Mount Rinjani trekking on Lombok Island was a highlight of our month-long trip in Indonesia. During 3 days on the trek, we were rewarded with views of Lombok Island, a crater lake and several active volcanoes formed on top. Summiting the top of Mount Rinjani at 3,726 meters, the 2nd highest volcano in Indonesia, was a hard but very rewarding experience.
However, trekking Mount Rinjani differed hugely from other volcanoes we’ve done in Central America. All of them were about getting to the top for the view of crater lake and then going down. The crater of Rinjani volcano is so big that the trek involves getting to the rim, then climbing to the highest point, then down to the crater lake, then up again to another side of the rim and then down to the village.
This post describes our experience and was written in the hopes to inspire you to challenge yourself and try trekking Mount Rinjani when you get a chance. And if you do, don’t forget to read our tips at the end of the post.
Our Mount Rinjani trekking experience
We based ourselves where most trekkers do, in Senaru village. The Rinjani trek can be done in either direction, starting in Sembalun or Senaru village and finishing at the other. The trek starting from Sembalun village is easier (but not easy) because the ascent is 400 meters in elevation lower than from Senaru.
Day 1: from Sembalun village (1,000m) to the Rinjani crater rim (2,700m)
The first day started with an hour-long drive through a narrow and winding road from Senaru to Sembalun village to register for the trek. Our porters were already way ahead of us as Michal, I and our guide started walking. It was very hot and humid, as is always in Indonesia. We walked slowly through mostly flat savanna and after two hours arrived at a set of gazebos (chill-out places common in Indonesia).
Our porters prepared a delicious lunch consisting of tofu, tempeh, a piece of chicken with rice and vegetable and papaya. Considering they are carrying all the camping gear plus food for our little group, the meals were surprisingly big and delicious.
We still had a few hours left to the crater rim. The trail was steeper and more difficult as we walked through the fog in anticipation of reaching the crater rim. All trekkers slowed down as the trail got even steeper. I also started to feel that we were at a high elevation because my breath became shallow.
We made it in 5 hours and the campsite was quite shocking, to be honest. There is no designated place or a dry toilet so everyone goes wherever they please leaving toilet paper scattered around. We were glad to see our porters digging a hole and setting up a toilet tent.
Also, not all trekking agencies take responsibility for their trash, guides and porters are leaving it all behind. This trek is massively popular and everyone has to pay an entrance fee which is said to be used for maintaining the trail and campsites.
Unfortunately, it looks like the current system is not working very well and I sincerely hope they will make improvements in the near future.
The crater rim was filled with tents and we were glad to relax in ours and watch the clouds roll in. Soon the crater lake hid under the clouds and we went to sleep, with the alarm clock set to 2 am to climb Mount Rinjani all the way to the top.
Day 2: From crater rim to the top of Mount Rinjani (3,726m) and down to the crater lake (2,100m)
After breakfast, we left our camp at 2:30 am. With head torches and warm clothes in the backpack, we walked past tents on the crater rim. The higher we walked the windier it was. The dirt trail changed into volcanic rocks, which wouldn’t be bad if we didn’t slide one step back for every two steps we made up the hill. It was mentally and physically exhausting.
Soon, I had to put on all the clothes I had. The chilly wind didn’t make the climb any easier. We occasionally hid behind the rocks to rest and catch our breath. The high altitude was making the climb even harder with each step. We were climbing almost 3,000m in elevation in under 24 hours.
I suppose many underestimate the final climb to the Rinjani summit. I can say from many faces I’ve seen along the way that some people were scared or completely terrified.
The trail is completely exposed, the volcanic rocks are very slippery and the path is quite narrow for the number of people climbing to the top in dark. It took us 4 hours to reach Mount Rinjani summit.
We arrived shortly after the sunrise but luckily the views are incredible along the way as well. I hope people don’t feel too bad if they don’t make it to the top. It is a very hard climb and the view from the top is almost the same as from any point on the trail.
We were lucky to have beautiful weather and clear sky so we saw the whole Lombok Island and neighbouring Gili Islands. Walking down, or mostly sliding down, was much easier. Monkeys were passing by, the wind calmed and the sun was warming our faces.
We had 2nd breakfast at camp, packed our stuff and started another hike of the day – down to the crater lake. This trail was the hardest. Our quads were burning and our knees hurting from the huge steps on rocks. Even though we rented hiking sticks (and using them for the first time!), it was gruelling.
And every now and then passing porters hopping from rock to rock in flip flops reminded us that it’s not hard at all.
We were exhausted. Normally, on a 3 day/2 night trek, you’re supposed to climb up the crater rim on the west side and camp there. But we couldn’t walk anymore. So we agreed with our awesome guide to camp by the lake and continue the next day.
Porters set up a camp away from the main campground and found a quiet spot along the lake and close to the trail up the crater rim.
When it started raining, in an effort to keep warm and relax our beaten bodies, we went to the nearby hot spring. Relaxing in the small pools under the waterfall was exactly what we needed. The crater lake was hiding under the thick fog and we were glad we didn’t continue to the crater rim, we wouldn’t have any view at all. After another delicious and fulfilling dinner, we slept like babies.
Day 3: From the crater lake up to the crater rim on the west side (2,700m) and down to the Senaru village (600m)
The last day started at 6 am with a climb up to the crater rim. It was nearly perfect, we were rested, fuelled by breakfast and began before the sun was too hot. I was thanking my instincts to rent a hiking stick every day of the trek. The trail is incredibly unforgiving for legs. We were climbing through the jungle slowly when the morning fog started to disappear and the view of the crater lake and actively fuming volcano opened, amazing!
After a short break on the crater rim, it was around 3 hours downhill in the shade of the trees. We had lunch halfway down and watched a monkey trying to steal food from porters. As other trekkers joined us for lunch, we exchanged our painful but amazing trekking stories and laughed about who was more dirty and exhausted.
When we exited the trek at the gate of the national park, we were beyond happy that it’s over. It was the most exhausting trek we’ve ever done and also very rewarding.
Tips for Mount Rinjani trekking
How to get to Lombok
1. step: to Lombok
Lombok is a neighbouring island to Bali, which is where you’ll most probably fly. From Bali, you can either go by:
– fast boat from Padang Bai Port to Bangsal Port on Lombok, 1,5 hours for around 350,000 IRD (25 USD)
– by plane: if you’re close to Bali airport, you can fly to Lombok’s airport Praya, 30 minutes for the same price as the boat 25 USD (we chose this option)
2. step: to Senaru, North Lombok (start of the trek)
– from Bangsal Port it’s 2 hours north to Senaru
– from Praya airport, around 3 hours
There are several options for how to get to Senaru: taxi, Grab driver (same as Uber), renting a motorbike or with a driver from a trekking company.
We were staying in Kuta, Lombok and asked around, most trekking packages include transport from anywhere on the island to Senaru. It took us 3,5 hours from Kuta to Senaru with a break in Monkey Forest and for lunch.
Which trekking company to choose
We went with Ali Trekking on a private 3day/2night Mount Rinjani trekking tour with a guide and two porters. To be completely transparent – we were Ali’s guests and expenses were taken care of.
I believe in honest reviews no matter who pays the bills and we were beyond satisfied with Ali Trekking. The owner Ali held a pre-trek briefing and made sure we had everything before the start – we rented hiking sticks and gloves.
Our guide took very good care of us during the trek, especially during the slippery climb to Mount Rinjani summit. All the meals the porters cooked for us were delicious and included a lot of fruit.
It was a truly hassle-free experience, the private package costs 250 USD per person and includes:
– transport (pick up from anywhere on the island and drop off after the trek)
– boat ticket to Gili Islands (for relaxing afterward which I highly recommend)
– 1-night hotel stay before the trek
– guide and 1 porter per person
– all the food and water
– tent, toilet tent (believe me, this is important), mattress and sleeping bag
– entrance fee for the national park
I’ve read a lot about this trek and given its popularity, it is important to choose a company that takes responsibility for all the garbage, packs it out of the park and dispose of it properly afterward, which Ali Trekking does.
Our tour package also included a 1-night hotel stay before the trek. We stayed at Pondok Senaru Cottage which has a nice view of the Sendang Gile waterfall. We visited Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep waterfalls after the trek (the entrance to the falls is right next to the hotel).
Have a look at Ali Trekking’s website and choose a package that suits you – trek from 2 to 4 days with different itineraries (and different difficulties).
Best time for Rinjani trek
Mount Rinjani trekking can be done from April to December. The trek is closed from January to March during the rainy season because of possible landslides. April and May are considered to be shoulder/quiet months and our guide told us they are the best for Mount Rinjani trekking.
Know before you go
A decent level of fitness is required for an enjoyable experience. It’s a tough challenge but definitely give it a go if you’re heading to Indonesia, even if you don’t go to the summit, the crater lake is beautiful from the crater rim as well.
And make sure to visit the waterfalls. Either before the trek or after, they are amazing to see and very refreshing for sore legs.
Read more about Lombok
Hope you will enjoy the trek and let us know how it went!
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