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Asia,  Guides,  Indonesia

The Ultimate Travel Plan: Visiting Mount Rinjani

Scattered precariously along the ring of fire, the islands of Indonesia are full to the brim with fascinating volcanoes, 130 in fact! While some have become tranquil inactive mountains, others continue to smoulder and teeter on the edge of imminent destruction! Of these many megalithic monsters of nature, one stands out above all others, Mount Rinjani.

This mighty volcano towers over the island of Lombok at 3,726 meters, making Rinjani the second-highest volcano in Indonesia! Within its gigantic caldera, plumes of smoke continue to rise from yet another volcano which sits inside it…it’s a volcano IN a volcano!!

The UNESCO Geopark is considered one of the best treks in South East Asia, and if there’s one volcano you should explore during your time in Indonesia, it’s this one! So in that case, let me guide you through everything you need to know about visiting Mount Rinjani!

A Brief Overview of Mount Rinjani

Mount Rinjani’s masterpiece is its 50 km² caldera and lake Segara Anak (Child of the Sea) that sits within. In the mid-nineties, a series of eruptions gave birth to a new active volcano, Gunung Baru (appropriately called New Mountain), which now stands in the centre of the lake.

Segara Anak is considered a highly spiritual place by cultures throughout Indonesia. The Balinese perform a yearly pekelan ceremony where jewellery is placed in the lake as an offering to the mountain. The Wetu Telu people of Lombok also come to pray at the lake during full moons.

The mountain and the surrounding forest make up the 41,000 hectares of Mount Rinjani National Park. It sits inside a bio-geographical transition zone (Wallacea), where the tropical plants and animals of South East Asia combine with that of Australasia.

The most noteworthy feature of Rinajni is that it’s still an active volcano! Occasionally the volcano can become pretty temperamental as plumes of ash are often projected into the air. Most of the time, only a steady stream of smoke can be seen rising from the central cone.

Where Can You Visit Mount Rinjani From?

Despite the vast size of the national park, there are only two main points of entry to Rinjani National Park; Senaru or Sembalun Lawang.

Most visitors arrive via the village of Senaru on the northern side of the mountain and thus closer to the town of Senggigi on the west coast (Lombok’s main tourist spot). Though Sembalun Lawang may be further away on the eastern side of the mountain, at 1,150 m above sea level, it’s a lot closer to the summit.

On three- and four-day hikes, you’ll depart from one village and descend to the other.

How Long Are Tours on Mount Rinjani?

Your next step is figuring out how long you want your tour to be. There are a few things to consider. What do you want to experience; do you want to spend a night around the crater AND climb to the peak? How much do you want to spend? Do you want to visit the lake? How much time do you want on the mountain?

Once you’ve got a rough idea, then you can start looking at the tours available. Here are the most common.

Three Days, Two Nights

This is one of the most extensive options, as it guarantees you pass all the highlight spots on the mountain! Not only will you be able to spend a night around the crater, but you’ll also get down to the lake (possibly) and even a quick visit to the nearby hot springs. Most importantly, you’ll also get to climb the peak just in time for the sunrise.

With this option, you add a little more to your itinerary but you have much more time to relax and enjoy the experience. A similar experience is offered on 4-day, 3-night tours.

The view from the peak. Photo by Trekking Rinjani on Flickr

Two Days, One Night

The most popular choice of all is a 2-day, 1-night tour. You’ll experience different things based on where you start your tour.

Tours starting from Sembalun are all about reaching the peak! The tour includes a night’s stay at the Sembalun Crater camp before setting off early in the morning to be at the peak by sunrise. Definitely, one of the most challenging options as you’ll have to travel to the peak and the base of the mountain in a single day!

Mount Rinjani guide
One of the most beautiful views in all of Asia!

Tours starting from Senbaru takes trekkers to the Senbaru Crater camp on the opposite side of the summit. This doesn’t usually include a trip to the peak, but it might be offered. Either way, you’ll still get to spend a night around the crater with the best possible view of the landscape.

One Day Tours

Believe it or not, I ran into a pair of bewildered backpackers who climbed to the crater’s rim and back down in one single day!! This is absolutely 100% not recommended! Getting up to the crater is exhausting, no matter how experienced a trekker you are.

Not only that, but it doesn’t give you anywhere near enough time to fully enjoy and appreciate the experience around the crater. No matter what, don’t take this option.

After Mount Rinjani, here’s your ultimate guide on visiting the remote Indonesian island and home of the Komodo dragon.

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Trekking Mount Rinjani Solo

Technically it is possible to trek Mount Rinjani without a tour or even a guide, though it’s highly discouraged for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s not safe. The terrain can get pretty extreme at times, and if something were to happen, then you’d be all alone.

You’ll also be taking food out of the mouths of the locals who earn a cut of the money that you pay for the experience.

That being said, you can if you want to. If so, then make sure to sign in at the park office and pay the entrance fee (150,000 IDR) so there’s a record that you’re on the mountain if something were to happen.

Is it Necessary to Climb the Peak?

The biggest question you need to ask yourself before booking a tour is whether or not you want to climb the peak. Put simply, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you left it out.

Don’t get me wrong, the view from the peak is absolutely fantastic! Seeing the whole of Lombok, the nearby Gilis and the lake in all its glory really is amazing. But that being said, it’s a LOT more effort and no more beautiful than seeing it from the rim.

A guide trekking to the peak of Mount Rinjani. Photo by Trail Runners Indonesia, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a reason that the Senbaru route is so popular, because the real star of the show is the crater itself and the glorious backdrop behind it! You won’t have any regrets if you chose not to climb the peak.

What Does A Rinjani Trekking Tour Cost?

Prices can range massively from 1,150,000 – 5,150,000 IDR (£60 – 260), which are based on a few things.

As with any industry, prices vary between companies. More importantly, it depends on what’s included on the tour! Does the tour provide all the food and water? Does the tour provide camping equipment? Which sites will you be visiting? Is the entrance fee included? It’s important to confirm all this beforehand!

If you want to go at it alone, then the entrance fee is 150,000 IDR per person. This fee is split up between the national park authority, the Rinjani ecotourism trekking program and trek route maintenance.

Travel to Senaru / Sembalun FIRST!

For another huge money saver, book the tour while you’re ON Lombok. Better yet, travel to Senaru or Sembalun first to save yourself a serious amount of cash! Many of these tours consider transport from Senggigi or Mataram as one day of your tour and will add the cost to match.

Mount Rinjani guide
The view across the sulphuric lake

Remember to Tip

After you see how much these blessed porters have to carry up the mountain (while wearing flip-flops by the way!), the least they deserve is a little tip for their troubles. Around 100,000 IDR (around £5) per guide and porter from each hiker is about right for any tour up Mount Rinjani.

Now, you’re done with Rinjani, here’s the ultimate guide on the paradise tropical turtle-filled island and raving parties of Gili Trawangan.

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When Should You Visit Mount Rinjani?

The National Park is officially open from April to January every year. The park is closed from January to March as it’s the rainy season and therefore a more dangerous time to climb the mountain.

Technically, you shouldn’t be able to book a tour from January to March…however this is Indonesia and money talks louder than any regulation. Tour companies will happily take your money and guide you up Mount Rinjani, however, be expected for some pretty extreme parameters… speaking of which…

Running From The Police!

When the park is officially closed, tours will set off during the early hours of the morning in pitch-black darkness to avoid park officials or any police officers that might be in the area. These same officials must also be avoided on the way back. If that happens to be during daylight, there’s a good chance you’ll have to take an extreme detour through thick jungle to avoid them.

Mount Rinjani guide
Running from the cops!

This was the case during my tour. Our guide ensured us that we foreigners wouldn’t be the ones in trouble, rather it would be the guides and porters for knowingly taking us up Mount Rinjani at that time. Either way, it’s still pretty exciting!

What Are Mount Rinajni’s Routes Like?

If you’re hoping for a peaceful little stroll through an open meadow and quaint picnic tables, then think again. Trekking Mount Rinjani is going to be physically demanding as well as mentally. Of course, it’s no Mount Everest, but don’t do it unless you’re up for the challenge!

Sembalun Route

The first stage may start off as a tranquil countryside trail, but it soon becomes an agonising endurance marathon. Travelling to the crater rim takes a pace of 1 km PER HOUR! The non-existent trail is poorly maintained and consists of sandy and slippery terrain that keeps getting steeper and steeper. This is the point at which you begin to question why you did this in the first place.

Mount Rinjani guide
Trekking across the loose rocks of the last 1000 meters

The second stage starts in the pitch dark of night as you begin to climb to the summit over loose fragments of rocks for another 1000 meters. Then, of course, you’ll have to tackle all that terrain in reverse on the way down. Say a prayer to your knees.

Senaru

Though the Senaru trail may be different, it’s by no means easier. The route has 3 distinct stages.

The first stage begins in the thick rainforests that surround the base of the mountain. The impromptu path makes its way across gigantic tree roots, ankle-breaking crevices and thick foliage which takes about 4 hours to break through!

Mount Rinjani guide
Slippery knee-scuffing dirt

The next stage takes you across the same loose slippery dirt as you’ll find on the Sembalun Route which makes even the grippiest hiking boots completely useless.

Last but certainly not least is an enormous boulder that you’ll have to traverse all the way to the Rinjani’s rim.

Can You Handle Trekking Mount Rinjani?

Get it straight, Mount Rinjani is NOT an easy trek, even for the most experienced of hikers. No matter what route you take, you’ll encounter some challenging terrain that leaves you exhausted and drained to a whole new level.

But don’t panic, plenty of people trek the mountain daily, and the porters themselves even tackle it in flip-flops! Just know that it’s not relaxing isn’t a walk, and you’ll feel it in your thighs for a good week or two!

Bali has been ruined by the consuming tourist trade, but luckily Indonesia’s secret paradise is just a ferry ride away.

Welcome to Lombok!

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What Should You Bring on Mount Rinjani?

When booking a decent tour, most of the vitals are provided for you; water, regular meals and snacks, tents, sleeping bags, and maybe even a tent for you to use as a bathroom! Just make sure that they’re included beforehand!

As for what you need to bring, hiking boots are beyond essential! So too is bringing the right clothing. As it’s a monstrous mountain on a tropical island, the weather can fluctuate from boiling hot to freezing cold in a matter of moments.

Mount Rinjani guide
Sunset across the rim

It’s also a good idea to bring along a headlamp! Depending on the type of tour, you could be doing it in the pitch black of night, so worth bringing one along just in case.

As for walking sticks, it could be helpful at some points though for others they would simply be a hindrance. Believe me, on more than one occasion you’ll be crawling on your hands and knees whether you like it or not!

Thank you so much for reading The Ultimate Travel Plan: Visiting Mount Rinjani! Now check out these other helpful articles!

TravellingWelshman

A Welsh university drop-out on a mission to travel the world for as little money as possible. My adventures have taken me through over 30 countries across Europe, Asia and Oceania, and the list keeps on growing! From classic backpacking to working and volunteering, I have found all sorts of ways to maintain a life on the road.

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