The Dieng Plateau is the stunning and underrated home to a cluster of Hindu temples and natural wonders that attract tourists from right around the world. Most of the temples were built in a period of intense Hindu activity in Indonesia between the eight and ninth centuries, similar to the Gedong Songo temples in Bandungan, 40 kilometres south of Semarang.
The geological activity in the area has caused deaths in the past with volcanic eruptions, poison gas discharges and explosive boiling mud all claiming their victims. It's this geological activity, however, that provides the area with geothermal electricity and a source of income via the hundreds of tourists who come here every week to observe these quirks of nature.
Although the temples and the geological features are the primary reason most people choose to visit Dieng, the landscape within which they are located is absolutely breathtaking. The plateau is in fact a remnant of a collapsed ancient volcano, known as a caldera, and is located at 2,100 metres above sea level with the surrounding hills rising to more than 2,500 metres. Every spare scrap of land is cropped with a mixture of potatoes and carrots creating an amazing patchwork in every direction. This effect is particularly noticeable on the stunning drive up from Wonosobo, where frequent landslides occur due to the extremely steep slopes on which farms operate.
Accommodation in Dieng is of a generally good standard, although prices here are slightly higher than other places in Java. One of the reasons is that hot water is included in rooms as a standard feature due to Dieng being a cold place. Daytime temperatures rarely reach 20 degrees Celsius, while overnight temperatures regularly drop below five degrees and sometimes drop low enough to cause frosts, much to the consternation of the local farmers.
For this reason, it is absolutely imperative to select accommodation with sufficient bedding – a quilt plus a blanket is recommended as a blanket alone is simply not warm enough. In the same vein, clothing in Dieng needs to be appropriate and long pants and long sleeves are a must unless making a fleeting daytime visit. In Dieng, it rains a lot too. So much so that outside of July, August and September it's likely that on any given day it will rain, meaning a rain jacket is also of use.
Dieng is the sort of place you can come to on a daytrip from Yogyakarta if you use your own transport or explore more thoroughly if you choose to stay locally and explore on foot. There is a natural loop containing the major attractions which can be walked over the course of half a day, with the outlying sights requiring the use of a motorbike. Missing these outlying sights, however, should not detract in any way from the Dieng experience as it's the sights on the inner circuit that are most inspiring.
At the entrance to Dieng is a T-intersection with a sign welcoming visitors to the plateau. This intersection is what we refer to as the main Dieng intersection and is in essence the centre of town as far as visitors are concerned.
A simple police post is located in town along with very rudimentary medical facilities but no ATM.
Internet is available via 3G on the Telkomsel network.
By Adam Poskitt.