Trekking up an active volcano and staring down into a smouldering crater is the ultimate in adventure travel, and with some of the worlds most impressive volcanoes, the ring of fire in Java Indonesia is one of the best places in the world to tick off this impressive bucket list experience!
As if the beaches, the culture, the temples and the scenery weren’t enough for you Indonesia has a wealth of once in a lifetime experiences to keep even the most ardent adventure traveller satisfied, not least of which is the abundant options to hike up an active volcano or two!
Let’s face it, even if you aren’t the biggest fan of hiking or trekking, the chance to head up to the edge of an active volcano and peer inside a smoking crater is a pretty damn awesome thing to be able to do. Just to be able to boast that you have seen inside an active volcano is an experience worthy of anyone’s bucket list!
Luckily this seemingly impossible adventure is a lot easier to achieve than many people can even imagine, and with over 17,000 islands right in the middle of the infamous ring of fire and at least 130 active volcanoes, Indonesia offers any intrepid traveller countless opportunities to do just that.
So whether you want to see the stark alien landscapes of dust plains and stunning sulphur lakes or feel the power of bubbling lava in a crater just a few feet away from you, Indonesia has a lot to offer.
The more touristy option.
Unfortunately with the sheer wealth of active and dormant volcanoes on offer it was probably inevitable that at least some of them were going to be taken over by mass tourism. Smaller volcanoes like Kawah Ratu near Bandung offer travellers the chance to hike or get minibuses up to the crater itself, and are filled with daytrippers taking the easy option and touts taking advantage of the tourist dollars on offer.
The nearby peak of Kawah Putih offers travellers a similar easy option to visit one of the most unique landscapes in Java, with a stunning sulphur lake surrounded by a hard sulphur coated wasteland. This is a far less touristy option than Kawah Ratu and doesn’t have the tourist stalls surrounding the peak, but still offers travellers an easy option to see the peak by having minibuses transporting teams of tourists up to the crater from the main car park further below.
Mount Bromo however is perhaps one of Indonesia’s premier tourist attractions and has one of the most horrendously mismanaged tourist trails I have ever seen, but it is also one of the most rewarding views on the planet if you can put up with the sheer hell you have to go through to get up there for the sunrise tour.
The good thing about these touristy options is that they make it easy for many backpackers and tourists alike to see a volcano up close relatively easy and with little effort involved. Not everyone relishes the idea of hiking up a mountain in the tropical heat after all.
Off the beaten track.
But for those independent travellers who crave a bit of adventure and love a challenge, Indonesia has you covered too.
It has to be said that if you are attempting any type of hike independently then you should be thouroughly prepared and knowledgeable in what you are doing, if you aren’t then you should hire a guide. There are many trails which are easy to get to and hike up for novices, and there are plenty of options for hiring guides and tailoring your own trips.
The key is to be sensible and use your common sense in what you are doing.
One of the best things about this region is that there are so many options for all abilities, from the full touristy experience to the full independent experience and everything in between, so by using your common sense there are plenty of ways to discover some of the most stunning and alien landscapes on the planet independently and on your own.
With so many volcanoes within stone throwing distance across the length of Indonesia. it is simply a matter of choosing one, getting there and then enjoying the hike and the scenery.
Mount Semeru in East Java is one of the largest volcanoes in all of Indonesia, and there are plenty of options to take relatively easy one or two day hikes to reach the summit. The last part of the hike to the crater itself gets a little more challenging but shouldn’t be too much of a problem to those in fair shape.
I personally much prefer this type of volcano exploration, as you can take your pick of any one of the outstanding volcanoes in the region and get away from the touristy crowds. Of course the options are always there to tailor your own tour as much as you like with transport options to and from most trails easy to arrange, but with plenty of well marked trails to certain peaks you can travel independently as much as you like as well, with no one else around and only your own effort to rely on to reach the craters.
Guides are often a good idea (and by that read extremely highly advised) and are relatively inexpensive to hire for a day or two. They aren’t technically mandatory for many trails but are often highly recommended, especially if you aren’t used to trekking or are trekking at night when trails can become practically invisible. Hiking up Mount Merapi, one of the most active volcanoes in Java is a perfect example of this. Guides aren’t mandatory in any way, and if you hike up on your own the path is clearly marked out and you will even very likely pass a guided tour group arranged from Yogyakarta or Selo (the jumping off points for most treks up the mountain) anyway, but getting yourself an independent guide can add to the experience and ensure your safety, especially if you plan on doing any night trekking.
The same can be said of the Dieng Plateau, a marshy crater in the Dieng volcanic complex. You can get transport here directly from any tour operator in Yogyakarta but it is far less touristy than many other options and has plenty of great hiking opportunities from the small town of Magelang, and it is so easy to get away from the crowds and enjoy some truly stunning scenery if you want to go hiking on your own.
These examples barely scratch the surface of the volcanic craters and mountains that are available for you to explore in the region. With the sheer amount of volcanoes in Indonesia, there really is something to suit everyone here. Whether you want distant peaks that make you work to see them or you want to take the easy option and get a lift up to some of the most alien environments you will ever see, Indonesia has it all for you.
And that is what I absolutely love about Indonesia, whether you are in Jakarta, the middle of Java or as far as Bali, you can find something to suit you. You can be as adventurous and independent as you want, choose something easier and organised for you or go somewhere in between and tailor your own adventure. Regardless of how you do it, hiking up an active volcano and peering inside the crater is an item that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
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This article was written in partnership with the Indonesian Ministry Of Tourism as part of the #WonderfulIndonesia campaign. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.