Getting to Cemoro Lawang, the town closest to Mount Bromo, was the worst. The main reason for this is having to pass through Probolinggo, a town where pretty much everyone is trying to scam you. The best advice I can give about this journey is not to do it, just go with a tour or your own organised transport instead, it might be a bit more expensive than public buses, but it beats getting into arguments with drivers and waiting for hours. If you are going to do it on your own, you can seek advice at Toto Travel in Probolinggo bus station.
We spent 4 hours sitting on a step looking at this minibus, waiting for the 15 passengers they needed before we could head into the mountains. This seemed like such a long time, until we had to wait for 7 hours in Probolinggo for our bus to Bali the next day (can you tell how much I hate that town?).
Once we finally got to our hotel in Cemoro Lawang, the receptionist told us with a shrug, "No sunrise tours. Too busy." Sunrise tours are how almost everyone gets to Mount Bromo, and at this point I just wished we hadn't come.
After a mini-meltdown (it had been a long day, ok!), we ordered enough food for four and hatched a plan to visit both stops on the tour on our own.
I cannot tell you how happy we were that things worked out this way. We had a great morning hiking on our own, the route was easy and it was so much more enjoyable than getting driven everywhere with hordes of other tourists. We woke up to this stunning view, had breakfast in our mountain lodge and set off without really knowing exactly where we were going.
First, we walked to Mount Penanjakan to get a view of the volcanoes. It's an easy path up the mountain through farms and beautiful countryside. The weather is cool so you can comfortably do the walk at any time of day, there's a lot of volcanic ash in the air though, so bring a facemask or scarf. There are two viewpoints and we only made it to the first one as we had a time limit. If you have the whole day you could make it up to the top and still have time to walk to the Bromo crater.
The town of Cemoro Lawang is right on the lip of this crater below, we stayed at Lava View Lodge, which is the closest one to the edge.
Next we walked through the dust and lava cracks to the Bromo crater. The landscape is unreal and I've never seen anything like it.
There are steps up to the very top, so no climbing is involved. Peering into the crater is a must (even if you have a fear of heights, like me!). The sulphur fumes were so intense that the lady next to us fainted.
What a morning! By noon we were packing up our bags and setting off to Bali.
Ask at your hotel for a map and directions, both walks are really straightforward. We also found this blog post on independent travel in Bromo useful.