Here’s how we arrived at our Java itinerary
A friend recently told me that she’s planning for that dream trip to Mount Ijen and Mount Bromo. She had looked up my post about our family excursion to Java’s volcanoes, and while she couldn’t contain her excitement to visit this awe-inspiring part of the world, there were plenty of questions in her mind. I was more than glad to help a fellow traveler.
The post about that part of our trip, though, was in need of details, so I’m sharing here our actual itinerary with more specifics, tips on planning and safety, links for maps, and select transport, booking and contact info.
Take note, the island of Java is huge — almost half the area of the entire Philippine archipelago — with many attractions to choose from, so let’s start with the places in East and Central Java one ought to visit first for a one-week trip.
East and Central Java’s major sights
■ Mount Ijen via Banyuwangi
■ Mount Bromo via Cemoro Lawang
■ Prambanan and Sewu Temples in Yogyakarta
■ Borobudur via Yogyakarta
How many days do you need?
Kicking off the tour with transit from Ubud, Bali, five days sufficed for us to see and experience four of Java’s major attractions. We had to skip visits to the town and city centers for lack of time, though. So if you wish to engage in other activities in East and Central Java, set aside seven days or more.
Merry mix of tour package and DIY bookings
We booked the Ijen BlueFlame Tour package online for the Mount Ijen and Mount Bromo legs of our trip, starting from Gilimanuk, Bali and culminating in Surabaya, East Java. BlueFlame also arranged the trip by van from Ubud to Gilimanuk in Bali and the ferry crossing from Gilimanuk to Ketapang, Banyuwangi in Java. The tour company, of course, is named after the otherworldly blue flames of the sulfuric crater lake of Mount Ijen.
We specified that we were traveling with three children, the youngest being nine years old, and BlueFlame assured us they’ll do fine (they had a blast). Although the tour company offered the lowest rates, surprisingly, the quality of the tour, the guide, driver, and accommodations in all was beyond expectation.
As for the train ride from Surabaya to Yogyakarta, we booked it online ourselves weeks in advance, alongside the accommodation in Yogyakarta.
Is it advisable to go full DIY with your Java trip? I considered doing so, but opted for the tour package for Ijen and Bromo. I’ll explain later. Moving on…
Here’s what the entire tour looks like:
(Start of BlueFlame Tour package)
Depart for Gilimanuk Harbor
Ferry to Ketapang Port, Banyuwangi
Mount Ijen Volcano Complex
Pick up for tour
Start trek to Mt. Ijen
Stop at waterfalls
(We skipped the coffee and rubber plantation)
Breakfast at hotel
Depart for Cemoro Lawang
Stop at Pasir Putih Beach for lunch
Check-in Cemoro Lawang
Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park
Pick up for tour on board 4×4 jeeps
Watch sunrise at view point
Start trek to Mt. Bromo
Breakfast at hotel
Depart for Surabaya
Drop off at Surabaya Gubeng Railway Station
(End of BlueFlame Tour)
Board train to Yogyakarta
(We booked our train seats online weeks ahead)
Arrive at Stasiun Tugu Yogyakarta then check-in at hotel
(We booked a 5-seater car via Klook for one day)
Candi Prambanan and Candi Sewu
Magelang, Central Java
Rest in hotel
Yogyakarta to Singapore
Depart for Adi Sucipto International Airport
Depart Yogyakarta via AirAsia
Arrive in Singapore
Where we stayed
For Mount Ijen tour:
Ketapang Indah Hotel
(Tour inclusion, with breakfast)
For Mount Bromo tour:
Istana Petani Hotel
Cemoro Lawang, Probolinggo, Java
(Tour inclusion, with breakfast)
For Yogyakarta tour:
Jalan Solo, Yogyakarta
(Booked via Agoda and chose this one as it is just 15 minutes away from Yogyakarta airport, and cheap)
We recommend Ijen Blueflame Tour for your Mount Ijen and Mount Bromo excursions based on our experience.
Operator: Ijen BlueFlame Tour
Proprietor: Johanes Tony
Email: [email protected]
Johanes was with us all throughout the booking process. (Thank you, Johanes!) Request for Arif as guide, if he’s available. You won’t regret it.
Package inclusions for Bromo and Ijen tours:
✓ Private car
✓ Fuel (petrol)
✓ Tickets for ferry crossing (Gilimanuk to Ketapang)
✓ Hotel accomodation for Ijen with breakfast
✓ Hotel accommodation for Bromo tour with breakfast
✓ Guide for Ijen and Bromo
✓ Entrance fees for Ijen and Bromo
✓ Dual filter gas mask
✓ Torch light
✓ Private 4×4 jeep for Bromo tour
✓ Toll fees
✓ Parking fees
✓ Mineral water during entire tour
✓ Bonus: Waterfall side trip in Banyuwangi
✘ Horse in Bromo
✘ Lunch and dinner
Ubud to Gilimanuk Ferry Port
Distance: 130 kilometers
Travel time: 4 hours (with stops)
Ketapang Ferry Port to Banyuwangi (hotel)
Distance: 3 kilometers
Travel time: 7 minutes
Banyuwangi to Mt. Ijen (parking area)
Distance: 40 kilometers
Travel time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Banyuwangi to Cemoro Lawang (hotel)
Distance: 219 kilometers
Travel time: 6 hours (with stops)
Cemoro Lawang to Mount Bromo (drop-off)
Distance: 9 kilometers
Travel time: 30 minutes
Cemoro Lawang to Surabaya Gubeng (train station)
Distance: 114 kilometers
Travel Time: 3 hours (with stops)
Gilimanuk Port to Ketapang Port
Distance: 5 kilometers
Travel time: 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes
Frequency: 30-minute intervals
Fare: 6,000 rupiah (₱23, included in tour package)
Surabaya Gubeng to Stasiun Tugu Yogyakarta
Distance: 330 kilometers
Travel time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Train class: Eksekutif (soft seats)
Train name: Sancaka
Online booking: tiket.com (you need to sign up)
Tickets: 240,000 to 305,000 rupiah (₱890 to ₱1,130)
Operator: Kereta Api (major operator of public railways in Indonesia)
Yogyakarta and Denpasar, Bali have non-stop flights to and from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur via Air Asia.
Yogyakarta to Kuala Lumpur
2 hours 40 minutes
Yogyakarta to Singapore
2 hours 15 minutes
Denpasar to Kuala Lumpur
Denpasar to Singapore
2 hours 50 minutes
You can do the Bali-Java route in reverse, depending on your entry points and flight availability. If you wish to skip Yogyakarta and just see Mount Ijen and Mount Bromo, you can use Surabaya as entry or exit points via direct flights from Bali or Kuala Lumpur.
Safety and other matters
■ Always follow what your guide says, especially when it comes to advisories on volcanic activity.
■ Wear the right clothing for cold weather. The temperatures on Mount Ijen could drop as low as 8 degrees Celsius with the wind chill, and even lower at the Mount Bromo viewpoint.
■ Wear comfortable hiking shoes. The hike from the drop off area to the crater rim is four kilometers. Bromo will need you to hike a little less.
■ For Mount Ijen, you need a gas mask even if you don’t have to wear it during most of the climb.
■ Masks and flashlights are usually inclusive of tour packages, but for DIY trips, you can rent a mask and flashlight at the parking area of Mount Ijen.
■ If your guide says you need to wear the mask, wear it.
■ The path to the sulfuric lake a kilometer from the crater rim is steep and unsteady so if you wish to see the phenomenal blue flames up close, make sure you’re fit to go down and back up.
■ Stay alert in the vicinity of the crater lake, especially while watching the blue flames and observing the sulfur miners, since the vents suddenly expel huge volumes of toxic sulfuric steam.
■ Make way for the sulfur miners. Some of them, by the way, moonlight as “taxi drivers” and offer their trolleys to hikers whose legs have given up on them.
■ Mount Bromo is a sacred volcano among the Tenggerese people, so observe proper decorum. They have a temple at the foot of the mountain called Pura Luhur Poten.
■ Since the volcano is active, those who wish to climb the crater are warned of its dangers, if not prohibited from doing so.
■ Bring a scarf or face mask as the Tengger massif is surrounded by vast sandy plains and it could get dusty when the winds blow.
■ Always bring your trash back.
Final note on DIY and tour bookings
I explored the idea of doing a DIY trip for both volcano trips, but acquiring the services of a tour organizer turned out cheaper, more convenient, and more secure for us with an experienced guide — our animated guide Arif was an ex-miner in Ijen — especially that we had three children in tow.
Consider the accommodations, which the tour package includes. When I checked the rates of similar hotels — we would have needed to book two hotels for Bromo and Ijen — the rates made little difference when I ran the numbers at that time. And to our pleasant surprise BlueFlame booked us in a three-star hotel for the Ijen leg, and then at a cozy bread-and-breakfast hotel for the Bromo leg.
The good thing with BlueFlame is that they can easily customize your trip. So, I still suggest that you ask separate quotations for tour with accommodations and tour without accommodations, then check booking sites like Agoda as they regularly offer huge discounts for you to compare.
Also, consider the six separate land trips and one ferry crossing that you need to book separately. The other option is to get a package tour there. Since time wasn’t on our side and to minimize delays that could arise from having multiple “service providers,” we opted for one tour operator.
And except for some minor hitches like the ferry incident in the Strait of Bali, the trip from Ubud to Yogyakarta — to our huge relief — went on wonderfully as planned.