Located within the “Ring of Fire” area and between two tectonic plates, Indonesia is home to the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. Most of them are still active with frequent small eruption and spewing hot clouds. It’s absolutely dangerous but tough mountaineers never hold anything back for the sake of the piece of heaven up there.
Every mountain has its own challenge with trails that are never easy to pass through. You’ll encounter savanna, sandy slope and even stony steep path only in one hike. The obstacle aside, the vista along the way there will sure to keep you excited to continue climbing. And if the slope is already rewarding, the summit will be definitely more stunning.
In Indonesia, Java is one of some islands with the most active volcanoes. And if you are mountaineers and are planning to look for new challenge, you can start with these seven active volcanoes on Java below:
Mt. Anak Krakatau, West Java
Anak Krakatau is a special volcano. It is located off the shore, in the middle of Sunda Strait, Java island, to be precise. It emerged just after the original Mt. Krakatoa exploded in 1883. In fact, Anak Krakatau is the new generation of the pre-historic volcano as it grew just on the top of it. Therefore, it is called Anak Krakatau which literally means “The Child of Krakatau.”
The mountain is formed of piles of lava debris from the explosion. It was just as high as 1 m above sea level when it first grew. But now it has reached 230 meters and counting. It is growing at a rate of 13 cm per week. Though Anak Krakatau is not that high, but it is just as dangerous as its mother volcano. Clouds of smoke never stop spewing and even serious lava bombs occur very frequently.
The excitement of the adventure starts as soon as you are aboard on a speedboat at Carita harbor. You’ll enjoy the serene vibe of Java Sea along the way as your boat sways gently in the waves. The trip will take at least two hours. It’s clear to see where the crater of the mountain is as you arrive at Anak Krakatau. In spite of the frequent eruption, the black sandy beach of the island is fully grown with trees, not empty like what we may expect.
You start trekking from the beaches through easy ascend with black lava rocks from the latest explosion littering around. The hard part comes nearly at the cone. The rocks are hot that you have to keep walking or your shoes will melt. Respirator is required if you want to come any closer to the caldera. Sulfuric hot gas is strong and you can barely breathe without the mask. If the peak is too much for you, you can stop at a hill where you can enjoy a fine view of the open sea and the entire islands of Krakatau.
Anak Krakatau is sometimes closed due to continuous volcanic activity. No one will be allowed to hike the volcano but by staying in a tent on the nearby island such as Sertung island, you can still enjoy the show of the mountain. While sitting under an open night sky, you can see magnificent natural phenomenon live. Witness how tons of incredible lava bombs continuously shooting out into the air. No man-made fireworks show could compete with this spectacular scene.
Mt. Galunggung, West Java
In the eastern part of West Java, Mount Galunggung is the most majestic mountain. It has a height of 2167 meters above sea level and covers two areas, the districts of Garut and Tasikmalaya. Galunggung rarely explodes. But when eruption occurs, it killed thousands of people and destroyed hectares of residential area around. Its last eruption occurred in 1982 after more than half a century of the previous eruption. It caused a disaster for British Airways that flew above west Java heading for New Zealand. Its engine stopped working from tons of volcanic ash from Mt. Galunggung.
Now, though active, Galunggung is very safe to climb. In fact, this mountain has always been a popular destination for both local and foreign travelers. Its main attraction lies down in the crater. At the base of it, there is a beautiful greenish lake that is famous among fishing mania. The crate is also a famous camp ground where nature lovers usually stay overnight to catch the beautiful sunrise. The way up there needs a tiny effort as there are already good steps leading straight down to the caldera.
There are more to enjoy here. Just at the other side of the slope, visitors can enjoy a relax time soaking up in natural hot spring. The spring flows in a natural river surrounded with trees that adds to its appeal. This is a perfect treat after your tiring ascends to the caldera for sure. This place also provides a huge pool with an authentic refreshing mountain spring.
The true peak of Galunngung is Mt. Beauticanar. It’s not so popular than the crater lake since the route up there is quiet challenging. The summits stands on the far north and you can’t see it from the lake. It’s impossible to reach the peak from the lake unless you don’t mind with the impenetrable jagged cliff at the rim. If you still go there, the northern route from Bodas lake (in Tasikmalaya) is the best option.
Bodas lake is much like the White Crater in Bandung. Several minutes passing the lake, you’ll arrive at a flat sandy terrain which was actually an ancient caldera. Wild forest will re appear as you leave the open area. Things will get a bit harder but you don’t need rope to get through this. After three hours of trekking, Mt. Beuticanar unveils between the trees. It’s a flat area with an expanse view of Saat crater and the Bodas lake. You can build tent there for a peaceful sunrise.
Mt. Gede, West Java
The proximity to Jakarta, Bandung and Bogor makes Mt. Gede the most popular hiking destination in West Java. It stands just next to another active volcano, Mt. Pangrango, and together they are named Gede-Pangrango National Park, one of the most diverse mountain systems in Indonesia. In a year, more than 50.000 people climbed both mountains but nowadays, government limits the number of visitors and requires them to get entrance permission days in advance.
You can climb both of the mountains only one night but most tourists prefer Gede than Pangrango as their destination. It’s understandably because Mt. Gede offers better hiking experience with extensive view as far as Jakarta and Banten area on clear weather. Besides, there is also outstanding grassland and flower field on top if it that you can’t absolutely resist.
The half way to Gede’s summit is so much relaxing. You enter from Cibodas Botanical Garden where the park office is located and from where you can arrange guide and porter. From here, nature highlight await along your way. Going up the garden, Telaga Biru (Blue Lake) appears amid the lush tree. It is nestled on the left portion of the steps with clear blue water. Many weekenders visit this lake for swimming or simply taking a dip. What to come next are impressive Cibeureum waterfall and hot streams which flow through the crater. The road will go to two different ways as you reach Kandang Badak campground. You take the left if you head for Mt. Pangrango or the right for Mt. Gede.
Nothing so much painful during the hike but you need be careful as you climb the straightforward ascent above the rock slope. This trail is a bit steeper than the rest and has lots of rocks. The alternative is a path in a valley to left of the trail which is much easier. It roughly takes you four hours to finally come out of the forest and pass the crater rim up the mountain summit.
The vista from there is marvelous. It give you an 360 degree view of the adjoining Mt. Pangrango, the smaller mount Salak, the city of Bandung and even Mt. Karang in Banten as well as West Java’s coastline during a clear weather. If it’s your luck day, you’ll get a glimpse of the shoreline of Sumatra Island. One hour trekking to the south of the summit is the most favorite spot on the mountain – a massive beautiful meadow called Surya Kencana. Used to be a caldera, the meadow is evergreen with tons of edelweiss littering the entire scene. This is the best site to set a tent for overnight stay.
Mt. Merapi, Central Java
A nickname of “The Deadliest Volcano on Java” has long been attached to Mt. Merapi. The moniker was given as Merapi never gets extinct though it has erupted hundreds of time. History has it that this volcano caused the collapse of Majapahit kingdom and a major destruction of Borobudur temple in past centuries.
For Javanese, especially those at Central Java, Merapi is sacred and feared at the same time. Offering ceremony is held annually by royal family of Kraton Jogjakarta in the hope of preventing eruption. Unfortunately, disaster continues to happen. In 2010, Merapi exploded again, killing 350 and forcing thousands to evacuate.
Though so, people also adore Merapi as great as they get scared of it. Travelers always hike the volcano to satisfy their curiosity about the lava flow from its latest eruption. The summit also offers mesmerizing panorama, especially at sunrise. During this moment, while sitting in a complete silence, we will be treated to sea of cloud with Merbabu mountain summit peeking out of it. Amazing!
As one of the icon of Jogjakarta, Mt. Merapi can be reached both from Selo village and Kaliurang village. You can start from Selo if you expect easy trail. But if you prefer more challenging and straight forward track, the Kaliurang is your best choice. We will be going up the ashy stony steep slope for five straight hours to get to the plateau. We can see the surrounding vista from there. However, we must climb up another strenuous straight vertical to get to the summit. The peak is called “Puncak Garuda” and we can get an extreme close view to its burning belly from there.
The way back down to the base is so much fun. We will literally run through the clouds, slide down the ash pile and occasionally fall on the butt because of the slippery path. What you will notice after the run is your shoes and outfits absolutely turn grey from the ash. Once the terrain gets flatter, we can walk while enjoying the flourishing vegetable fields on the mountain slope. This is the end of your hike but not your adventure. You can visit the nearby rural villages for extended Merapi exploration if you want to.
Mt. Semeru, East Java
With a ring of volcano stretching along its backbone, Java offers one most popular mountain that inspires almost all local hikers to climb – Mount Semeru – the highest peak of Java. The terrain is extremely challenging and to reach the summit can be so painful yet the scenery is heavenly stunning. Semeru is located in East Java, just several kilometers south of the world famous Bromo volcano. In fact, it’s inside the area of Bromo – Tengger – Semeru National Park which to some extent gives Semeru its now overwhelming popularity.
You don’t need to climb to the cone to enjoy the beauty as the surrounding area at the top half boasts the Ranu Kumbolo lake. With the emerald water and greenish hills bordering it, Ranu Kumbolo is just so wonderful especially during the sunrise when the sun rays mix with the water, creating a heartwarming sparkling effect across the lake surface.
There is a legendary ascent called “Tanjakan Cinta” or “Love Hill” that leads to Oro Oro Ombo meadow which is overgrown beautiful purple flowers. Several hour walk through the garden will take you to another savanna which, all the time, is fully covered with edelweiss flowers. From there, the view of Mahameru summit is so vivid and, encouraging you to step even closer and hike even further. The next post is Arcopodo to which you need to walk for two hours through steep lush pine forest. Arcopodo is dusty and prone to landslide, but it’s the last and nearest campsite to the peak.
The “summit attack,” a seven hour strenuous hike to reach the mountain’s peak, starts in the dark night at about 1 A.M. This journey is quiet painstakingly demanding with unstable footing and constant fear of falling rock from above. The path will turn narrower and extremely as you leave the last vegetation area. The dune is so slippery that you will constantly slide back. The best way to walk through this is by zig zag way and crawl like when you hike a huge snowdrift.
Yet, as you finally on the summit, you know the pain is worth it. You will be standing above the clouds, with beautiful sunrise, Java’s eastern shoreline, the smoldering Bromo complex and nearby city all create a perfect mixture of mountain top view. The next highlight you will notice is minor earthquake and extremely loud explosion coming from the hot-tempered crater of Semeru. It’s called “Jonggring Saloka” and periodically throws up hot clouds and rocks into the air almost every 20 minutes. There is a rule to stay away from the rim and you better stick with it.
If you plan an extended vacation at the mountain, visiting Mt. Bromo is strongly recommended. A jeep will take you there via Jemplang. This mountain village will treat you to incredible local field crawling over the hills before taking you to cross Bromo’s outstanding savanna and sea sand. A visit to this place will definitely relaxing after days of hard time hiking.
Mt. Raung, East Java
With 2km wide open cone, Mount Raung has the largest caldera in Java. It is 500 meter deep and occupied with a deep crater which constantly spews gas, sometimes hot rocks as well. The mountain has already erupted dozens of times but due to the huge caldera, the explosions are never catastrophic. In mid-2015, it recorded the latest eruption. There were no casualties. The hot clouds and volcanic ash, however, caused several airports on Java, Bali and Lombok to stop the operation for more than two weeks.
The precise location of Raung is Jember . It sits in the same mountain area along with neighboring Mt. Ijen and some non-active mountains situated in Banyuwangi city. Compared to Ijen, Raung is not so popular and less visited as the tough summit attack is not suitable for regular tourists. But for those who keen on hiking or are searching for real adventure, this remote volcano is a good choice to escape from crowd.
The overall hike to Raung is mostly mild and roughly takes half a day return way. You start from Sumberwringin village where ojek (also guides and porters) taking you to the starting point is available. It’s a fun ride through local settlement and tobacco plantation. You begin to climb from the flat terrain in pine forest. The trail is completely covered with dense wild vegetation with occasional sight of birds and long tailed monkeys. During wet season, beware of the flourishing leech. There are some plain to set a tent but they are not so spacious. Slightly sloping ground unveils as you come near to the crater rim (popular as Puncak Bendera). It will be a perfect campsite if you plan to see sunrise over the rim.
From Puncak Bendera, you can already see the impressive view of the vertical caldera. But for dedicated mountaineers, hiking means to conquer the real peak. On Raung, the true summit is called “Puncak Sejati” and you can see it rising across Puncak Bendera peak. The way there is incredibly daring. Don’t go there unless you are confident with using rope and rock climbing.
There are several peaks you must first pass through before hitting the real peak including the summits of “Puncak 17” and “Puncak Tusuk Gigi.” Connecting all the peaks is tiny cliff edge with unstable footing. With the strong wind constantly blowing, the hike to the cone becomes even more heart-pounding. Down there, caldera looks so wide open. However, this effortful moment will sure to give unforgettable impression during your hike at Raung.
Up there, you can’t only see the caldera but stunning bird’s-eye view of Raung-Ijen cluster. Argopuro mountain is seen sitting on the far west while smaller Mt. Suket stands just several kilometers to east of Mt. Raung. And between Suket and Raung you may be able to spot Ijen and Merapi mountains rising through the clouds.
Mt. Kelud, East Java
Mount Kelud is one of the most active and dangerous volcanoes in Indonesia. It sits on three cities including Malang, Kediri and Blitar. It has erupted many times with the most destructive one was in 1919. It killed approximately 5000 people and caused thousands more evacuate. 2014 is its latest eruption. It is located in East Java, but the volcanic ash reached Central Java. In East Java, meanwhile, ash rain did not stop until 2 days. It’s not a surprise then that volcanologists constantly monitor the mountain.
When Kelud gets quiet, this mountain is a popular destination for weekenders. It stands at the height of 1731 m and has pretty good roads leading the way up to the crater. You can go up the volcano in car or motor bike but you need to be watchful as the ride has lots of bends and narrow paths. At the parking lot, you’ll easily notice a huge sign to hot spring bathing area in the river below the mountain. You take the straightway, passing through a dark tunnel locally known as “the channel tunnel” that leads directly to the lava dome. It used to be a nice greenish crater lake before the 2008’s explosion wiped it out.
The surrounding panorama is another to admire for. This place is dramatically rugged with lots of hills and huge valleys. Across the dome is towering cliff (people called it Mt. Sumbing) which becomes a nice platform for rock climbing enthusiasts. There are cement steps up the higher crater rim to which people call as the ‘summit’ of Mt. Kelud. But the true peak is still a long way to go. It’s a huge vertical boulder with pinnacles at the far side of the crater. To go there is impossible as the terrain is jagged and impassable. You still can see it from a far from a rock crag beyond the cement road. The peak looks beautiful from there. It is like a daunting rock castle topped with an impressive rocky tower.
Back to the parking lot, there is a showroom for you to get a deeper insight about the history of Mt. Kelud. Lots of pictures of before and after the volcano eruption are displayed there. You will find out the constant dramatic changes of the crater over the years. There is also video showing the situation of the mountain’s latest eruption. It’s so vivid in the video that the situation is beyond disastrous and the people look frightened, crying and running frantically. It’s a hard warning that nature is the most powerful force in this world.
If you are nature lover or a true mountaineer, a list of volcano above should be your next destinations. Start your trip and create your own climbing experience in Indonesia.