The gem of East Java: Tangkuban Perahu. This semi-dormant volcano often makes the rounds on news channels every few decades for its rumbling activity, with the last eruption taking place in 2013. The exciting natural wonder captivates millions of visitors, both locals and tourists alike. A walk through the park’s trails will lend itself to all manners of activities for photographers, nature lovers, and foodies. Apart from the vendors and trails, there are also three separate craters connected to Mount Tangkuban Perahu, each with its own feeling and scenery worth exploring.
The largest crater of Tangkuban Perahu, aptly named “Kawah Ratu”, or “Queen Crater”, is the main attraction. When you first arrive in the park, you will drive up a long winding road that pulls you onto the peak of the mountain. Once you arrive you can easily walk over to the wooden fence and overlook the huge sulfurous crater that lines the side of the parking lot. Kawah Ratu is host to a long hiking trail that snakes around more than half of the crater allowing splendid views from various elevations and vantage points.
The trail will lead you through a variety of vendors selling anything from ripoff Disney t-shirts and freshly picked strawberries, to locally crafted wooden instruments, just to name a few. Your choice of souvenirs will be varied and any visitor is guaranteed to find a unique trinket to bring home to loved ones. The further down the hiking trail you get, the more infrequently you’ll find the vendors, until finally you’ll be left with a quiet, rocky trail that leaves nothing to the ears but local birds and the sound of your walking. Be sure to look down and get shots of the spewing sulfurous steam emanating from the bottom of Kawah Ratu. The noxious gas is a reason much of the vegetation doesn’t grow along the crumbling rocks and sand that make up the crater walls. Trips down to the bottom of the pit are not allowed due to the gas.
The second crater, Kawah Upas, can be found far down the main hiking trail that heads north-east from the parking lot. You will hit a locked gate and a park attendant who is there to manage hired guides that take visitors down to the secondary crater. Kawah Upas is a smaller, flat plain. It is a scenic and often calm area that rarely feels crowded since you have to pay for a guide. Unfortunately, the park doesn’t publish rates for guides to take you down, as they charge on a rather informal level. This inevitably means inflated prices for non-national tourists, but you can expect to pay somewhere around 150,000 IDR or 12 USD to take a trip down.
If you’re looking to spend some time in the hot springs, you can arrange to visit Kawah Domas, or Domas Crater. This crater has spots where you can dip your feet, receive a mud bath massage, or even buy eggs boiled right in the hot springs themselves as a snack! Again, you will need to hire a guide, although you can choose from two different paths. One path is rather steep, originating from the top of the main park by the Queen Crater. Be wary of taking this trail if it’s been raining lately or if you are not up for some cardio and a trail that is hard on your knees. Remember that, while the path runs down, you will have to climb back up to leave! There is a second trail that runs rather flat, with a slightly steep incline right before the crater area. This is more suitable for those who want an easy trek out to the spot.
Whichever path you take, the guides here will cost you about 150,000 to 200,000 IDR (12 to 15 USD) depending on demand and how much they think they can charge you. Rates are not published anywhere and this is very much intentional. If you attempt to go down without a guide, you may be physically blocked. However, should you choose to go don’t be afraid to negotiate and ensure with your guide that this is a flat fee, upfront. There are plenty of stories of guides attempting to press tourists for extra cash at the end of the trip, particularly if you spend more than an hour with them. Also note that while there are English speaking guides, they are rather limited and you will need to be patient. Learning a few negotiating Bahasa Indonesia phrases would not hurt here, like “nggak makasih” (no thank you) or “tolong” (please).
Visiting the park
It’s suggested that you visit as early as possible for a few different reasons. First off, the park gets incredibly crowded during the day, especially on weekends. It is almost always packed with a variety of visitors including large school groups, families, and friends. Secondly, the environment will shift throughout the day. Early on, the rolling fog that envelopes the mountainside is at a minimum. As the day and temperature warms up, much of the fog can dip into the crater, obscuring views and the ability to see the bottom. Be sure to wear some sunscreen and long clothing. It can get particularly cold at at such high elevations and closer proximity to the sun means more UV rays for your skin to soak up. There are also tons of food vendors on site! Try some local Indonesian favorites, from small dishes to entire meals.
There are different rates to visit the park depending on the day of the week, and if you are a local or tourist. If you happen to be in Indonesia on a Work Permit or KITAS, have this on hand to establish yourself as a domestic visitor. However, the shorter the duration of your Work Permit, the more likely the park guards will be to reserve the right to charge you as a foreigner. The price difference seems rather significant, but considering the hourly wages that foreigners generally make versus locals is worth keeping in mind.
The prices at as October 2016 are:
- Weekday for domestic visitors: 20,000 IDR / 1.50 USD
- Weekday for foreign visitors: 200,000 IDR / 15 USD
- Weekends for domestic visitors: 30.000 IDR / 2 USD
- Weekends for foreign visitors: 300,000 IDR / 23 USD
Don’t miss Tangkuban Perahu when on the Indonesian island of Java!
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