East Java

Java - Bali's neighbor - impresses with its volcanic landscapes, historic temples and rich culture. Most tourists come here for one thing above all: to admire the smoking summit of Mount Bromo and the blue lava of Mount Ijen. But East Java has much more to offer. In any case, you will experience a more authentic Indonesia than in Bali!



I kept seeing pictures of these two places on Instagram: Mount Ijen and Mount Bromo. Well, I got influenced by them, because I really wanted to go there. Conveniently, both volcanoes are located on Java, the island next to Bali. I wanted to travel there anyway.

However, on my first visit to Bali in March, I didn't have time to go to Java. There is already too much to explore on Bali. But luckily I went back to Bali this October. This time, I planned a trip to Java for sure.

Unfortunately, my time window for Java was far too short. Sure, if you only want to see Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen, then 3 days is enough. But East Java has so much more to offer. Well, unfortunately I had to put that on the back burner again.

My original plan was to fly from Bali to Surabaya, then travel from there to Malang to take part in a two-day tour to Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen. I then wanted to take the train from Malang to Yogyakarta. There I wanted to visit the Borobudur temple and actually fly straight back to Bali.

But when I took another look at the routes on Java, I quickly realized that the distances there are somewhat longer. It was simply too stressful for me to get on a train to Yogyakarta for 6 hours after another 6-hour drive from Mount Ijen back to Malang the same day, just to visit a temple at sunrise the next morning and drive straight to the airport. You can probably understand when you hear that, right?

So, I spontaneously decided to skip Yogyakarta and the Borobudur temple (unfortunately) and take the ferry from Ketapang (near Mount Ijen) back to Bali. From there it was already a long enough cab ride (4 hours) to Ubud. At least, I was able to spontaneously take part in an ATV and rafting tour with my friends in Ubud. That was a very good alternative program! Nevertheless, I would have loved to go to Yogyakarta. I can only recommend that you plan more time for Java.

xx Chiara

What to see & explore:

Marvel at the blue fire on Mount Ijen

My highlight was definitely the hike to Mount Ijen. This active volcano is famous for its fascinating blue fire that runs out of its crater into the glowing crater lake. As the fire is best seen in the dark, you have to start the hike in the middle of the night.

The ascent can be challenging as the path is quite steep and sometimes slippery. Yet, you will be rewarded with a view of the turquoise crater lake, which is surrounded by clouds of sulphur, and by seeing the glowing blue lava.

You can only do the hike with a guide. We were given head flashlights for the night hike and gas masks for the crater. You really should wear these in the crater, as the sulphur fumes can be strong. But it's also best to avoid the thick sulphur clouds anyway. Despite wearing a gas mask, I felt like I was suffocating when I got into one. But don't worry, this really only applies to the thick clouds that come up from time to time. Apart from that, you can stand it well in the crater and watch the blue fire in peace.

For me, the trip into the crater of Mount Ijen felt so surreal at times. It's fascinating to see and experience this force of nature so close up.

Enjoy the view of Mount Bromo

A visit to Mount Bromo is also an absolute must on any trip to East Java. But here, too, you should get up early to enjoy the sunrise over the impressive volcanic landscape. The sight of the rising sun, which bathes the smoking crater and the surrounding mountains in a golden light, is simply unforgettable.

You don't have to be too sporty here in the early hours of the morning, as the tours to Mount Bromo take place in a jeep. The jeep ride through the sandy desert is an adventure in itself.

The jeep not only takes you to the viewpoint for the view of Mount Bromo, but also stops at the crater. You will have to climb the crater yourself, but the path takes you up the stairs. So it's rather easy to get there. Once in the top, you can take a look inside the active volcano.

How you can explore the volcanoes

I booked my volcano tours as a package through my hostel (Semeru Hostel Malang (affiliate link)) in Malang. I paid around €130 for a group tour with driver and an overnight stay in a very nice cottage. Water and food were also included.

On the first day, I was picked up at the hostel in Malang at around 1AM. From there, I went to Mount Bromo with the others in my group. After we had finished our tour of Mount Bromo, the driver took us to Hadi Homestay Kawah Ijen. I had my own large room there with a clean bathroom - definitely more luxurious than a hostel! We also had a delicious dinner here in the evening. The next day we went to Mount Ijen at around 3AM for our hike with a guide. After the tour, I was then driven to the harbor in Ketapang. Alternatively, the driver could have driven me the long way back to Malang (for the same price).

You can also start the tour from Bali. There are various providers, you should research the prices and options yourself. You will often be driven to the west of Bali, from where you take the ferry to Java. Then it's off to Mount Ijen, followed by a visit to Mount Bromo. Or just one of the two, depending on what kind of tour you book. For example, there are also tours to Mount Ijen only. This is a good option if you are short on time and want to see more of Bali. Just keep in mind that the way to the west of Bali takes a lot of time. The tours are then a lot of driving in one day, as you often drive back to Bali from Mount Ijen on the same day.

Experience the real Indonesia

On Java, I had the feeling of experiencing a much more “real” Indonesia than on Bali. The towns and villages were simply more authentic, the way you imagine Asia to be, whereas Bali is already very westernized.

In Malang, I had some time to explore the city. I did find a typical Bali café here too, where I enjoyed my smoothie bowl. But in the other places I passed on my walk, I was more likely to meet locals going about their daily lives. My highlight in Malang was the Malang Jami' Grand Mosque. It was very imposing and there was a large square in front of it where the locals were winding down after work and the children were playing. It was a really nice atmosphere.

What you better not miss!

Unfortunately, I haven't yet visited Yogyakarta and the Borobudur temple myself. But Niklas, a friend of mine, was there. He liked it very much. He was impressed by the architecture. Only the entrance fee (around 30€) is a bit expensive. Nevertheless, he thinks it's well worth it. And that's exactly why the temple is still high on my list! Maybe I'll see you there soon.

Don't neglect Yogyakarta during your visit either. The city is said to be very worth seeing. So plan a little more time. And if you have even more time, you can go straight to the Tumpak Sewu Waterfall. It is considered one of the most impressive waterfalls in Indonesia! A nice Chinese girl from my group trip confirmed this to me, as the waterfall was her personal highlight of her Java tour.

Where to eat & drink

I can't really give you that many tips. Because I mostly got food on the tours. But the food at Hadi Homestay Kawah Ijen was very tasty.

I did go to one café in Malang: Grain Alley. It was recommended to me by the receptionist at my hostel. Although it was a rather western café, it was good and I can recommend it with a clear conscience!

Where to sleep

I spent my first night in Java at Semeru Hostel Malang (affiliate link), although the night was rather short as I set off on my tour at 1AM. But I liked the hostel. It was cutely furnished and the people were very nice. However, the rooms were rather basic and unfortunately we didn't have a locker. Nevertheless, I would stay here again.

The accommodation during my tour to Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen was booked by the organization I did the tour with. It was Hadi Homestay Kawah Ijen, which I was very happy with. Everything was clean and tidy, it was beautifully surrounded by nature and the food was delicious.

Originally, I also wanted to travel to Yogyakarta and had already booked the Wonderloft Hostel (affiliate link). It just looked so cool from the pictures. Unfortunately, I didn't go to Yogyakarta after all. When I explained to the staff why I wasn't coming, they were nice enough to refund my money - even though I had booked without canceling.

How to get to Java & around

I flew from Bali to East Java. Good airports for this are Surabaya and Yogyakarta. The flights from Bali usually only cost around €30. I then took the ferry back from Ketapang to Gilimanuk, from where I had to take a cab to the east of Bali. Of course, you can also fly both ways or take the ferry both ways or take the ferry first and then fly back. That's up to you.

Locally, I took the bus from Surabaya to Malang. That was the cheapest option. It's best to buy the ticket directly from the bus driver so that you don't get ripped off. Java also has a good train network. The best way to find out about bus and train connections is via (affiliate link). You can also book the connections directly there! You can also book a cab in Java using the usual apps (Grab und Gojek).

I have put together a list of all the places on Google Maps.

You can find the list here.

5-6 days East Java


2-3 days Yogyakarta with Borobudur Temple

1 day Tumpak Sewu Waterfall and driving to Malang after

2 days Tour Mount Bromo & Mount Ijen