With over 13,000 islands that cover an area similar to the size continental United States, Indonesia is home to some 127 active volcanoes, the majority of which form a 3000km chain known as the Sunda Arc.
These beautiful islands with their varied cultures and geologies offer a plethora of experiences and plenty of spectacular panoramas, as well as some of the best volcano hiking opportunities that you may never have considered before. The dramatic scenery here is simply awe-inspiring.
One of the most iconic volcanic hikes in Indonesia are those in the region of Mount Bromo, which is known throughout the world for its spectacular sunrises. The volcano was named after the Hindu god Brahma and the surrounding landscape is subject to countless local legends and myths.
One of the most well-known, and still of significance to the local Tengger people to this day, is that of a childless prince and princess who begged the gods to bless them with children. The gods duly obliged and blessed them with 25 children on the proviso that their last child be sacrificed.
After the birth of their last child the prince and princess did not want to sacrifice their new-born but the gods threatened them with devastating volcanic eruptions that would wipe out the local area. For the good of their people the story goes that they made the ultimate sacrifice.
The local people still appease the Gods once a year during the annual Kasada festival which is held on the 14th day of the Javanese calendar (which usually falls in August), by making offerings which are thrown into the crater of the volcano.
Mount Bromo is located in the Tengger Semeru National Park in East Java. Though not the tallest in Indonesia, it sits at some 2,329 meters and is renowned worldwide for its sunrises. Its crater can be picked out from a string of volcanoes that dot this area for its billowing white smoke.
My favourite way to start the hike is to awake early (around 3am!) and hike around two hours up Mount Penanjakan to see the sunrise. One is afforded stunning vistas from this vantage point, and Mount Bromo with its white smoke as well as Mount Batok can be seen in the foreground. Behind them, the imposing Mount Semeru - the highest volcano on the island - reaches 3676m towards the sky. To see the sunrise over this magical part of the world is a magnificent start to the day!
After taking in the sunrise and watching the mist clear, one can cross the three-kilometres across the ‘Sea of Sand’ towards Mount Bromo. As name would suggest, this comprises an expanse of volcanic sand where little grows.
The crater of Mount Bromo can then be reached by around a one-hour walk from the drop off point. From up here one is afforded an insight into the workings of a volcano as you can peer down into the caldera and see the off-white sulphurous smoke.
Many who come for the sunrise disappear straight afterwards to either move on to their next destination or venture back to their hotels, but I think that it is well worth staying on to explore more of the Tengger Semeru National Park which has some panoramic trails through the deserted volcanic landscape.
Mount Bromo is located in East Java, the best international airport to fly in to is Surabaya which has direct flights from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Denpasar. From the international airport a 4 hour drive will take you to Mount Bromo.
The area surrounding Mount Bromo is not blessed with luxurious accommodation, instead the accommodation on offer is comfortable and clean but when staying here the main focus is on being out in the landscape, hiking amongst the volcanoes.
With so many islands and so many volcanoes there are lots of amazing locations to hike volcanoes. Though not all volcanoes are active, the key ones to mention include Mount Kelimutu on the island of Flores, which has three multi-coloured volcanic lakes at its heart, and offers hikers a bright reward at the end of the four hour hike.
Mount Merapi is Indonesia’s most active volcano, and adventurous travellers often opt to hike this at night with expert guides. One begins hiking at around 1am and the hike takes about four hours, giving plenty of time for rest breaks and snacks. You can take your time, but this is a steep climb with slippery gritty ground in some places. However the payoff is a exquisite sunrise seen from far above the clouds, with the steam from the volcano’s crater behind you.
Mount Ranjani on the island of Lombok is another one of Indonesia’s most famous hikes; though it is not easy, you will be rewarded with breath-taking views and a feeling of isolation as you are likely to be the only one there. Then there is Ijen Crater on Java which is home to a blue lake, billowing poisonous gas, and yellow sulphurous rocks, if you opt to hike in the middle of the night you can be rewarded with views of the odd phenomenon called blue fire.
There is so much to do in Indonesia! The country is blessed with a plethora of islands which have gorgeous scenery, ancient temples, beaches (some of which have black volcanic sand), and cerulean seas meaning there is no shortage of activities on offer.
The island of Bali encompasses a lot of what Indonesia has to offer all in one relatively small area. In the centre of Bali sits Ubud, home to glorious greenery, rice terraces and ancient temples to name just a few, whilst the south is home to lovely beaches perfect for unwinding.
Back on the island of Java sits the iconic 9th century Buddhist temple of Borobudur and the lesser-known 10th century temple of Prambanan. For those that wish to see more of Indonesia one can charter a private boat and set sail to explore some of the islands, on board one can snorkel or dive or just enjoy admire the panoramas as you sail past.
Indonesia generally has the best weather during the months of July and August. However, this being prime Summer Holiday times for Western travellers, this can bring many crowds, particularly at the most popular shrines and temples.
The dry season in Indonesia typically runs from May to September making this whole time period pleasant to visit (though in this ever-changing world weather patterns are becoming less predictable!). Our recommendation would be to travel outside of the main summer months when there are likely to be fewer tourists around, but when good weather should still be on the cards.