Gunung Papandayan – West Java

  • Written by:  Heinz von Holzen
  • Date Posted:  October 26th, 2011
  • Category:  Java
  • Comments:  No Comments »

The setting:

Any active volcano always draws special interest, especially when the active area is easily accessible by good road in the comfort of a car. Within 20 minutes from the car park you will reach a rather large area with several active fumaroles from where lots of partially toxic gases escape. The entire area is alive, with fumes escaping from the grounds which in areas howl like an old steam train. There are mud holes from where large amounts of water escapes which then flow down the mountain side as a bubbling mountain stream. Looking at the area from the distance it reminded me of a big open sore from where a lot of pus runs out.

 When we arrived at the car park it was actually our intention to reach the highest point in the Papandayan mountain range, which is actually a rather long way away from Gunung Papandayan, the point, which all locals consider as the actual summit. The biggest challenge of the entire trip was for Thomas my hiking partner to find a guide / farmer who was willing to join us in the quest to hack our way through dense jungle to the hopefully very highest point of the range. It took “only” about one hour of serious negotiation to confirm a helping hiking hand and before long we were ready to start our adventure one short hour before sun set. Trekking @ Gunung Papandayan

Open crater area:

Equipped with a GPS and a detailed Google earth map we felt confident that we would succeed in our quest to reach a rarely visited highest point in the Papandayan range. The solid rocky path slowly ascends towards the wide-open crater, which you will reach within 15 minutes. It is worthwhile to slow down in this area and enjoy the bubbling, steaming, screaming and howling volcano landscape. Most weekend visitors are happy to make their day to the top of the active area that will take an easy 30 minutes. This is also the border where vegetation and forest gradually takes over from the active volcano. Hiking @ Gunung Papandayan

Misty morning

The cobble road:

Once you reach edge of the active volcano area follow the path that will lead you around the mountainside towards a deteriorating cobbled track that at one stage was meant to be an actual road connecting villages that are separated by the mountain. The track was built during the rain of former President Suharto and then in 2002 partly destroyed by a huge landslide as major volcanic eruptions occurred. After a few hundred meters the road will make a relatively sharp left turn, but the path will lead you straight ahead down the mountainside into a valley. After about 300 meters you reach the bottom of the valley, where you cross a mountain stream. Just after the river crossing the trek ascends steeply up towards the left for yet another 400 meters where you join the vanished cobble road again. Turn to the right and stay on this rough rocky road for a little more than one kilometer, or until you reach the highest point. Here the street turns left and leads through a gap in the mountain. 75 meters further on you notice on the left an open area from where in the center a small trail leads into the woods. Follow this wide path that leads almost flat through the woods for a little more than one kilometer and ends at Pondok Selada, which translates as Salad plantations. Trekking @ Gunung Papandayan

Pondok Salada / 2332 m /  S7 18.918 E107 43.391:

This has to be one of the very best campsites we have ever used. Wide open with space for a whole army, set on beautiful green, soft grass and for a change absolutely  spotlessly clean, just as the entire Papandayan range. Almost to the minute we arrived night took over from daylight and within a minute a thick blanket of fog set on us, which cleared to our delight around midnight. To our amusement we read several reports of wild animals in the area, pigs, dogs, and large cats of which we unfortunately could not see the faintest signs. I guess the fact that we were armed with two Swiss Army knifes would have scared off all these dangerous beasts.Hiking @ Gunung Papandayan

Tegal Alun 2520 m:

At 6 o’clock the next morning to our delight, we meet our guide, who brought with him a seriously  sharp bush knife. The good visible trail leads straight on towards an area with lots of dead trees that slowly died during the 2002 eruption. This is actually a fascinating and very picturesque area and well worth stopping frequently to take plenty of photos. Here the trail leads steeply up the mountainside and it will take a good 40 minutes to reach the next vast open grassy plateau. Tegal Alun. Unfortunately the moment we reach this wide-open grassy plateau, heavy fogs make us unable to actually see where we are. The only person happy about the fog was our guide as he was hoping that this sudden change of weather would cut his duty in half and with it he would be back home for lunch. Trekking @ Gunung Papandayan

All of a sudden he was scared and seriously concerned that we would get lost, which is actually almost impossible as we found out later. A good GPS and a map had us quickly back on the right trek towards our well-anticipated summit. Before long the weather Gods were on our side, and in brilliant sunshine we stood a few hundred meters away from our two anticipated peaks. The question then was simply, which one is higher, the one on the left or the one on the right? Something we were not able to work out from our maps. The three of us decided that it was the one on the right and with it the real fun started. Hiking @ Gunung Papandayan Java

Trekking @ Gunung Papandayan

The task was actually not too hard, as we only had to conquer a good 150 meters of altitude. Then for the fact that October marks the end of the dry season the very dense bushes, trees and scrubs were very dry and giving us not too much of a challenge to work our way up the steep hillside. Altogether it took less then 1-½ hours to reach the summit of a hilltop which has virtually never been visited before. Obviously it was our aim to reach the highest point of the Papandayan range, and to be certain that we really reached the highest point we needed to get back and make our way to yet another hill top located only a few hundred meters away. A hilltop that actually looked slightly higher then the one we conquered.

Tegal Alu to Gunung Papandayan:

From the base of the mountain it took less then 20 minutes to trek back across the grass and Javanese Edelweiss plain to re join the easily visible path that lead us to the summit of Gunung Papandayan. Just as you reach the path you will notice some swampy areas where farmers from the valleys collect water and then pipe the wet gold a very long way down to irrigate their plantations. We would not recommend drinking this water as the little ponds were covered by a lot of algae’s and looked rather stale. Just after you pass this section the path gradually ascends towards the top of the range. This section will take a good hour and offers very few challenges. It is well worth stopping frequently as every corner seems to unveil  better views, especially of the active crater fields. Half way up the trail your guide will point out several large boulders facing south where underneath a “super large” cave system starts, apparently well over 100 km long. Tales in the region tell of a high priest that actually entered the system and then shortly after walked out of the labyrinth near Pangandaran almost 100 km to the south east. Just imagine if this is a fact then this cave system would be among the largest in the world. We were also told, that from this point on clear days the South coast of Java can be seen. From here it will take less then half an hour to reach the modest summit, which has no views on offer at all. However if you follow the path for another 200 meters you will find a small opening in the woods, from where the scenery is simply breathtaking. Hiking @ Gunung Papandayan

The Descent:

Definitely the fastest way to get back to the car park where you began your escape the previous day, is by following the mountain ridge straight down, and down it goes. Steep and in many areas very steep making this particular section seriously dangerous when the grounds are wet. However when we descended it was dry and the trail actually offered plenty of good grip. The track leads down the densely forested hillside and as such the many bushes and small trees offer welcome support to ensure a safe down hill journey. Due to the steepness of the path it will take less then 1-½ hours to get back to the starting point, where you will find several small food stalls that offer some simple refreshment. Trekking @ Gunung Papandayan

Some volcanic history:

Gunung Papandayan is a complex strata volcano. At the summit, there are four large craters that contain active fumaroles fields. An eruption in 1772 caused the northeast flank to collapse producing a catastrophic debris avalanche that destroyed 40 villages and killed nearly 3,000 people. The eruption truncated the volcano into a broad shape with two peaks and a flat area 1.1 km wide with the Alun-Alun crater in the middle, making the mountain look like a twin volcano. One of the peaks is called Gunung Papandayan and the other Gunung Puntang.  Since 1772, only small phreatic eruptions were recorded before an explosive eruption began in November 2002 and lasted for almost one year. More recently, the volcano has been quite active. On 14 August 2011 the volcano warning status was lifted from Level II, “Vigilant” (Indonesian: Waspada) to Level III, “Alert” (Indonesian: Siaga) following the emission of dangerous hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide gases. People, including tourists, were urged to remain at least 2 kilometers from the yellow craters. On Friday, September 2, 2011, the Indonesian volcanology and Geophysical Disaster Mitigation Center reported that numerous shallow volcanic earthquakes had been recorded along with other indications of volcanic activity. A spokesperson for the Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency noted that if Gunung Papandayan erupted, over 170,000 people living in five nearby sub districts (kecamatan) and in 20 villages could be affected. Of the people likely to be affected, it was expected that perhaps as many as 11,500 people might need to be evacuated. Hiking @ Gunung Papandayan


  • Elevation: 2656 meters
  • Location: West Java 100 km south of Bandung
  • Difficult Grade V3:  For the ascent, 4 for the descent, summit of Papandayan back to car park
  • Physical Challenge V3:
  • Hiking time:  5½ – 6 hours for round trip
  • Water source: Not recommended to drink the available water,  3 should be sufficient
  • Guide: Recommended but not essential
  • Permit: Registration essential at car park. Bring a copy of ID
  • Transport: Bandung – Garut by public buss, US$2.00 3 hours
  • Garut – Cisurupan by mini buss, US$0.50 1 hour
  • Cisurupan – Carpark Papandayan by Ojeg / Bike taxi, US$4.00, 45 minutes one-way
  • Accommodations: Plentiful available in Garut

 Direction to Gunung Papandayan

Trekking @ Indonesian Volcano Adventures


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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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