It’s not the most famous, the most active or the biggest volcano in the world, but Indonesia’s 2392m-high Mount Bromo is one of the most picturesque – in a dusty, post-apocalyptic sort of way. The still-smoking and apparently perfectly symmetrical cone rises precipitously out of a vast, windswept, sandy plain. This is the Sea of Sand, actually the floor of an ancient crater (or caldera), stretching up to 10km in diameter and with walls towering some 300m high.
Though the locals will try to persuade you to take their horse, it’s an easy enough walk to the summit, with no climbing ability required. Setting off an hour before sunrise, you follow a path across the Sea of Sand to the foot of Bromo’s vertiginous cone. A small matter of 249 concrete steps up past crowds of others with the same idea – it’s one of Java’s most popular attractions – leads to the crater rim and a view down onto the fumaroles belching noxious sulphuric fumes. But the rewards of climbing Bromo are not olfactory, but visual: if the gods of climate and cloud-cover are on your side, a flamboyant golden sunrise awaits, casting its orange glow over the vast emptiness of the sandy basin, with Java’s lush green landscape stretching to the horizon beyond.
Mount Bromo is the main attraction of East Java’s Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park. Most people stay in the nearby village of Cemoro Lawang, a 2hr bus drive from Probolinggo on Java’s north coast.