Java, where is that?
It’s one of the island of the island republic Indonesia. Actually it’s the islands where the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, is located. Also it is the east neighbour island of Bali (yes Bali is only an island of a country, not a country itself). So if you fly to Bali, it could happen that you stop at the airport of Jakarta to get your flight to Denpasar.
I was already three times in Bali, but never thought about Java in the first place until my third visit, where I was wondering what the big island to the left is inhabiting. So I stopped there before visiting Bali again. And I was blown away. Let me show you why.
What makes Java so special?
Bali is great, it has cool waterfalls, nice nature and beautiful landscapes. But to be honest, it got a bit too touristy for my taste.
As I arrived in Surabaya, Java, it was hard to find a taxi driver, who wanted to transport a stranger like me who only speaks english. You ask what is great about that? It is way more adventurous and fun. And if you are a german, ,blonde, 6,3 ft guy, you are like a natural world wonder for them. I got treated like a celebrity. People starred at me, asked me for photos or just wanted to talk to me, because I looked special for them. Java is not as touristic as Bali.. not at all. There are no fancy cafes and hotels and there are less tourists, sometimes none. I was wondering through the streets of Surabaya and haven’t seen any other tourist besides me.
But besides that Java is incredible if you are looking for nature. It’s like Bali on drugs. I had my best sunrise views, volcano hikes and I have encountered the most epic waterfall I’ve ever seen in my life. And when I arrived at that spots I was sometimes alone there or barely any tourist, which was amazing. In the following I will tell you about my favorite spots in east Java, which you have to visit when you are in the area.
Must do spots, when you are on Java!
Unfortunately I only had time to visit the east of Java. But all the best spots of the island are mainly in this part. I started in Surabaya, one of the bigger cities of the island, and made my way through to the east to Banyuwangi. The spots I will recommend are located in that order. West to east. They are all breathtaking, believe me.
Sunrise at Mt. Bromo
As already said, I arrived in Surabaya and stayed there for one night at a hostel (it’s called The Hostel). I had a rough plan what I wanted to see, but not really a clue how to get to those places. But the hostel father was super helpful and explained to me how to get to Mt. Bromo on my own, without any tour. And that’s what I did.
FYI. Mt. Bromo is an active volcano in the middle of the island. You can hike onto the crater and have a look into it and enjoy an epic sunrise from several view points.
From Surabaya you are taking the train to Probolingo, what was very easy and comfortable. After arriving in Probolingo, you get out of the station and there wwill be drivers waiting, who want to take you to Mt. Bromo with their mini buses. I can’t remember the prices, but it was not expensive. They will take you to a little town which is directly in front of the volcano. Research an accomodation beforehand, because some of them are quite epensive for Java or they are fully booked. I found a very bad but cheap one on booking. Can’t recommend it, but it did his job.
After arriving you can already take a walk to Mt. Bromo itself and wander on its crater. (I will only tell you the free way without a tour, because I tried to do most of the stuff on my own to have my freedom and safe money.)
Attention! The locals try to rip you off when you are walking to the crater at daytime when you choose the official way, but there is a hidden way, they won’t watch and you get in for free. I marked the entry to the open area on the map. To get there you need to climb down a hill, but there is a path and it’s quite easy to get down there. Just pass the Saputra guest house on the left side and you will find the way.
After you passed this point you will hopefully see the volcano. Now you just have to walk through the area straight to the crater. When you arrive at the foot of it, you will be asked if you want to take a horse or a ride, but the hike up is easy, so just keep walking until you arrive at stairs, which will lead you up to the crater. Depending on the activity of the volcano you can hear it growling and you will see some smoke coming out of it. Very cool experience. Now you can wander around the crater, enjoy the view and take some photos.
Go to bed early afterwards, because you want to catch the sunrise above Mt Bromo. Research the time when the sun is coming up and wake up with enough time to get to the view points. You will need around one to two hours to get there, just by foot (I personally prefer to be earlier than to late). You should aim for King Kong Hill, which is one of the highest view points to see Mt Bromo for sunrise. It can be a bit crowded, so save your spot. Also bring warm clothes. You won’t need them for the hike up, because it’s kinda exhausting, but up there without sun it’s getting freaking cold. Sit there and enjoy the amazing view.
The most epic Waterfall ever! Tempuk Sewu Waterfall
Get yourself ready for the most epic waterfall you will probably have seen. It is so cool that it looks fake and the best thing is you are probably there by yourself.
Tempuk Sewu waterfall is in the south of Mt Bromo and unfortunately not so easy to get there from the little village in front of the volcano. I had a driver which picked me up, drove me back to Probollingo and another driver who took me to the waterfall. There is probably an easier way, but I had now choice at that moment. I heard it’s easier, when you choose Malang as your home station and make daytrips from there to Mt Bromo and the waterfall.
When you arrive at the parking spot you pay a small entrance fee to enter the area. If you follow the path you will come to the view point where you will have that incredible view.
Some say the waterfall looks like the tree of life from above. I took a look with my drone and it’s true. When you enjoy the view from directly above the waterfall the different falls look like branches.
When you are finished with enjoying that view, turn around and to your right should be a path downhill. Now the fun part begins, the climb down to the best place. To the foot of the waterfall. Trust me, it’s absolutely worth it.
Bring safe footwear, like hiking shoes or sneakers, please don’t go in sandales, the hike is rough. You will need to go down over stones and little waterfalls, even slide down one, so wear stuff which can get wet and be careful on the way down.
After surviving the fun climb, your reward waits for you. Turn right and walk until there is another local, who is waiting for customers and pay another fee. Annoying, but worth it. I was so close to turn around again. Trust me and pay. Then you are allowed to enter the area under the waterfall. You need to walk a bit further, climb over some rocks and little creeks and there it is. A natural wonder.
I faced this massive natural wonder all by myself and it grounded me a lot. It reminds you how small you really are and how incredible this planet really is. Stay in the middle of the falls, get freakin wet and just scream. So liberating. (Don’t step under the falls directly, the water pressure is way too high/Also pay attention to your camera gear and put your stuff in dry bags, everything will get wet from the fog of water.)
I was so amazed and felt so damn alive, that I didnt’ want to leave and stayed there for hours.
When you are finished with Tempuk Sewu, you can return to the point where you came down and walk further in the other direction. Why? More waterfalls and more fun climbs. If you keep walking you will find more waterfalls and some little pools where you can swim and relax a bit.
Visit that place and tell me what your opinion. Isn’t that one of the best places you’ve ever been?
The best sunrise spot and view on Java. Ijen Crater. Blue fire, blue water and a lot of smelly air.
The last spot on my list is also one of my favorites. Ijen crater.
What is there to do or see, you ask? Just blue fire, sulfur workers (a bit sad), damn blue water in a volcano and an incredible sunrise above it (if you are lucky).
After you are finished with Tempuk Sewu you will make your way to Banyuwangi. There you can find a lot of people who will offer you a tour to the crater, but I will tell you how you can do the same stuff cheaper and on your own time. Nobody does the tour by themself, but it is very easy to do it and you shouldn’t be afraid of it (at least I was the only one without a tour that day). Here is how I did it:
- booked a homestay on booking.com
- rented a scooter from them
- rented a gasmask from them (yes you need a gasmask, because of the sulfur dioxide)
- set my alarm to 0 o’clock
- drove 1 1/2 hours to the start of the hike (easy to find with google maps)
- paid the entrance fee
- hiked up to the crater and followed the people
You won’t have a problem to find the parking spot, because there will be several people who are going there at that time. Just don’t listen to all the guides, pass them and hike by yourself (important! don’t forget a torch like me). So I forgot to bring a torch, was super early, hiked up this steep hill all by myself in complete darkness and was actually the first who arrived in the crater. So I was sitting there, waiting for the people to arrive-
You should plan to be there at around 2 am. The hike is around 4 km and will take you around 2 hours. Some parts are very steep and you will ask yourself, why are you doing this. Trust me and keep going, you won’t be disappointed. Bring enough water, snacks and enthusiasm with you, to survive this challenge.
If you are there around 2 am, you just can follow the groups to find the way. Also it’s pretty hard to get lost there. Don’t be afraid of when a sulfur worker is passing you up or down the hill and make them some space, because their work is very hard and they are carrying a lot of weight. When you arrive at the top, you need to go down into the crater and hike until you can see the workers breaking down the sulfur (very yellow stone, don’t touch it, nor lick it please). Now you have to wait until around 5 am. That’s the time when the sulfur is starting to burn and blue flames will appear (if you are lucky). I just have seen small sparks of blue flames and I don’t think it was worth the wait, because there is a lot of sulfur dioxide in the air and it will burn in your eyes.
After the blue fire, you should hurry up and hike up again to the rim. If you are up again, turn left and continue hiking up. Look for a nice place at the rim and enjoy the view across this massive lake and the beautiful sunset.
There are a lot of cool spots for photos, so definitely bring your camera.
Those are my favorite spots in east Java. I hope you are making your way to this beautiful island and enjoying those amazing places. Have fun!
Last note: Way from Java to Bali
If you have plans to go to Bali after Java, it is quite easy if you know how. I had trouble to find the right description for it, so I will mention it here.
When you are in Banyuwangi, you can take the ferry to cross the canal between the two islands. To do that, you need to get to Ketapang Ferry Port. Just find a driver or take Grab or GoJek to get there.
When you arrive at the port, the locas will see your a tourist and they will approach you to sell tickets. Buy a ticket and wait for your bus. I needed to wait half an hour at a supermarket, what was not too bad (I don’t think there are real schedules for this, so just bring time). The bus will pick you up and will drive onto the ferry, which will ride t oo Gilimanuk. After arriving, the bus will leave the ferry and will keep driving. You need to know where you want to go at that time. The bus will drive until Denpasar. But if you want to go to Ubud (like I did) or Canggu for example, you should get out at Mengwi station. Tell the driver or the person who is in charge. They will scream it when they are getting close, so you need to listen. I couldn’t understand them, so I was always asking until they really knew where I wanted to go.
At Mengwi you can take a taxi to get to your final destination (Grab and GoJek are not allowed at the bus station, you need to leave the area first).
Enjoy Bali and recover from your advetures in Java! 🙂