14 September, 2017

Asia’s Best Volcano Hikes

14 September, 2017

The hottest hikes in Asia


Not only is Asia home to an abundance of cities steeped in heritage, world-class eateries, crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches, but for the more adventurous, it offers some of the world’s best volcano climbs. From easy climbs to the downright treacherous, here are my top hikes in Asia to date.

Read more: Quick Flights from Hong Kong: 5 Adrenaline Filled Adventures

The Best Volcano Hikes in Asia

Mount Bromo – East Java, Indonesia

Mount Bromo is one of the easiest climbs on the list. Still active, it’s an iconic climb and remains popular because of how short and sweet it is while offering hikers breath-taking views.

Your day starts at around 2am with a climb up Mount Penanjakan in time to catch the sunrise. It takes about two hours and it’s wise to start early to avoid the crowds – they come in hordes slightly later in the morning. Once you’ve seen the sun rise – which will take your breath away, trek up to Mount Bromo summit. Here you can trek down and along approx. 3km of sand upwards to summit the caldera of Mount Bromo. The scenery is like something from Mad Max. This walk takes about one to two hours depending on your level of fitness and means that you can see the volcano from lots of different angles.

Top Tip: I’d recommend spending a few nights in East Java to fully explore the local countryside which is made up of lush tropical greenery and stunning panoramic views.

When to go?

The best time to go is from June – August. Do check the weather forecast before booking as rain can really dampen the experience!

How to get there?

There are direct flights from Hong Kong to Surabaya. From there, your hotel can arrange a transfer to the National Park which takes between two to four hours depending on traffic. There are lots of local restaurants en route that your driver will be able to recommend.

Where to stay?

Jiwa Jawa Resort. Perched high in the mountains, this resort is practically on Mount Bromo’s doorstep and a quick hop, skip and jump to the base of the climb. The rooms are cabin-style lodges – perfect for group trips; the restaurant serves delicious food and the gardens and stunning scenery are an ideal backdrop for relaxing with a cold glass of rosé in hand post climb.

The Best Volcano Hikes in Asia

Mount Ijen – Indonesia

This is my favourite to date because of the turquoise Sulphur lake that exudes flames: blue fire at night and smoky white during the day. Dependent on fitness level, I’d recommend you start the climb at 2am to reach the sun rise at 5am – it’s a 4km trek. Apart from the first hour – which is fairly steep – it’s not a hard climb but you’ll be amazed by the passing miners that climb up and down a few times a day carrying up to 90kg of Sulphur in baskets on their back.

Before reaching the summit, there’s the opportunity to head down into the caldera, where you’ll see mesmerising, electric blue fire surrounded by Sulphur clouds. Masks are essential for this part of the climb as it can be pretty rough on the throat and eyes. It’s a tough climb down and back up in the dark with fairly steep sections (think The Twins in Hong Kong) and a lot of scrambling, but totally worth it for a truly unique experience. Top tip: go at your own pace. There is only room for people in single file – don’t let anyone pressure you to move faster.

The final summit takes another 30 minutes or so and is relatively flat. Once you’ve seen the sun rise there is the option to descend to the world’s largest acidic lake and see the mining operation up close and personal (which is a must do if you have the energy) – just don’t put your hands in the lake – the water is very hot. The walk back to the base then takes about an hour.

When to go?

The best time is during the dry months from May – September.

How to get there?

Accessible from Bali, I’d recommend arranging a car to pick you up from Seminyak at around 7-8pm. There’s an hour on a ferry during the trip – we stayed in the car and slept in prep for a night without sleep. You’ll arrive at the crater by 1am to start the climb at 2am

The whole trip takes about 24 hours if starting out from Bali, and it’s the perfect activity to make your girls getaway that bit more exciting.

Top tip: I’d recommend a guide for this trip – they are not expensive (150,000 IDR) and can arrange transportation as well as brief the group on different aspects of the trek. 

The Best Volcano Hikes in Asia

Mount Rinjani – Lombok, Indonesia

The second highest volcano in Indonesia, this is the toughest on the list and takes considerably longer to climb than the others. I’d recommend a three-day, two-night trip, as this is the norm. You can pre-book this with a guide, or rock up and find a guide while you’re there to take you – the latter option is considerably cheaper, but remember with either option you’ll be camping.

The first day starts with a relatively easy 2000-meter climb from Senaru to the crater rim – most fitness levels can manage this. The second day is tougher with a steep climb down to the crater lake and a climb to the base of the summit. This is a full day of climbing. There’s also the option to check out the hot springs but this can be done on the way down too.

The final day is definitely the toughest with a wake-up call at 2am and a very steep 1000-meter climb to the summit. It can take some time as the ground is made up of volcanic gravel. Think lots of slipping and sliding, and not in a good way! Lots of people actually sit this part out given the tough three-hour climb and altitude levels, but it’s definitely worth it. The views will blow you away.

When to go?

April to November is considered dry season. During the majority of the wet season the mountain is off limits.

How to get there?

Hong Kong-ers can fly to Lombok International Airport and then arrange transport to the foot of Rinjani – this can all be done through a guide. The drive takes about three hours. The other option is a boat from Bali which takes about two to six hours, depending where you’re staying, plus the three-hour car journey once in Lombok

Top Tip: Finish the climb with a few days on the Gili Islands – still my favourite spot in Asia (even after six years of living here!)

The Best Volcano Hikes in Asia

Taal Volcano – Philippines

Considered one of the world’s most dangerous active volcanoes, this is (rather bizarrely) scaled by heaps of tourists every year. It’s also one of the world’s smallest volcanoes and hasn’t erupted since 1977 – which makes more sense. It also has one of the most interesting locations I’ve ever come across – Taal Volcano sits on an island, within a lake, within an island in the holiday town of Tagatay – a popular spa and golf destination. Yes, really.

Once you arrive in Tagatay, after a day of spa-ing, take a boat across the deep waters of the lake to the Volcano Island. Once there, it’s a really easy hike – and if you’re feeling seriously lazy, there are small horses to help you with the climb. Adventurous tourists can trek round the rim – with narrow paths and a drop one side, this feel like true volcano trekking. You will only require a day for this activity and can be back at the hotel by nightfall.

When to go?

Head during dry season, which is usually November to March

How to get there?

Your hotel can arrange transport from Manila Airport which takes just over an hour (traffic dependent), and luckily for Hong Kong-ers, Manila is just a short and cheap, direct flight away.

Where to stay?

I’d recommend tying this trip in with a spa weekend at Nurture Wellness Village, a very pretty, small spa hotel set in beautiful gardens. Do your volcano climb and then celebrate with a Ginhawa Body Massage.

There are a number of other volcanoes across Asia, but these are the ones I’d tick off first. When you start to consider yourself an expert, check out the following to add to your collection: Mount Merapi and Mount Kelimutu (Indonesia); Mayon Volcano (Luzon, Philippines); Mount Fuji, Mount Aso and Sakurajima (Japan) and Guishan Island (Taiwan).


Climbing Tips:

  • Walking shoes or sturdy trainers are the best footwear for all of these climbs.
  • Make sure you pack a jumper and hat for the top. It can get cold waiting for the sun to rise.
  • For Mount Ijen and Mount Bromo a surgical mask comes in handy – you don’t want to be breathing in the sulphuric fumes.
  • Don’t rub your eyes after being around sulfur – you can contract conjunctivitis – trust me – we’ve seen this first hand!
  • A torch or headlamp comes in handy for the nighttime climbs.
  • There’s no need to pack meals, but snacks and water are always a good idea.

Featured image credited to bromoeastjava.com, image #2 credited to bromoeastjava.com, image #3 credited to rinjaninationalpark.com

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