East Java, Gunung Lawu

Written by on July 16, 2012 in Java Mountains with 0 Comments

East Java, Gunung Lawu



This Ribu has two excellent paths to the top from the south, with the two trailheads just 800 metres apart. It is perhaps Java’s easiest 3,000m peak, especially since the paths starts at an elevation of 1,800m. It’s a great hike for those new to hiking in Indonesia. The closest town to the starting point is Tawangmanggu, about an hour’s bus ride from the city of Solo. Tawangmanggu has plenty of accommodation which is probably worth making use of so that you can get an early start the next morning. Many of the roadside warungs at the trailhead will also let trekkers bed down for the night for a modest fee.

The trailhead for the “main” route is about 10 kilometres east from Tawangmanggu at Cemoro Sewu, just over the East Java border. You are requested to register here. It is a very popular hike with Indonesian students and there is even a warung (shop) and well (for holy water), Sendang Drajad, near the top. It is possible to climb and descend in one day (or to climb through the night, setting out at around 10pm to be sure of reaching the top for sunrise), but unless you are both incredibly fit and in a hurry, you will probably need to camp one night on the mountain.

The mountain lies on the border of Central and East Java and sunsets over Merapi and Merbabu are nothing less than spectacular. Apparently, the last king of Majapahit Empire in the 15th century, King Brawijaya V, retreated here – there is a prominent cave, Sumur Jolotundo, on the way up – and accordingly the mountain has significant traditional and spiritual significance for the Javanese.

There Cemoro Sewu trail, which cuts up Lawu’s eastern flank, is roughly paved with stones the whole way up, with cut steps and handrails in places. This makes it an attractive route during the wet season, as it does not get slippy. The route is steep, however, and the rocky surface is not the most pleasant to walk on. There are 5 posts (pos) on the way up, and it takes approximately one hour between each: Taman Sari Bawah (‘lower garden’), Taman Sari Atas (‘upper garden’), Pos Penggik (near the spring Sendang Panguripan) and Cokro Suryo which is a superb viewpoint. Beyond Cokro Suryo are some small cottages, Pesanggrahan Argo Dalem, and the warung where it is possible to spend the night, and a fifteen minute walk above the cottages is the peak, which is known as Argo Dumilah. There is a large cement column and spectacular views in all directions. The best places to camp are just below the cement pillar on the peak or lower down towards the cottages where porters usually to spend the night. It gets very cold near the top and unprepared climbers have died on Lawu so take extra layers of clothing with you.

After admiring the sunrise over the peaks of East Java, you can descend the same way in approximately 4 hours.

The second route starts at Cemoro Kandang, a short stroll west along the road from Cemoro Sewu, just across the bridge that marks the provincial border. There is also an entry post here where you are required to register.

The Cemoro Kandang route is longer than the Cemoro Sewu trail, about 12 kilometres as opposed to 8 kilometres. However, it is in many ways a more attractive route – the climb is less steep, thanks to a large number of switchbacks; it passes through pleasant forest, and offers more views in its middle sections. It is also a “real” trail, rather than a paved path.

From the check-post the trail rises relatively gently through the forest to Post 1, where there is a hut. Beyond here conditions remain similar until Post 2, another hut where there is also space to camp. It takes between one and two hours to reach Post 2 from the road. In this first section the trail is very well defined, although it is quite badly eroded in places, and muddy during the wet season.

Beyond Post 2 the trail cuts west, and begins to wind its way around the steep western flank of the mountain, passing another unnumbered post with a shelter. Although the forest is quite thick here there are views through the trees down to Tawangmanggu, and, on a clear day, to Solo and Gunung Merapi and Merbabu.

The trail rises up the mountain in a long series of switchbacks, which makes the going easy. Post 3 lies about halfway up the main climb, and beyond here the forest thins and the views become more expansive. The trail is well defined all the way up, though there are places to cut corners on the switchbacks if you’re in a hurry.

The ground levels out at Post 4, and the trail begins to cut around to the northern side of the mountain, remaining level, and actually descending in places. Around 45 minutes from Post 4 a metal sign marks a junction – straight ahead the trail continues to meet the Cemoro Sewu route at Pesanggrahan Argo Dalem, while to the right a short, rough path leads to the summit in around 10 minutes.

Despite being longer, the gentler climbs mean that the Cemoro Kandang route takes about the same time as the main Cemoro Sewu trail. It is possible to reach the summit in under six hours if moving relatively quickly. However, this route is less practical in wet weather (in early 2012 there were a lot of broken branches and fallen trees along the trail, the result of recent high winds, though they did not impede progress).

Given that the two trailheads are so close together, ascending by one route and descending by the other is an attractive option. This would also allow you to make a full circuit of the peak. Alternatively, if you’re feeling very adventurous, head northwest to visit the ancient Candi Ceto temple and then take an ojek or angkot back round to Tawangmanggu (30 minutes). If doing the latter, make sure you have a guide who knows the way as it is much less used than the ascent route from Cemoro Sewu. The Ceto trail strikes north from near Pesanggrahan Argo Dalem and is around 16 kilometres in length.

Bagging information by Daniel Quinn, updated by Tim Hannigan (February 2012).


Getting there

There are regular flights and train services from Jakarta to Solo (Surakarta). From there, take public transport to Tawangmanggu (approximately 90 minutes).


Tawangmanggu offers a small selection of places to stay.


Register at Cemoro Sewu.

Water sources

Available near the summit – both at the holy well and at the warung (small shop).

Country: Indonesia

Subregion Name: Java (Indonesia)

Volcano Number: 0603-26=

Volcano Type: Stratovolcano

Volcano Status: Historical

Last Known Eruption: 1885 

Summit Elevation: 3265 m 10,712 feet

Latitude: 7.625°S 7°37’30″S

Longitude: 111.192°E 111°11’30″E

The massive compound stratovolcano Lawu contains an older, deeply eroded volcano on the north separated by a crescentic rift valley from the younger Lawu volcano of Holocene age (van Bemmelen, 1949b). Parasitic crater lakes and pyroclastic cones are found at the eastern side of the rift. The younger Lawu volcano contains eroded crater rims; its latest activity, including construction of a lava dome, occurred at the south end. A fumarolic area is located on the south flank at 2550 m. The only reported historical eruption from Lawu took place in 1885, when rumblings and light ashfall were reported. A major eruption reported from Lawu in 1752 was from neighboring Kelut volcano.

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