It’s easy to understand that gunung means both “mountain” and “volcano” in Bahasa Indonesian, as almost every climbable gradient will lead you to the crater of an active or dormant volcano.
The infamous Krakatoa, Indonesia
A 2hr boat ride off the southwest coast of Java from a small port town called Carita leads you to the eery, volcanic graveyard of Krakatau. Although geographically located in the region of Sumatra, as with most tours in Southeast Asia, it is easiest to start from the closest big city: Jakarta in this case. Despite what hostel receptionists may tell you, this is a trip you can easily complete in just 1 day. In my experience, simply googling tour companies, communicating via email, and booking online was quick and easy, especially as this means you are able to avoid sitting in grid-locked, Jakarta traffic unnecessarily. Tours often include everything from lunch and water, to snorkelling gear (, although Krakatau isn’t the cleanest place for snorkelling due to Java’s grave problem with rubbish pollution).
The climb itself is a fairly easy, 40min hike up the active Anak Krakatau to gain a panoramic view of what remains of the cluster of volcanos.
Closest town: Carita
Duration: 1 day
Terrain: volcanic ash
Gunung Bromo, Indonesia
The best place to see the sunrise is from Gunung Penanjakan (2770m) which gives you the iconic view of Bromo that is splattered across postcards of Java. Most tour companies will escort you to the popular viewpoint by 4×4, and afterwards to the bottom of the obviously active Gunung Bromo. From here you can either walk up the volcanic ash trail or take a leisurely horse ride for around £2.00.
The only struggle is the never-ending flight steps up to the crater.
Closest town: Probolinggo
Duration: 3/4 of a day
Terrain: volcanic ash
Dieng Plateau, Indonesia
A colourful cluster of bubbling sulphur lakes can be seen so closely you have to be careful not to fall in, or from a panoramic bird’s-eye view if you’re up for a mini, unsupervised rock climb. Cheap and cheerful, this tour only needs to take up half of one of your precious days in the lovely Yogyakarta.
Closest town: Yogyakarta
Duration: 1/2 a day
Terrain: man-made path & rocks
Mt Kinabalu, Malaysia
The highest peak in Southeast Asia standing at 4095m, boasting the World’s highest Via Ferrata (“iron ropes” in Italian, ) 3776m up the side of the mountain. A more commercial route than all of the other volcanos, Mt Kinabalu has toilets at regular intervals and an all-you-can-eat restaurant at the base camps (, which are actual beds in actual buildings)!
Although the Mt Kinabalu expeditions have seen a decrease in popularity since the 2015 earthquake, it is still crucial to book in advance. Tours can easily be booked online, where you will no doubt be asked to pay the full price in advance. From experience, I can say it is well worth paying extra to do the Low Peak’s Via Ferrata as long as you have adequate upper-body strength and no fear of heights.
– If you don’t get back down to the park entrance by 4pm on your decent day, you have to pay a fee.
– Stay at accommodation inside the National Park the night before the climb, to help avoid altitude sickness.
– This was the only volcano we climbed, where we were told (only once we had reached base camp +3000m up) that it is compulsory to wear walking boots to the summit.
Closest town: Kota Kinabalu
Duration: 2 days
Terrain: a man-made path of wood and rocks up to base camp, rock-climbing to the summit
Ijen Plateau, Indonesia
Possibly the craziest tour of the lot if you opt to start at 00:30 with a climb down into the crater to see the blue flame that ignites from the burning sulphur. The other option is to begin at 02:00 and walk to the lake for sunrise. The extra climb right to the edge of the crater for sunrise gives you the best view of the lake. Most tours include a well-deserved, all-you-can-eat breakfast after the trek, but this is worth checking as there aren’t many other places around to grab a bite to eat.
– A gas mask is crucial so ensure your tour provides one!
Closest town: Banyuwangi
Duration: 1 day
Terrain: rocks & path
00:30 start – 7/10
02:00 start – 3/10
Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia
They say “save the best till last”… and in my opinion, this was it. By far the most difficult summit to climb, but with that the most rewarding one to conquer. The climb can be made easier by spreading it over a maximum of 4 days, or you can try to get it over and done with in 36 hours, where on average, almost 50% of people won’t reach the summit for sunrise. It’s well worth setting off as early as you can on the first day of your climb (8am start for us), as getting to base camp while the sun is still in the sky makes the whole experience worth your while.
Closest town: Mataram
Duration: 2 – 4 days
Terrain: fields, forests, rocks, volcanic ash