Want to climb an Active Volcano? We suggest Mt. Rinjani, Indonesia

Want to climb an Active Volcano? We suggest Mt. Rinjani, Indonesia

About Mt. Rinjani

Mount Rinjani (Gunung Rinjani) is an active volcano on the island of Lombok. It’s Indonesia’s second highest, after Mt. Kerinci on the island of Sumatra.

Rinjani is the most picturesque volcano we’ve ever seen, as if taken straight out of a picture book. Its summit reaches 3726 meters above sea level and dominates the landscape of the northern part of the island. The crater rim surrounds a sunken caldera with very steep walls and a crater lake with dark blue water. Out of the water rises a perfectly round volcanic cone formed by the last lava eruption in 1994. Inside the caldera there are a few cold springs with drinking water and hot springs that you can bathe in.

Rinjani is a sacred mountain for the Hindu and Sasak people who live around the volcano, and several times a year there are religious ceremonies practiced on the crater rim and on the summit.

UPDATE: On October 25, 2015 Mount Rinjani erupted once again. Check out this image to see our favorite volcano in action!

Climbing the Mountain

Katja and Bojidar climbed Mt. Rinjani in September of 2014 after a long Internet search of the possible routes and the companies organizing the treks. Since there are many contradicting reports online, we wrote this detailed post which hopefully will clear all confusion.

With a guide, in a group, or alone?

The mountain is located inside the Rinjani National Park, so you have to pay an entrance fee of 150 000 IDR, but you don’t have to hire a guide. Indonesian locals usually set out for the summit without a guide or porters, so each person carries a large backpack filled up with food, water and sleeping gear for two or three days.

For tourists it’s easier and far more practical to join a trek organized by a commercial company. You get a complete package including the entrance fee, guide, porters, food, water, tent and sleeping gear as well as transport to the mountain and back. You can book these packages at any tourist office in any city on the island of Lombok, and they will pick you up from your hotel, do the tour with you, then drive you to the Gilis, Sengiggi, Mataram, the Airport or Kuta afterwards.

See our upcoming trip description to central Indonesia for a specific suggestion of how to best integrate the Rinjani climb into your Indonesian vacation.

Day 1: Our porters are leading the way

How many days and how many nights?

The most popular package is 3D/2N. This means “three days and two nights” and lets you experience two different points on the rim, the crater lake, the hot springs and the summit.

If you cannot spare the extra day or are just making your first experience with higher mountains, then you might want to investigate the 2D/1N package. You will only be able to see the rim and not the lake or the summit, but that’s still an awesome experience.

You can also go on 4D/3N or 5D/4N tours which allow you to see some caves as well as climb slower, but our favorite package is definitely the 3D/2N. On this one you can experience virtually everything that the area has to offer, and you will be rewarded by two sunsets and two sunrises, each extraordinary in its own way.

Actually there is an extra 1D/1N added before the start of any of the above packages, but since it’s not part of the trek, it doesn’t get officially counted. The extra day is needed for traveling from your last location to the starting point of your trek and the extra night is spent at the lodge or hotel of the company organizing the trek. You will have to buy your food on that day, but all other expenses should be included in your climbing package.

After 5 hours we climbed above the tree-line and the way turned

Start in Senaru or Sembalun?

There are two towns from which you can start your Rinjani trek: Senaru (located at 570 meters above sea level) and Sembalun (1100 meters). On the 2D/1N packages you return to your starting point and on the 3D/2N packages you typically climb from one of the above locations and come down at the other.

Our clear preference is to start in Senaru, for these reasons:

  • Although you climb more vertical meters, the way from Senaru to the rim is shorter and is covered by a lush forrest all the way up to the tree-line, which makes for a much nicer climbing experience.
  • You have fewer vertical meters coming down to Sembalun, and in the case of Rinjani (and in many other cases also) coming down is more exhausting than going up.
  • In Senaru you can visit two splendid waterfalls on your free afternoon before the climb. These are called Singgang Gila and Tiu Kelep. Almost everyone in Senaru will offer you to lead you there, and if they want less than 100000 IDR, you can certainly accept their offer. But you can also find the way on your own. Just ask where the entrance is, then pay your 10000 IDR entrance fee and follow the way down. You should have no trouble finding Singgang Gila, aka “the first waterfall,” which is very nice. But Tiu Kelep, aka “the second waterfall,” is spectacular, so do visit that one also. To reach Tiu Kelep first go to Singgang Gila then on the way back take the very first path which splits up to the left. You will have to cross the river by foot, but it’s max 30 cm deep. You will get wet at the second waterfall, so it’s best to have your swimsuit already on. If you take any valuables, pack them in a water-resistant bag.

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Itinerary

Here is a rough itinerary for the 3D/2N program starting in Senaru:

  • Day 1: Start around 8–8:30 am, then climb 2067 vertical meters to reach the crater rim by 6 pm at the latest. Enjoy an incredible sunset, then sleep in a tent close to the rim at 2641 meters above sea level.
  • Day 2: Wake up at 5:30 am, enjoy the sunrise, descend 600 vertical meters (in 2–2.5 hours) down to the lake, relax and enjoy the hot springs, then climb 600 vertical meters up to another point on the rim (another 2–2.5 hours). Sleep in a tent on the rim just below the summit.
  • Day 3: If you want to climb the rim wake up at 2:15 am and start climbing by 2:30. Climb for a maximum of 4 hours, which gives you plenty of time to reach the summit (1050 vertical meters, of which the first third is difficult, the second third is relatively easy and the last third is pretty exhausting). Enjoy a most incredible sunrise, then descend to base camp by 8:30. If you don’t want to climb the summit you can sleep until 8 am, then have breakfast with the entire group at 8:30. At 9 am you will start the long descent and you should reach Sembalun by 1:30 pm. Here you’ll be picked up and transported to Senaru where you reunite with your luggage which you left there 3 days ago.

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How Fit Do You Need to Be?

  • The climb is not for everyone, but if you are healthy, fit and not horribly afraid of heights you’ll probably be OK. Bojidar (age 43, BMI 28) found the climb very strenuous, but doable. On the day of our climb to the rim about 100 other people started and we didn’t see anyone turn back.
  • The biggest physical challenge is reaching the rim on day one. To check if you can do this find a tall building then go climb stairs for 3 hours without a long break. If you find it extremely boring but doable, then you are good to go.
  • Climbing the summit is very difficult, but it’s optional. You can tell your guide if you want to attempt the climb, or if you prefer to stay in the tent and sleep instead. You can even attempt the climb and turn around partway if you don’t feel like continuing. From the 9 people in our group 6 attempted the climb and only three completed it. But everyone had an unforgettable experience!  🙂
  • Descending is even more strenuous than climbing up, and on day three you’ll have to descend through 2626 or 1539 vertical meters (including and excluding the summit descent). That’s a lot, so don’t force it if you have troubles with your knees or ankles.

Our home for the first night

Does Mt. Rinjani Have a Trash problem?

It certainly does (see yourself: 1, 2, 3, 4), but it’s not as horrible as some make it out to be. Still, if the park authorities do not act quickly and educate their guides and porters, the problem will get worse.

So please gather all your personal trash and insist that the guides and porters collect theirs and bring it down. Tell them that that’s the only way that they’ll get any tip and be prepared to repeat this threat a few times as Indonesians seem to think that the mountain cleans itself.

Also important: don’t let the porters burn the trash since these burnings are the main reason for the many fires on the Rinjani slopes.

Prices and Companies

You get what you pay for — this slogan certainly holds true for Mt. Rinjani, and it’s the reason for most contradicting opinions on the Internet.

Restu Adventure seems to be the low-cost/high-volume player in the game, so if you book with some “travel agent” on the street or in a tourist office you’ll probably end up climbing with Restu. For about 100 EUR = 150 USD you join a group of 8–10 people, 1 young guide with mediocre English and 4–5 porters. You get comfortable transport, very simple (but nonetheless very tasty) meals, very thin sleeping mats, older (but relatively clean) sleeping bags and older and smaller tents. One-hundred EUR for a three-day climb including meals and transport is very chap, so expect your trek to be very simple, but that’s fine since you are here to enjoy nature and not live in luxury. Restu employs fewer porters per tourist than the other companies, but the porters carry less equipment and less food, so it probably evens out in the end.

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Most Restu competitors charge 2–3 times higher prices but provide more luxurious service: thick sleeping mats, larger tents, chairs to sit, a better location for your tent on the rim, way too much food, a variety of fruits after each meal and a coke or a beer when you reach the summit. The groups are much smaller (2–5 people), their guides speak better English and the porters dig a pit toilet so you don’t have to hide behind the bushes. They also collect the trash more rigorously. While it seems a bit exaggerated to us to employ one porter per tourist and to have so much food cooked and potentially thrown away, having your own toilet and not having to preach ecology to the guide and the porters is a great thing.

We felt OK with Restu, but only you can decide what level of service you wish and how much your climb should cost. Here are some examples of the companies with higher prices and better service: Ahmed’s Expedition, Rudy Trekker, Green Rinjani, Karat Adventure, Galangijo, Salanamo.

How much tip is appropriate?

The amount depends mostly on your experience and on how much the guide and porters cared for your safety and well-being, but to us it seemed appropriate to collect enough from the entire group so that the guide and each porter got about 10 EUR = 15 USD.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Visit the Singgang Gila and Tiu Kelep waterfalls in Senaru on your free afternoon before the trek.
  • If you think you’ll make it up the rim but are unsure of the summit book the 3D/2N package anyway. Days 1 and 2 will show you if you are fit enough to attempt the summit in the darkness. If not, just sleep until 8 am and have breakfast with the rest of the group.
  • Book with a company which provides a level of service fitting to your needs.
  • Check and if necessary recharge the batteries of your headlamp and camera.
  • On your trek take only the things that are absolutely necessary.
  • The descent is long and steep, so cut your toe nails immediately before the tour.
  • Get to know the people in your group — many of them have great travel stories to tell.
3 am: 30 min into the summit climb you can still see the tents and the line of climbers behind us

30 min into the summit-climb — check out the line of climbers behind us and out tent camp at the very top of the image

Necessary Equipment

  • Good hiking boots or at the very least stable trekking shoes.
  • A headlamp is essential for the evenings and for climbing the summit. Your batteries should last for at least 4 hours, otherwise bring spares.
  • 2–3 layers of warm clothes for the nights and for the summit climb. Ideally a down jacket as the top layer.
  • Also for climbing the summit: thin gloves and (if you don’t have enough warm clothes with you) your sleeping bag. You can thank us later. 🙂
  • Sun screen, sunglasses, a hat and a long-sleeved thin shirt to protect you from the sun on days 2 and 3.
  • If you put value on sleeping comfort and are going with a low-budget company you might like to bring your own sleeping bag and sleeping mat.
  • A small package of moist hygienic towels (wipes, towelettes, tissues) for “washing” yourself before slipping into your warm sleeping bag.
  • Dust mask for the summit and the steep dusty descent to Sembalun (will be provided by the more expensive companies).

05:30 am: First light

06:00 am: We made it! Bojidar was totally frozen, Katja is using

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P.S. We hope our description answers all your questions and motivates you to attempt this extraordinary climb. If you have any questions or comments please write to us. And have a great climb!

28 Comments

  1. Jeffrey

    Hi, im planning on a hiking trip to Mount Rinjani. May i have the contact details of Restu Adventure? Im not able to find it on the internet. Thanks in advance.

    PS: Love your review on Rinjani, very detailed and helpful

    1. Bojidar

      Hi Jeffrey, it’s great that you find the review helpful!

      About Restu Adventure, we too didn’t find any contact information or an office, but it’s virtually impossible to avoid them. In every town and village there are small travel-agent shops selling tours and bus and boat tickets, and most of those places will sell you a tour organized by Restu. You can also ask the shop-keepers (I hesitate to call them “travel agents”) which company is the organizer of their tour.

      Katja and I wish you an amazing climb!

  2. Ieva

    Hey Bojidar,
    A few friends and I are planning on hiking Mt Rinjani. We are adventurous but poor students and can’t afford paying for the guide so we want to do it without a guide. You’ve mentioned that hiring a guide is not compulsory. Are you sure about this? I keep finding very contradictory information online. It would be a big disappointment to get there and find out that we can’t enter unless with a guide.

    Thanks,
    Ieva

    1. Bojidar

      Hi Leva,

      yes, I am sure, because we met several groups without a guide. BUT I highly recommend that you take one guide for your student group. You really need someone who knows where the water springs are, who has access to a cooker, who knows the local “rules” on the mountain and whose company has a piece of ground reserved for his company to put up the tents.

      The guide doesn’t cost much (maybe 40 USD for the three days), and the entire package including food, drink, tent, guide and a parter only costs 85-95 USD for three days. If you can find that kind of money, I would strongly encourage you to book a tour. Maybe you can get a group discount…

      In any case, enjoy this incredible landscape!

      1. Thomas Deshayes

        Hi Leva, I just climbed Rinjani with a friend of mine, starting off from Sembalun and finishing up in Senaru. We wanted to do it alone, just for the challenge and decided not to hire a porter/guide.
        When we registered at Sembalun on the first day of the trek, the ranger told us hiring a porter was compulsory. When we told him we wanted to do it solo, afer a few discussion, he let us go.
        We spent 4 days/3 nights in the park, carrying two large bottles of water that we refilled at the water springs at the rim and the lake (clear water at both spots). Water at Pos 3 (on day 03) wasn’t easy to reach and not so clear (but still drinkable).
        As there were a lot of groups hiking, we could ask our way to the springs, so don’t worry about it.
        We carried all our food with us (actually, way too much food!), i.e. around 23 kg altogether (with the tent, sleeping bag, spare clothes, headlight etc.).

        The hike was tough but really amazing.
        If you decide to hire a guide/porter, I suggest you opt for Green Rinjani (http://www.greenrinjani.com/), which seems to be the most eco-friendly agency. Each trekker hiring them will plant a tree and the porters will collect 3 kilograms of garbage on the way.
        The only and really downside of the trek is the dirtiness of the camps; quite sad indeed.

    1. Bojidar

      Hi Irham,

      I think that it should be easy to find the way on your own (just follow any of the groups), but a guide and porters will also take care of your food, water and tents, which is a great thing. So Katja and I suggest to take part in an organizer tour.

      Cheers

  3. Mun Ling

    Hey Bojidar,

    Thank you for sharing and complete information provided. It is very detailed and helpful.

    I’m travelling to Lombok in this coming August in a group of 10 and planning to hike Mount Rinjani. We have come across with many agents and had chosen Ary Trekking for its good deals. However, I couldn’t see any guest review or comment about this agent and is kind of worry whether is this agent reliable.

    I would like to seek for your advise whether engaging with an agent that might be lacking of experience or perhaps we might be their first customer, is it safe and secure? Or is it doesn’t really matter on which agent to engage with because all are more of less the similar?

    Looking forward for your favorable reply and advise!

    Thank you!

    1. Bojidar

      Hey Mun,

      I’m very happy you find the article helpful. 🙂

      In my opinion most operators fall into one of two groups: the low budget ones (older tents, older sleeping bags, basic but tasty food, go into the woods for a toilet) and the premium ones (large tents, new sleeping bags, seating chairs, tents very close to the crater rim, dig-out toilets, better instructions before the trek). So yes, there is a difference in the comfort, but there is no difference in the views or the safety.

      I would say if you are on a tight budget, it doesn’t matter much, just enjoy the gorgeous scenery. If you value your comfort, then do take a reputable agency with at least a dozen reviews.

      Best regards and have an amazing experience,
      Bojidar

      PS: The more expensive operators will cost 200 USD or (much) more per person, the budget ones about half of that.

      1. Mun Ling

        Hey Bodijar,

        Thank you very much for your kind information and advise! Really appreciate it! 🙂

        We will then go for the budget one since our ultimate goal is the summit of Rinjani.

        Once again, THANK YOU! 🙂

        1. Katrina

          Great review thanks Bojidar!

          Hi Mun, my partner and I are also looking to book with Ary Trekking and are also concerned about the lack of reviews! When are you going on your trip? I would be interested to receive a review from you of the company.

          Thanks,
          Katrina

          1. Mel

            Hi Katrina,

            I was just wondering which company you booked for the trekking and whether you have any recommendations? I am going in September this year and find it really difficult the find the right company (I don’t really trust the internet). For the moment I am looking to book with Syam Trekker, have you heard of them? Thanks a lot!

        2. morrgan

          Experience the mountain to rinjani. My wife and I rode to gunugn rinjani a few days ago at Mount Rinjani. It was so beautiful, we get a beautiful view and amazing and encouraging. My wife and I really enjoyed a wonderful time in the mountains rinjani

          My wife and I managed to conquer the peak gunugn rinjani despite enormous challenges with the cold weather and a real challenge for me. But we were very happy arriving at the top of the mountain with a bunch rinjani very beautiful scenery and amazing

          We took the program 3d / 2n rinjani with ary trekking peak. And his team at Senaru. Dai is very friendly and nice and good. And we get a good service during a trip to Mount Rinjani
          Thank ary trekking and his team.

    2. Luis

      Hi Mun,

      I would like to know if you finally took the trek with Ary Trekking. If so, how was it? I am also in contact with this company and I would like to hear some feedback from previous clients.

      Thanks, Luis

  4. ahmad Rijal

    dear guest,
    I am ahmad Rijal ,trekk organizer in kuta lombok.my office is located in centere of kuta in front of indomaret. I work with Restu for 5 years already. if you wish you want to do mount trekking you may call me on this phne number 081907493367. thank you.see you in adventure!

  5. Karina

    Hey, thanks for your awesome tipps. I am wondering how you handle the mosquitos when trekking up the Mount RInjani? Do you just spray all day and all nights and you gonna be safe or how does that work? Thanks for your advice in advance and take care.

  6. Adi Trekker

    Hi I am from Adi Trekker one of the local trekking organizer. Thank you for visit the Mount Rinjani and I believe that you have an amazing experience there.

    Trekking at Mount Rinjani is not an easy to do especially if you want to reach the summit but you can easily custom your plan based on your stamina.

    I am looking for all of you to visit Mount Rinajni again and feel the amazing experience that you can even cannot find easily fro other mountains in the world.

  7. Bojidar

    Dear readers,

    there is apparently a lot of interest in Mt. Rinjani, which makes us very happy. 🙂 Many of you are interested in which company offers the best service, etc. While we do agree that this is an important consideration, please understand that the companies do not differ very much. They all offer the same route and the same packages, the main difference is the food and the condition of the tents and mattresses.

    If you pay about 250 USD for the 3D/2N package you can expect to have one porter per guest and one guide for 2-4 guests. There will be more food than you can eat, you will probably have a table and chairs to sit on during your breaks. Your tents will be built on the places with the best views, and you will have a pit toilet for your group only. The porters are educated about not leaving trash behind and the guide will probably speak really good English.

    If you pay about 100 USD per person for the 3D/2N package then you are going on a budget tour where the food will be basic and the tents will not be brand new (but still good). There will probably be one porter for two guests, and one guide (with understandable English) for about 10-12 guests. YOU will have to make sure that your porters do not leave trash behind. You will have to walk 50 meters away from your tent to have an amazing view over the crater, and you will have to bring your own toilet paper.

    So, yes there are differences, and you get what you pay for. But the volcano, the hiking and the experiences will be pretty much the same, no matter which kind of tour you join. Enjoy it! 🙂

    1. Jeradyne

      Hi Bojidar,

      First of all thank you so much for this article! Such an informative one and I got most of the information I need here =)

      I’m planning to trek the mountain in September and I’m finding it hard to plan my itinerary. As I’m planning to go and stay at one of the Gili islands as well, I’m thinking maybe I should be trekking Mount Rinjani first before going to Gili. How do you think I should go about booking my first night’s accommodation? Somewhere near the mountain? Do you think I need to book this before I arrive in Lombok or I can easily book a room and a tour when I arrive at Lombok?

      Thank you!

      1. Bojidar

        Hi Jeradyne, that’s exactly how Katja and I did it: 3 days on Lombok (in Kuta, rented a motor bike, saw a bit of the island, see here), then the 3D/2N Rinjani, then 3 days Gilis, then a fast boat to Bali. I’d do it in a heartbeat again, in that order also. Our tour included a pickup from Kuta, the Rinjani trek and a transfer to Gili Air. I guess all packages are like that: pickup anywhere on Lombok and leave you anywhere on Lombok or Gilis. We got to Gili Air at about 7 pm, but we still managed to find a (very nice) room for about 12 EUR per night.

        I wouldn’t book ahead of time. In case you get to the Gilis and you find that most rooms are booked, you might have to pay more for the first night, but on the next morning, you can wander around and find a “better” room for the next nights. If you are a party person, Gili Trawangan seems to be the right destination. Otherwise Gili Air is amazing!

        1. Jeradyne

          I really appreciate you replying so quickly, Bojidar!

          Since I’m not doing the Kuta part of the trip like you and if I want to be picked up by someone at the airport, I’d have to book a tour and a place to stay (near the mountain?) for the first night before I arrive at Lombok? Or do you recommend I get myself to Lombok first, then only look for a place to spend the night and also try to book a tour then?

          Thanks!

          1. Katja

            Hi Jeradyne,

            Bojidar won’t be available for a couple of weeks (he is currently in Kyrgyzstan in order to fulfil his dream to climb a summit of over 7.000 m), so I’m taking over here 🙂

            (1) If you need certainty and are limited on time, book a tour online in advance and everything will be ready and organised on arrival. This is the easiest option, but you loose flexibility and may pay more than necessary. I’d opt for that possibility if I want to have a more luxurious (with extra porters, more food etc.), more expensive and/or ecologically sensitised tour in a small group anyway. In that case I’d do the research beforehand to make sure my money is placed in the right hands.

            (2) At the Lombok international Airport there are many tour operators and a tourist information waiting, so you you could simply consult them after your arrival, compare a bit, and decide for a tour that suits you. Chances are that you could leave right away to Senaru or Sembalun. Then your first night will be already covered by the tour. If you arrive too late and all the tour groups have already left, you may have to spend a night in the area anyway, and start the tour the next day. If the tour operator doesn’t have an accommodation for those cases nearby, you’ll most probably be transferred to Kuta, which is only 20 km respectively a 30 – 45 min ride away, and picked up the next day together with other group members. You may end up paying a bit more, but you save some time and maybe also one overnight stay.

            (3) If you have a day to spare, and a limited budget for the tour, fly to Lombok, go to Kuta (i.e. by shared taxi, but compare prices as they differ a lot), talk to your host, to tour operators (to get a feeling for the offers and professionalism, english skills) and most importantly to other tourists as some of them surely can report their experiences or heard stories from others, got recommendations themselves etc., and book a tour after that.

            I’d recommend to go for (3), but in the end it depends on your time and money available, as well as your security needed.

            Hope that helped. Wish you an unforgettable trip.

            Katja

  8. Rinjani Backpacker

    Hello Bojidar
    It is a great post. Really happy to see you enjoyed your trek, and glad to hear your fair thought on the organizer – I was actually belonging to Restu Adventure at that time.
    Just to add: for the late 2 years (2015 & 2016) Gunung Baru Jari, the smaller volcano that lies inside the lake errupted and lasted in average 3 months.

    This phenomenon happened during the very hot season (September to November). Rinjani was closed along. We climbed in the night if we want to see how the fires and smoke spread out.

  9. Herman trekker

    Hello bojidar…!
    Your articel it’s was very helpul for other vistor who like to climb mount rinjani and for choose a trekking company.
    I am herman from herman trekker-trekking company to mount rinjani say thank you so much for sharing your info..

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