One of the highlights of traveling in Indonesia is a multi-day hike up Mt. Rinjani on the island of Lombok. Towering at 3,726 meters (12,224 ft), this active volcano is the 2nd tallest in the sprawling archipelago nation. Trips range from 2-5 days and go all the way to the summit or just to the crater rim if you’re not up for the incredibly challenging hike. On our 3-day hike with the great team at Green Rinjani, we camped under the stars, saw sunrise over the mountain, and hiked down to the crater lake to soak in natural hot springs. It was an incredible experience and one of the best adventures we had in our year-long stay in Indonesia. Read on for more about hiking Mt. Rinjani.
Choosing Your Route and Company
There are two different spots where you can begin a Mt. Rinjani hike. If you’re looking to summit the volcano, you’ll need to start from the town of Sembalun. Those just headed to the crater rim and the hot springs can also start from Senaru. Due to it being the tail-end of the rainy season and our complete lack of proper mountaineering clothing, we opted for the latter.
When it comes to who you do your hike with, there’s no shortage of choices. Basically every travel agency in Bali, the Gilis, or on the main island of Lombok can arrange a Rinjani hike. We chose Green Rinjani for a number of reasons. First of all, they consistently get great reviews. Also, they not only carry out the rubbish from their own group but also pick up after others who seem to have no qualms with trashing the mountain. Finally, every person that hikes with them plants a tree on the mountain, hence their name. You can certainly find cheaper options, but we can confidently say that going with them is a smart choice.
Coming from the Gili Islands, a driver from Green Rinjani met us at the pier and drove us about two hours to their office in town. Whether you’re arriving at one of the island’s seaports or the airport, they’ll arrange a car to pick you up. This is a big plus, as the drivers on Lombok are known to be pushy rip-off artists. After filling out the necessary paperwork for the hike, we were given some coffee and fried bananas covered in chocolate and cheese – a local specialty.
If you arrive earlier in the day as we did, you’ll get the chance to explore the town a bit. After checking into our guesthouse and dropping our bags off, a guide from Green Rinjani took us on a walk through the fields to check out a few waterfalls. It was a relatively easy walk, save for the handful of aggressive monkeys our guide had to fend off with a stick. While it’s a perfectly fine spot for swimming, the water was super cold and the sun was hiding behind the clouds. As such, we decided just to snap a few photos and enjoy the natural beauty of the falls for a while before heading back to town.
Back at the Green Rinjani offices, we met our guide for the 3-day hike and discussed the route we’d be taking. As we talked, the team of porters gathered up all the gear for the big hike. These guys pack all of the camping gear, water, and food in baskets connected by a bamboo pole and carry them across their shoulder all the way up and down the mountain. If at any point in the hike you start to struggle and find it too difficult, just look over at the porters and see what they have to endure! After dinner, we retreated to the guesthouse to get one last shower and good night’s sleep in a bed before three days on the mountain.
A short ride from town brought us to the official entrance of the Mt. Rinjani National Park. Before heading in, all entrance fees must be paid for each hiker. The fee is 150,000 Rupiah (~$12) per person, per day. If you’re hiking with an agency, the fee is included in the cost of your trip.
The first day is all uphill, but it’s not incredibly difficult. After a few hours of hiking, we stopped for an extended lunch break. We sat down and relaxed while our guide and porters cooked up a feast for us – rice, chicken, veggies, tofu, and tempe along with some coffee and fruit. The big lunch provided the energy boost we needed to push through and finish the day’s hike.
Unfortunately, the rain clouds crept in and made the rest of our day a bit wet and slippery. At least we had the foresight to pick up some cheap ponchos in town before starting the hike. It probably would have been a good idea to bring proper raincoats. Or hiking shoes. Or warm clothes. Like I said, we weren’t exactly ready for this one.
At one point, the rain got so intense that our group had to find a little shack to take shelter in for a while. As we hid from the rain, a monkey up in the tree eyed our bag of snacks. Our guide periodically threw rocks in his direction, which helped to keep the hungry primate at bay.
Finally, we arrived at our campsite for the night. Drenched in sweat, legs burning, and muscles aching, we were thrilled to set our bags down and relax. While our guides cooked up dinner, we hid from the rain in our tent and enjoyed a plate of popcorn alongside some hot chocolate. With full bellies and tired bodies, we retreated to our tent, got snug in our sleeping bags, and went to bed at 8.
Check out some highlights of Day One in this short video:
I’m usually not much of a morning person, but some things are worth getting out of bed for. With the clouds finally out of the way in the early morning, we were able to see the town of Senaru, the Gili Islands, and even Mt. Agung over on Bali. It wasn’t the most amazing sunrise ever, but the views of the mountains and the caldera lake were breathtaking.
Our awesome guides were right back at it in the morning, fixing up eggs, pancakes, toast, and coffee – not bad for a makeshift kitchen set up in a tent on a mountainside! There’s another reason to choose Green Rinjani, as we noticed on multiple occasions other hikers looking at our feast enviously.
Hiking to the Lake
As we weren’t heading to the summit, we were able to leave our campsite in tact and our big bags behind. The morning was spent going down the long and winding path to the crater lake. Called Segara Anak (Child of the Sea), it’s 2,000 meters above sea level and around 200 meters deep. It’s a fascinating sight to say the very least, and one of the best parts about hiking Mt. Rinjani.
Once we arrived down at the lake, we could see smoke rising from Mt. Barujari and steam from the natural hot springs – a reminder that this volcano is still very much active. In fact, eruptions in October 2015 caused many flight cancellations as three airports were closed.
After the long and tiring hike up the mountain and down into the crater, we were thrilled to finally arrive at the natural hot springs. Unfortunately for us, the recent heavy rains had substantially cooled them down to be more warm than hot springs. We weren’t going to miss the opportunity to soak in a natural hot spring in a crater inside a volcano, though. When else will you ever get the chance to do such a thing?
Another group who was soaking alongside us had a pack of cookies they were snacking on. Within minutes, a monkey showed up looking to score a tasty treat. The trekkers tossed him a piece, but that wasn’t enough. In the blink of an eye, the monkey darted down to the spring, snatched up the entire pack of cookies, and took off up the rocks. Keep your snacks hidden when hiking Mt. Rinjani!
It’s amazing what the guides and porters can do with such a limited set up, carrying all of the supplies on their shoulders. After our soak, we had a big plate of mie goreng with scrambled eggs and veggies waiting for us. There was also a seemingly never-ending supply of candy bars, apples, and instant coffee.
While we enjoyed lunch, some of the guides went fishing in the lake to catch dinner. With nothing but a little line of string, they were able to catch a couple of decent-sized fish. Clearly these guys are pros.
Back to Camp
It was a great break sitting in the hot springs and having lunch, but we had to head back up the trail to get to camp before sunset. I personally much prefer uphill hiking to downhill, as my bad knees struggle when going down. We got a great workout, enjoyed the views off to the side, and made it back to camp in a few hours. Once we got back, we were able to plant our trees and do our part to help green the mountain.
For the last dinner of the trip, the crew whipped up some nasi goreng with chicken, eggs, and veggies for us. They also made a huge, spicy fish stew from the afternoon’s catch. They warned us of the heat level, but I just had to try it. Indonesians like it pedas (spicy), and so do I! Full and exhausted, we crawled into our tents and drifted off to sleep.
The third and final day of the hike was quite uneventful and very little fun. My difficulties with going downhill were only exacerbated by the loose gravel and dirt that we had to walk down. It was a long, grueling walk down the mountain, but I was still happy to be a hiker and not a porter. It’s amazing how much weight these guys can carry with them up and down a mountain, wearing nothing but cheap plastic flip-flops. It’s a difficult job, and the guys who do it are incredibly hardworking and deserve a lot of credit for what they do.
Watch the highlights from the second and third days in this short video:
All in all, hiking Mt. Rinjani was an amazing experience and worth every Rupiah. While we didn’t attempt the summit, we were totally satisfied with the hike we did. Getting out in nature, camping on the side of a mountain, seeing sunrise over a volcano, soaking in natural hot springs, and taking in the stunning scenery was just what we needed. The team at Green Rinjani was great to us the entire trip, from the moment they picked us up from the pier to the long drive they took to take us down to Kuta. If you’re considering tackling the mighty volcano, drop them a line: [email protected] or just check their website.
Have you hiked Mt. Rinjani? Did you make it all the way to the summit? Let us know in the comments below!
Disclaimer: We received a discount for partnering with Green Rinjani. The views expressed are our own and we would highly recommend them even at full price.