Photo: Smokin.

Gunung Papandayan

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Gunung Papandayan is one of Java’s most active volcanos and also justifiably the area’s top attraction—a wander around the otherworldly landscape with hissing hot water streams, boiling lakes, bubbling mud and jets of sulphur spewing out of the earth with the whooshing roar of a jet engine is simply out of this world.

A catastrophic eruption in 1772 killed thousands and devastated 40 villages causing the collapse of the volcano’s northeastern flank, evident today. The most recent eruption was reported in 2002 and minor activity periodically closes the area to visitors. Beware trekking here is not without risk—scalding jets and noxious gasses are genuine dangers. You can check latest activity here.

No swimming in the lake. Photo taken in or around Gunung Papandayan, Cipanas, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

No swimming in the lake. Photo: Sally Arnold

Gunung Papandayan sits about 30 kilometres southwest of Cipanas (Garut) reached via a steep and winding but scenic road. The mountain peaks at some 2,665 metres above sea level but most visitors don’t try to reach the summit and the casual visitor can simply walk along the paths, an easy 20 minutes from the main carpark to view the ethereal scene.

However, there are a range of interesting treks around the area for the more adventurous wanderer and it’s advisable to hire one of the friendly guides from the park headquarters as some parts of the volcano are extremely hazardous and unpredictable. This fascinating primal landscape incorporates four main craters with active fumarole fields, a colour-changing sulphuric lake, a ghostly forest of burnt out trees from the 2002 eruption and fields of pretty montane wildflowers including Javan edelweiss. It’s also possible to camp in the popular campground Pondok Salada (2,320 metres).

Just in case you didn’t know. Photo taken in or around Gunung Papandayan, Cipanas, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Just in case you didn’t know. Photo: Sally Arnold

Guide fees are 250,000 rupiah for a one-and-a-half hour trek or 350,000 rupiah for a two-and-a-half hour trek for groups of up to five. Camping fees are 105,000 rupiah per person for foreigners and 35,000 rupiah for Indonesians. Guides for camping cost 500,000 rupiah and porters 300,000 rupiah. Equipment sufficient for a group of four including tents, mattresses and sleeping bags can be hired for 300,000 rupiah and food can be supplied at 30,000 rupiah per meal.

Those wishing to climb to the summit of Papandayan are in for a tough five- to seven-hour return trek depending on fitness levels. Although not mandatory, all reports say that it would be foolhardy to attempt to hike to the summit without a guide as trails are not clearly marked and some sections of the hike can be dangerous. The altitudes here can get quite chilly and the smell of the sulphur is pretty strong so you may wish to pack a jacket and bring a face mask. The area is rocky, uneven underfoot and very exposed—slap on the sunscreen and a hat, bring water and wear appropriate footwear.

Other worldly. Photo taken in or around Gunung Papandayan, Cipanas, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Other worldly. Photo: Sally Arnold

Getting to the carpark of Gunung Papandayan is an adventure in itself and it hardly seems worth all the effort if you just go to check out the crater for 30 minutes. A better option is to hire a guide and take your time exploring this fascinating spot. Behind the guide office is another camping ground with some basic hut-style accommodation that sleeps five with share cold-water local-style bathrooms for 500,000 rupiah per night. There is also a large hot-spring swimming pool which can be enjoyed for 20,000 rupiah weekdays and 25,000 rupiah on weekends (10,000 rupiah less for kids).

Entry fee to the area for foreigners is a steep 200,000 rupiah weekdays and 300,000 weekends and holidays (20,000/30,000 rupiah for Indonesians). Parking fees are additional. A row of warungs selling snacks and drinks lines the carpark.

Spooky. Photo taken in or around Gunung Papandayan, Cipanas, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Spooky. Photo: Sally Arnold

If you only have time to see one sight around Cipanas, make it Gunung Papandayan and if you intend seeing others, save this captivating place for last. From Garut bus terminal, catch an angkot for the one-and-a-half hour journey to Cisurupan. At the intersection of the main Cisurupan road and the road heading to Papandayan, ojeks wait to ferry you to the crater.

Alternatively private transport can be hired from Cipanas, but make sure it has enough guts to get up the steep hill. If you plan to drive yourself, be wary, the windy mountains roads can be treacherous in the rain.

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Gunung Papandayan
30 kilometres southwest of Cipanas (Garut)
Admission: Entry by donation

Location map for Gunung Papandayan

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