The peak of the mountain itself stands at some 2675 metres above sea level, but most people don't try and reach the summit, instead preferring to gaze upon the otherworldly crater 20 minutes' walk from the main carpark.
And otherworldly it is, with hot water streams, boiling lakes and jets of sulphur spewing out of the earth. For the casual visitor, it is not necessary to have a guide to view the crater. However, for the more adventurous wanderer, it is advisable to speak to one of the friendly men at the carpark and ask them to take you around as some parts of the volcano are extremely dangerous and unpredictable.
Those wishing to climb to the summit of Papandayan are in for a 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.
Around the area you will see local farmers hauling goods back and forth on specially kitted out motorbikes. The paths they follow are seemingly impassable until you see these farmers' ingenuity at work. The farms are at the back of the crater and the main crops are tea, flowers and potatoes.
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 to take you around the crater to point out all the different interesting aspects of the area.
Starting at the bus terminal in Garut, catch an angkot for the one-hour journey to Cisurupan for 7,000 rupiah. At the intersection of the main Cisurupan road and the road heading to Papandayan is an ojek stand. An ojek from here to Papandayan and back costs 30,000 rupiah, but they will charge extra if you want them to wait for an extended period of time in the parking area.
Those using their own transport will have to negotiate a shoddy road from Cisurupan to Papandayan and in the rain it can be treacherous. Hiring a motorbike in Cipanas is possible for 70,000 rupiah per day and is a good budget option if travelling as a couple.