Awesome crater lake
Kawah Putih is a staggeringly beautiful and somewhat eerie mist-shrouded, highly acidic lake which fills a vast dormant volcanic crater cradled in the highlands around 50 kilometres south of central Bandung near the resort town of Ciwidey.
Despite the literal name of “White Crater” the sulphuric waters glow with an almost iridescent milky turquoise colour graduating to sulphuric yellow at the lakes edge with white finally creeping into the surrounding cliffs. The smell of sulphur permeates and wisps of smoke rise from the lake. The contrast of blackened naked trees eking out a living in this stark unforgiving landscape adds to the unearthly ambience (we appreciate why some locals consider this place haunted), only to be broken by hordes of selfie-stick-wielding domestic tourists.
This striking scene is not unexpectedly a major crowd puller, however fear not, the rabble are easily avoided if you wander a little along the paths around the crater’s edge, although we can’t guarantee all your photos will be people free. For a small additional fee (10,000 rupiah), you can venture out along a pontoon that juts into the centre of the lake, though we found the views marginally more breathtaking from the higher viewpoints. It’s possible to climb to the summit of the mountain, Gunung Patuha (2,434 metres) and here you’ll more likely find solitude.
The lake reportedly has a pH of 0.5–1.3 (that’s pretty acidic), so it’s probably not wise to sick your toe in the water to see how tingly it is, and be careful around the waters edge, chances are falling in is not good for you either. A few shelters dot the landscape and beside the lake is the remnants of an old sulphur mine, apparently from colonial days.
The lake’s elevation is around 2,200 metres which means it can get decidedly chilly, so bring a jacket. The sulphur smell wasn’t overpowering on our visit, but things change and volcanos are notoriously fickle, so you may wish to pack a face mask or scarf to cover your face too, although plenty of sellers offer masks for sale (at slightly inflated prices).
If you have worked up an appetite, warungs in the car park do a brisk business and offer a host of local specialities, although if you come midweek, your options are more limited.
Buton Backpackers: 14A Jalan Buton, Bandung; T: (0224) 238 958; (0877) 1474 2756; http://butonbackpackerlodge.com
Pinisi Backpacker: 84 Jalan Pasirkaliki, 92/6A Gang Musaen, Bandung; T: (0228) 686 8610; (0817) 502 0123; http://pinisibackpacker.com
To reach Kawah Putih from Bandung, the often traffic-clogged journey (seriously, avoid going on weekends), is rescued from being a hideous experience by the scenic views and the opportunity to stop for a feast of strawberries or mulberries at one of the many pick-it-yourself farms and the most convenient way to do so is on a day tour. These often combine Situ Patenggang and Kawah Rengganis, although if you’ve plenty of time up your sleeve and the budget is tight it’s possible by public transport.
By public transport, from Central Bandung, take a green Kalapa–Dago angkot to Kalapa Terminal (5,000 rupiah), then a yellow Kalapa–Cibaduyut angkot to Leuwi Panjang Terminal (5,000 rupiah), followed by an angkot to Ciwidey (10,000 rupiah). A yellow Ciwidey–Patenggang angkot will drop you near Kawah Putih for 10,000 rupiah (they will probably ask you to charter for a higher price). On a good day with decent connections this should take around three hours each way. Make sure you begin your return journey back to Bandung by 14:00 to make the required connections to get back to town. Going to Kawah Putih by public transport leaves little time to see the other nearby sights, which we think are worthwhile—if you can afford it, do consider taking a tour.
We went on a day tour with Buton Backpackers by motorbike which included petrol and driver, but not entrance fees for 250,000 rupiah. Pinisi Backpackers offer similar motorbike tours and Buton Backpackers also offer the trip by car for 650,000 (for a maximum of five people). Kawah Putih is possibly the most popular site visited from Bandung by foreign tourists and if you have limited time, it is a good choice as on a day trip you can take advantage of the three-in-one experience with the easily accessible nearby sights, but if you have more time, be sure to visit Gunung Tangkuban Parahu, an active volcano in Bandung’s north.
Upon arrival, we paid our entry fee at the small booth prior to the crater entrance, and also paid for entrance fees for Situ Patenggang, a pretty nearby lake and also at Kawah Rengganis, a set of natural hot springs. Once you arrive at the parking area, it’s another five kilometre to the crater. If you’ve come by private car, it’s possible to drive for a 150,000 rupiah fee (cars only, not motorbikes) or jump on the frequent (but not particularly comfortable) orange shuttles for 15,000 rupiah per person for the return trip (both payable earlier at the ticket booth).
Address: 50 kilometres south of Bandung
Coordinates (for GPS): 107º24'16.87" E, 7º10'0.84" S
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Admission: Kawah Putih alone: 75,000 rupiah for foreigners and 20,000 rupiah for locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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