Mount Bromo 10

Mount Bromo 1

Mount Bromo 3

Mount Bromo 7

We reached the top just as the sky was starting to turn from a gritty gray to a softer pink. We had gone to the highest point we could, even higher than the viewing platform a few dozen metres below. Finding a cold rock to settle on, we waited.

There is something so typical about a beautiful sunrise or sunset. We know exactly what’s going to happen, exactly what colours we expect to see, watch to wait that great yellow orb rise or sink. And yet, always, our breath is taken away. Even though we know what’s going to happen, it still leaves us in awe, it still humbles us and revitalizes us anew. The sunrise over Mount Bromo was no different, and as the sun came up the group of us were silent. Only the occasional click of a camera broke the spell.

Mount Bromo 4

Mount Bromo 2

Mount Bromo 11

I don’t remember how long we stayed there, perhaps a couple of hours. I remember having to drag myself away, slowly making my way down over the rocks. It was much warmer now, and we had peeled off most of our layers. A snack came in the form of grilled corn, and I fed what was left of mine to a random horse along the way.

Before starting to plan my trip through Indonesia, Mount Bromo was never a place I wanted to visit. But now, when I remember Indonesia, it’s she who stands out. In fact, going back through all of those memories of Indonesia – Borobudur’s Buddhas and history, Lovina’s foggy mountain air and cold sea, Ubud’s shopping and culture, Gili’s diving and tranquility – I realize that it is one of my favourite countries. Maybe it’s only after we step away from it, after we reflect, that we can see just how special and significant it was.

Mount Bromo 8

Have you ever heard of Mount Bromo? Have you been there, or would you like to go?

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Paula April 24, 2014 - 5:07 pm

Hi Brenna! I am a freshman following your blog, and this is the first time you share something I’ve done before:) Never heard about it before, but I was living in Borneo at the time and needed to go to Surabaya, so an Indonesian friend recommended it to me. Mount Bromo was such an experience! By the way, I did not hike the mountain but went by jeep;) Definitely worths a visit!

Brenna Holeman April 26, 2014 - 4:59 pm

Oh wow, how cool! I’m glad that you were able to spend a day with Bromo, too. Happy travels!

Brea April 25, 2014 - 3:39 am

What pretty pictures:) My family and I did something similar in Maui, but we drove to the top of the crater, instead of hiking. And although it was the coldest I have ever been, (and I live in Edmonton, Alberta!) it is what I remember most about our trip there. Probably the best sunrise I have ever seen!

Brenna Holeman April 26, 2014 - 5:07 pm

Oh nice, I did that in Maui, too! Did you cycle down? Haleakala, right?

Raquel April 25, 2014 - 6:27 am

Wow. Those pictures are beautiful. This is the first I’ve heard of Mt. Bromo but now that I have I’d love to go see it!

Brenna Holeman April 26, 2014 - 5:07 pm

Great, I hope you get to see it one day! Thanks for the comment.

Jen April 26, 2014 - 12:05 am

Oh, how I can relate to the mountain hiking sentiment. Because I am a geography wizard, I have heard of Mount Bromo, but I haven’t been there myself (yet). I am in love with these pictures. The colors = perfection.

Brenna Holeman April 26, 2014 - 5:09 pm

Thank you so much, Jen! I definitely need to brush up on my geography, I guess mine wasn’t that good before visiting Indonesia…

Audrey - That Backpacker May 4, 2014 - 12:30 am

I’m not much of a hiker either, but I somehow decided that I wanted to climb Mount Batur (also an active volcano) when I was in Bali. Like you said, the hardest part of the hike was that we had to do it in the dark! They gave us little flashlights, but it wasn’t much help when we were trying to use our hands to pull ourselves of sharp volcanic rock. It was torture the whole way up, but the sunrise that morning was magical. 🙂

Brenna Holeman May 4, 2014 - 11:25 am

Oh wow, that sounds cool, though! I think Bromo was enough for that Indonesian trip, but I would probably give another volcano another go if I went back. Those sunrises are just incredible.

Bama May 5, 2014 - 2:44 pm

I’ve been to Mount Bromo three times and each time was so unique and different from the previous one. It’s one of those places I will never get bored of. The massive ancient caldera itself has so many things to explore. You took some beautiful photos too!

Brenna Holeman May 6, 2014 - 12:21 am

Oh wow, how amazing to go three times! Thanks a lot for your comment, I’m glad you also appreciate Bromo so much.

rebecca May 6, 2014 - 7:18 am

beautiful! absolutely stunning! what a magical moment. Like yourself, I had never heard of this mountain but the pictures have inspired me and this place is certainly going on my bucket list!

Zalie May 7, 2014 - 11:19 am

I had never even heard of Mount Bromo before reading your post! I can relate to what your meant about after stepping away from something, you truly realize how special it was.

Brenna Holeman May 7, 2014 - 4:24 pm

It was really cool! You can imagine that I wasn’t too pleased with the hiking bit, but the sunrise really was worth it.

The Mighty Mount Bromo | backpackerlee June 29, 2015 - 5:26 pm

[…] For more information and lots of photos of Mount Bromo (and Mount Ijen further east in Java), check out this blog from Vikram Bahl and these epic photos of a Bromo sunrise from This Battered Suitcase. […]

Ankur August 4, 2015 - 10:11 am

What a wonderful set of pictures!
You have a new follower 🙂

Ankur August 27, 2015 - 10:10 am

Mt Bromo offered me the best sunrise of my life. I would consider it a very mild trek.

Brenna Holeman August 27, 2015 - 3:05 pm

Yes, one of the best for me, too! As I said, I found the trek difficult because of the darkness, not necessarily the incline/terrain.

DS September 23, 2015 - 1:26 am

Hey Brenna ! Definitely in love with your post ! Just wondering , you decided on Mt Penankan or your tour guide? Cause it seemed that Mount Penanjakan is less crowded as compared to Mount Bromo viewpoint .

Brenna Holeman September 23, 2015 - 4:42 pm

We didn’t have a guide – all that was included with the company we booked was accommodation and the transportation there. Then we were left at the bottom and hiked up ourselves… and so I suppose we decided on our own to avoid the viewing platform! Not sure if that’s what you were asking… sorry.

Miles of Happiness - Marie September 29, 2015 - 3:01 am

Amazing experience up there… I loved it. The village, the atmosphere, the sand, the smoke… What an adventure!

Brenna Holeman September 29, 2015 - 1:14 pm

Yes, it really is an adventure! 🙂

miko January 27, 2016 - 1:14 pm

hii, brenna, i m miko form indonesia, i have been work as tour guide in bromo, for about 7 years, may be you dont know yet, to see bromo sun rise there are 4 nice spot,
1, seruni point view or penanjakan 2, ( to reach this place, we have to climb up many stair,
2. bukit cinta ( love hill) – very easy to reach this place, just other side the road climb up by jeep
3. kingkong hill higer than love hill, easy to reach as well no need long walk, just 200 meter from jeep car park
4. penanjakan 1, 2700m, the most higher spot for sun rise, by jeep, easy walking,

thanks brenna


becky November 8, 2016 - 11:01 am

Hi Miko,

May I have your email address as I wan to travel to Bromo.
Wish to get you as our tour guy.


Agung January 29, 2016 - 7:52 am

hi Brenna,

Really nice review from u.
you should come to bromo now, its eruption. a rare view.
2014-2016 , almost 2 year, time to visit again. come on, hahahaa 🙂

kries March 15, 2016 - 4:47 am

Hi Brena, your blog is awesome. I almost can imagine your travel experience here. anyway, I’m from Indonesia. Happy to read your closing sentence, you made my country as the most favorite one,,
do you have plan for visiting Indonesia again?

Brenna Holeman March 15, 2016 - 9:40 am

It’s one of my favourites, yes. I’d love to return but I don’t know when that will be!

archana c. February 13, 2017 - 7:00 pm

lovely pics, did you go with any particular tour/guide??


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