After a good week enjoying the beaches of southern Lombok, I needed to stretch my legs a bit. What better way to get some exercise than to climb the second highest volcano in Indonesia and probably the most beautiful! In this article, I will tell you all about it and give you all the advice to succeed in trekking on Mount Rinjani in the north of Lombok! Ready to try the adventure?
Benoit did this trek in 2014, but the article was completely revised and updated in March 2023. In 2018, there was a major earthquake on Lombok island and for almost a year, the entire national park around the Rinjani volcano remained closed. Since 2019, access is again possible and the trails to reach the summit and the lake reopened in April 2020. In addition, the Indonesian government has set up a daily quota of hikers: 250 people, including guides and porters, can leave each day on the official routes.
The different treks on the Mount Rinjani
Once in Lombok, you’ll notice pretty quickly that there are plenty of options for trekking in Gunung Rinjani National Park: 2 days/1 night, 3 days/2 nights, 4 days/3 nights, and even 5 days/4 nights from Senaru, Sembalun, or Aik Berik.
OK, but where exactly do the trails lead? Then you have the choice to go to:
- Mount Rinjani, which rises to 3726 m above sea level;
- crater (rim), at 2641 m altitude from Senaru, at 2639 m from Sembalun, and 2454 m from Aik Berik;
- Segara Anak Lake, in the center of the crater;
- Mount Sengkereang (or the second summit of Rinjani), at 3126 m altitude. This trail is open since 2022!
- Mount Kondo, a high summit of 2648 m.
To make it easier to understand, here is a small explanatory photo from the top of Mount Rinjani.
Everything is organized around the crater and you can climb on one of its peaks. Roughly speaking, the treks of 2 days go up to the crater and/or to a summit, and those of 3 days up to Rinjani (night ascent) and down to the lake. In the end, everything depends on the time you have and your physical condition. It is possible to do the summit of Rinjani in 2 days, but it is reserved for the ultra-sportsmen! If you hesitate starting between Senaru or Sembalun, you should know that, on the path of the first village, you will almost climb in the cool of the rainforest! Otherwise, there are no notable differences between the two villages.
I decided to do a 3-day and 2-night trek from Senaru to the top of Mount Rinjani and back to Sembalun. And yes, we decided that I will go alone on this trek! Even if it doesn’t represent major technical difficulties, the differences in altitude are important and the ground is sometimes unstable. In short, the descent is not ideal for Fabienne who has some knee problems. She will wait for me on the Gili Islands while I will climb the volcano. At the same time, there are worse places to wait, no?
All the trails of the Gunung Rinjani National Park are closed during the rainy season, from January to the end of March. The best time to walk the trails is then the dry season, from April to October, with a peak of tourism between July and September.
Where to book a trek?
To do a trek in the Rinjani National Park, you will have to go through an agency to have at least a guide and some porters for camping gear and food (even if nothing prevents you from carrying your own equipment if you wish). In fact, doing this trek independently is forbidden since the reopening of the trails in 2020.
You can book the trek from anywhere on Lombok or the Gili Islands, most agencies include in the price transportation and accommodation to a hotel in Senaru, Sembalun, or Aik Berik, the three villages where all the trails start. For my part, I had taken a combined ticket from the Gili Islands. I left early in the morning from the hotel to arrive in Senaru before 10 a.m. whereas almost all my group had already left for probably several hours on the slopes of Rinjani… Make sure that the price includes a night in the village the day before your departure!
Another solution is to go directly to Senaru, Sembalun, or Aik Berik by your own means, which will cost less than the combined ticket, and so negotiate on the spot with the agency that suits you best. And then, it is the occasion to visit the surroundings a little ignored of Lombok!
Here are some reliable agencies that have been recommended to us:
- from Senaru et Sembalun;
- Senaru trekking: if you come back down with a bag full of garbage, they refund 5% of the trek price!
- Jou trekking: they apply the leave no trace principle,
- HaLoMi Trekker,
- from Aik Berik, to discover a lesser-known aspect of the National Park;
The reason we tell you about the trash is that many agencies leave it there 😱. In short, be careful with this when touring the establishments. The treks are also bookable online, but it’s not worth it. The prices are higher and you’ll end up in the same group of trekkers who have booked locally… For a 3-day/2-night trek, the local price is about 200 dollars. But be careful, some people I met paid much more for the same thing…
What is included in the trekking package
Obviously, it depends on the agency you book your adventure with. Here is a small list of what is often included in the trekking package:
- transportation from Lombok and one night in a hotel in the starting village;
- transportation to the trailhead;
- meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) between the start and the end of the trek and water (3 liters/person/day);
- camping gear: tent, toilet tent, sleeping bag, pillow, mattress, lamps;
- entrance to the Rinjani National Park;
- guide and porters;
- storage of your large backpacks/suitcases;
- transportation to your next destination in Lombok.
Day 1 of the trek: Senaru to Senaru Rim
I left around 7 a.m., directly from Gili Air. Bam, first mistake of the day! I will spare you the details but after a little boat trip, a misunderstanding, a waiting time, and a car ride, I finally arrived in Senaru at… 11 a.m.
OK, I am alone and my group has already left… Great!
I am quickly served a noodle soup as fuel for the 2000 m of ascent that awaits me and I am made to understand that I will have to walk at a good pace to catch up with the group. So I leave with a guide who will accompany me until we make the junction.
When he said to me to walk at a good pace, he did not lie: we leave practically running! I have to dig deep into my reserves to keep up with my guide, who is wearing flip-flops (but he’s sweating too). At this rate, we have done more than half of the route in hardly 2 hours and we have one of the carriers of our group in the line of sight.
When you realize what a porter’s job is
My hare having done his duty, he leaves me with the porter, a small man of less than 1m50 who carries a load of more than 30 kg! After only a few meters, I notice that he limps a lot and I sincerely wonder how he got there.
Full of good intentions (and unaware of the weight of his load), I propose that we exchange. He takes my backpack and my poles in exchange for his heavy load fixed to the ends of a piece of wood. Second mistake of the day! I quickly realize that I will not be able to carry this weight indefinitely and I resign myself to alternate with him until we join the rest of the group, about an hour later.
I then realize the titanic task of these carriers. They carry up to 40 kg in flip-flops on paths that are already difficult to walk on with good hiking shoes! I decided at that moment to give them a good tip at the end of the trek, and everyone should do the same!
Arrival at Senaru Rim
I was getting seriously tired when we finally joined the rest of the group, that is to say, the guide, 2 other porters and 5 Spanish friends working for the majority in Jakarta. The other porters take the relay to help their companion in bad form, phew! As for me, I accompany the guide and the Spaniards for the last hour of ascent to the crater’s edge.
Once at the top, we are rewarded with a magnificent view of the Segara Anak Lake and Baru Jari (a small and active volcano), located inside the crater. We can also contemplate the summit of Mount Rinjani which dominates the opposite side. This is the objective of the third day! Once the camp is set up, the guide and the porters cook us a delicious nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) which comes at the right time to recharge the batteries, rather empty in my case. At 6.30 p.m., I sleep already, wrapped up in my sleeping bag, the alarm clock set for 4.30 a.m. to admire the sunrise.
Day 2 of the trek: from Senaru Rim to Sembalun Rim
It is 3.30 a.m. and I am already completely awake. I have to say that I have largely had my hours of sleep! So I dress warmly and go out to find a good spot for the sunrise. Around, the camp gets animated (we are 2-3 groups in total). First, the porters are busy preparing a good breakfast, then quietly, people wake up in turn to contemplate the sunrise.
At the bottom of the crater
After a champion breakfast made of coffee, fried bananas and toast, we set up camp to descend to the bottom of the crater. The path is steep and slippery but the landscapes are simply breathtaking! I still have a thought for my friend the porter who was not completely recovered in the morning. I wonder if he will be able to carry his load to the bottom…
Once down, we put down our stuff to enjoy lake Segara Anak and the hot springs located not far from there. Contrary to the volcano Ijen, the crater lake of Rinjani is not acid and it is quite possible to bathe there. On my side, I would rather opt for the hot springs, I would not miss catching a cold in the lake! We have time to enjoy it well because this second day is not too busy.
After a good meal, we set out again to go up on the other side of the crater. I open the way with my friend the injured carrier and help him again with his load. The poor guy had already had enough trouble to bring it down to the bottom of the crater… We do 50-50 because it is the best I can do! The path is narrow and climbs quite steep, we sweat a lot.
At the foot of the Mount Rinjani
It will take us 2-3 hours to reach the camp at the foot of the summit, at Sembalun Rim. Fortunately, our guide was careful with the breaks and the camp is quickly installed. As we had already eaten at 5 p.m., we had plenty of time to rest before the famous last step of the trek which promises to be tiring.
I say that because a second group arrived at the camp around 5.30 p.m. In fact, they had just enough time to set up the camp before the night and had to eat in the dark… In short, not ideal when you have to wake up the next day at 2 a.m. to face the summit!
I also take advantage of this time to contemplate quietly the last lights of the day before wrapping myself in my sleeping bag.
Day 3 of the trek: the ascent of Rinjani and return to Sembalun
It is 1.55 a.m. when I open my eyes. I don’t know why I’m one of those people who often wake up 5 minutes before the alarm clock. Fabienne says I am stressed, but I think I have a good internal clock. The guide hands me a cup of coffee and some cookies. At this point, I’m glad I took some dried fruits and energy bars with me because I wouldn’t have had the strength to reach the summit with this breakfast! I also take with me all the warm clothes I have. In fact, I even borrowed my friend the porter’s hat and I assure you that it was a good idea! He won’t need it because he will sleep longer with his companions and will prepare breakfast for our return from the summit. So nice!
With the Spanish friends, we go up in single file with the headlamp behind the guide. The ground is not easy, we walk on a kind of volcanic gravel and I am very happy to have my trekking sticks! The people in my group, unfortunately, don’t have any and have to help themselves a lot with their hands not to slip. We follow a ridge and the wind is blowing hard! At the first break, some put on their windbreaker to protect themselves and we don’t stop for a long time to avoid getting cold. We continue thus at a good rhythm until the summit!
I prefer to warn you that this ascent is not made for everyone: the slope is steep and the ground slippery. Moreover, once you will have climbed the 1000 m to the top of Rinjani, you will have to come down by the same trail, and it is not easier! So, if you already feel tired after the first two days, don’t try to reach the summit at all costs. Save your strength for the descent to the foot of the volcano, you will need it! I have seen many people finish the trek at the end of their ropes because they had already exceeded their limits by climbing to the summit. It is better to listen to yourself to say stop at the right moment.
Sunrise from the summit
Well, we must admit that the sunrise from the top of the Rinjani volcano is definitely worth it! From its 3726 meters of altitude, you can see all the surrounding islands: Sumbawa, Flores, Bali and Gili! The view of the crater lake is incredible and this show is one of the most beautiful I have seen since the beginning of this trip around the world. On the other hand, as I said above, it is very cold because of the wind. So don’t forget to take a hat, gloves, and several layers!
The descent of Rinjani
After spending almost 2 hours enjoying the view and immortalizing the moment, it was time for us to go back down. It is quite funny to see from this angle the way we went up at night! Although, sometimes it’s better not to see… For me, the descent was more like a ski descent in boots (fortunately I had the hiking poles) with a few breaks to take pictures. It won’t take me more than an hour to get to the bottom, but this descent won’t have been fun for everyone. I’m always surprised to see the differences in ease between people on the descent. Here, some people will need 3 hours to get back to the camp.
There, I had the happy surprise to be welcomed by a banana pancake and a coffee, the dream! It was not the best pancake of my life but it was the one that made me the happiest! While I was enjoying my breakfast, my Spanish friends were taking turns arriving. After an hour, we had all eaten, prepared our stuff, and were ready to go downhill for another 1500 m of negative altitude difference to Sembalun. It will still take us 5 hours to complete this last section. Even if there is nothing particular to report, I advise you to walk quietly because, with tiredness, you can quickly hurt yourself. A Spanish friend twisted his knee and spent a bad last hour walking.
Some tips for trekking
Do not underestimate the level of difficulty of the trek
If you listen to the people from the agencies, the trek is a piece of cake and can easily be done in flip-flops! In reality, for the ascent of Rinjani from Senaru, there are still 35 km of walking over 3 days with:
- almost 2000 meters of positive difference on the first day;
- 600 meters of negative difference then 700 of positive on the second day;
- 1000 meters of positive difference for 2500 of negative on the third day!
For this last day, I promise you that my legs were already sore before leaving! If you feel tired after the first 2 days, don’t try to reach the summit at all costs and keep some under your sole to come back down. All in all, this is a tough hike I would not recommend to everyone. However, if you feel fit enough to do it, you will be rewarded with landscapes from elsewhere. Click here to download the map of the trek.
What to bring for trekking?
For the material either, nobody tells you anything! When packing your backpack, keep in mind that you are the one who will carry it during the trek. Here is a small but not exhaustive list to avoid any bad surprises during your trek:
- good trail shoes are a must. Moreover, if you have hiking boots, it’s even better!
- hiking poles;
- warm clothes for the ascent of the summit on the third day (small gloves and hat);
- a change of underwear;
- 1 or 2 spare T-shirts;
- a fleece and a waterproof windbreaker;
- a cap and sunglasses;
- a headlamp;
- toilet paper;
- a microfiber towel;
- a small first aid kit (bandages, medication…);
- some food in case you are hungry. I found that overall the food was sufficient but the morning before the last climb, for example, we were only served a few cookies and a coffee. So I was quite happy to have something to eat with me! Stock up before you get to the villages where you won’t find much in the way of snacks.
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Give a tip
Finally, don’t forget to tip the porters! The effort they make to allow us to do the trek in the best conditions is incredible and their salary is low. If there is a time when you shouldn’t be stingy, it’s now 😉.
You know all about Mount Rinjani trekking! In any case, I keep a remarkable memory of it. The lake inside the crater is absolutely splendid and you will have the opportunity to observe it from all angles. And what can I say about the sunrise from the summit, a magical moment that I always have in mind! But again, don’t underestimate the difficulty of this trek and go well equipped: it will already give you some fewer problems!
So, does this ascent of Mount Rinjani tempt you? For my part, I joined Fabienne on the Gili Islands for a well-deserved break in paradise!
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