Gunung Bromo really is something else. It's not the mountain itself, but the sheer majesty of the experience: the immense size of the entire Tengger crater, the supernatural beauty of the scenery and the dramatic highland light really are what dreams are made of.
Virtually all tours are planned to enable you to experience the mountain at sunrise. This is when the great crater is at its ethereal best and colours are most impressive. But visibility is usually good throughout the day in the dry season, even though the slopes below Cemoro Lawang may be covered in mist. Later in the day you’ll also avoid the dawn crowds – things get especially busy during holiday periods. In the wet season it’s often bright and clear at dawn but quickly clouds over.
If you want to just hike to Bromo from Cemoro Lawang, it’s a 3km (40 minute) walk down the crater wall and across the eerie Laotian Pasir (Sea of Sand) to the slopes of Bromo. White stone markers are easy to follow during the day but can be more elusive in the dark. Make sure you climb the right cone; Bromo has a stone staircase. Some hikers, disoriented in the dark, have attempted to climb neighbouring Batok.
After ascending the 253 steps you’ll come face to face with the steaming, sulphurous guts of the volcano. There are sweeping views back across the Laotian Pasir to the lip of the crater and over to Batok and the Hindu temple (this only opens on auspicious days in the pilgrim calendar) at its base.
Mercifully there's little of the tacky commercialism (bar the odd souvenir seller) that besmirches many Indonesian beauty spots. The local Tengger people may press you into accepting a horse ride across the crater bed but there’s no really serious hassle. It’s still easy to connect spiritually with this sacred peak if you wander around the lip of the Bromo cone, away from the main viewing point.