A land rich in spirituality and legendary volcanoes
With 800 square kilometres of craters, lakes and sand, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park charms visitors to the eastern end of the Indonesian island of Java. It also keeps its share of myths and mysteries alive as Hindus believe it is the domain of the gods…
Guardians of the abode of the gods
In a predominantly Muslim archipelago, the island of Java is still imbued with many pre-Islamic beliefs that are interwoven with different religions. The mainly Hindu inhabitants of the Tengger mountain range incorporate the natural landscape in their worship, especially the majestic Gunung Bromo crater, which takes its name from Brahma, the creator of the universe. Every year during Yadnya Kasada or Kesodo, members of the community climb the winding trail up the mountain to make offerings of fruit, flowers, vegetables, and more, hoping for peace and prosperity. This makes Bromo the highest altar in the world.
The fiery Semeru volcano is named after Mount Meru, the centre of the universe and the axis of the world in Hindu mythology. It is the highest mountain on the island of Java and the abode of the Hindu gods, making the inhabitants of the mountain range its guardians…
Krakatoa: rock and ash
Both a volcano and an island group, Krakatoa is perpetually active. Its colossal eruptions have completely changed its appearance several times already. In 1883, its explosion triggered an unprecedented tsunami, killing thousands of islanders. It is said the effects were felt as far away as Europe. Today, the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to the last Javan rhinos. As for the volcano, it is resting but not asleep…
Sand sea, mountains and wonders
Venturing into Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park means discovering incredibly diverse landscapes. Whether you explore by foot, car or horseback, there’s no wrong way to immerse yourself in its riches. To climb the peaks, you must first cross the lunar landscape of a stunning sea of grey sand. On this mountainous territory stands the Semeru volcano, surrounded by Mount Batok and Mount Bromo. Early birds climb Mount Bromo in the moonlight to enjoy the majestic sunrise over the park from the peak. Fumaroles, rumblings and sulphur smells add the final touch to this unique experience.
Nature has plenty of surprises in store in these mineral landscapes made of ash and rock. Cool streams crisscross the land, and four mountain lakes are nestled in the heart of the park. Not far from the village of Cemoro Lawang, the Madakaripura Waterfall is a sight to behold with its water curtains, rocky overhangs and streams. It is a sacred place for followers of Kejawèn, a Javanese way of life and thought. Here, spirituality is hidden in every nook and cranny.
Kejawèn: the essence of Java
More than a combination of different religious beliefs, Kejawèn is the set of cultural values that guide the Javanese people in both thought and action. Rites of passage and traditions punctuate the lives of the islanders. These include slametan, a communal meal that marks important occasions. The ritualised feast is intended to restore harmony, the cornerstone of life in Java. Social harmony between humans and nature and between humans and God is a delicate balance framed by centuries-old traditions.
This contrasting natural landscape is matched by a remarkable abundance of life: centuries-old trees, Javanese edelweiss, endemic orchids and mountain cypresses bring joy to botanists and attentive walkers alike.
Reptiles, birds and mammals also populate Bromo Tengger Semeru. The most remarkable species include crab-eating macaques, besras, Javan hawk-eagles, green peafowls, panthers and Javan rusa. These protected endemic species enjoy a preserved habitat in this park, which has been a UNESCO biosphere reserve since 2015.
Photos credits : © Istock
PONANT takes you there
Explore Asia’s natural and cultural treasures off the beaten track