Lots of worries accompanied me that evening. Hiking Merapi Volcano at night? I was freaking out when I didn’t know where these men were taking me. Moreover, it was first time for me to do a night trekking, especially as a solo female traveler. At last, out of 150 volcanoes in Indonesia, Mount Merapi is the most active one! Elevation of Merapi is 2930. Despite all, Merapi sunrise trekking was still in my mind, and my adventurous side took over. Quick contact, confirmation – I had one hour to prepare before the pick-up. No time to change my mind. Let’s go!
Name of the mountain – Gunung Merapi is translated by local people as the mountain of fire. No wonder why. Eruption of this stratovolcano in 2010 killed hundrets of people and 350 000 were evacuated from the affected area. Before that, Mount Merapi used to erupt every 4 years. Since 2010 is still sleeping, nobody knows when it will wake up…
Mount Merapi is also part of many Javanese myths and considered as home of the spirits. Don’t be surprised if you will be told to ask for forgiveness to the spirit of the volcano while peeing during the trekking. Gunung Merapi is a National Park, but even during the night hike I saw dozens of trash shinning on the path. I don’t get how volcano spirit can forgive peeing but let people put so much garbage all around. If you would like to commit a random act of kindness, please bring a bag with you and collect some trash on your way back. The spirit of the volcano will be thankful.
Hiking Merapi volcano practicalities
After the eruption in 2010 Mount Merapi is accessible from Selo – village on the North part of the mountain. It’s two hours drive from Yogyakarta. There are few guest houses and restaurants ready for tourists. It’s possible to arrive there by your own – by bus, motorbike or hitchhiking. You can do the trekking on your own without the tour guide. Even though there aren’t good maps available, there is only one trail which is fairly easy to follow. Since I was traveling alone and couldn’t find a company for the hike, I decided to use tour Jogja Tour Operator agency, which went out totally awesome. I had my private local guide which shared lots of informations about the area.
Please remember to bring warm clothes, it can get very chilli on the top, torch/head light and comfortable shoes. If you are carrying a sleeping bag and tent you can pin it wherever you want on the way and camp. There is no water access on the way up so bring all you need with you. Hiking Merapi volcano is quite challenging, steep and sometimes dangerous. The path changing from muddy into moving stones or volcanic ash. This requires a lot of concentration and energy, especially during the night.
Merapi Sunrise Trekking Itinerary
10 pm – Two guys picked me up. All those suspicious thoughts came to my mind. What if they are not from the agency I did mail with? Where are they taking me? Narrow and dark roads of Indonesia also didn’t make me feel more secure. However, the guys seamed to notice my concern and called the manager, which I was mailing with. It made me feel much better after talking to him on the phone. From that time on, the relation between myself and all the guys from Jogja Tour became more like friendship rather than customer – agent.
12 am we arrived to Selo – little village where we were waiting for local guide while sipping tea or coffee. I could already feel the cold fresh air, trying to keep me awake. Some chocolate cookies for energy boost and we are ready to go!
1 am We arrived in New Selo which is the last parking before the trail. Darknesssssssss. We started the trekking going steep up by paved road, which farmers use to come to their field by motorbike. I got the first pant and thought: why am I doing it? Merapi sunrise trekking at night instead of sleeping? To see the sunrise which can even be cloudy and dull as the Indonesian weather is unpredictable? More cookies, strong green tea from thermos and good company of the guide made me feel better. I cannot imagine hiking Merapi volcano by myself at night. What if I fall into some hole, break my leg and nobody will find me? Brrrr…
3 am after 2 hours hiking Merapi volcano and making some astro photos we reached the area near the last basecamp where we took longer rest. Guides always take more time for the hike than needed, just in case someone is slow, to be sure to reach the summit on time and don’t miss the sunrise. We were fast, even though we made few cookie breaks on the way. We stayed for around an hour behind the rock, hiding from the cold wind. I spent some time enjoying lunar landscape of the last plateau and view at the 5 volcanoes: Merapi, Merbabu, Sumbing, Sindoro and Telemoyo. Beautiful bright night with almost full moon.
4 am we started to hike again, having one more hour to the summit. Even though we had just little bit more to climb, that part was the most challenging. Merapi sunrise trekking is nothing like jungle experience in Sumatra where only humidity was making it harder. This hike was cold, volcanic sand sliding down didn’t make it easier, climbing slippery rocks to the summit either. Going on all fours like a goat while your feet penetrate deep in the dust – hiking Merapi volcano was tough. Especially having in mind how much careful you need to be at night.
5 am we finally reached the summit. Blown by the mountain freeze but happy. Dramatic smoke coming out of the crater, the heat escaping from little holes under the rocks, the huge power of Merapi volcano sleeping just in front of me. View on the Merbabu volcano on the other side and sun waking up made the scenery unforgettable. Thankfully we could witness the sunrise with beautiful colors.
6 am we started to go down, because it was very cold. Sunny day showed the trail with a beautiful light, gorgeous volcanic landscapes around. Even monkeys woke up to steal some food from the campers. Hiking Merapi volcano at night officially survived!
8 am we came down to New Selo where the same smiling drivers were waiting for me with hot tea. We reached Selo again to have banana pancake with chocolate and satisfied started to come back. Guys were super nice to me and wanted to show me Ketep Pass view point, but when we reached there it was already very cloudy and we couldn’t see anything.
11 am back in the guest house
Staying on the foot of the Merapi volcano
Being in such a close distance to the most active volcano in the country feels very special and adventurous. I would like to share with you the little enclave I discovered. Old Javanese villa, fully made out of coconut wood in the village just next to Mount Merapi. This place truly stole my heart. Guest house Tanen open for short or long period rentals is a paradise for city glampers, honey mooners, families or simply everyone who wants to relax in a eco-friendly atmosphere.
I found the peaceful garden with swimming pool just perfect to relax and have rest from traveling. I loved to do yoga in the garden with birds chirping around. Mount Merapi just nearby and beautiful rice fields made this experience even more unique. They will help you to organise Merapi sunrise trekking or Borobodur sunrise tour if you wish. Only 1 km away from the villa there is Merapi Museum which depicts volcano eruption in 2010 and provides lots of information about volcanoes in general and Merapi in particular.
Not to mention the stuff which spoiled me with fresh food according to my preferences. Taking good care of the environment fits perfectly to this green place. What else should I ask for but having some rest next to the swimming pool after hiking Merapi volcano?
Immerse in outdoor activities
Overall, from the things to do around Yogyakarta, I would place hiking Merapi volcano on a “must-do” list. It’s a truly magical experience and challenge which you will always remember. Instead of sleeping, I spent the night scaling the mountain to see the sunrise and it was worth it!
Have you ever thought about hiking an active volcano before? Make it happen!!!