Otherworldly landscapes and cool temperatures, it’s hard to imagine such places exist less than 3 hours away by plane, in the many islands of Indonesia. And we’ve scoped out some hiking spots, perfect for a short adventure of adrenaline-charged visual delights. Bonus? You get the bragging rights to with the new heights you’ve scaled!
For the Beginners
Mount Bromo, East Java
Feel like a hobbit in the Lord of the Rings on a journey to Mount Doom with a hike up this active volcano. Standing at 2,329 metres in East Java’s Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, Mount Bromo is not the tallest by far, but it’s one of the most popular attractions in Indonesia.
Your day starts at 3am as you head to the nearby Mount Pananjakan to catch the famed sunrise over Mount Bromo. Thereafter, you have to cross the Sea of Sand, a vast plain of sandy ash, to reach the man-made staircase that leads to the top. It’s a friendly 2-hour hike (if you’re not that out of shape), and renting a horse from the locals to cross the sandy plain helps. Don’t be too engrossed in staring into the volcano mouth as the ridge at the crater lip is just wide enough for 2 people to walk at once. While there’s a barrier separating you from the smoking volcano but some adrenaline junkies venture further around the edge, past the barrier just for kicks.
Mount Kelimutu, East Nusa Tenggara
Emerald green and dazzling turquoise, sometimes russet red or stark ebony – these myriad colours are characteristic of the ethereal Tri-Coloured Lakes of Mount Kelimutu. They’re so unearthly that they look like space shots, and the locals believe the lakes are resting places of dead spirits.
The unique natural phenomenon of the colours seemingly changing – which is due to geothermal going-ons beneath – is the main reason people make a beeline for the town of Flores, on the island of East Nusa Tenggara, east of Lombok. The trek can easily be done in 2 hours on a well-marked trail. Although the sunrise view may be slightly marred with the vast number of tourists, the beauty of the lakes, with the sun glinting off the water surface and plumes of smoke rising from the crater, more than makes up for it.
Mount Ijen, East Java
Known as Kawah Ijen to the locals, this 2,799 metre tall volcano boasts the world’s largest acid lake at its crater. The gorgeous turquoise lake is home to a sulphur mining operation where workers carry basket loads of sulphur ranging from 80 – 120kg on their shoulders. The hiking trail is relatively smooth and while it gets progressively steeper, it’s nothing a pair of sturdy trail shoes can’t handle. Besides, you’ll feel extra motivated when you see families with young children trooping on too. At the summit, you can tip one of the sure-footed sulphur workers to show you the safest path down to the lake for a great photo op. Go prepared with a face mask or scarf to cover your face if you don’t want to be inhaling the stench of rotten eggs from all that billowing sulphur smoke!
Tip: Set off at night. You’ll experience an amazing natural phenomenon of vivid blue flames when the sulphur gas from the volcano combust upon contact with the air.
For the Seasoned Hikers
Mount Rinjani, Lombok
Fast becoming a popular alternative to tourist-infested Bali, the understated island makes for great beach holidays and diving. But if discovering new depths is not your thing, reach for new highs by scaling 3,726 metres of Mount Rinjani, Lombok’s active volcano and the second highest mountain in Indonesia. The safest way is to hire a guide and a porter, who can help carry your equipment over the 3 – 4 days hike, to head up with you. Expect to be camping in tents with minimal shelter for the elements.
If the climb hasn’t already knocked the wind out of you, the view of the the magnificent Segara Anak crater lake will steal your remaining breath away at sunrise on a clear day. For the true Rinjani experience, hike the steep incline of almost 45 degrees up to the summit for a spectacular panorama of Lombok and even the Gili Islands and Bali, with the crater lake far below you.
Mount Kerinci, Sumatra
Hard core thrill-seeking adventurers will love the heart-pumping, leg-burning hike up Indonesia’s highest volcano (3,805 metres) located within the Kerinci Seblat National Park, which is also home to many animals like rhinos, elephants, tapirs and not forgetting, the endangered Sumatran Tiger. Dense forest and the sounds of nature welcome you on the first leg of your journey, before giving way to rocky and sandy plains along steep inclines for the 3-day hike. Hiring a guide is essential and all that preparation and roughing out in the fickle, tempestuous weather will be rewarded at the summit which overlooks a spectacular, breathtaking view.
Mount Kerinci Image: Paul Hessels
Written by Audrey Ng
Top Image Credit: Trekking Rinjani, Flickr