Gunung Merapi – Central Java

  • Written by:  Heinz von Holzen
  • Date Posted:  October 10th, 2011
  • Category:  Java
  • Comments:  No Comments »


If this is the first Volcano you ever climb then there is a fairly good chance that you will be instantly addicted to this type of incredible rewarding adventure  mountaineering. Merapi which is close to 3000 meter, is perhaps one of the easier to climb volcanoes in this altitude range in Indonesia. This is Volcanic landscape at its best, offering everything one expects from one of the world’s most active volcanoes. By climbing through the various altitude ranges one can experience the changes of climates and with it the change of vegetation, starting with high altitude vegetable and tobacco farming, followed by high elevation  forest.  From there into low scrub bushes around 2200 meters and from 2400 meters upwards a real volcanic wonderland  with loose rocks up the active top, which offers some of the best scenic views in the whole country.  There is a rather big chance when coming back to Yogyakarta after climbing Merapi once, that one will return with his hiking boots for yet another attempt to reach this spectacular summit. This is my second joyful journey to the summit of Merapi, which I did at the side of my beloved wife Puji, a very fit  40 year young lady, that exercises almost daily. Trekking Adventure @ Gunung Merapi


In 1756, Sultan Hamengkubuwono carefully selected the site for his new palace, at the southern foot of Mt. Merapi and north of the mysterious Southern Seas. The palace (Kraton) represented the spiritual, and cultural center of the kingdom. The Kraton, build between 1756 and 1790 is a splendid example of traditional Javanese court architecture. Conceived not only as the royal residence, but as the focal point of the entire kingdom, the Keraton is constructed as a miniature model of the Hindu-Javanese cosmos. Hiking @ Gunung Merapi

The city of Yogyakarta has since grown up and around the ceremonial boulevard extending 2.5 km to the north from the Keraton which was the route taken by the royal cortege and is now known as Jalan Maliboro. The sidewalks are lined with stores and an array of street vendors, hawkers and artisans, as well as modern Western department stores and fast food outlets. After 9 p.m., the stores close and the vendors pack up, and then the night food stalls set up their gas burners for the famous Yogyakarta late night eating. Yoga is also famous as a center for batik. Small stores in the Ngasem area supply the local artists with the essential supplies for both traditional and modern techniques. Trekking @ Gunung Merapi

One hour drive through the hustle and bustle of the heavy city traffic, passed river beds and rice fields leads to the steps of fabled Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist monument. To experience the thorough magic of this incredible structure be there early,  well before sun rise and enjoy the mystique of this ancient spiritual place. East of the city passed the airport, the main road to Solo slices across a volcanic plain that is spotted by countless ancient ruins. In the center of the plain , 17 km out of Yogyakarta lies the Hindu complex of Prambanan that is well worth a visit. Hiking Adventure @ Gunung Merapi

Yogyakarta – Selo

After arriving at Bandara Yogyakarta international airport it is rather easy to find transport to bring one to the mountain village of Selo from where the climb to Gunung Merapi starts. In our case we stopped  directly at the official taxi counter at the airport and chartered a Taxi for about US$30. There are  certainly cheaper ways to get there by  going around the airport arrival hall and bargaining with the many keen drivers offering their transportation services at lower prices. Make certain that they also offer you road worthy vehicles. On the journey to Selo we negotiated a new price with the driver to pick us up the following day after the climb. This is highly advisable as it can be rather difficult to organize transportation in the mountain village of Selo. There is certainly transportation available which is often offered at outrageous costs.   To cover the 80 km from the Airport to Selo will take between two to three hours depending on the traffic.  There are two routes possible to get there and we advise to get to Selo by way of Klanten and Boyolali. Then on the return journey follow the road towards Magelang and Mungkid back to Yogyakarta, which will give you a chance to stop for a visit to the Borobudur temple. If you are lucky and the weather is clear then you will have spectacular views of not only Gunung Merapi to the South but also the neighboring volcano of Gunung Merbabu, as well as the rich productive fields of central Java in the distance. Trekking @ Gunung Merapi

If you follow this route then you will drive all around Gunung Merapi and pass many small villages on the foot of this very active volcano. All this villages live from the very fertile volcanic soil and grow mainly rice in the lover elevation and then from 400 meters upwards endless amounts of tobacco, some corn, as well as every imaginable vegetable that is used in the Indonesian kitchen. Hiking @ Gunung Merapi


After arriving at Selo drive directly to the turn off  to “NEW SELO” which is the starting point   for the hike the next morning. Opposite the turn off you will find your bed for the night as well as your guides. Accommodations are simple but spacious and as in all rural areas in Indonesia very basic with few comforts. Here your own sleeping bag will guarantee a comfortable short night sleep in the fresh cool mountain air. Here at the Ratri Selo home stay we meet Pak Tulup our guide  who is a member of the Merapi Guide Club (HP. 081 393 240 443) making certain that all our needs and queries were answered. Price per couple for one guide is set at a modest US$30 not including a well deserved tip for their out of the way efforts to make your hiking adventure as memorable as possible. The room will cost you a staggering US$6.50 not including a breakfast of fried rice and a glass of coffee or tea which will set you back at least US$2 – US$2.50. Shortly after our arrival four young German students checked in at the same home stay, with who we then joined up and climbed the following  morning. Trekking Adventure @ Gunung Merapi Central Java

Departure 2.45 am

Our wake up call come after an extremely restless night. I was terrible bothered by a seriously blocked nose from a cold, and my wife was disturbed by rather strange dreams that were in connection with our upcoming summit trip. Can I make it, active volcano, dangerous, why?…Girls… Within minutes we were ready and shortly thereafter  enjoyed a plate of steaming hot freshly fried rice and a glass of piping hot strong local  Robusta coffee. Then by 2.30 we, together with our German friends boarded the back of a small pick up truck that took us 2 km up a steep road to “NEW SELO” from where our long awaited mountain adventure finally started. This is a very popular view points for local tourists as well as young lovers, from where you enjoy terrific views of Gunung Merbabu across the mountain pass as well as over Selo and the surrounding fertile farming area. Hiking @ Gunung Merapi

New Selo 1775 m – Pos 1 2150 m

For the first 30 minutes the track follows rather steeply through large plantations  of tobacco which end up in the factory of one of Indonesia’s largest cigarette producers. This  small path can be very dusty during the dry season, but still offers plenty of grip on the way up. However on the journey down extra caution should be taken as several areas are very slippery. By the time the last tobacco fields are left behind, your overheated body will ask for a quick break to take off the jackets that were essential earlier in the cool mountain air. At this stage you are close to 2000 meters and gradually the forest trees get smaller and farther in between, and with it the surroundings offer terrific views on the way back. As the woods get less tens the path starts to get more and more rocky. Once you pass the national park sign it will take approximately 45 minutes of good hard uphill going to reach Pos 1 that is enclosed and protected by large boulders, that offer welcomed protection from the often very strong winds. Trekking  Adventure @ Gunung Merapi

Pos 1 – Pos 2, 2400 m

After leafing Pos 1 the rewards of your short hard work over the passed 1 1/2 hours slowly start to drizzle in. If you are lucky to have the moon at 3/4 of it’s size up on a clear sky then  the crystal clear mountain night will unveil for you an unbelievable scenic spectacle with surrealistic shapes of more volcanoes in the near and fare distance.  Set in soft velvety clouds allowing the peaks to reach the star spotted skies. Despite this magnificent spectacle care must be taken on the trek which by now is not as steep anymore but mostly solid rock that makes the going easy. After a comfortable 30 to 40 minutes the top of the next ridge is reached. Here one should stop for a minute and  show their respect to the many mountaineers like you and me who have left their loved ones behind with the aim to enjoy a spectacular sunrise on the peak. However due to many unforeseen and unpredictable circumstances have never returned home and left their lives on this mystic mountain. The many memorial plates are a reminder that the outmost of care must be taken when getting to the top of this very active volcano. Trekking Adventure @ Gunung Merapi

From here the path actually leads downhill for a short 300-400 meter to Pos 3 which once again is protected by large rocks, protecting one from often torrential cold trade winds. Once this point is reached it is wise to take a good rest before heading up the final section which will take an average fit person roughly 45 minutes. You must avoid to be on the summit before sunrise, as on the top the shelter is limited and the freezing cold winds can cool your over heated body in minutes down to very dangerous  levels. Hopefully your warm jacket as well as a new dry shirt and clothes that you brought in your back pack will prevent an unwanted ending to the journey. Hiking @ Gunung Merapi

Pos 3 – Summit of Merapi,  2975 m

With the departure of Pos 3 the real fun starts as you venture into a volcanic land scape at its absolute best. Time your departure well and keep in mind that the final ascent will take you just about one hour. At this stage the horizon gradually starts lighting up making the final run to the summit pure joy. Yes it is steep and very rocky and the going gets very slow, but make certain not just to sprint to the summit, but often stop, take a few breaths and enjoy the overwhelming spectacle of nature. The rocky, steep  and uneven path can in some areas be rather slippery, but there is really no part where you are in any danger of potentially falling down a long way. Eventually you will reach an area where you can feel that the ground gets a lot warmer and in a few areas you will pass several vents where piping hot volcanic steam is blowing out from the mountain. From this area it will take you only about 15 minutes to get to the top, and should you be on your way too fast then it is wise to rest here for a while, warm up your body and embark for your final leg just shortly before sunrise. The final 100 meters unveil an unbelievable mountain world. Your track leads from one large boulder to the next and eventually to the first deep crater created  by recent eruptions. The path leads along the rim and gradually climbs further up for a final 50 meter to your ultimate destination. Once the top is reached it is wise to quickly change your wet t-shirt and slip in to a warm jacket. Trekking Adventure @ Gunung Merapi

Summit sun rise

Finally the time has arrived to get ready for one of the very best hours that you ever experienced in your quest to discover nature. Get your cameras ready and continuously move around as every corner and every spot offers a total different spectacle  and view. With the fast rising sun, colors seem to change almost every second which at one moment lets the  entire surrounding erupt into an amazing orange. The sun will rise in the East just to the left of Gunung Lavu (3200 meters) and on it’s path up will illuminate the flanks of Gunung Merbabu 3200 m to the North. Then when turning to the West there are the twin Volcanoes of Gunung Sumbing (3200 meters) and Gunung Sindoro 3200 m and further back the still very active Gunung Selamat 3400 m. Hiking @ Gunung Merapi

Do not forget the close surrounding of one of the world’s most active volcanos on which you now sit.  Admire the smoky steaming surrounding with countless sulphur vents painting large parts of the recent eruption in 2006 with a deep yellow tint. This is without doubt one of the most exciting and dramatic mountain tops in the whole of Indonesia. Trekking @ Gunung Merapi

The journey home

Once the sun is up the winds will often came down and with it the temperature will get more comfortable by the minute. Give yourself plenty of time, enjoy a hearty snack and spend a bit of time absorbing  the glorious views in all four corners.Finally time will come to say ”By by” to the rugged mountain world and start heading back which will take you just as long as the journey up. Extra care needs to be taken in each section as parts of the track can be very slippery and frequent falls  occur. Stop frequently, enjoy the view and bring home lots of photos from this very special morning. It will take you a comfortable 3 1/2 hours to get back to “NEW SELO” from where a pick up truck or a chartered motor bike will bring you back to your home stay.  Next a rejuvenating shower in ice cold spring water, followed by a chocolate pancake and a glass of strong roasted coffee, and you will be ready for your next journey to adventure yet another volcano in Indonesia. Hiking @ Gunung Merapi

Days after, my wife Puji can’t stop talking about 

Direction to Gunung Merapi

 Trekking Adventures @ Indonesian Volcanoes




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  • Welcome to Trekking and Volcano Adventures in Indonesia

    Unfortunately Indonesia is far too often for the wrong reasons in the lime light of the world press. Terror, tsunamis, earthquakes, destructions of rain forest and corruption seem to be the favorite subject of the media. To my great disappointment far too few people talk about the incredible cultural diversity of the nation, the enormous size, and totally forget to focus on the unbelievable beauty of this great nation.
Beside the incredible beauty of Indonesia, a nation is only as good as its inhabitants. I cannot think of another place on earth where you would find so many incredible kind people that will be delighted to look after you in a way normally only kings and royalty are treated.
 Hopefully these colorful stories will encourage many readers to pack a good pair of quality hiking boots and a backpack big enough to store the impressions of the countless memorable discoveries awaiting one throughout Indonesia. Selamat Jalan and happy trekking Heinz von Holzen Trekking @ Indonesian Trekking Adventure
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