The hike to the peak of Mount Rinjani (3,726m) on Lombok from Sembalun or Senaru is a very demanding trek, but delivers some spectacular views from the crater rim as well as the summit.
I’ve booked a Mt Rinjani trek on the way home (to Sydney) from a work trip to Kualu Lumpur. Having done a fair few hikes in Malaysia, I’m keen to tackle what’s said to be the one of the most challenging hikes in Indonesia. An active volcano in Indonesia on the island of Lombok, Mt Rinjani or Gunung Rinjani (3,726m above sea level) is the the second-highest volcano in Indonesia, after Kerinci (3,805m). It can be reached via a few different routes, with organised treks taking from two to four days. I’ve chosen the 2-day/1-night option, plus an additional night before the trek, with a transfer directly from the airport. It’s about a 3-hour drive. From the airport, heavy traffic in the small regional city of Praya gradually improves as we drive northwards. Not far from the base of Rinjani, the highway crosses a steep ridge: at the top of the ridge are some views of the surrounding mountains from the Taman Wisata Pusuk Sembalun Viewpoint.
The destination for my first night in Rinjani is Sembalun, where I’m staying at the Nauli Bungalow. From the basic but comfortable bungalow, I enjoy some unobstructed views of Mount Rinjani, and a good night’s sleep before my trek on the following morning.
Day 1: Sembalun to Rinjani crater (9.9km)
There’s a very short vehicle transfer in the morning to register at the Rinjani Information Centre near the trailhead, in the village of Sembalun, and then we’re off. The trail passes a few huts and farms, with cloves of garlic drying in the hot sun.
The track initially climbs quite gently, but being the end of summer the landscape is very dry, and there’s no shade. Directly ahead of is the imposing Rinjani peak: part inspiring, and part daunting!
After about 7km the track gets markedly steeper – but there’s also some relief from the heat as low cloud starts rolling in.
It’s hard to complain though: while I’m carrying a bit of camera gear and spare clothes, I don’t need to carry a tent or all the gear I’d normally take on an overnight trip. The trek fee includes a guide and porter, who’s wearing sandals and carrying two baskets that I would struggle to carry for a hundred metres. It’s humbling when you see the locals almost floating up the mountain, with 20+ kilograms on their back. (You can do this trek without a guide, but most companies will organise all the logistics including transfers to/from Lombok airport, and will supply a tent and food.)
The steepest section of Day 1 is the last two kilometres, and it’s a relief to reach Plawangan Sembalun or “Rinjani Basecamp”, on the crater of Mount Rinjani. What’s less appealing is the number of people camping here. A long row of tents stretches along the Sembalun Crater Rim – and there’s a huge amount of rubbish strewn around the campsite.
What makes up for the crowds and rubbish is the stunning vista over the crater lake, as the clouds start to disperse. While the guide cooks a hot meal, I take lots of photos – none of which do justice to the sunset views.
The colours get even more intense after the sun sets, silhouetting Mount Sangkareang (3,200m asl) on the opposite side of the Rinjani crater.
I’m in bed early, along with everyone else, in preparation for an early start on the following day. Although todays only been about ten kilometres, the elevation gain of 1,500m and heat made it pretty tiring.
Day 2: Rinjani summit & back to Sembalun (17.7km)
I’m woken up around 2am for the last leg up to the summit, which we aim to reach in time for sunrise. After a cup of hot tea, we’re off – it’s pretty chilly, a nice change from the previous day. I wasn’t expecting it to be easy… but it was brutal. Definitely the toughest walk I’ve done (the higher Mount Kinabula is a wal in the park by comparison). From the crater, the entire route is on loose scree. It’s sometimes two steps forward, and one step back – but mostly feels like one step forward, and two back!
It’s also steep: despite the distance being just under 4km, there’s another 1,100m of elevation gain from the crater rim to the summit. I haven’t quite reached the summit before the sun starts to rise, casting an almost perfectly symmetrical shadow of Rinjani beyond the crater lake.
From the summit, you can clearly see into the caldera; a few plumes of smoke are a reminder that Rinjani is an active volcano. The caldera is about six kilometres wide and 8.5-kilometres long, and partially filled by the crater lake known as Segara Anak or Anak Laut (“Child of the Sea”), due to the colour of the water.
Despite the very symmetrical shape of Mount Rinjani from afar, the view from the summit has angular and sharp rocks and ridges in every direction.
I don’t stay too long on the summit, although there’s no rush to start our descent. Although many people reached the summit before me, there’s still a lot of people battling up the scree slope as we make our way back down.
To the west you can see the conical peak of Mount Agung (3,031m asl), about 100km away. Located on the island of Bali, it’s another active volcano which can also be reached via an overnight trek. In the foreground is Gunung Baru Jari (2,376, asl), the name of the new volcano which emerged in the center of Segara Anak Lake.
As we descend from the Rinjani summit, the long line of tents along the crater rim comes into view.
You can see how the summit trail has erodeded deep path in the soft scree slope – the start of the trail was one of the toughest sections of the climb up.
There’s a short rest at the crater, and then we continue back the same way. (You can also continue down into the crater, descending to Lake Segara Anak and stopping at some thermal springs, before finishing at Senaru village. This is normally a 3 day / 2 night trek). It’s much easier descending, although a few sections are steep and slippery and require care – especially when you’ve got tired legs! I’m happy to reach Sembalun village again and my legs are even happier; it’s been a great trek, but the ascent from the crater to the summit is definitely one of the toughest walks I’ve done).
DAY 1 (9.9km) 0.0km Sembalun Lawang village (1,156 m) 3.2km Pos 1 Pemantauan (1,300m) 5.4km Pos 2 Tengengean (1,500m) 7.3km Pos 3 Pada Balong (1,800m) steepest section to crater starts here 9.9km Rinjani crater rim and campsite (2,639m) DAY 2 (17.7km) 13.8km Mount Rinjani summit (3,726m / 12,224 ft) 17.6km Rinjani crater rim and campsite
27.6km Sembalun Lawang village
When to go
You can trek Mount Rijani from April to January each year; it’s closed in the rainy season (January, February and March). August is the driest month, but the landscape is starting to get very dry and dusty by late August. The guides generally suggest that the best time is May/June, when there’s a low chance of rain, but some of the streams and rivers may still have some water flowing and the trails are less busy than July .
The quickest route is from Sembalun, which is the only way you do the 2 day / 1 night trek with any of the commercial operators; I took this option as I didn’t have much time and was just stopping over in Lombok for this trek. If you have another day, starting in Senaru and finishing in Sembalun means as well as the summit, you can experience the crater lake and get some more great views from along the crater rim.
What to bring
If you are doing this without a guide, you’ll need to organise your own travel to/from Senaru or Sembalun, and pay the Mount Rinjani National Park Entrance fee. You’ll then need pretty much all of the hiking and camping gear that you’d normally bring on an overnight hike.
If you use a trekking company, you’ll need a small backpack (30-40L) to carry clothes, insect repellent, a head-torch, a water bottle and personal snacks (optional). It gets cold overnight and at the summit, so you’ll want some warm layers and even gloves and a beanie.
|Location||Trail for 2 day / 1 night starts at Sembalun, which is on the north of the island, about three drives from Lombok International Airport. For 3-4 day treks, you can also start/finish at Senaru.|
|Distance||Approx 28km return from Sembalun. From Sembalun to Senaru is 36km.|
|Grade||Very Hard. 2,785m total ascent. Some parts of trail very steep & slippery|
|Season/s||Can be done all year. April-December is best (drier). Near the start of the dry season, the creeks/river will be flowing.|
|Map/s||Interactive topographical map [AllTrails] from Sembalun
Interactive topographical map [AllTrails] from Sembalun to Senaru
|GPS Route||Gaia GPS map with option to download GPX / KML file [from Sembalun]|
Wiki Voyage has a list of Mount Rinjani guides and trekking providers