Adventure Travel

Adventure travel is for the more daring amongst us. Whether it is an epic hike, an overnight canoe trip or a camping trip that is a little bit wilder than the usual ones, this will get your adrenaline pumping!

The%20Complete%20Guide%20to%20The%20South%20West%20Rocks%20Dive%20(NSW,%20Australia):%20Fish%20Rock%20Cave%20and%20Grey%20Nurse%20SharksThe Complete Guide to The South West Rocks Dive (NSW, Australia): Fish Rock Cave and Grey Nurse Sharks

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The town of South West Rocks first came on my radar when I saw a Facebook video of a school of hammerhead sharks. Say what?! ...

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Itinerary for Labuan Bajo, Flores, Indonesia 4d3n: Komodo National Park Diving, Komodo Dragons and more!

Location: , 17 min read
Itinerary for Labuan Bajo 4d3n: Komodo National Park Diving, Komodo Dragons, Kelimutu Volcano and Waterfalls in Labuan Bajo, Flores Island, Indonesia
Itinerary for Labuan Bajo 4d3n: Komodo National Park Diving, Komodo Dragons, Kelimutu Volcano and Waterfalls in Labuan Bajo, Flores Island, Indonesia
Itinerary for Labuan Bajo 4d3n: Komodo National Park Diving, Komodo Dragons, Kelimutu Volcano and Waterfalls in Labuan Bajo, Flores Island, Indonesia
Itinerary for Labuan Bajo 4d3n: Komodo National Park Diving, Komodo Dragons, Kelimutu Volcano and Waterfalls in Labuan Bajo, Flores Island, Indonesia

The beauty of Indonesia goes far beyond the frequently visited island of Bali. I always give the following Indonesia travel advice: visit Labuan Bajo and Komodo National Park. Why? I spent little over a week on this volcanic, friendly and internet-challenged island with its human eating Komodo dragons and the best dive sites in the world and completely fell in love. That is why I couldn’t have this blog online without an extensive itinerary for Labuan Bajo and the Komodo Islands with all my favorites!

View from the Labuan Bajo Hills
View from the Labuan Bajo Hills

Itinerary for Labuan Bajo 4d3n: Komodo National Park Diving & Komodo Dragons, Kelimutu Volcano and the waterfalls around Labuan Bajo on Flores Island, Indonesia

Sunrise in Labuan Bajo

Why go to Labuan Bajo and for how long?

The reason I rave about Komodo National Park is a combination of a few factors:

  • Komodo National Park is incredibly beautiful, has abundant wildlife and vibrant corals
  • Labuan Bajo is still relatively undiscovered but is gaining popularity very rapidly, especially with the arrival of the new luxury hotel AYANA.
  • The people are genuinely friendly and kind.
  • It is easily reachable by flight and per boat
  • The value for price is amazing: accommodation on Flores is relatively cheap and transport to the island is relatively cheap. Being able to be able to visit a landscape that is so pristine on a backpacker budget is exceptional!

Labuan Bajo is the main harboring point of the island of Flores, in the East Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia. This half Muslim, half Christian town at the West coast of Flores is the most important town of the island and there is a lot of boat traffic coming through. Tourists usually come here for two reasons, scuba diving and the Komodo islands. Both of those activities are located in the same national park, the Komodo national park.

There is so much to see from Labuan Bajo and the absolute shortest time I would recommend staying here is 4 days/3 nights (4d3n). Stay longer if you can fit it in. I’ve added a few items on my ideal Labuan Bajo Itinerary that you can easily add if you do have more time. If you can afford it, I also recommend spending a few days on a liveaboard. The Komodo National Park is one of the most spectacular places in the world and a lot of it is to be discovered on the water.

Gorgeous views the restaurants of Labuan Bajo, Flores, Indonesia
Gorgeous views the restaurants of Labuan Bajo

Your Labuan Bajo Itinerary: 4d3n

Alright, let’s get started! What are we planning on seeing on your four days and three nights in Labuan Bajo? Here is a recap:

  • Scuba diving or snorkeling with Manta Rays in Komodo National Park
  • Seeing the Komodo Dragons in real life
  • The Pink Beach
  • Hiking and amazing viewpoints on Pulau Padar
  • A million of flying bats on Kelor island
  • The three-colored lake of Kelimutu
  • Relax and snorkel on Kanawa Island

There is a lot more to do on the island of Flores and you can easily spend 10 or more days exploring the more Eastern parts of Flores. However, if you only have 4 days, these activities are all based out of Labuan Bajo.

I have not accounted for travel time as this will vary from the flight and/or boats that you choose to take. If you are flying, you don’t need to account for too much travel time. See more about this below.

Day 1&2: Komodo National Park Diving

In my personal opinion, the best part of the Komodo Islands is found underwater. Komodo National Park is a no-fishing zone and has an abundant amount of marine life that you can spot by either going snorkeling or diving. Scuba diving in Komodo means seeing a varied array of fish, including the endangered Napoleon Wrass, Lionfish, Jackfish, etc. The big marine life also frequents Komodo National Park on a regular basis. Expect sea turtles, Manta rays, Whitetip or Blacktip Reef Sharks and, if you’re lucky, maybe even a Whale Shark.

Next to all that wildlife, the corals are largely untouched and super colorful. You will see colors of corals of which you didn’t even know they existed! You won’t quickly find this amount of amazingness on well-visited islands like Koh Tao in Thailand or Gili Trawangan in Indonesia.

I recommend starting your Labuan Bajo itinerary with planning in your scuba dives. Always keep into account that you need to plan at least 24h between your last scuba dive and your flight to your next destination. If you are only snorkeling, you can plan it in on any day that suits you. Don’t forget to get travel insurance if you are doing any boat activities, especially if you are going scuba diving! I’ve included two days of your 4d3n Labuan Bajo itinerary to be spent scuba diving because it is the best thing I did! If you are only snorkeling and don’t want to spend more than one day on a dive boat, I mention a day 2 alternative below.

Manta Rays at Manta Point while scuba diving in Komodo National Park
I’m the diver at the back!
Manta Rays at Manta Point while scuba diving in Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park Dive Sites

The dive boats leaving Labuan Bajo on a daily basis will visit different dive spots every day. This will depend on the weather of that day, the expected currents in certain dive spots and the expected visibility. Similar to other dive sites in the world, seeing big marine wildlife is usually accompanied by strong currents. As there is a lot of big marine wildlife in Komodo National Park, it also has a reputation of being better suited for advanced divers.

Sunset on the dive boat in Komodo National Park

Manta Point

If you only go out for one day of scuba diving in Komodo National Park, make sure you head to Manta Point. Manta Point is the best known Manta Ray ‘Cleaning Station’ of Indonesia. This means that Manta Rays come here to get their gills cleaned by little tiny fish. Manta Rays are beloved by scuba divers all around the world because they are incredibly curious. Don’t be surprised if a Manta comes up and check you out instead of the other way around.

As with all wildlife, there is never a guarantee of seeing these magical creatures. They come and go as they please. Other marine life that you can expect to see at this dive site are (massive) Stingrays, Mantis Shrimps, Napoleon Wrasses, Travalli, Boxfish, etc.

Manta Rays at Manta Point while scuba diving in Komodo National Park

Manta Rays at Manta Point while scuba diving in Komodo National Park
Manta Rays at Manta Point while scuba diving in Komodo National Park
Manta Rays at Manta Point while scuba diving in Komodo National Park

Sebayur Kecil & Sebayur Besar

The words Kecil and Besar can be found in many of the dive site names in Indonesia. It simply means small and big. Sebayur Kecil and Sebayur Besar are two twin islands that have popular snorkel and dive sites right next to them. You will often go to one of the other, depending on the currents. Expect to see Turtles, Unicornfish, Lionfish, Trumpetfish, Clownfish, Cuttlefish and much more.

Flores_indonesia_travel_komodonationalpark_travelblog (5 of 77)
A Lion Fish

Batu Bolong

A dive site I’ve never forgotten the name of. Batu Bolong is a dive site with medium to strong currents attracting large marine life. Divers love it for its abundance of wildlife including Whitetip reef sharks, Napoleon Wrasse, Hawksbill Turtles, Giant Trevally, Bluefin Trevallies and much more.

The Cauldron

The Cauldron is another dive site I will never forget. It is a beautifully clear dive with almost no current. We quickly spotted three White Tip Reef Sharks and later on the most magical event of my life. We had the privilege of witnessing two turtles mate! Chasing the other, there was a definite seduction game happening. It was so beautiful to watch, what an honor!

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Another pretty Lion Fish

Chrystal Rock

Chrystal Rock is only suitable for advanced divers as you will go into the blue below 18 meters (the max depth for Open Water Divers). During this dive, I got caught up into a tornado of Giant Trevally on the hunt for food, intimidating and exciting. I also got to see the biggest Napoleon Wrasse EVER on top of White Tip Sharks, Spanish Mackerel and Octopus. A must of you are an Advanced Certified Diver!

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Who to go diving with?

There are a few diving schools on the island that focus only on scuba diving. I was put in touch with one diving school in particular, Manta Rhei Diving School. They happened to be Belgian, which I loved, and have been recommending them to everyone since (not sponsored). The school and beautiful boat is staffed with amazing local and international people. They work with good equipment and will know where the best diving spots are. Not to mention the delicious lunches and the cutest dog ever.

Another option is to walk around the town center and talk to all the dive shops or to go through your accommodation to get a package with your hotel. There are a lot of resorts such as XPirates, Dragon Dive Komodo Hostel and many others that offer these diving courses in Labuan Bajo. Booking.com allows you to filter accommodation on whether or not they provide diving.

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Can you spot the little tiny shrimp?
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A Nudie Branch or underwater ‘snail’
 scuba diving in Komodo National Park
Another cool and poisonous to touch fish, hard to see as well!

Manta Rays at Manta Point while scuba diving in Komodo National Park

Manta Rays at Manta Point while scuba diving in Komodo National Park

Manta Rays at Manta Point while scuba diving in Komodo National Park
Manta Rays at Manta Point while scuba diving in Komodo National Park
scuba diving in Komodo National Park

Day 2 Alternative: Activities on the Island of Flores

I say that Flores is my happy place because the people on the island were so kind to me. The majority of tourists through Komodo National Park never set foot on the island and maybe that’s why the island is still a bit untouched. Most locals will wish you good morning or will give you a genuine smile. The kids will line up next to the road to get high fives from tourists coming by on their scooters and will be fascinated by your appearance (apart from the cheeky little boys below). It reminded me of the isolated motorcycle loops in Laos where people were similarly friendly and curious.

Very cheeky kids around the island of Flores, haha, I wonder where they learned this!

a little church spotted while driving a scooter around Labuan Bajo

If you don’t want to spend another day on the boat, there is plenty to discover out of Labuan Bajo itself. Ask your dive shop where you can find the most reputable scooter and head on out. Make sure that you check your travel insurance and that you always drive very carefully. I met someone in Labuan Bajo who had very painful injuries from a fall on the motorcycle.

Here is a list of the activities you can do by scooter from Labuan Bajo:

  • Wae Cicu Beach: The local Labuan Bajo Beach if you want to nothing else than bum around.
  • Cunca Wulang Waterfall: A pretty epic spot within driving distance from Labuan Bajo. The waterfall is at the end of the canyon. Expect a rigorous hike back up!

  • Cunca Rami Waterfall: A bigger waterfall which I didn’t know existed at the time. I would definitely put it on my itinerary the next time around! You have to pay to park your bike, but the fall is visitable with a voluntary donation.
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  • Visit Tradition Village Melo: Located 17km from Labuan Bajo, Melo is an often visited destination to take in local cultural dances and traditional costumes.
  • Sano Nggoang Crater Lake: Only 35km east from Labuan Bajo, this crater lake is so cool! It’s not the easiest treck by motorcycle if I research the way there, but have a look at Tripadvisor yourself. It includes driving on dirt roads and hiking to get there. Make sure to find the hot springs as well if you’re headed out here!
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  • Tengku Siwa Waterfall: This green oasis is located a bit further from Labuan Bajo (2,5h per motorbike) and might require a stay-over in the nearby village of Ruteng. The locals know where the waterfall is, otherwise, this Instagram post might help.
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  • If you are heading to Ruteng, put the Spider Web Rice Fields in Cancar on your itinerary as well! These beautifully shaped rice fields are like nothing else in this world.
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At the end of your road trip, head to the local beach Kampung Ujung also known as the Labuan Bajo fishmarket for some fresh fish cooked on the BBQ.

Day 3: Visit the Komodo Islands

See the Komodo Dragons from Labuan Bajo

Most tourists will visit the Komodo Islands to see the famous Komodo Dragons. I’ve already written about everything you need to know about visiting the Komodo Dragons on the Komodo Islands. As I mention in this post, you can see the Komodo Dragons on two of the islands in Komodo National Park: Rinca and Komodo. I recommend booking a tour to only Rinca island and spending the rest of the day exploring the other islands of Komodo National Park.

A Komodo dragon on the Island of Rinca
Hiking around the island of Rinca

Other Must-Do Activities in Komodo National Park

When choosing your tour, make sure that you walk around Labuan Bajo and discuss prices and the planned stops with the tour operators in town. Have a look at the bottom activities in and around the Komodo Islands and pick your favorites as not all tours will stop at all of these stops.

    • Palau Padar: The 30-minute hike up to Padar viewpoint is simply breathtaking and should be on your itinerary. It’s a favorite amongst tourists and I completely understand why.
The viewpoint of Padar (Photo by Ash Edmonds)
    • Pink Beach/Pantai Merah: Hop back on the boat and head out to Pink Beach. Another massive Insta-worthy destination. I’ll leave whether you want to battle the number of tourists on this beach up to you. Be aware that the beach is not the same shade of pink every single day and that you should never take any sand home with you.
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  • Kalong Island: An absolute must on your Komodo Island tour is a sunset stop next to Kalong Island. It is famous for watching the flying foxes that fly off the island to collect food. There are thousands and thousands of them and seeing them is simply spectacular
The Fruitbats flying off Kalong Island
I think these bats are pretty cute, I mean, look at their little feet!
  • Kanawa Island: A famous stop when visitors come out to see the Komodo Dragons. Kanawa Island is the perfect spot to relax and snorkel in pristine turquoise waters.
  • Taka Makassar: This tiny beach in the middle of the ocean looks more like a sand cay. People have even have seen Manta Rays snorkeling from the island.
The Komodo Islands are too pretty!

Day 4: Hike up to the three-colored lake of volcano Kelimutu

Hiking a volcano is always an amazing experience. I loved the volcanoes Bromo and Ijen on the island of Java, Indonesia! If you want to spend even more time exploring volcanoes and the beautiful natural phenomena they create, visit Mount Kelimutu.

Mount Kelimutu is, as the title of the article indicates, famous for its three differently colored lakes: Lake of Old People (green), Lake for Young Men and Maidens (a pale blue) and Bewitched Lake (turquoise). While these may be the most common colors, they can change to different shades of blue and green but have even known to be red, brown, black or white.

Three-colored volcanic lake on Flores, Indonesia (Photo by Pierre-Yves Burgi)

Hiking Mount Kelimutu

There is an entrance fee to be paid to enter the park. If you are booking a tour this may or not be included, I recommend that you check. Similar to Mount Kawan Ijen, the famous sulfur volcano, the hike up to the three lakes will start around 1 am to reach the top by sunrise. If you’re looking at visiting Mount Kelimutu without a tour, your best bet is to organize transport through a shared car, ojek or truck (again, just like at Mount Ijen). I didn’t personally visit Mount Kelimutu but have heard many great stories on the view. Read this article by a fellow travel blogger for the full details on how to get there without a tour. Alternatively, you can book a tour that will pick you up in Labuan Bajo and drop you back off.

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If you decide to visit Mount Kelimutu without a tour, you will need a night of accommodation in Moni. Don’t forget that transport might also be slower than if you join a tour.

How to get to Mount Kelimutu?

Mount Kelimutu is located on the Eastern part of the island Flores and will require transport to get there. You have two options to get to Kelimutu, either by plane or by bus. The first option is by flying from Labuan Bajo to ENE Ende airport. You can find flights on Skyscanner or Kiwi. Return flights are around 130AUD. From there you will need to take the bus to Moni. Read this article if you need more specifics on flying into Ende and taking the bus to Moni. Don’t forget to take your diving schedule into account when booking a domestic flight!

Alternatively, you can take the bus from Labuan Bajo, but you will have to add a few days onto your itinerary to take public transport. Flores is not a small island! Renting a private car is another option which would take you around 12h. Read more about this overland journey here.

Where to stay in Labuan Bajo?

Labuan Bajo is a perfect base for a lot of travelers as you can find both luxury accommodation and budget accommodation.

As I mentioned in the intro, the brand new luxury addition to the island of Flores is the first 5-star resort, Ayana Resort. You might know the Rockbar in Bali, but now they also have an all-inclusive, everything you can imagine, luxury hotel in Labuan Bajo. If you can afford it, AYANA will take you on their liveaboard, give you massages and bath you in true luxury.

Another high-end option is the Sunset Hill Hotel which has insane views. The most popular accommodation on Flores, which is actually on an island in between Flores and the Komodo Islands, is Xpirates dive camp.

If you don’t want to head to an island and want the convenience of the town of Labuan Bajo, but still want to have the views, check out Coconut Garden Beach Resort. It’s on the beach and is about as Insta-worthy as hotels get.

My budget accommodation in Labuan Bajo

The biggest advantage of traveling through South East Asia is that we can usually afford a bit more luxury than at home. Especially if you for a package deal of accommodation + one of the hotel’s tours. If you are looking for even more budget accommodation, check out the increasing number of accommodation on Hostelworld in Labuan Bajo (prices around 10AUD/7USD/6EUR).

Let’s talk Internet and Electricity

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, Flores tends to be internet-challenged. By this, I mean that you should expect several blackouts where both the electricity and internet goes for an undetermined amount of time. The island has learned to deal with it and I personally enjoyed it!

How to get to Labuan Bajo?

Flores is located east from Bali and can be reached in three ways, by boat, by plane or by a combination of ferries and busses.

Flying from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo

Depending on where you are traveling from, chances are you are going to have to connect through Denpasar, the main airport of Bali. The destination of Flores has become a lot more popular over the past few years, therefore the prices of flights have climbed. A return flight from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo will set you back around 164USD/147EUR/237AUD return. Your travel time will be only 1 hour, super quick!

I always use Kiwi.com to find the cheapest flights, other alternatives I use are Skyscanner and Kayak.

Taking the boat from Bali to Labuan Bajo

You can also get to Labuan Bajo by boat. The local way is by taking the public ferry, which is very cheap and long. Another option would be by booking a tour, which is going to be the most expensive way to get to Labuan Bajo. I took the plane twice to save on time, but I will take the boat the next time as I have heard it is a beautiful trip, depending on the boat that you take.

The cheapest and most time intensive option (24h-36h) is taking a public ferry. It will also be the most dangerous option. Why is this choice dangerous? Because the safety standard are very different from in the Western countries and these boats tend to have twice the amount of people on board than the boat is suited to. Do you research well if you choose this option and don’t attempt it without travel insurance. We all remember the story of this famous travel blogger getting shipwrecked in this exact area.

Your second option to go to Labuan Bajo by boat is by booking a tour. This will often be the most expensive option as you will also have accommodation, food, and tours to Komodo National Park included.

If you are considering taking the boat across to Labuan Bajo, I recommend taking the boat from Labuan Bajo to Bali. Most tourist travel from Bali to Labuan Bajo and then fly back, so you will avoid a large crowd and might get a cheaper ticket.

Driving a motorcycle around the island of Flores, Indonesia

When is the best time to visit Labuan Bajo, Flores, Indonesia?

I was in Labuan Bajo at the beginning of April, at the end of the rain season. Being a tropical island, Flores Island and its capital Labuan Bajo have a dry and a wet season. If you are looking at visiting Labuan Bajo yourself, have a look at below calendar:

  • April to June: The end of the rain season. There are a few downpours in the early evening, but the days are wonderful. The temperature is great and there aren’t too many people on the island yet. It’s the perfect time to visit! These months are also great for the underwater visibility and you can see both Manta Rays in the water and the Komodo Dragons on land.
  • July & August: This is the high season of Flores Island and the Komodo Islands. Visiting the islands is at its ideal condition as the Komodo dragons are mating and the temperatures during the day are very warm. Expect plenty of tourists on Komodo Island at this time of year.
  • September to November: This is also a shoulder season in Labuan Bajo and on the Komodo Islands. The temperatures are still high and you can expect the start of the rain season. Just as in April to June, prices will be lower than during the high season and there will be a lot fewer tourists. These months are especially perfect if you are visiting for the marine wildlife (Manta Rays, Whales and Sharks). If you are only coming for the Komodo Dragons, don’t come during this period as they are busy nesting.
The bats flying from Kalong island in Komodo National Park

Want to visit Labuan Bajo yourself? Don’t forget to pin it!

See Manta Rays and much more while Scuba Diving in Komodo National Park, Flores, Indonesia
Labuan Bajo Itinerary, Flores, Indonesia
All The activities you can do on Labuan Bajo, Komodo National Park, Flores, Indonesia

Recommended reading about traveling to Indonesia

I loved Indonesia and always mention it as my favorite country on my six-month backpacking trip through South East Asia. If you are planning your own trip, the following articles on my blog will help your planning:

Disclaimer: This post was first published on the 1st of October, 2015 and has been republished and completely redone to give you the most accurate information. This post contains affiliate links which means that I will earn a small commission if you buy something or book a hotel. This comes at zero extra cost for you and is a way to support me and the blog. Thank you!

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Visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen Without An Expensive Tour from Surabaya

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My travels through Indonesia started in the city of Surabaya (about halfway through the island of Java). Coming from Vietnam this time around, I skipped busy Jakarta and Jogjakarta and its crowd of tourists. Starting my Indonesia travels in Surabaya would also save me a few days of travel and I could cut straight to the point: Seeing Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen!

I had a month planned in Indonesia but wanted to get a lot done. On the island of Java, I only wanted to focus on Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen. Both Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen are active volcanoes that are a completely different experience. Mount Bromo is part of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park and is a very dusty and black volcano. Mount Ijen is about 200km further east and involves a night hike up. Once you make it into the volcano, you will see the blue flames (only visible before sunrise), the sulfur that the volcano produces and a crater lake. Both super cool and worth your time!

Visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen Without An Expensive Tour from Surabaya
Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen are located on the right-hand side of the island of Java

After my visit to the volcanoes, I ferry hopped across to Bali for some much-needed beach time! I quickly discovered that the tours to Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen had a hefty price tag attached!

I wanted to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour, departing in Surabaya, but could not figure out how.

Visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen Without An Expensive Tour from Surabaya

I’ve added a table of content below for a quick overview of the article. Feel free to jump ahead if you’re looking for information on a specific topic.

Visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen Without An Expensive Tour from Surabaya

Visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour

The price of a regular tour to Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen

When I visited the volcanoes, not a lot was known about visiting these volcanoes without a tour. In addition, I found it hard to find information on how to do it myself because I was a woman traveling alone.  A female solo traveler is quite uncommon in Java and therefore I was charged extra because I did not have a travel partner.

To gain information about visiting Bromo and Ijen without a tour, I asked a few quotes from local tour companies with the following response:

Rate IDR. 6.400.000 FOR SINGLE TRAVELERS

Including services :
– private tour
– private car with air conditioner
– bromo and ijen entrance ticket
– 1 night in ancala inn bromo
– 1 night in ijen view hotel
– private jeep for mt. Bromo
– daily breakfast
– driver
– local guide trekking for mt. Ijen
– mineral water”

Recalculated an organized tour of three days would end up costing me 430 EUR/ 685 AUD/ 485 USD. Below you can see a few that run at the moment and prices are still around 380 USD, which is similar to the above price. The difference is probably due to the added extra for being a solo traveler.

Java is an inexpensive destination. Therefore, I was surprised to see the prices these tours are running for. There are two reasons why this trip costs me so much, first of all, I was traveling alone and they would arrange a separate car to drive me to both destinations. Second, you have no control over what the money goes towards and in general, that means you are overpaying a great deal.

Having traveled through many countries by myself, I told myself this price was not an option for me at the time. I set out a plan to travel from Surabaya to Mount Bromo to Mount Kawah Ijen without a tour! (Please do note, that I do not mind taking tours if I think they are fairly priced for what you are getting.)

Visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen Without An Expensive Tour from Surabaya

Visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen Without An Expensive Tour from Surabaya

Step By Step: How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour

Travel from Surabaya to Mount Bromo

Transport

There are three options to get from Surabaya to the base of Mount Bromo, called Probolingo. You can take the train, the bus or a private cab/Uber.

I chose the train as it was the cheapest and fastest option as a solo traveller. The trains are comfortable and clean so it is an enjoyable ride. I advise you to book your tickets in advance because the trains can get full. I always did it on the day itself and was lucky, but I also had some friends that had to wait for hours because certain trains were full.

While I booked my tickets at the local train station, I’ve been told it is much better to book in advance online. I found this website which allows you to view the train tables in English and actually book your train ticket online! (I have not tried the website myself, so I would recommend double checking the website before booking anything.)

Update: A reader also recommended using the Traveloka App to book the trains. I have not tried this app, so feel free to give it a go and comment below whether it worked!

Update: Another option is to take an Uber from Surabaya to Probolinggo and sharing it with a few travelers you met in your hostel. They went this way in June 2017!

Visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen Without An Expensive Tour from Surabaya

It will take you between 3 and 4 hours to get from Surabaya to Mount Bromo. Therefore, you’ll want to leave early morning in Surabaya (I took the 8.50am train) and go to Probolinggo (the base of Mount Bromo). The train ride will take you only 2h and will cost between 30k IDR and 200k+ IDR. I’m unsure why the prices are so variant, but you can see exactly how much I paid at the bottom of this article.

Try to meet other solo travelers on the train or at the station so you can split the costs for the cars/accommodation. There are several trains coming in per day so if you don’t meet anyone on the train, you can always wait until other travelers show up. I met four others at Probolingo and shared the costs of a private car from Porbolinggo to Cemoro Lawang.

Cemoro Lawang is the start base of all the tours that head up to Mount Bromo and is walking distance from the volcano. Exactly what we want!

There are shared buses (no aircon and slow) that go up the mountain to Cemoro Lawang. However, if you can pool together, I would recommend getting a private car (added benefit of aircon) as it will save you lots of time. Prepare to negotiate your best price! These private cars are easily found at the main bus station or at a tourist office. Expect to be in the car/bus for about 1,5h.

Visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen Without An Expensive Tour from Surabaya

Visit Mount Bromo without a tour

Where to stay in Cemoro Lawang

Most of the places in Cemoro Lawang are local homestays where your best bet is to rock up and ask whether they have a vacancy. Be very careful when booking a hotel on online platforms such as Booking.com as they may be further than walking distance from the rim.

We stayed at Café Lava, which is a well-known budget option for many people visiting and writing about Mount Bromo.  as it is the most inexpensive option, especially when you can share one of their low-level rooms with another traveler.

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya

The perfect time schedule for your visit to avoid the masses of tourists

The means of transport here is 4-wheel drives organised by tour companies. These passengers will be staying either in the same hotel as you, but with an overpriced breakfast included and around 5 am, they will all head out to the same sunset spot which is the summit of Pananjakan mountain.

We’re not going to do that. I recommend climbing the volcano and the rim as soon as you arrive in the afternoon. Crossing the plain is quite breathtaking and expect a lot of dust and fog. We ended having to go up twice as we could not see anything on the rim the first time around. Ask around what the best timing is for that period of the year and what the weather is looking like on the rim.

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya
Crossing the plain on the way to the Mt Bromo crater

The big attraction of the mountain is sunrise over Mount Bromo. The bulk of the tourists from the organised tours get dropped at the same spot, which is the summit of Pananjakan mountain. We did not want to join the 100s of people here!

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya
The map Cafe Lava gave to us which give you a great overview of Mt. Bromo National Park

After some research, we found out about King Kong Hill. There might still be one or two tours but that is nothing compared to the main viewpoint.

We arranged a 4-wheel drive to take us to King Kong hill via our hotel, Café Lava. Leveraging our group of five, we were able to strongly negotiate the price of our car. It ended up costing us a fraction of what the tour would. I have also read that you can walk up the mountain but as you are getting up really early, expect a challenging walk.

As you get up for sunset around four or five am, you’ll be back at Café Lava around 7am to take the same taxi or public bus back down. Because you already visited the mountain the previous day, you’ll win a lot of time in getting to Mount Ijen.

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya

Do not ride the horses at Mount Bromo

A popular tourist attraction on Mount Bromo is the horses that will ride tourist up and down. I never support animal tourism. Especially not if I saw with my own eyes how wrong it is. The horses are dragged up and down the mountain at a speed that could break their legs. The owners carve into the ears of the horses to mark them and treat them horribly when they are waiting for customers to come. I was brought to tears watching this happen in front of me and I will repeat it over and over again, DO NOT RIDE THESE HORSES. You have legs, walk up the hill yourself, it’s really not that hard.

If you’re a wildlife lover like me, make sure to stop by Flores to learn how to scuba dive and see the Komodo dragons!?

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya
Do not ride the horses

Travel from Mount Bromo (Probolingo) to Mount Ijen

Ok, you’ve made it. The first part of the journey is behind you. Now let’s head back down the mountain and make your way from Probolinggo (the base of Mount Bromo) to Mount Ijen. Again there are two possible ways.

Mount Bromo to Mount Ijen via Sempol

The most popular and the one that is taken by all tour companies. They go through Bondowoso and then taking a taxi or public bus to Sempol. From there on you can arrange transport up to the base of Mount Ijen. Sempol and the way to Sempol, however, is on the beaten track and therefore you will be paying extra just because you are a tourist in a touristy place.

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya

Mount Bromo to Mount Ijen via Karangasem

I chose to approach the mountain from the other angle, via the town of Karangasem. I chose Karangasem for two reasons. One, Karangasem from here to Bali is only half an hour drive from the public ferry (which is cheap as chips). Second, I noticed that accommodation in Karangasem was cheaper than Sempol as it has less organised tours.

The train ride from Probolingo to Karangasem will take around 5 hours which is why you will want to leave straight after sunrise.

There are a few options for accommodation in the area and they tend to be more basic. Find one that will pick you up from the train station (should be for free if you booked accommodation). The accommodation will help you in organising a car to the entrance of Mount Ijen for you.

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya

Stay in Banyuwangi/Karangasem

We stayed at the basic, but good homestay of Ganda called Kampung Osing Inn. This is a great budget option if you are looking for a good host and a homestay that knows what they are doing. They fed us a basic breakfast, tea and we had a fan in the bedroom. Prices start as cheap as 11 AUD/ 6 EUR/ 8 USD. Check your dates to see the exact price.

Another very affordable option, for only a few dollars more, is Mango Tree House which has excellent reviews and is closer to the town centre.

If you are overly exhausted from the long journey and want to add an extra night on to your itinerary to recover from all the early morning hikes, you may want to stay somewhere more luxurious. For 50 AUD/ 31 EUR/ 35 USD you can book Maharani Homestay which is the current favourite amongst visitors of the area.

 How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya
 How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya
How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya
Our guide/sulphur miner giving me a souvenir made from sulphur which solidifies in water

Visit Mount Kawan Ijen without a tour

Getting to Kawan Ijen at midnight

To hike Mount Ijen, you need to find transport that leaves in the middle of the night. It should drop you at the start of the hike at least 4h before sunrise.

Most of the time, the accommodation you booked will have other guests that are doing the hike. This will allow you to share the costs of the truck with the other guests. The car will cost 125.000INDR or 8EUR per person if the car has five or six people in it. This is the most affordable and comfortable way I could find to get there.

Another option is taking an ojek (a taxi motorbike), which will cost you 200.000 IDR (which is 13 EUR). But be aware, the ride is about two hours and if you’re coming from the sunset trip at Mount Bromo, getting up at midnight and taking the ojek will be quite exhausting.

Our pick-up was organised at 1 am so we could get a little bit of sleep in between sunrise at Mount Bromo and hiking Mount Ijen. After a bumpy car ride (I recommend taking midnight snacks) of 1,5-2h we arrived at the base of Mount Karaw Ijen. The “Paltuding” (hike starting point) opens at 1 am to start the hike.

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya

What to expect hiking the volcano Kawan Ijen

The hike up to the rim of Kawan Ijen will take you about 2-3 hours straight up in the dark, depending on your fitness level.  The walk is quite challenging but straightforward, you just have to keep climbing, step by step. The reason you’re leaving before the sun comes up is so that you can see the famous blue flames in action.

Pack a headtorch and a (wet) facemask for your walk up. The torch is to prevent you from tripping. If you have hiking poles, it’s definitely worth bringing them as well! This walk is very steep and uneven. But why the mask? As soon as you get close enough to the top, you will notice the burning smell of sulphur immediately.

Going into the crater, the smell will only become stronger and stronger. All the way at the bottom, the yellow fumes can be quite intoxicating and disorientating. If you get stuck a sulphur cloud, you won’t be able to see anything and it burns everywhere.

Stick around long enough to see the sun go up and enjoy the crater lake and its gorgeous pale blue colour. Walk back up and notice how much beautiful nature is around you, something you missed in the dark. It’s kind of perfect as you won’t have time to focus on your surroundings to begin with.

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya

The Sulphur Miners of Mount Ijen

Upon arrival at the entrance gate, you will immediately notice a few local guides offering their help. They are sulfur miners picking up the sulfur in the volcano, carrying it up and back down to get paid per kilo. The sulfur miners of Kawan Ijen earn about 900 IDR or less than 10 cents per kilogram of sulfur carried out of the volcano. This means that they have to carry 80 kilograms out to make a measly daily rate of 144k IDR or 80USD.

A lot of tourists try to carry the load of the miners and fail to walk a few steps. Let alone up the crate edge and down the steep mountain and back up. The conditions these mining workers worked in was beyond shocking to me. Guiding tourists and lending them their gas mask is a way for them to make extra money.

At the height of the tourism season, more than 1000 visitors visit the volcano on a daily basis. As the hike is quite hard to do on little sleep, I was very happy to have this help. If you don’t want to pay a guide, then kindly decline. However, if you do accept their help, please make sure you pay him. 

Before you leave, take a moment to take it all in; the beautiful nature, the working conditions of the miners and the strong intense smell and sting of the sulfur.

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya

The price of traveling from Surabaya to Mt Bromo to Mt Kawan Ijen without a tour

Wow, that was a bit of a read! To recap the trip, I’ve written down exactly what I paid during my journey from Surabaya to Mount Bromo to Mount Ijen. It took quite a lot of research and many questionable looks from the hotel staff.

In the end, I managed to do it all by myself and ended up saving more than 300 EUR. I only spent 93,2 euro for the normally costing 430 euro three-day trip. Here is a breakdown of my costs:

Transport
Train + car to Mount Bromo: 10 euro
Train + car to Mount Ijen: 12,5 euro
Accommodation
Mount Bromo (Café Lava): 5,40 euro
Mount Ijen (Kampung Osing Inn ): 4,60 euro
Entrance fees
Mount Bromo: 16 euro
Mount Ijen: 10,70 euro
Food
30 euro

Download the itinerary!

I’ve received a lot of questions of people wanting something easy to travel with to help them along the way. For you, I created a pretty and easy 1-pager that you can download to your phone and you won’t need an internet connection to remember what to do!
– sorry guys, the itinerary is temporarily offline, send me an email if you would like to get it at marijs (at) rooftopantics.com and I will send it to you –
I can recommend saving the article on Pocket as well and then you won’t need the internet to refer back to it! If you’re planning to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen later on, pin the article below!

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya

A Quick Guide to Surabaya

Surabaya, or Suroboyo in Indonesian, is not a tourist hub like Jogjakarta. It’s also not a massive city such as Jakarta. However, being the second biggest city in Indonesia, it does have almost 2.8 million inhabitants! So you’ll find that there is plenty to do.

Surabaya has a massive port and is thus more well known as a busy port city with a lot of export and import happening here.

I stayed in Surabaya, I used my time here to recover my Vietnam travels and to plan my next trip through Indonesia. But here is a list of a few top activities, food spots, and hotels in Surabaya.

What to do in Surabaya

1. Have a swim in the beautiful Majapahit Hotel.

A night at the Majapahit Hotel will set you back around 100 AUD/63 EUR/72 USD, but this is not the only way to experience the hotel. You can simply visit the hotel for some a dip in the pool and some traditional English tea.

Built during the English colonial times, this is a beautiful historic building. In 2018, the hotel charged only 80.000 IDR/8 AUD/5 EUR/6 USD for access to their pool. A steal in my books to spend the afternoon in such a beautiful place!

What to do in Surabaya
Source: Wikicommons

2. Suroboyo Carnaval Park

The carnival park might seem like a childish activity for the night, but I can guarantee that nothing is more fun than riding carnival rides with a bunch of people you just met in the hostel. Plus you can take a cool Coachella-esque giant ferries wheel shot like this!

3. Have a stroll through Taman Bungkul park

If you’ve had your fill of urban life, head to Taman Bungkul park for some much-needed greenery. The locals tend to hang out here during the day and the evening as well, so why not socialise!

4. The Submarine Museum

It is not often that you get to go inside the Pasopati, a Soviet-made submarine that you can explore on the inside. Read more on how the submarine ended up in Surabaya here. Plus this location gives you a good chance to check out the river.

Where to eat in Surabaya

When I’m travelling I usually tend to stay away from Western food and surrounding to the local cuisines. I’ve noticed that the best food can always be found in the small local diners and to this day I’ve never gotten sick.

Don’t worry about getting sick, if you read these tips!

1. Domicile

Every now and again I miss western cuisine while travelling. I was craving pasta so bad in Surabaya! I was ecstatic when I discovered Domicile. The food was so good that I ended up going back here for a total of three! times during my visit -obsessed much?-.

Domicile is a very popular restaurant amongst the local cool kids and Instagram lovers because of the ace interior. I didn’t expect this kind of restaurant at all and loved coming here (over and over again).

Because it is a high-end restaurant, you should expect higher than normal prices compared to other restaurants in Surabaya. But if I still remember the truffle ravioli, you can take my word it’s worth the extra funds.

Domicile
l. Sumatera No.35, Gubeng, Kota SBY, Jawa Timur
Open 11am-1am every day

2. d’Gunungan – Mountain Dining & Lounge

Looking for that truly Instagram worthy spot, head to d’Gunungan, Mountain Dining and Lounge. As it does serve international cuisine, you can expect higher prices, but it looks so pretty!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BrcllMcjkjf/

d’Gunungan – Mountain Dining & Lounge
Mon-Fri: 11am-10pm
Sat-Sun: 10am-10pm
The Sagamore Hills – The Taman Dayu
(Diatas Club House Taman Dayu/Waterpark Naik)

3. Streetfood

No list of food on this blog would be complete with a section on street food! My research on Surabayan street food showed that a lot of the dishes were meat heavy. As I don’t eat meat myself, I’m just going to link this elaborate article to provide you with more info and reading fun! Find more restaurants in Surabaya here as well. And if you are looking for vegetarian-friendly local restaurants (my pick), have a look at this list.

Stay in Surabaya: Hotels

Hotel 88

What to do in Surabaya, Indonesia
Source: Booking

After a busy few weeks through Vietnam, I wanted to reset in Surabaya and ended up in Hotel 88. As one of the nicest budget-friendly hotels, I was super happy with the location. It is walking distance from Domicile, a shopping mall called Plaza Surabaya (with food and supermarkets) and the train station. The staff to be super friendly and the room was all I needed at that moment. Find out whether it is available during your stay here. Prices start at 35 AUD/21 EUR/24 USD for a double bed which really is super good value for money.

Hotel Majapahit Surabaya

As mentioned before, the hotel Majapahit Surabaya is a gorgeous hotel priced at around 100AUD. Staying here would be a bit of a luxury, but after backpacking for so long, sometimes it’s worth it. Find the exact price by putting in your dates.

Tab Capsule Hotel – Kayoon Surabaya

Looking for a quirky experience? Surabaya has a capsule hotel! Only a 3-minute walk from the submarine monument, it could be good fun for a reasonable price. Have a look at what the capsules look like here.

JW Marriot

The JW Marriot is obviously a safe choice and would probably be one of the most booked hotels in Surabaya. They have a pool, a spa, an airport shuttle and spacious rooms. Prices start at 147AUD/91EUR/104USD, but have a look at your dates to get an exact price.

Stay in Surabaya: Hostels

There are only 8 hostels registered on Hostelworld (the app I usually use for my hostel bookings). I can’t say that any of the hostels look amazing, but I did go through the reviews to give you the two hostels I would pick. This is what I look for when I choose hostels!

  1. Krowi Inn: I prefer wooden bunk beds over metal ones as they are generally less noisy. They are well endorsed on their location, their staff and the atmosphere. I also looks like the most modern hostel in the city.
  2. Ikiru To Live: Great review on Hostelworld. Seem to have super helpful staff, they get awesome ratings on their cleanliness and it looks like they have a good breakfast.

Getting from Java to Bali

From Karagasem, the ferry is a short drive away. The public ferry is super cheap and will take around 30 minutes to get across from the island of Java to Bali.

Make sure that you time your ferry well and don’t wait too long to get on. The public buses on the Bali side stop at a certain time and it’s best to avoid having to pay an expensive taxi to your end destination.

Don’t forgot to check out the Komodo dragons during your travels in Indonesia

Is it safe to visit volcanoes such as Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen?

Both volcanoes tend to be safe to be visited by tourists all year round. However, both volcanoes are active. You are going up at your own risk and it is up to you to inform yourself of the status of the volcanoes. Always ask around whether the volcanoes are open and safe to visit before making your way out!

Remember that the safety rules in countries such as Indonesia are different from other countries. You will have to be extra careful if you want to be certain.

How to visit Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour from Surabaya

A note on negotiating your way around Java

While this trip is very doable by yourself, try and find strength in numbers by meeting people along the way. This area is very touristy and therefore there will be plenty of people looking to make an extra buck.

They will tell you buses have already left or are full when they are not, they will tell you some buses don’t exist any more, etc. Don’t believe anyone without checking for yourself. Do your research (like reading this post) and stick to your guns.

Don’t be rude. I know, it’s super frustrating when you know someone is trying to rip you off. However, remember that these people will still have it worse off then you and just continue to ask around to find out the best solution for you to reach the top. Never take one answer for truth and ask different people that you are sure are not working together to take your money.

If you are not comfortable doing this, look into booking a tour anyway. Sometimes high levels of stress are not worth saving money.

Female Travel & safety in Java

The main religion on Java is Islam. While I usually respect each and every religion wherever I travel, I forgot to cover my shoulders or wear a long skirt in Surabaya. I kept getting honked and whistled at and could not figure out why… until the penny dropped.

What you need to remember is that Surabaya is not a tourist hub and is therefore not used to women either travelling by themselves or walking around in tank tops and shorts.

If you are travelling by yourself through Java, remember to cover up depending on your surroundings. Respect another religion and customs at all times and leave your shortest shorts for when you arrive in Bali (where they are more used to tourists).

These hikes are strenuous and cover a large area of Java. Do the smart thing and ALWAYS get travel insurance before taking off! Even if you have already left, it’s never to late to protect yourself.

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Update: Due to the popularity of this post, I’ve decided to republish it and revamp it completely. This keeps the post to date so that it is the most useful for your travels. The original post date of this blog was the 12th of August 2015.