The Semeru. Gunung Semeru. Mahameru. The abode of gods. On the very top of Java (3676 meters above sea level) and on top of my personal favorites list.

Where to start? Maybe by saying that this trip is NOT for everyone. Taking your breakfast with the gods on top of an active volcano is not for anyone. You need to deserve it and the cost (mental and physical more than financial) is high. Logistics are not obvious. But, but… sitting on top of that pile of rock to watch the sun rise on Java is simply priceless. If you are ready to walk for 8 hours, camp in a simple sleeping bag by zero degrees and climb straight up a pile of sand and rocks in the middle of the night, keep reading, if not… pick another destination. Go visit closeby Mount Bromo to enjoy the amazing scenery but save the effort.

Arranging a trek to Gunung Semeru is not as difficult as it seems when you search online. Although I dare say I have little experience in arranging such trips in the region, it took me weeks to arrange this trip and pick the right itinerary, guide, driver, etc but I now realize that with the right people, it can be arranged pretty easily. My recommendation would definitely be to arrange the trip beforehand with a local agency (see “To see & do” tab for recommendations).

You will need a minimum of 4 days including transport back and forth to make it to the top (and hopefully back) of this smoking volcano. You can (and definitely should if you have not seen it yet) even include a visit to Mount Bromo in these 4 days if you are in a rush. If not, add an extra day, otherwise your first day back in the office may feel very long!

Singapore to Semeru journey details

Joke aside, (at least) 28 people did not make it back from Gunung Semeru for various reasons. Obviously the volcanic activity is one risk – check the level of activity before going. But even if the volcano is quiet, I strongly recommend that you take a guide. We’ve seen young brave (crazy?) people doing it on their own carrying their stuff and tent. They were able to follow some groups led by guides but I think going to the top alone is seriously not a good idea.

The best months to climb Semeru are: April, May, June, July, August, September, October

Connections from Gunung Semeru

It’s a good idea to combine this trip with Mount Bromo as you can easily access it from Semeru (and vice versa). Check the “To See and Do” tab for more info. If you have a few more days, you can also add Kawa Ijen (another great volcano) or Yogyakarta and its Borobudur and Prambanan temples to the itinerary.

Getting from Singapore to Surabaya airport

There are direct flights from Singapore (SIN) to Surabaya Juanda International airport (SUB).
Jetstar, Valuair, Garuda, Tigerair, China Airlines and Airasia fly there.

Getting there: China Eastern – Singapore to Surabaya: 9:45 PM – 11 PM (2h20 flight)
Coming back: Jetstar / Valuair- Surabaya to Singapore: 1.15 PM – 4.3 PM AM
Return tickets from SGD 250.

You can also fly there on the Saturday morning (Tiger 11.40 AM).

Get your ticket NOW to enjoy the best fares.



There are 2 terminals at Surabaya airport.

Terminal 1, the old terminal, offers some limited food options. The only international brands are KFC and Dunkin Donut. Money change is available. There is only one bar after checking in. Free and slow wifi is available after check in. There is a new Hotel Ibis budget in the airport (convenient if you want to sleep there and take a car early the next morning). The great news is: there are Roti’O outlets!

Terminal 2, the brand new (2014) terminal. There is no sitting area before check in but you can find a food court, a Carl’s Junior, a Roti’O and a Starbucks before checking. As often in Indonesia, the airport seems to be quite popular with locals who come and enjoy the shops and restaurants. A Burger King and a Starbucks are located after check in. Free (and slow) wifi is available after check in. There is a small duty free area with some international brands (Lacoste, etc). There is a pre paid taxi counter where you can arrange your transfer. You will also find drivers who offer you to go to the key attractions (Bromo, Ijen).

If you need to transfer between the 2 terminals, let’s stay to go sleep at Ibis Budget in terminal 1,  you can take a taxi (counter in terminal 2). The transfer will cost you IDR 45,000 and takes about 15 minutes.

 

Getting from Surabaya to Ranu Pane (Semeru trek starting point)

There are 2 main access points:

  • Malang, Tumpang on the West (in blue on the map)
  • Cemara Lawang, on the East, the usual access point to Mount Bromo (in red on the map)

Surabaya airport to Ranue Pane Semeru map Tripinasia

The distance, time and cost are comparable on both ways.If you plan to add Mount Bromo to your itinerary, it could be a good idea to come from Malang, do the Semeru trek, then go to Bromo on your last day and leave from Cemara Lawang back to Surabaya. This will give you the opportunity to see the roads on both sides (the road from Tumpang to Ranu Pane is beautful). This will also give you the opportunity to cross the caldera between Ranu Pane (starting point of the Semeru trek) and Cemera Lawang (starting point for the Bromo and where you’ll find most accommodation options). A great road!

The easiest way (and highly recommended) is to arrange the whole trek and transport from and back to the airport through a local travel / guide agency. If I were you, I would definitely go with this option as it’s already complicated enough. If that’s your plan, I would highly recommend Rani from Rani Adventure. She’s the one who coordinated our trip and it went all very smoothly. You can contact her on our behalf at info@raniadventure.com, +62 341 787329, +62 856 49808479 .  She will charge you IDR 600,000, per way and per car for the airport transfer by private car with driver. It will be the same price if you arrange a trip with a driver via your hotel or finding one at the airport. The car and driver we had via Rani were great. The drive from the airport to Tumpang is about 3.30 hours.

However you can arrange your transport on your own by both routes:

1. Arrange the transfer on your own to Tumpang

  • By private car 

Approximately 3.30 hours. IDR 600,000 per car. Arrange a driver beforehand or find one at the airport.

  • By public transportation to Malang 

Approximately 5 hours in total. IDR 90,000 per person.

  1. First take a public bus from the airport (go to domestic terminal to catch the bus they run more often there) yo Surabaya bus terminal (20min, IDR 12,000 per pax).
  2. Then take a public  bus from Surabaya bus terminal to Malang (IDR 25,000 per per pax per way. About 3.30 hours).
  3. And from Malang you can take a bemo (local public transport) to Tumpang (1 hour, IDR 50,000).

Finally, from Tumpang to Ranu Pane, it’s a 1h 15 min ride nice dirt road by jeep (IDR 35,000 par pers) or truck, or motorbike (IDR 100,000). There is no official public transportation on this segment so ask around in Tumpang (or arrange it in your trip with the agency).

2. Arrange the transfer on your own to Cemara Lawang

  • By private car

From Surabaya Airport to Cemara Lawang – 3.5 hours – IDR 600,000 for a car (up to 4 pax + driver). I would highly recommend Rani from Rani Adventure Tour and Homestay. You can contact her on our behalf at info@raniadventure.com,  +62 341 787329, +6285649808479.  She will charge you IDR 600,000, per way and per car for the airport transfer by private car with driver. Alternatively, you can book a private car via Cemara Indah Hotel, they arrange pick up to the airport up to 10 pax group. Contact details: info@hotelcemaraindah.com, +62335541019 or +6281336338844 (Mobile).

  • By public transportation

The journey will take you around 5 hours if you’re lucky with the connections. Transport may not be available at all times of the day -especially the last leg, so ask around. You will need to take 3 buses.

  1. Public bus from the airport to bus terminal (go to domestic terminal to catch the bus they run more often there) -20 minutes – IDR 12000.
  2. Public bus from Surabaya bus terminal to Probolinggo – 3 hours – IDR 22000
  3. Charter bus from Probolinggo to Cemara Lawang. You will need to arrange this last leg with an agency. There are some next to the bus stop in Probolinggo. You may have to wait until the bus is full before it goes. – 1 hour -IDR 75000 if late.

Once in Cemera Lawang, you will find many jeeps or motorbikes that can take you to Ranu Pane (1 hour, IDR 130,000). The drive from Cemera Lawang to Ranu Pane is beautiful. You will drive through the caldera in the sand sea. Note: the ride by motorbike is super scary (try riding a motorbike in the sand and you’ll understand why).

Where to stay to climb Mount Semeru

You can stay in Cemera Lawang, Malang or Ranu Pane.

  • Cemera Lawang

Cemera Lawang is good if you want to go see Bromo in the morning. It’s the usual access from the east. About 10 hotels and many more homestays. No luxury accommodation available. Not an issue since anyway, your nights will be short. You will need to transfer to Ranu Pane by jeep or motorbike to start the Semeru trek.  It’s best to stay in the village so that you can take a jeep or motorbike directly from there to go to Ranu Pane. If you stay somewhere else (lower in the valley, like Yoshi guesthouse, that is 20 min drive from Cemera Lawang), you will need to arrange a transport between your stay and Cemara Lawang. All hotels are actually pretty basic and poorly maintained and managed. You can book Hotel Lava Lava or Cemara Indah.

  • Tumpang

Located 1h from Malang, on the way to Ranu Pane. Quiet little town. I would recommend Rani Homestay. Simple but clean rooms. Great food and very nice staff. IDR 300,000 per room per night.  Can also arrange tours and know the region very well.  This is definitely the best place we have stayed in in the area.

  • Ranu Pane

Right at the start of the Semeru trek. There is only one home stay, Ranu Pani Pak Homestay, and, as much as possible, avoid it. Probably the worst place on earth where I’ve slept (and the comparison includes 3 dollars guesthouses in India and Cambodia)…  I won’t go into the details but let’s say is very very (too) basic in terms of comfort, especially after a demanding trek during which you cannot shower! It will take you 1 hour and a half or so to transfer from Tumpang or Cemera Lawang to Ranu Pane so it’s better to stay there (try to do so during day time to enjoy the view!)

For these 3 towns and villages, there are unfortunately very few decent hotels and even less available on our favorite hotel booking platforms… If you want to book through one hotel booking platform, double check the location of the hotel websites or on some forums as the maps from Agoda and Booking may be confusing or even wrong!

To see & to do

Arranging your trek

Although technically you can arrange everything directly in Ranu Pane, I would highly recommend that you arrange your guide & porters beforehand. The whole package Semeru + Bromo (transfers from/to airport, jeep, accommodation, guide, porters, tents, permit, medical check) will cost you about 2,800,000 per pax  depending on the accommodation you chose. This will save you a lot of time and stress as she can arrange the whole trip from end to end. You can contact Rani at info@raniadventure.com +62 341 787329, +6285649808479 (she speaks English and French very well). But, if you plan to arrange it on your own, here is an idea of the prices:

  • Tent: IDR 50,000 per day
  • Sleeping bag: IDR 20,000 per bag
  • Lunch: IDR 10,000 picnic per meal (some of the people we met on the way said that there was not enough and they had to go back down earlier to get some food…)
  • Porter: IDR 150,000
  • If you don’t want to hire a guide, you can pay the porter IDR 100,000 extra to guide you… (not recommended)
  • Park entrance fee per day: Semeru on Weekdays Local Rp 17.500 International Rp 207.500 |on Weekend/Holiday Local Rp 22.500 International Rp 307.500. Fees were significantly increased in May 2014 (and are now quite a budget for the non Indonesian tourists. It’s a pity…

Again, I seriously not recommend to do this without a guide (and porters). Porters will carry food, water, tents and sleeping bags. You will still need to carry your personal stuff. Most of the porters will go up to Kalimati but will not do the summit attack with you. However, if you can, it’s a good idea to have one coming with you so that if one of you does not make it to the top, he/she can go back to the camp with the porter while the rest continue to the top with the guide.

A guide will also help you obtain the necessary health document and permit. You will need to arrange this before you reach Ranu Pane. It’s a simple but mandatory health check (blood pressure mainly).

Tumpang Doctor for medical test

Tumpang Doctor for medical test

All set? Go!

Day 1.

Transfer to Ranu Pane and start from there, usually around 8 AM. You will then enter the park and walk for 3 hours or so through a nice forest (on a good dirt path in the shadow) until you reach Lake Ranu Kumbolo. Most guides/porters will prepare a simple lunch at Kumbolo. Be prepared… the water is from the lake and there is a lot of garbage around the lake. So don’t except a 3 Michelin Star meal but do eat as you will need energy…The lake and the surroundings are beautiful (if your eyes can filter out the garbage surrounding the lake). The lake is a popular camping destination for Indonesian families and groups of friends.

After lunch, you will then walk another 2 to 3 hours. First you will need to go up the Tanjakan Cinta hill (don’t turn back! ask your guide about the legend behind it). Then the path will take you through a very beautiful savanna and finally a pine tree forest (very nice landscape and not that common in the region) until you reach Kalimati, the base camp. You will reach there before sunset (usually around 3pm) and set your tent and get your dinner very early.

You will then try to sleep for a while. Good luck given the conditions and the temperature (close to 0°C)

Note: Some people spend the night at Arcopodo, that is one hour after Kalimati. This place is literally on the volcano dome and is very dusty. You will pass by it when you do the summit attack. I would recommend you to spend the night in Kalimati rather than in Arcopodo.

Day 2.

1AM (yes, I know, you will have to get up at the time you usually go to bed… but hey, you have a rendez vous with the gods). To be honest, that’s the tough part. The moment where you ask yourself… “but what the hell am I doing here while I could be home in my cozy bed”. And it’s just the beginning since you will soon realize that you need to cross hell before you reach the summit. After 1 hour walking through a forest in the ashes, you will attack the real stuff. You will start walking straight up in the ash and rocks. You will slowly move your feet to try to go up. And you will repeat this many many many times until you reach the top. Hopefully, you will make it for sunrise. It’s seriously scary because you don’t see much and you have very little grip on the ground. It’s freezing, windy and you are on the top of an active volcano. Life is good. Keep going. Personally I found that the walking sticks were very helpful to keep balance and help on the way up. Bring a walking sticks or ask your guide to make them for you out of wood.

Once on the top, it’s cold and windy (like 0°C). Bring some warm clothes and hold your stuff tight (my camera almost did not make it back when it fell with the tripod because of the wind). By the way, if you want to have a chance to take a decent picture at the top for sunrise, you will need a tripod. This means you need to carry it all the way to the top… (I’ll leave it up to you but I think it’s definitely worth it).

Guides will tell you not to go further than the Indonesian flag. You will actually be on the top of a mountain but you will only get a partial view of the crater (and will not see any lava). The way to the crater lips is just insanely dangerous, especially given the strong winds. So, just to set the expectations right, you will not get to see the bottom of the crater. But don’t worry, the view on Java and the volcano is stunning and you will get your dose of adrenaline thanks to the regular explosions and smoke.

Then, here comes the sun… and together with it that feeling that you rule the world and are just living something out of the ordinary. In front of you, you see Java. All the way to the Bali if you are lucky. Every 45 minutes or so, you hear that crazy noise (it sounds like a big plane is taking off a few meters away) and see the smoke go up the air.

You will probably spend 1 hour or 2 at the top. Most guides and porters will tell you not to stay after 9 as the wind changes direction and it becomes dangerous (not that it’s not dangerous before 9 AM). Then starts the fun part. Going back down from the summit. Imaging surfing on the sand with no surfboard. That’s pretty what you will do for an  hour or so on the way back to the base camp.

From there, it’s all downhill. You walk down back to Ranu Pane.

One little secret that you should keep to yourself. On the way back, ask your guide to take you through the “porters’ way”. It’s on the left at the Lake Kumbolo. Amazing walk through the savanna. It’s a bit of a shortcut but you will need to climb up more than the usual way but it’s definitely worth it for the views you will get. It’s also less busy than the usual path.

I also really enjoyed the last part, not only because I was happy to see the end but also because the scenery around Ranu Pane is amazing. Simple fields of cabbage, onions, and other vegetables in a very quiet atmosphere.

Ok, that’s where you need to eat, sleep and shower. And that’s where you don’t want to end up at the Ranu Pani Pak Homestay. You have walked for 2 days, with no shower and are covered in dust. Transfer to Cemera Lawang to spend the night there. It will also save you time the next morning if you plan to see Mount Bromo and you will get to see the road from Ranu Pane to Cemara Lawang by day time (I love this road). Finally, there is strictly nothing to do in Ranu Pane (forget about bar, etc).

More info to prepare your trip

Phone coverage is not available most of the way. You can walk to the carpark in Ranu Pane to get limited reception.

Wifi is available in most guesthouses (except Ranu Pani Pak Homestay). It is free (but slow) at Cemera Indah Hotel in Cemera Lawang. It works well at Rani Homestay in Tumpang.

What to pack for Mount Bromo

On top of your regular trekking pack (see below), make sure you arrange for good tent & sleeping bags and a head torch. It’s really cold at Kalimati base camp. If you book a tour, this will be provided but double check with the guide. The head torch will come very handy on the summit attack as you will need you hands to use the sticks to help you go up. Bring walking sticks if you have or ask your guide to make some for you out of wood.

Take some warm clothes!!! It’s just freezing at the top but it’s also very cold in Cemera Lawang, Ranu Pane and Tumpang.

Take surgical masks (for the dust). Jacket, hat, scarf, surgical masks are available for sale at Cemara Lawang and, to a certain extend, at Ranu Pane. When windy, there is a lot of dust, sand in the air. Make sure your camera and IT equipment are not too exposed. Clean with an air blower to avoid scratches on the lenses.

Trekking pack

If you are going to trek, chances are you will have to carry all your stuff all the way. So you want to be pick all you need but just what you need. Every gram in your bag is a extra weight on your back. 

  • Short sleeves tops: your main outfit. Everybody will see them on all your pictures. You really want to take that old Mickey Mouse T-shirt?
  • Long sleeves tops: to protect yourself from the sun or to enter religious buildings or to protect yourself from mosquitoes in the evening.
  • Pullover. Temperatures can be freezing when you climb up volcanoes or mountains. Above 2000 meters, even in the hottest countries, it is usually cold.
  • Short/skirt (you should be able to chose the appropriate one by yourself).
  • Trousers for the same reasons you need to take long sleeves tops. Jeans are usually not a good option. They are heavy and keep you too warm. They are also not comfortable to walk. Trekking pants are best.
  • Underwear: Cotton is good.
  • Shoes: take a pair of flip flap on top of your of (good) trekking shoes. Remember that you are going to spend most of the time on your feet. If your shoes are new, make sure you use them before you go for your trek.
  • Swimsuit: even if you don’t plan to go to the beach, you never know. A nice river, a swimming pool, a heavy rain? Always have one with you.
  • Rain / wind jacket
  • Jacket inner fleece or dawn
  • Cover for your bag. Even if you are visiting the country during the “best season”, you never know what the sky will be like.
  • Torch / lamp: head or pocket lamp with you. It comes handy when walking by night or in a tent.
  • Toilet bag: Shampoo, soap, toothbrush & toothpath, deodorant, sun screen, tiger balm, wet tissues, . Ideally, all these in miniature formats.
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Warm sleeping pants, jumper and socks if you plan to camp in altitude.
  • Your IT stuff: iPad, eBook, laptop, memory card, batteries, etc. Check if you will have power on the way to size the battery you need.
  • Camera and its protection.
  • Dryer sheets: they will help keep a fresh smell in your bag.
  • Your passportcashcredit cards and other life saving items like your insurance card with emergency contact details. 
  • Your driver licence if you plan to rent a car or a motorbike (some countries are quite particular about this so take it with you in case you are not sure, even for a motorbike rental).
  • Your emergency medical kit: painkillers, mosquitoes repellent, dressing/plaster, disinfectant, anti diarrhea, eyewash, blister tape
  • Tissues and toilet paper (you will thank me later). Remember that in a lot of countries, you will not be provided napkins when having a meal.
  • Water – plastic bottles are a good option as they are lighter than a gourd/flask.
  • Biscuits (always buy some before you go when you are not sure what you will find. Always have “emergency” biscuit  and water in case you cannot find food around and need to recharge batteries)
  • Sunglasses: you’ll need them. Take them even if it’s raining. Weather can change very fast in the region.
  • Scarf (krama, or any kind of fabric that you can use to put around your neck, put on your head to protect it from the sun, cover your shoulders in temples, dry your sweat, etc). Can come very handy in some situation. It will not stay clean for long so it’s wise to pick a dark color…
  • Hat protect your head and face from the sun and heat or cold
  • Gloves (only if you plan to stay in high altitude or cold weather)
  • Trekking poles if you are going for a serious trek. If you don’t have some, ask the guide or porter if they can make some for you out of wood or bamboo.

It’s a good idea to put your key documents and IT equipment in freezer bags (zip-lock bag)  to protect them from the rain in case you get drenched. Pack a few plastic bags. They come handy to pack your dirty laundry

You will probably adjust the content of you bag after a few trips. Remove the stuff that you have not used and add the one that you missed. Post a comment to share your tips! Happy packing (it’s the worse part of the trip but it’s worth it…) and travelling!

Indonesia

Flag of Indonesia

  • Language: Bahasa Indonesian
  • Time zone: Jakarta, Sulawesi: GMT + 7, 1h ahead of Singapore;
    Bali has no time difference with Singapore
  • Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
  • Phone: + 62
  • Electricity: 220V 50 Hz

Immigration and airport taxes on arrival

  • If you are eligible you will need to pay for a visa on arrival. The price is USD 25 or the equivalent in other currencies. It is valid for 30 days. Check as it may vary (some airports charge 22 EUR, some others 25 EUR).
  • If you travel to Bintan, Batam, or Karimun, you can get a 7 day Visa on Arrival for USD 10.
  • On busy weekends, expect to wait for quite a while at the immigration counter.
  • Make sure your notes are perfectly clean and without any note or stain. USD bills must be from 2003 or more recent. Coins are not accepted. Change (if any) is given in Ruppiah.
  • On departure, you will need to pay the airport fees. These fees are not included in your tickets when you book your trip (hence the price difference between the inbound and outbound flights to Indonesia). They vary from one airport to the other. They are usually around IDR 150,000 per person. You need to pay these in Rupiah

National Public Holidays in Indonesia

2015

Day Date Holiday
Thursday January 01 New Years Day
Saturday January 03 Maulidur Rasul
Thursday February 19 Chinese New Year
Saturday March 21 Hari Raya Nyepi
Friday April 03 Good Friday
Friday May 01 Labour Day
Thursday May 14 Ascension Day
Saturday May 16 Isra Miraj
Tuesday June 02 Waisak Day
Thursday July 16 Cuti Bersama
Friday July 17 Hari Raya Puasa
Saturday July 18 Hari Raya Puasa
Monday July 20 Cuti Bersama
Tuesday July 21 Cuti Bersama
Monday August 17 Independence Day
Thursday September 24 Idul Adha
Wednesday October 14 Muharram
Thursday December 24 Cuti Bersama
Friday December 25 Christmas Day

* check the exact date as it varies from one year to another, check this website for other years.When Public Holidays falls on a Sunday, the following day will be Public Holiday.