East Java, Gunung Penanggungan

Written by on July 17, 2012 in Java Mountains with 0 Comments

East Java, Gunung Penanggungan



enanggungan is a small now-dormant volcano situated just to the north of the huge Arjuna-Welirang range. It used to be called Gunung Pawitra because of the fog which often covers the peak so make sure you set out early to reach the top before the cloud rolls in! Accessibility is not a problem as it is only a short distance from the main road connecting Surabaya with the pleasant city of Malang. It is a particularly revered mountain and has many ancient Hindu temple sites on its slopes – as many as eighty according to Dutch archaeological investigations conducted in the 1930s. This whole area is a fascinating reminder of Java’s pre-Islam history and the Majapahit kingdom.

There are several approaches to the peak and they each have their advantages and disadvantages. Because of the abundance of accommodation in the mountain resorts of Trawas and Tretes, many people choose to start south or west of the peak and this is arguably where the best views of the mountain are to be found. A good budget place to stay is PPLH Environmental Education Centre, west of the mountain, where you can also find guides.

The best-known starting point for the hike is in the west at Candi Jolotundo, a temple built in approximately 977AD and one of the oldest and most sacred. The temple is a very popular place for Indonesians to visit and bathe and there is information and a small office booth where you will almost certainly be able to locate a guide for climbing. This is important because the trail is not always very clear and there are numerous farm tracks which can add to the confusion. The route from the north (see below) is shorter and clearer but the Jolotundo route passes many sites of great interest. Allow 4 hours to reach the top and 2 and a half to descend. Remember suncream for this trip because Penanggungan is an unusually unforested peak so there is very little shade to be found.

The trail from Jolotundo leads up through plantations and beyond various farm huts. As the trail leads onwards up the hillside, the prominent subsidiary peak Bekel comes into view to the left of the path. There are many farm trails here so if in doubt ask one of the friendly farmers for help. The route is subtly marked with red arrows (and red crosses to indicate the wrong way) painted on rocks and trees. After you have ascended beyond the farmland, the trail gets steeper and less clear. However, there are several ancient temples on the higher slopes, at intervals of approximately 200 metres, which more than make up for the overgrown path. These Hindu temples are very interesting monuments and, considering the steep, overgrown and narrow trail, probably not often visited.

They feature central stairways and terraced walkways with a few stone carvings. Each temple has a small grassy lawn infront of it which is neat and in good condition – evidence that local people do care for these relics. There are also old metal name-posts but sadly the names are no longer visible. The highest one is called Candi Sinta. If the weather is good, you should be able to see the jagged outline of Gunung Kelut/Kelud to the south. Despite its relatively low height, Kelut is one of Indonesia’s most ferocious volcanoes and its outline alone is enough to convince most people that it is a truly volatile place. Beyond the temples is a small cave. From here, the top of Penanggungan is clearly visible and it should take you only about another 30 minutes.

The grassy peak is a lovely spot to sit down for lunch. In fine conditions you should be able to see Arjuna, Liman, and perhaps Semeru and Argopuro. The shallow grassy bowl-like depression just below the peak is all that remains of the crater. The summit area is an almost symmetrical shape, and pretty much aligned to the cardinal points – probably one of the reasons why ancient people regarded this mountain as being of such great importance.

Return the same way to Jolotundo, or alternatively traverse the peak by descending down a clear trail to the north. After only two hours you will reach very attractive farmed woodland above a small – and very rural – village known as Talago (phonetically). From here, a rocky but tarmacked road snakes its way eastwards towards Sidoarjo and the main Malang-Surabaya road. Finding an ojek (motorcycle taxi) to take you back to the main road should not be too difficult.

If you prefer to ascend from the north it is recommended that you seek a guide at nearby Jedong temple.

Bagging information by Daniel Quinn.


Getting there

Lots of public transport available between Surabaya and Tretes. You may need an ojek to the starting point.


Plenty in Trawas and Tretes, or PPLH Environmental Education Centre, west of the mountain.


None required but take a photocopy of your passport photo page just incase.

Water sources

Unknown – take sufficient supplies with you.

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