One of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes, Mt. Merapi’s name literally means “mountain of red fire.” The mountain, which looms over Borobudur, occupies a sacred place in the hearts and minds of many Javanese. When it’s not closed or partially closed due to volcanic activity, Merapi also makes for a spectacular volcano hike or climb.
Volcanologists closely monitor Merapi’s activity levels and, if necessary, will close the mountain to visitors. But when the 9,613-foot (2,930-meter) Gunung (Mount) Merapi is open, hiking is the most popular way to experience it. Hiking tours typically include door-to-door round-trip transfers from Yogyakarta, mountain guiding, food, and drink.
Five-hour treks to the summit and the crater rim, which include challenging features such as volcanic scree, happen at night so hikers see the sunrise and the sensational view—Merapi protrudes 4,449 feet (1,356 meters) from the surrounding highlands. More leisurely daytime hikes along the slopes typically focus on the local flora and fauna. Jeep tours of the lower slopes are also available.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Mt. Merapi is an ideal Indonesian destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
- Before sunrise, the summit can be extremely cold, especially if it’s raining; freezing temperatures are not uncommon. Wear plenty of layers that you can easily remove on the descent.
- The trail up Mount Merapi includes rough volcanic cinders. Wear long pants and hiking boots or sneakers.
- Bring your camera to capture epic sunrise vistas.
How to Get There
Most Merapi hikes begin in the village of Selo, about 47 miles (75 kilometers) from Yogyakarta (or the airport); the drive can take between 90 minutes and three hours. As there is no practical public transportation and a guide comes in handy on the mountain, most travelers opt for an organized Mt. Merapi volcano climb from Yogyakarta.
When to Get There
While it can rain on Java year-round, hikers should visit Merapi during the dry season (April until September). On a clear night with a full moon, the climb and views are spectacular. During rainy season (roughly October to March), the weather is cold, the path is slippery, sulphur in the air becomes unusually oppressive, and it’s impossible to see the view.
Indonesia’s Sacred Volcanoes
With around 130 active volcanoes, it’s unsurprising that Indonesia’s hundreds of ethnic groups have developed their own beliefs around these fiery mountains. Mt. Merapi is just one of a wealth of sacred volcanoes. Others include Mt. Agung on Bali, Mt. Bromo in central Java, and Mt. Rinjani on Lombok.