Photo: Plantations outside Bandung.

Geological wonders around Garut, Java

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One of the great things about Java is that it’s home to an intense concentration of geological activity due its location on the rim of fire. This means frequent earthquakes, regular volcanic eruptions and an abundance of interesting active geological sites. Garut is one area on the island that in particular punches above its weight when it comes to geological activity.

At 2818m above sea level, Gunung Cikuray dominates the surrounding area

At 2,818m above sea level, Gunung Cikuray dominates the surrounding area.

Located approximately 70 kilometres southeast of the West Java’s Bandung, the city of Garut itself has little, if anything, of interest to hold the attention of foreign tourists. But step out of town and into the rolling hills nearby and the story changes. Nearby Garut is the small village of Cipanas which is famed for its hot springs. The village is so famous that a diverse range of hotels has sprung up to accommodate people wishing to spend more time at the springs than in Garut. Most of these hotels feature bathrooms that directly pipe in spring water to their baths, allowing weary travellers to rest their aching bones before yet another punishing bus ride further down the road to Pangandaran.

Aside from the hot springs, there really is nothing else of interest in Cipanas. But move further afield once more and you can find more geological wonders at Kawah Kamojang, the site of a local geothermal electricity plant and more importantly for tourists a range of hot lakes, gushing steam vents and bubbling water pits. These sites really are worth visiting, but a lack of public transport to the area prevents many foreign tourists from making the journey.

Hot lake @ Kawah Kamojang

Hot lake @ Kawah Kamojang.

Further south from Kawah Kamojang is Gunung Papandayan, a beast of a volcano that has erupted in recent history with devastating effect. Standing at 2,665 metres above sea level, this monster volcano erupted as recently as 2002 and has been on eruption standby during the past year or so. All this activity doesn’t seem to bother the local guides, however, and they are more than happy to take you around the crater which is far below the volcano summit and not far from the car park. In fact, use of a guide is highly recommended due to the unpredictable nature of gas vents and gushing hot water. Prices of guides are highly negotiable, but expect to pay no more than 150,000 rupiah for a three-hour toddle around the moon-like crater. Again, this attraction is not well-serviced by public transport and many foreign tourists don’t make it here.

Like the surface of the moon -- Gunung Papandayan

Like the surface of the moon -- Gunung Papandayan.

Aside from Kawah Kamojang and Gunung Papandayan, a number of other climbable volcanoes of note are in the Garut area, but these are far less popular and very few foreign tourists at all make it to volcanoes such as Talagabodas and Cikuray.

While it’s possible to get close to many of these geological sites via public transport, there is no public transport right to the carpark of any of them. This means that if you want to catch public transport to the nearest drop-off point to these sites, you will have to use an ojek for the final leg, which will usually set you back in the region of 30-50,000 rupiah per person. A much better option is to rent your own motorbike in Cipanas for about 60,000 rupiah and make the journey there yourself. It’s faster, more flexible and cheaper.

This is why public transport doesn’t make it to Gunung Papandayan

This is why public transport doesn’t make it to Gunung Papandayan.

The Garut area really is fantastic and well worth a couple of days of exploring. If you’re thinking of heading there, let us know in the comments and we’ll try and help with more detailed information.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Bandung.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Bandung.
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