Beginner's Guide to Mount Rinjani Lombok - Best Volcano to Climb in Indonesia
Mount Rinjani is an active volcano on the island of Lombok (to the east of Bali), Indonesia. Measuring 3,726 meters (12,224 ft) high from sea level, it is the second highest volcano in Indonesia after Mount Kerinci.
But what this volcano is most popular for is its massive 6-by-8.5-kilometer (3.7 by 5.3 mi) caldera, which is partially filled by a sapphire-blue lake called Segara Anak. The lake is so wide that it actually has another small volcano in its center.
At approximately 2,003 meters (6,572 ft) above sea level, this is the world’s highest caldera lake with an active volcano in it. It is estimated to be about 200 meters (656 ft) deep.
Like most other Rinjani hikers, the lake was the main reason I climbed this mountain. I’m the sort who would only climb anything if I knew the view was going to be worth it.
Lombok is served by Lombok International Airport (airport code: LOP). I was lucky because there were direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Lombok, but if you can’t fly directly there, your next best option is to transit in Jakarta, Bali, or Surabaya. Or you can take the 4-to-5-hour boat ride from Bali to Lombok.
Once you reach Lombok, you won’t have any problem booking a tour to climb Mount Rinjani. You can find tour agents pretty much everywhere, if not at your hotel concierge. I stayed in Senggigi, which is one of the busiest tourist spots on the island.
There is no public transport going to Mount Rinjani. If you plan to go independently, you’ll either have to self-drive or hire a driver.
The Best Time to Climb Mt Rinjani
Mount Rinjani trails are closed to the public from 1st January to 31st March every year due to the monsoon season, which usually brings heavy torrents of rain, making the trails too dangerous for climbers.
I climbed in September and it rained just as we were about to reach the campsite at the crater rim. It was not heavy but enough to make our clothes damp
and freeze our butts off at night.
April to June is considered the best time to climb Mount Rinjani as it is the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the hiking season. July and August are the peak period, which will often see a surge of hikers. September through December is also a good time to go.
Choosing the Rinjani Route: Senaru or Sembalun?
There are two different routes you can choose when climbing Mount Rinjani: Senaru and Sembalun, each one on a different side of the mountain.
The Sembalun route will take you through mostly flat grasslands to the base of the summit. Therefore, it is said to be easier than Senaru. The only downside to this route is that you would be exposed to the hot sun the whole time, so make sure that you bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen if you choose this route.
The Senaru route features a steeper non-stop climb through a rainforest and some rocky terrain in the last leg. The plus side is it is shadier and — if you prefer rainforests to grasslands — more beautiful. Aesthetically speaking, I think I would have preferred Sembalun over Senaru, as I don’t get to see many grasslands back home.
Some tour operators only offer one option. Some can take you up one route and down the other. So, check carefully before you book. You also have the option to choose whether to climb to the summit or only to the crater rim.
If you’re not sure, it is better to choose the crater rim, and then add some money if you do decide to go to the summit after all. That’s usually easier than asking for a refund if you booked a summit climb only to change your mind later.
I took the Senaru route because that was what was offered to me by the tour agent. And I chose to climb only to the crater rim, as you could see the lake better from there than from the summit. It’s all about the view for me.
How Much Does It Cost to Climb Rinjani?
Obviously, it varies from one company to another, but there are also other factors that determine the price, such as the number of people in your group, the route you choose, the duration of the tour, and the attractions you want to visit. A 2D1N climbing package via Senaru can cost anywhere between USD 150 and USD 200.
In general, you get what you pay for. If you find a company that offers an incredibly cheap price, be wary and check carefully what’s included and not included in the package.
I booked with Perama Tour & Travel, an award-winning tour company that has been providing travel services since 1969 (previously known as Perama Travel Club). Their current rate for a 2D1N Rinjani package to the crater rim via Senaru is IDR 2,500,000 (USD 170) per person (min 2 persons).
The fee includes:
- Return transfer to and from your hotel in an air-conditioned coach
- Trekking guide
- 3 meals per day during the trek
- 2L drinking water/day, soft drinks, and snacks
- Trekking gear (tent, sleeping bag, mattress, pillow, chair, toilet tent)
- Entrance fee
The fee excludes:
- Personal expenses
- Tip for the crew
Do check their website for more information on the packages offered.
What to Pack for Mount Rinjani
- A good pair of hiking shoes. If this is your first time hiking, make sure you break in your shoes before the climb. And no, regular sneakers won’t do.
- Hiking sticks. These really help. Don’t let yourself think that they are only for old people with walking difficulties.
- Breathable T-shirts. It can be hot at the lower altitudes, so you want something light that you can layer up when the temperature drops.
- Long trek pants, preferably windproof.
- Windproof jacket and raincoat
- A spare set of clothes, including undergarments and socks, in case the ones you have on get wet. To reduce weight, I wore the same clothes for both days, but if you like, you can wear a different set for night time and the next day.
- Flip flops to wear at the campsite, when you need to go to the toilet, or if you decide to make a side trip to a waterfall.
- Headlamp or flashlight, if your tour operator doesn’t provide any.
- Sunblock with at least SPF 50. This is especially important in the tropics, and high up on a mountain, where the sun is stronger.
- Insect repellent. I personally didn’t get bitten by any insects during the entire trip, but I know some people who attract mosquitoes like magnets, so if you’re one of those unfortunate people, be sure to have some repellent with you.
- Towel. A microfiber towel would be the perfect choice for hiking or travel, as it is lightweight, easy to dry, and doesn’t take up much space in your backpack.
- Plasters/Band-Aids for minor cuts or blisters.
- Medicine. Don’t forget all your regular medicines, and some preventative ones like paracetamol in case of altitude sickness (I didn’t experience any, but different people react differently to altitude).
- High-calorie and high-protein snacks, like chocolate, cereal bars, and trail mix. The meals provided by your tour operator can keep you full, but it’s good to have some spare, to give you an extra boost.
- Hand sanitizer/wet wipes. There will be no running water up there, and you don’t want to waste your drinking water for washing hands or toilet purposes. Most tour operators provide toilet paper.
- Electronics – camera, phone, powerbank, and anything you might need. But I suggest bringing as few as you can, because when you’re climbing a mountain, every single gram counts.
- A plastic trash bag to keep your trash in. You all know the rule: leave nothing but footprints.
What to Expect on a Rinjani Hike
The driver will pick you up at your hotel at 04.00 – 04.30 a.m. for a direct transfer to Senaru village or Sembalun. In my case, it was Senaru. I slept most of the way to the village. As we were approaching Senaru, I could already see the summit peeking from between the clouds.
After that, it was check in and a breakfast of banana pancakes.
As a rule, the guide would stay behind to assist the slowest participant. Since my friend was slightly slower than me, he stayed with her while I went on ahead. The trail was pretty clear — there were no forked paths — that even someone as foggy-brained as I was wouldn’t get lost.
We took about 5 hours before reaching Post II, where we had our lunch of rice, fried chicken, an apple, and fruit juice. By that time, the temperature had dropped, the surrounding was quite misty, and there were fewer trees.
It’s important not to stop for too long at every rest stop, so right after lunch, we continued on our way to our campsite. The location of your night camp depends on weather conditions and your fitness level. If you’re not able to make it to the crater rim on the first day, you would camp in the forest at Post III (Mondokan Lolak) at 2000m.
We continued our ascent for another couple of hours through grassy meadows and made it to the crater rim at the height of 2,641m. As we were about to arrive, it started to drizzle. That, and the heavy mist that had been clouding our path since the past hour, made our clothes all damp.
Thankfully, we saw that our porters were already waiting for us with our tents and hot meals ready.
Day 2 brought some sunshine, although it was still freezing cold to me. We woke up to steaming cups of hot tea brought to our tent.
Both my friend and I had initially planned to wake up earlier to see the sunrise, and we did wake up as planned. But one peek at the freezing darkness outside and we decided to go back to the cozy comfort of our sleeping bags. If you’re going to climb to the summit, you’d have to start from here at 2 a.m., in time to catch sunrise at the peak. Good luck!
After the tea had warmed us enough, we finally stepped out of our tents and were immediately greeted by a most spectacular view of the lake. We hadn’t seen it the night before as it was covered with mist.
If you book a 3D2N trip, you would go down to the lakeside and camp there for the night.
Thanks to the volcanic activity inside the lake, the water has a temperature of around 22 degrees Celsius, which is about 7 degrees warmer than the surrounding temperature, so you could actually enjoy a warm bath in there!
It sounded tempting, but this view from the crater rim was what I had come here for. I didn’t need to go swim in the lake to appreciate its beauty.
By 8 a.m., our porters had started to pack. We would be beginning our descent.
The first part of the descent was quite treacherous. The volcanic sands and rocks made it so easy for us to slip. I’m scared of heights, and going downhill is always a challenge for me to begin with. The guide had to hold my hand, and even then, we still slipped a few times. Once we reached the rainforest, it was much easier.’
We had our lunch at Post I. After 6 hours from the crater rim, the trek ended at Rinjani Trekking Center Office at Senaru. A car was waiting to take us to our next destination: Bangsal Jetty, where we were to continue our journey to Gili Trawangan.
How Tough is Climbing Rinjani?
I wouldn’t consider myself a super fit or sporty person. In fact, I hate sports or any kind of workout.
But Rinjani wasn’t my first mountain. Just several weeks before Rinjani, I had climbed Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Malaysia at 4,095 meters above sea level, which is 368 meters higher than Rinjani.
To compare the two, I think they are both challenging in their own ways. Kinabalu consists mostly of concrete and wooden stairs (except the last part), which technically means anyone can climb it if they know how to climb stairs. But climbing those hard surfaces for two days in a row can be tough on your feet and legs.
Rinjani, on the other hand, feels more like real hiking, where you’ll be walking on grass and soil and stepping over tree roots. In a way, I found it less taxing than Kinabalu, except for the part just before the crater rim, where the grassy meadows gives way to a sandy and rocky terrain.
Then again, I didn’t climb to the summit, so I can’t really comment on that. Most people say it’s much harder as the trail is very steep and made up of soft volcanic sand. On average, only 25% of hikers make it all the way to the top.
If you’ve never climbed a mountain but are a fairly fit person, I’d say you have a pretty good chance of making it to the crater rim, if not the summit. However, to make it easier on your body, try to do more cardio and leg training at least a few weeks before your trip.
If there are no hiking trails near your house to practice at, try climbing up and down stairs with a backpack on, but be careful not to overwork yourself, especially so close to your Rinjani trip.
Additional Tips for Climbing Rinjani
- The porters will only be carrying food, drinks, trekking gear, and cooking utensils. You will have to carry your personal belongings yourself. So, make sure you pack light. Think many, many times, before you put any non-essential item into your backpack.
- Most climb packages have a minimum requirement of 2 persons per booking. If you’re a solo traveler, you’re going to have to find someone to pair up with. Try asking anyone at your hostel or you might have to pay for two.
- Wear proper hiking shoes/boots with good traction. I can’t stress this enough. If they’re a new pair, make sure they’re broken in before your trip.
- Keep yourself hydrated and protected from the sun. The cold temperature can easily make you forget to drink water and put on sunscreen.
- If you didn’t bring a hiking stick, look for one at the beginning of the trail, where somebody might have discarded theirs.
- The guide will mostly be assisting the slowest participant. Faster participants can go ahead with the porter(s).
- Decision to change the itinerary will be based on the majority of your group members.
- Beware of wild boars.
Get a Travel Insurance
As with any activity, especially one as adventurous as mountain climbing, there are risks involved. But not all travel insurances cover high-risk activities. If you’re looking for a comprehensive travel insurance to take with you on Rinjani, look no further than WorldNomads, which is highly recommended among adventurous travelers worldwide.
Best of all, it is very affordable and you can even buy it when you’re already traveling.
Have you climbed any mountain in Indonesia? Share your experience in the comments section below.
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