Our trip to East Java has been the most exhausting but also surprising and overwhelming experiences this year.
Here is my full Travel Guide to see it all in three days!
HOW TO GET THERE?
The most common way to reach East Java is from the Indonesian Island Bali – and that’s also what we’ve done. You can either reach it by ferry from the West coast of Bali or by plane from Denpasar airport to Surabaya – the capital of East Java.
We chose the plane since we stayed not far from Denpasar and would need around 5 hours by car to the ferry in West Bali.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN EAST JAVA?
This was one of the very few times we decided to do the whole three days trip with a company. After some researches we decided to go for Cheap Bromo Tour because they give the best value for a great price. We only payed around 260,- EUR per person including a private guide & private driver, two nights in good hotels, breakfast, water and two times lunch and dinner.
Of course you also have the possibility to take your own rental car but I wouldn’t recommend this option. The days will be very strenuous and the nights very short. So you will need to catch up on some sleep during the longer drives.
WHAT TO DO DURING 3 DAYS IN EAST JAVA?
As already mentioned above we decided to see all our personal highlights during three days. Including two volcanoes: Mount Bromo & Kawah Ijen and two waterfalls: Madakaripura & Tumpak Sewu.
Our Guide Hamzah and our Driver picked us up from the airport in Surabaya at 11.30 pm. Right after we landed from Bali after a full day of exploring.
For around 3 hours we drove to Sukapura Village where we changed into a Jeep to continue our drive to the first stop:
SUNRISE OVER MOUNT BROMO
This is probably the most common tour for visitors in East Java – but it’s really worth it.
After driving up to Penjakan Mountain and arriving in the complete darkness we sat down to enjoy a hot tea. Right before sunrise it will be extremely cold so make sure you have some warm sweaters with you.
The Penjakan Mountain is also known as King Kong Hill and the best spot for sunrise. It’s located very high above the volcanoes and you can overlook a wide scenery.
The hike to the sunset view point is not far. We needed around 15 minutes to reach the top. The only challenging task was to find the steep & sandy way in the complete dark without slipping.
I would suggest to go a little earlier to have a good spot. If you arrive right for sunrise the peak will already be covered with people, tripods & GoPros for timelapse videos!
The sun started to rise around 4.45 am and very slowly the place started to reveal its beauty in the orange sunlight. You can overlook the Mount Bromo crater and other ones from this viewpoint. They all have a unique shape from the lava flow. It looks like another planet and left us completely speechless.
LATER WE HAVE IT ALL TO OURSELVES…
We stayed until around 6.30 when the sun completely came out. At this time most of the visitors will already be gone. As a result you can have this place all for yourself to take some great photos or drone videos.
DRIVE TO MOUNT BROMO CRATER
After enjoying the sunrise overlooking the scenery we drove down to Mount Bromo crater. Unfortunately the hike up to the crater rim was closed during our visit (August 2019). But nevertheless it’s amazing to see it from the ground. The reason for closing it was an eruption only some weeks earlier. Luckily no one was injured but they still closed it for a while to see how the volcano would act.
From the crater we drove only some minutes to a nice little hut with a great view to enjoy our breakfast.
After that we drove around 2 hours to the next stop – Madakaripura Waterfall.
It’s a place we didn’t hear of before but our guide really wanted us to see it! And it was so worth it!
First we walked a pathway along a small river into the jungle. The closer we came to the waterfall the greener the vegetation got around us.
Suddenly our guide stops to wear a rain coat. We told him we wouldn’t mind getting “a little wet” but (luckily!) decided to get a coat for our camera. A few steps later we saw the reason for it: The path between the rocks got very tight and water came down the high walls all around us – like tropical rain. After two minutes we were completely soaked and just thankful for the plastic wrap around our camera! Anyway it has been the most beautiful way to a waterfall we’ve ever seen.
At the giant Madakaripura Waterfall it was not possible to get it all in one shot without a wide lens. The 200m long fall is the end of the valley-like path and the atmosphere just majestic.
A SHORT NIGHT BEFORE THE NEXT ADVENTURE IN EAST JAVA
The drive to our Hotel in Pancoran takes around 4-5 hrs and we were just thankful to finally catch up on some sleep – and the night would get very short too! We arrived to the Ijen View Hotel around 6 pm and had a 11pm wake up call…
Waking up in the middle of the night was super hard but at the same time we were also incredibly excited for this adventurous day!
CLIMBING UP THE IJEN VOLCANO DURING THE NIGHT
The start of this hike has to be this early to see a natural wonder which is only visible in the dark: The blue sulfur flames in the Ijen crater.
But first we have to climb up all the way to the top of Kawah Ijen. From the parking lot you need around 1,5-2 hrs to the crater rim. The way gets really steep at some points and the higher you get you will already smell the sulfur.
GETTING INTO THE CRATER TO SEE THE BLUE FLAMES
The way down into the crater is not far but in the complete dark however you will need around one hour. Due to many loose rocks the way can be very slippery & steep while the only light is the little glow from your headlamp.
We already saw the blue flames from quite a distance since they have been really huge on this day. The sulfurous gases which come out of the pipes ignite as soon as they enter the Earth’s oxygen-rich atmosphere. This makes a really unique natural spectacle.
But as soon as the wind direction changed and blowed the strong sulfur gases into our direction we had to close our eyes and mouths. Even with gas masks you can feel the acid in your throat & lungs and my eyes started to tear.
IJEN LAKE – THE MOST TOXIC WATER ON EARTH
Most visitor quickly rush back up to the rim of the crater to watch the sunrise. But we decided to stay down here to see another natural wonder during daylight. As the sun started to rise the first thing we saw was all the yellow and orange sulfur around us. But the Ijen Lake is definitely the most impressive object which appears in the daylight. The water has a deep turquoise color which almost looks surreal. When you see this incredible beauty it’s hard to believe that this is the most toxic lake in the world. It has the chemical composition of battery-acid and is 40 degrees celsius warm. Drinking the lake or even swimming inside it would be fatal.
THE WORLDS HARDEST JOB
It’s hard to believe that people nowadays still work under these strong conditions every single day. We saw many mine workers arriving after sunrise to mine the sulfur. They fill huge baskets with a weight of 80-100 kg and bring them up to the crater rim by hand. These workers usually don’t have a high life expectancy cause they breath the acid sulfur gases the whole day which slowly destroys the lungs and other body parts. Most of the times the men don’t even wear a gas mask and only cover mouth and nose with a scarf when the wind blows the thick sulfur rich air in their direction.
SURREAL VIEWS INTO THE CRATER
On our way up we have to stop several times when the sulfur gas gets to intense – while mine workers carrying the heavy sulfur up to the rim.
We walk a little around the rim to find a view point over the Lake. It’s definitely one of the most fantastic places we’ve ever seen. After staying for a while to enjoy (and shoot ) the view it’s time to climb back down to the car to finally eat something.
Our drive to the next city Malang takes around 6-7 hrs which is perfect to catch up on some much needed sleep. For the evening we decide to relax before our very last stop in East Java the next day.
This morning we can sleep a little “longer” until 4 am to start our drive to the famous Waterfall Tumpak Sewu.
TUMPAK SEWU – DOES THIS PLACE REALLY EXIST?
I only knew this place from pictures on Instagram and some people start to spread the rumors that it would be a photoshop montage. So we decided to go and see it with our own eyes.
We read on the internet that the gates open at 8 am but when we arrived 6.30 am we could already go to the viewpoint. And YES – the waterfall is as epic as on the photos I saw. From above it looks like a hole in the middle of the jungle with water falling inside. Right behind it is a volcano which makes the view even more spectacular.
Attention: The volcano is usually only visible during the early morning since clouds will cover the view later.
AN ADVENTUROUS CLIMB DOWN TO THE WATERFALL
The way down to the waterfall is quite adventurous but super fun! We passed several shaky bamboo bridges and even had to climb through other waterfalls to get there. For the last few steps we walked through a river until we saw the giant in front of us! It’s the most massive waterfall I have ever seen! Several water streams literally falling down the high walls and create a fresh mist. Seeing places like this with our own eyes is what makes traveling so special to us!
Before walking back up you can follow the river a little longer to another lovely waterfall – Goa Tetes. It’s perfect for a swim since the water is not that cold and you can enjoy the scenery around you.
THREE DAYS IN EAST JAVA WENT BY SO FAST
After this last adventure our driver brought us back to the airport in Surabaya from where we started our next trip.
It’s been the most intense & sleepless three nights during our travels but also some of the most impressive ones. The nature in East Java is still untouched and you wont meet as many tourists as in Bali for instance.
That’s why three days are great to explore East Java if you’re on a travel through South East Asia. But you can easily spend more days to discover the wonderful nature. We will definitely be back !