Billed as one of West Java's premier attractions, this perpetually steaming cauldron offers one of the easiest opportunities to scale a volcano in all of Indonesia due to well-developed tourist infrastructure.
The downside to this is that it is a very popular destination for local visitors, particularly on weekends when you will have to fight your way past people wanting to take your photo.
The main carpark is located at the edge of the main crater, Kawah Ratu, and allows visitors to step from their vehicles and immediately see the spectacular panorama. This brooding crater is particularly active and it is not uncommon to see (and smell) sulphurous steam billowing from the bowels of the earth. This scene mixed with the occasional passing cloud makes for an eerie atmosphere, especially if you make it past the carpark to a vantage point away from the crowds.
From the carpark, it is possible to walk to a stunning neighbouring crater called Kawah Upas, where a small forest sits next to a picturesque lake. From this vantage point, it is possible to see both Kawah Upas and Kawah Ratu -- probably the best but least visited vantage point. From this second crater, the more adventurous are able to circumnavigate Kawah Ratu by scaling the nearby peak and making their way back to the main carpark. The less adventurous will simply walk back the way they came.
For those on foot, it's possible to walk from the main carpark to a third, equally-impressive crater, Kawah Domas. The main reason to visit this crater is to dip your legs into one of the sulphurous hot pools which have stone seats built around them. It's not glamourous, but legend has it your skin will come out much smoother.
The weather at Tangkuban Parahu ranges from cool to downright cold. Temperatures overnight often dip close to freezing point and early morning visits are likely to be very cold indeed. On our visits during the middle of the day, it hasn't been cold enough to need long sleeves and pants, but those with thin blood are well-advised to at least pack a light jacket for when the clouds roll in and block out the sun.
How to get there
Tangkuban Parahu is easier to get to by public transport than most Indonesian attractions, although it is by no means a stress-free affair. Step one is to catch a Lembang-bound angkot from Stasiun Hall angkot terminal at the south side of the main train station for 6,500 rupiah. Upon arriving in Lembang, there are two options for getting to the main Tangkuban Parahu carpark.
The first and most convenient is to flag a yellow Cikole-bound angkot and charter the vehicle to the top and back to Lembang for approximately 50,000 rupiah per person -- bargain like your life depends on it as the touts are notoriously eager to strip you of every last rupiah. If you board a Cikole-bound angkot without initiating a charter (ie expecting to pay local fare), it will stop short of your preferred destination -- our experience is that drivers will then take it upon themselves to make the journey into a charter anyway, meaning you will have hassles with price.
The second and probably best option for those on a budget is to catch a black Subang minibus from Lembang for 5,000 rupiah. This bus drives directly past the entrance to Tangkuban Parahu. It is also possible to catch the Subang bus from the centre of Bandung as it passes through on the way from Terminal Leuwi Panjang, although you'll need to stand on the side of Jalan Pasirkaliki 300 metres west of the train station and keep your eyes peeled for the black minibus.
From the entrance of Tangkuban Parahu, it is a punishing hour's walk uphill to the main carpark or if you're lucky, someone will offer to drive you to the top for a decent price. If you are patient, ojeks will slowly emerge and offer to take you to the top for 10,000 rupiah per person. Our experience of getting to Tangkuban Parahu by public transport is that your only hassle will be regarding the price of the different legs of the journey.
Use the prices listed here as a guide and bargain accordingly. Alternatively, head to the train station and seek out a tout to drive you on the back of a motorbike for approximately 100,000 rupiah for the return journey.