Sunrise over the volcano

Photos and description of what it is like to visit Mount Bromo in Indonesia. The view as the sun rises and then crossing the sand sea to climb to the top.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Mount Bromo, Indonesia

There aren’t many reasons tourists take the road south from Surabaya.

To be fair, there aren’t many reasons tourists would even be in Surabaya in the first place, but let’s overlook that for now. Because the city is the staging point for the 120 kilometre journey down East Java to one of Indonesia’s most beautiful natural attractions.

I’m talking about Mount Bromo, the active volcano that lies in the middle of a large valley. With its top blown off, it appears more crater than mountain, while putrid sulphurous gas and smoke billow out from within.

Visiting Mount Bromo for sunrise, Indonesia

One of the reasons it has become such a popular site for visitors is that Mount Bromo doesn’t exist in isolation.

The valley is actually a ‘caldera’ – an enormous cauldron-like pit created by the ground collapsing after a major eruption. And all through and around this caldera are the remnants of volcanic action of the past… and the ominous signs of more to come.

Visiting Mount Bromo for sunrise, Indonesia

Most people start their visit well before the sun is up, in preparation for the sunrise. In a convoy of jeeps (the road is too bad for anything else, so the jeep cartel owners tell me), we head towards a nearby mountain, Mount Penanjakan.

From the end of the road, it’s a twenty minute climb to the viewing area, although dozens of locals with horses will gladly accept some money for a ride up.

I had been warned that it would be cold at the top, but I think that must have been by Indonesian standards because, although the rays are yet to reach out across the terrain, it is far from chilly.

Visiting Mount Bromo for sunrise, Indonesia

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park

As the sun rises, the clouds are the first to catch the colour. Red. Pink. Orange. Then the valley starts to glow.

The shadowy outline of the mountains come into the focus and vista across the whole area is suddenly bathed in light. It is a good way to start the morning, indeed.

Visiting Mount Bromo for sunrise, Indonesia

An hour later, down at the base of Mount Bromo itself, I am confronted with the ‘sand sea’. It was hard to get perspective from the viewpoint but now, as I am forced to quickly shield my face as a wind gust tries to blast grains into my eyes, it feels like something from Africa or the Middle East.

The only vegetation is up on the cliffs around the caldera, watching fearfully down at this barren landscape. These are the wastelands of East Java, the plains poisoned for eons by volcanoes, a dangerous ghetto of sulphuric solitude.

Visiting Mount Bromo for sunrise, Indonesia
Visiting Mount Bromo for sunrise, Indonesia

But again, there are horsemen here. While many visitors choose to walk the 30 minutes or so to the top of Mount Bromo, there is once more the option of going on horseback.

The riders, covered up to protect themselves from the sandstorms, have an eerie and romantic ruggedness to their appearance. A Hindu temple set against the grey landscape demonstrates their connection to this region.

Visiting Mount Bromo for sunrise, Indonesia

At the top itself, there’s only so much to do. The gases coming from the crater are quite overpowering and at times it’s a bit uncomfortable to stand at the edge and look down.

Sudden bursts of strong wind blow a concoction of smoke and sand right into my face. But to look down into the volcano makes me feel a bit insignificant.

Visiting Mount Bromo for sunrise, Indonesia

This is a unique part of the country. It’s more than just a volcano – it is a whole tract of land which has evolved over the millennia from the geological activity beneath it. It’s created a natural phenomenon much larger than any tour can do justice.

It just feels… special… to be here.

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

39 thoughts on “Sunrise over the volcano”

  1. That reminds me of a place (I think it was in Indonesia) I saw on a documentary, they were mining sulphur, certainly not the healthiest career but they made good money by local standards.

    • I believe the place you mention is Kawah Ijen, there are a lot of sulphur miner over there and even if the pay is good they still living life barely above the poverty line. But still Kawah Ijen is also one of the main tourist destination in East Java.

        • I would recommend you to visit both Bromo and Ijen. I guess both of them are pretty similar if you’re talking about volcanoes, sulfur and crater but the feeling and the experience are different, mainly because of the sulfur miner. You gotta talk to them to understand why are they doing such dangerous work, I think they have a story or two to tell you. Also you can go further into the crater to see the turquoise-colored-sulfuric-acid-lake in the middle of it,

    • Thanks, Chris. You wouldn’t want to have stayed up there too long, though. It was pretty uncomfortable with all the smoke and sand. And, after such an early morning, I was ready for some coffee by this point! 🙂

  2. Terrifying place to find yourself in should the ground start shaking & the heat start spiraling up. But, I’d have stood next to you all the same with views like that to oggle at.

  3. Such a stunning, varied and dangerous place all in one! Your photos are stunning and it is a great story. I can only imagine what it would be like to climb a volcano.

  4. I climbed up to the viewpoint at dawn to watch sunrise here…spectacular! Did you learn about the temple on the ground? When Bromo last erupted it caused much devastation, but somehow not one drop of lava touched the temple at its foot! Amazing place

    • I am not definitely sure what they are planning to do this year, but Mount Bromo is normally open on public holidays. (Be warned, though, it is usually much busier – and tours can be more expensive – on public holidays.)


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