Trekking Mt. Rinjani in 2019 - Everything You Need to Know
Trekking Mt. Rinjani has been high on our bucket list since we saw the volcano looming above the clouds all the way from Bali. On our second visit to Indonesia, we made our way to Lombok and finally got to make this experience a reality!
Conditions on the mountain have changed significantly in the past year as a result of the 2018 earthquakes. Here is our full guide on how to prepare for this epic adventure!
When to Hike Rinjani
Mt. Rinjani is officially open from April to November. In the winter months, the rain can make the trail dangerous. However, the locals told us that the guides still do run trips (illegally) when the mountain is closed. Do this at your own risk!
In terms of weather, it is typically hot and dry during the summer months, but being the tropics it’s possible you’ll have rain at any time of the year so be prepared! For slightly cooler weather and fewer tourists you might want to visit in April/May or September/October. It’s generally quite cold once you’re on the mountain, so the weather mostly affects the hike.
Where to Start the Rinjani Trek: Senaru vs. Sembalun
There are two main villages where you can start your trek: Senaru and Sembalun (there are also 2 trails on the south side of the mountain but they are much less popular). The main difference between the two is the quality of the trail and the proximity to the summit - Sembalun is higher in elevation so you’ll do less climbing, and it’s slightly closer to the summit. However, the summit is closed at the time of writing and is expected to reopen in 2020. The Senaru route is also mostly shady while the Sembalun route is exposed to the sun. Finally, Senaru is an hour closer to the ferry terminal at Bangsal while Sembalun is closer to Kuta and the south.
We opted for the Senaru start so the information in this guide will primarily focus on that trail.
Is a Guide Required to Trek Mt. Rinjani?
Technically, a guide is not required for the trek. In practice, however, nearly everyone hires a guide. The locals expect it as it is their only source of income and we heard the hosts at our homestay tell several different people that they were not able to help them get the permits and equipment necessary to do the trip solo.
In our experience, having a guide and team made the already difficult journey a lot easier and gave us a small peek into local life. It wasn’t at all a packaged group tour experience and it felt good to support a community whose livelihood was so impacted by the natural disasters in 2018.
Tour packages typically include transportation to and from anywhere else on the island, a night at a homestay, food and drinks, the park entry fees, equipment rental, and a guide and porters.
If you do choose to undertake the trek solo, you can apply for a permit in advance at the national park entrance but be prepared to have to do a bit of convincing. You can then rent your camping equipment at the trekking centers in Senaru or Sembalun.
What to Expect
As mentioned above, the summit and lake are currently not open for trekking. The trek we did was 2 days/1 night up to the crater rim. When the rest of the volcano reopens, you can do longer hikes for up to 5 days where you can hike down to the crater lake to bathe in the volcanic hot springs, then make the journey all the way up to the summit.
The trek itself is pretty long and grueling. The first morning, we woke up at 6:30am, had a quick breakfast of banana pancakes and fruit and met our guide and group, and hit the trail around 7:30. Because our homestay was close to the trailhead, we just walked from there (about 1km) but if you stay further away you’ll be ferried to the gate on a scooter or in a car.
The trail itself is split into 4 sections, divided by rest stops labeled “position 1/2/3” that are 2-2.5km apart plus one “position extra” between 1 and 2. All in all, the trail is about 7km each way (plus the extra 1km from the gate to our homestay). There’s about 2000m of elevation change from Senaru to the crater rim. On the way up, it takes 6-7 hours including a stop for lunch.
The trail is very steep the whole way. While it’s mainly a dirt path, there are some rocks and roots you need to climb up, so definitely bring solid footwear! After hiking Bukit Pergasingan the previous morning, our legs were already pretty sore, and by the end of the hike we were barely able to put one foot in front of the other. We read online that anyone can complete this hike regardless of fitness level, and honestly we disagree. While you can take as long as you need to climb and descend, we imagine the trek would be extremely unpleasant if you were very out-of-shape or had any kind of injury.
The first stop was at position 2, three or four hours into the hike. We had an early lunch of rice, stir fried vegetables, tofu, tempe, and fruit. We took a break for an hour or so in total, drank some coffee, and continued on.
After another 2 hours of hiking, we broke out of the forest into the noon heat and arrived at position 3. For the final stretch, the trail is much more dusty and rocky, and is the steepest part of the journey! Luckily, at 1.8km it’s also the shortest segment, but it still took longer than any of the others.
We arrived at the top around 2pm (just under 7 hours total) and found the porters had already arrived and set up the tents. Pretty impressive considering that they all hike in flip flops and carry 40-50kg of gear up each! Our guide told us that they start as porters around 14 years old and after 2-3 years they are allowed to guide if they have good English skills.
Camping on the Crater Rim
After resting our legs a bit, we had a few hours to explore the mountain before sunset. It was really cloudy during the day but cleared up for sunset and was totally clear for sunrise in the morning. You can see the Gili islands sitting just off the coast of Lombok and when it’s clear see all the way to Mt. Agung towering over Bali!
It was really windy and was extremely cold around 5pm while the sun was still up! We each brought 3 layers and were still cold - you definitely won’t be sorry if you bring gloves and a beanie.
Our guide was nice enough to haul some firewood up to the rim so we had a nice campfire and some hot tea after sunset and then went to bed around 8, sore and tired, but happy. There’s little to no light pollution on the mountain we could see the Milky Way with our naked eyes! The tent, sleeping bag, and pad provided all looked pretty new and did a good job of keeping us warm and comfortable.
One thing to note - the campsites are really dirty. There is a lot of trash (although the guides do try and pack it all out) and there aren’t really set bathroom locations (so watch where you step 😂).
The next morning, we woke up at 6:30, just as the sky was lightening up. We watched the sun rise over the volcano from one of the many viewpoints around the crater, packed up our stuff, and set off back down the mountain.
The way down was a lot dustier and even steeper (if that’s possible) than we remembered on the way up. Our guide lent us a neck gaiter that was great for keeping the dust from everyone else hiking down out of your nose and mouth.
The way down was pretty rough for us as we were suddenly hit by a stomach bug (we don’t know if it was something we ate, the dirty campsite conditions, or something else). Moving slowly and taking lots of breaks, it took about 5 1/2 hours to make the trek back down to our homestay and we were one of the last ones down.
Food & Drink
The porters were able to cook vegan-friendly food for us and vegetarian food for the two girls we were hiking with but they also brought eggs and meat. We ate veggies and rice for lunch, a tasty yellow curry for dinner, and banana pancakes for breakfast with fresh fruit at every meal. If you have any dietary restrictions be sure to mention them at least a day before your trek because all food and drinks have to be prepared and carried up the mountain!
Your guides will supply you with water bottles. We opted to save some plastic and brought our own water in our Lifestraw water filtration bottles - 6L was enough for both of us for 2 days. There was unlimited coffee and tea at every meal and the guide had some candy bars and other snacks for in-between meals.
What to Pack for Your Rinjani Trek
Sturdy shoes for hiking: the number one tip we have is to bring decent shoes or hiking boots. After a full day of hiking in sneakers, our feet were pretty sore. The last thing you want (especially on a multi-day hike) is a painful blister!
Layers (especially a windbreaker): it gets down below 40°F (5°C) at night, even in the summer! Bring some layers you can put on as the sun goes down. You can use a sweatshirt as a makeshift camping pillow.
Beanie: keep your ears warm! Especially nice because your sleeping doesn’t cover your ears at night.
Neck gaiter, scarf, or sarong: keep your neck warm and the dust out of your face on the way down the hill!
Snacks: our guide had some snacks, but we wish we had brought our own since they weren’t vegan-friendly!
Power bank: it would be a bummer if your phone or camera died halfway through your hike! We left our power bank and our phones died and we weren’t able to fly our drone 😢
Flashlight or headlamp: if you have a working phone, you can probably use that. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck stumbling around in the dark like we were!
Cost to Trek Mt. Rinjani
We organized our trek through Blue Mountain Cottage, our homestay, and paid 1.4M IDR (~100 USD) per person. This was consistent with the offer we got from the company at the ferry port of 1.7M including transportation to Senaru (250k per person). These numbers are somewhat negotiable and we saw prices as low as 900k per person for 3 days/2 nights online. If you have an extra day in Senaru before the trek (which we totally recommend to visit the waterfalls or do some other hikes) you can ask around and you might be able to find a lower rate.
If you’re planning your own trip, the costs are as follows:
Transport from Bangsal to Senaru: 200-250k per person
Budget double room: 150k
Permit: 150k per person per day
Rental of tent and 2 sleeping bags: 200k
Food & water: varies, around 200k for 2 people for 2 days
Onwards transport: 200-500k (less for the ferry terminal or Senggigi, more for Kuta and the airport)
In our estimation, the total comes out to 8-900k minimum. It’s definitely not the cheapest activity ever but the views are so worth it!
Where to Stay in Senaru
Blue Mountain Cottage: we ended up staying here mostly on accident - we had to book our accommodation less than an hour before leaving for Lombok due to some issues with picking up our passports from immigration. Blue Mountain was the cheapest place still available but it ended up being pretty nice! For a grand total of $11 per night including breakfast, we were very comfortable despite the lack of fan/AC/hot water. The family running the homestay was super nice and were able to organize our trek and scooter rental as well.
Rudy Trekker: if you’re looking for a slightly more comfortable experience, this is the place to stay. The trek organized by the team at Rudy includes camping chairs and tables for your meals and campsite (versus sitting on a tarp), which makes a huge difference after hiking for 7 hours straight uphill!
Have you hiked Mt. Rinjani, or are you planning to? We’d love to hear your experience or tips in the comments below!