Other than the amazing surf, Mt. Rinjani is easily the biggest draw for tourism on Lombok, the large island between Bali and Sumbawa. I ended up there after a truly fabulous diving trip in Komodo knowing that I wanted to experience a different side of Indonesia that didn’t involve Kuta beach in Bali or the hustle and bustle of Jakarta.
Like most things in Southeast Asia, the pricing online was pretty outrageous for pre-booking a Mt. Rinjani trek. I elected to show up and see if I could get it for cheaper which I, of course, did. I took the most common package which was three days, two nights of trekking with all meals and equipment included. I did this by talking to one of the employees at a guest house on Lombok.
It’s advisable to show up on Lombok and book directly with a tour operator there rather than organizing through a travel agent elsewhere in Indonesia. There have apparently been issues in the past with tourists being sold tours with fake operators or less-than-desirable companies. Even the one I elected to book with charged everyone in my group a different price. Therefore, the cost is definitely negotiable. If you make your own way to Senaru or Sembalun Lawang, the starting points (if you start at one you’ll end at the other and vice versa), expect to pay around 900,000 Rupiah (USD $90) including park entrance fees. I personally booked in Kuta, Lombok, for 1,000,000 including transport from Kuta to Senaru, but others in my group were charged 1,500,000 for the exact same thing. Always haggle!
I was also able to borrow everything I needed from the guys who led the trek, including a warm jacket, a smaller backpack (I left my bigger one with most of my belongings at the guesthouse I stayed at prior to the trek and went back to pick it up after,) and tents and food were provided by the porters. The only thing you need to bring is travel insurance – the good kind that will transport you to Singapore or another country with good medical care just in case.
The climb itself was brilliant and not too challenging on the first day, which involved a 2,000 meter climb from Senaru at 600 meters to the crater rim at 2,600 meters. The brilliant view was a great sign of what was to come over the next few days:
The second day of the trek involved a steep climb down to the crater lake, a visit to the hot springs, and a climb up to the base of the summit:
The final day was by far the toughest, but most gorgeous and rewarding.
The wake up call was 2am for those interested in climbing the 1000 meters to the summit. We strapped on our headlamps, warm clothing, and watched as the guides put on real shoes for the first time – they had otherwise been taking on the entire steep trek in flip flops. This was a clear sign that the trail was about to get truly difficult.
Given the volcanic gravel, the climb consisted of regularly climbing two steps forward only to slide at least one back. It took about three hours to make it all the way to the top with freezing winds pelting me the whole way. It was a mental and physical battle to the top, to be sure. Plenty of people sit this part of the trek out. If you have the fitness level to take it on, though, I’d definitely recommend it.
The top brought on a feeling of accomplishment and sheer ecstasy as the sun rose, illuminating the volcano and the surrounding islands all the way to Bali.
Do it Yourself:
- Getting there: If traveling overland, public transportation is probably the quickest option. Check out this guide for easy directions
- Booking: It is entirely possible to book the trek the day before your intended starting day, as I did (and this was during high season). Either book from wherever you are in Lombok, or make your way to Senbalun Lawang or Senaru to book directly with a tour operator (which can be done via your guest house or even asking the wait staff at a restaurant who will negotiate on your behalf and organize for you). Don’t forget you can only climb during the dry season from April to November
- Cost: Luxury operators charge about double what the bargain operators charge, but tend to have more comfortable sleeping bags and bring chairs along to sit in as well as a toilet tent around a hole dug in the ground. Cheaper operators do not bring chairs and the wilderness is your bathroom. To me, it wasn’t worth it to pay double for these amenities. The food and guide knowledge is generally the same in both tours as the guides and porters are contracted out by each operator. There are no showers available to any group
- Prep: bring proper shoes and a headlamp. If you don’t have a jacket, the porters can provide one if told in advance. Hiking or running shoes and a jacket are absolutely essential and a bathing suit, hiking stick (you can grab one at the start of the trail), and mittens are recommended
- Difficulty: fitness level is important for the climb as it is steep and takes 12 hours on the longest day to reach the summit and then get back down to the bottom. While it is not quite as big of a challenge as, say, taking on Mount Kinabalu in one day, it is still a challenge