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Stretching from Pelabuhan Ratu to Pangandaran, West Java is one of the most populous regions of Indonesia. Known as the Sunda Kingdom in the past, the Sultanate of Cirebon from the 16th Century still stands to this day, ensuring that the art and culture of West Java is kept alive.
Home to a handful of volcanoes along the pacific ring of fire, West Java is also commonly referred to as Panghegar (which means ‘abode of the Gods’). It showcases a collection of natural wonders that’s just a few hours’ drive from Bandung or Jakarta – you’d never expect it!
From mountain-top lakes to sandy beaches and everything in between, we present you with the most spectacular sights West Java has slung on its sleeve.
1. Stumble into Jurassic World (a Komodo Island Alternative): Pulau Biawak, Indramayu
Have you heard of the Komodo Island where gigantic lizards, the surviving descendents of dinosaurs, roam free?
Photo Via: Biawak-dhamadharma
But did you know that closer to civilisation, a few hours off the North coast of Indramayu sits an alternative habitat for the giant lizards – one of West Java’s best kept secrets?
Pulau Biawak literally means Monitor Lizard Island – a name that says everything. It was initially a marine science research facility and previously closed off to the public.
Photo Via: iewenkphotos,asriiningtyas
But now, you’re free to wander around – as far as your courage takes you.
Photo Via: wisatapulaubiawak
As your boat docks on Pulau Biawak’s sandy white beach, you will be instantly greeted by the sight of a grandiose lighthouse standing 65 metres tall, complete with a ‘rustic-steampunk’ finish, a perfect fit for what you can find on a hidden island.
Photo Via: pulaubiawak_indramayu,iewenkphotos
You can climb several floors up its winding staircase for a bird’s eye view of the island.
Not so far under the surface of the water is the resting ground of bright coloured coral reef fish. Snorkel a few feet underwater and join the schools of fish that call these natural sculptures home.
Photo Via: pulaubiawak_indramayu,satucl,dhamadharma
If you’re brave enough to take a short stroll into the mangrove forests, you will start to hear the ruckus created by close relatives of the Komodo Dragon as they brush against the trees.
Although not as vicious as their cousins, the Biawak grows up to the same length of three metres and they may bite. Watch out for their tails – they are known to use them as giant whips when threatened.
2. A Test of Courage and Determination: Tebing Citatah, Padalarang
Within 5 km away from the Padalarang toll exit, you might have missed the Tebing Citatah on your last trip to Goa Pawon and the Stone Garden, located a little further down the road.
Photo Via: febefransiska
Currently under the supervision of the Kopassus Special Forces, the cliffs are mainly used as military training grounds. But on weekends, the three cliffs; Citatah 48, Citatah 90, and Citatah 125 are open to the public for rock climbing activities – free of charge!
Citatah-90 (Photo Via: maleber)
Daring beginners would usually start at the already intermediate Citatah 48 limestone cliff (around 40 to 50m in height, thus the name). Upon conquering the wall, you will be greeted by a ‘Belati’ knife monument, courtesy of the Kopassus as a symbol of your achievement.
Photo Via: nurulpermatasari
It’s not just physically challenging; scaling these walls require a great deal of focus and precision. You have to be conscious of every movement on the surface of the rock that may collapse at any time.
Photo Via: Fajri-Sendia,achsany-takwim
Due to the extreme level of danger and preparation involved, Citatah 90 and Citatah 125 are reserved to expert climbers only, requiring certification and permission from the district authorities.
Photo Via: billydesta
3. Explore the ‘Lost Pyramids’ in Gunung Padang Megalithic Site, Cianjur
Want to know how it feels to be Indiana Jones or Lara Croft? You need to make a visit to this ancient megalithic temple founded on a 100-meter-tall hill.
Photo Via: Andreas-Andryanto
Gunung Padang is one of the oldest and largest megalithic sites in Southeast Asia. Some pseudoscience lovers even believe that it could be a pyramid which lies on this hill, buried under the soil, and dates back to 9,000 – 20,000 years ago!
Reaching the top requires a 20-minute hike up a stone path. Visitors will be greeted by a large tree in the middle of the first and largest terrace.
Photo Via: galihnusahakim
As you move up, the platforms become smaller until you reach the top, a symbolism of the layers of ascending authority in society in the past.
Photo Via: PaulKijlstra
Photo Via: PaulKijlstra
When you stand on the ancient place of worship surrounded by volcanoes and trees, the mesmerizing serenity you take in will bring about a picture of how life once was in prehistoric times. Muse about the significance of residing in the highest terrace, while gazing at the life and wilderness below.
4. Witness the Weeping Rocks of Curug Batu Templek, Bandung
You might have a difficult time asking the locals for directions to Curug Batu Templek if you are in Central Bandung.
Photo Via: ricki_ip
Even though the curug isn’t too difficult to reach, its unsuspected location near stone quarries makes the Curug Batu Templek sound foreign to the ear.
A rare geological phenomenon, the rocks of Curug Batu Templek is actually a small notch on the Earth’s plate, formed by tectonic movements. This causes underground water to pour magically from the cracks into the rocks.
Photo Via: aannnnpr
The best time to pay a visit is during the rainy season (usually between September and March) when the flow of the water is high and light brown in colour – a perfect hue to compliment the darker shades of the rocks.
Photo Via: chanderaaa
Since the roads leading to Curug Batu Templek are narrow semi-paved paths, one of the best ways to get there is on two wheels. After passing by stone craftsmen of Pasar Impun, riders will have to travel up a series of climbs up a couple of hills.
The climb ends with a rewarding view of East Bandung from above. Don’t be surprised to find that you’re the only visitor there!
Meanwhile, the sound of trickling water from a distance is a telling sign you are heading in the right direction.
5. Cruise through the Green Canyon of Indonesia: Cukang Taneuh, Pangandaran
Popularised by a french tourist who called it the ‘Green Canyon’, Cukang Taneuh (which means Earth Bridge) has been described as the Grand Canyons of Arizona covered by a layer of green.
Once you have strapped on a life vest, the tour starts off with a cruise up a meandering river.
Photo Via: Youkeepustraveling
The journey into the rainforest is beautifully decorated with jungle vegetation on stone walls and structures, carved out by the river’s persistence throughout the years.
Photo Via: Nico-Hopp youkeepustravelling
On the next leg of the trip, you’ll step off the fishing boat onto a pile of large boulders. This is where the fun begins!
Cannonball from a rock into the river and let it take you through the green canyon, twisting and turning at every obstacle. At every corner hides a surprise, and you may even find yourself at the edge of another cliff to jump off.
Photo Via: youkeepustravellingcom
After an hour of exploring the jungle river, take a break by the river side. The regular dish served here is chicken rice wrapped with banana leaves, and freshly cut coconut to wash it down with.
The trip ends with a boat ride down the river towards the mouth where it meets the sea, for one last look at the sun before it sinks into the horizon.
It doesn’t get any better than that.
6. Hike and Camp to catch the Sunrise: Mount Papandayan, Garut
For most people, hiking up a mountain may sound like a task too challenging to conquer – you have to navigate through the difficult terrain and hostile weather, just to sleep in a tent and eat canned food.
But this is already considered a beginner’s mountain by many outdoorsmen, as you can reach the camping ground of mount Papandayan after only 2 hours of trekking.
Photo via: Untung09
Once the tent has been set, hikers can wander off in the Edelweiss Meadows, also a great spot for watching the sunrise.
Photo via: Stenisia
Another beautiful spot is the Hutan Mati (Dead Forest), which is where a patch of forest and vegetation was burnt off during a volcanic eruption, leaving only tree trunks behind.
Photo via: Pratomo Aribowo
7. A Panorama of the Jatiluhur Basin: Gunung Lembu, Purwakarta
Purwakarta might not be the first place you would go to on a sightseeing trip across West Java, but the Gunung Lembu will remind you not to underestimate its hidden wonders.
Photo via Vincentius Reinaldi Ferdinand
Although there are three other peaks surrounding the Jatiluhur Basin, the Gunung Lembu is the most easily accessible, at just 700 metres above sea level.
Photo Via: Rony GP
But don’t let it catch you off guard. Despite being relatively short in height, getting to the summit takes a lot of hard work and dedication. An average hiker would take up to around 3 hours of trekking on foot.
Photo Via: fathulgilang, cool4myeyes
The first few legs of the trail are considered to be the most difficult, as they have proven to be a ‘dealbreaker’ to some. Hikers would have to make their way through a dense bamboo forest with slopes reaching up to 45 degrees in steepness. It is advisable to avoid going to Gunung Lembu during the rainy seasons as the mud would be an additional burden.
Photo Via: arissevtiee
For the best panoramic spot, a spot called Batu Lembu offers a 180-degree view of the basin from above, as well as the neighbouring mountains. Just a few metres shy off the peak, the ledge is the perfect place to rest those legs and set up camp, for a guaranteed heavenly sunrise in the morning!
8. Hike to the Crater Lake of Gunung Galanggung, Tasikmalaya
In 1982, Indonesia faced one of the largest and longest volcanic eruption in the modern era, forcing hundreds of villages in the surrounding districts to evacuate for almost a year.
Photo Via: Ahmad-Syukaeri
The eruption carved a large caldera on the top of the volcano and over time, rain and groundwater collected and formed a crater lake at the base of the caldera.
From the nearest parking area, getting to the rim of the crater takes a considerable amount of effort – be prepared for 600 steps!
Photo Via: Galunggung
The hassle of climbing a few hundred metres will soon be paid off when you can finally catch a glimpse of the breathtaking view of Tasikmalaya City, shrouded by its luscious greenery. It gets even better at the top of the rim, where the tosca of hot ground water compliments the dark volcanic ash, covered with a layer of vegetation all over.
Photo Via: Ahmad-Syukaeri
After some cup noodles and instant coffee to regain all your lost energy, you can scale through the woods onto the crater floor to get closer to the gleaming lake, or pray where monks once prayed in a small mosque lodged at a corner of the caldera.
9. Ride Asphalt Waves on an Ocean of Green: Pangalengan Hills, Bandung
Heading south to get to Rancabuaya, Puncak Guha and the many beaches of West Java? Take a detour and check out the new and improved road passing through Pangalengan, to make your road trip a bit more scenic.
Photo Via: johanesadriano, Hamzah-U-Mustakim
If you have been to Situ Patenggang on your way down to the south coast, you can take an alternative route and pay a visit to its bigger neighbour, Situ Cileunca.
Photo via dimaskaisar
Have a go at rafting on its rivers, or if that’s not your thing, check out its ‘Love Bridge’.
You can even learn the process of tea production (from planting tea to what goes on in packaging factories), and visit famed planter and philanthropist Karel Albert Rudolf Bosscha’s tomb.
Photo via m_herwin
Endless tea plantations on hills decorate your journey, so beautiful that you won’t be able to resist stopping by the side of the road for endless pictures.
Photo via shinta irawati
And speaking of roads, the newly paved tarmac carves and swerves through the hills – every hairpin turn engineered for your driving pleasure.
10. Watch Hundreds of Bats Depart at Sunset: Puncak Guha Beach, Garut
When the word ‘beach’ comes up, you would probably picture blue waves crashing onto sandy shores with palm trees swaying in the background.
Photo Via: Adri-F
But you can expect the unexpected at the Puncak Guha Beach.
Only 10 minutes away from Rancabuaya Beach and sweeping across the West Javanese South Sea, the Puncak Guha Beach is definitely a must-visit for beach hoppers. As it’s located on top of a hilly cliff jutting out into the sea, the Puncak Guha Beach is said to be the best place in region to watch the sunset.
Photo Via: Hi.said
One other reason to stop by Puncak Guha Beach is the amazing sight of hundreds of bats departing in search of prey after the sun goes down. “The sight of hundreds of bats suddenly emerging from beneath the cliff seemed like a black cloud that covered the sky for a moment” was how Dewi ‘Dee’ Lestari described the experience in her novel.
Photo Via: RidwanAdhitama
Get there a few hours before sunset and unwind among the surrounding green hills which meet the sea.
11. Descend into Darkness at the Buniayu Caves, Sukabumi
Once the proud title holder of Southeast Asia’s Best Cave System, the Buniayu Cave is fully loaded with international grade safety equipment as well as trained guides in operation since 1992.
Photo Via: Alfonso-Reno
Located only 45 minutes away from Sukabumi City, it houses three caves, one more challenging than the next. Only two of these caves are open to public, while the third cave Goa Korek is restricted to professional and research purposes only (who knows what kind of secrets they are hiding there!).
Like a historical museum, the Buniayu Caves exhibit various ornaments created by different natural processes, over a period of thousands of years. In fact, these ornaments still grow by a fraction of a millimetre every year!
Photo Via: buniayucave
Descend deeper into the caves and try turning off all the lights. Sunlight does not reach most areas of the cave, creating a state of ‘Eternal Darkness’ as the guides put it, four times darker than night, even in broad daylight!
Photo Via: buniayucave
Need more of a challenge? Rappel down 18 metres under sea level for even more fascinating ornaments, including an underground river system with a waterfall, lake, and stone fossils that tell a story of the caves.
You can even ascend the waterfalls, just like a scene out of Tomb Raider.
12. Sit by Your Own Little Lake in the Middle of the Woods: Situ Gunung, Sukabumi
How many times have we felt our hearts quieten when we spend time by a lake in the middle of the woods?
Photo Via: Keril Doank
Situated at the foot of Mount Gede (the other side of Puncak, Bogor) lies a hidden gem many city dwellers tend to leave out.
Only four hours away from both Jakarta and Bandung, the Situ Gunung is located in the extremely vast Gede-Pangrango National Park. With several hundred metres in width, canoeing across would require some effort.
The sheer size of the premises, coupled with little interest from locals, makes exploring the jungle treks feel like you are the only people there. You don’t even need to go during a weekday just to avoid a crowd.