Central Java – culture, beaches and natural wonders

I have travelled a lot through Java since I arrived almost a year ago. In that time I’ve travelled the entire length of the island for Travelfish.org covering all of the common sights in Java as well as many that are off the beaten track. To be honest, it’s hard to stay on the beaten track in Java and it’s only because many people freak out when they arrive that they speed through the island towards Bali without so much as stepping on a beach or climbing a volcano (except maybe for Gunung Bromo). Central Java is a magnificent part of Java that surprised as it has a bit of a reputation for being desolate. And when you compare it to East and West Java, that might ring true. But Central Java has Borobudur and that is the biggest tourist attraction in Indonesia outside of Bali. Plus, there are some other places that I reckon are some of the best in the whole of Java.

Semarang – capital of Central Java

Semarang is the capital of Central Java and is where I flew into. It’s simply a big city with a great old section which floods occasionally. It flooded when I was there and the becak driver was driving me home in water that would have otherwise been up to my thighs. Needless to say I got wet — especially when the guy couldn’t peddle any more because we’d gotten stuck in a hole. The old town is basically a bunch of old buildings that are sadly falling into a state of disrepair.

Semarang old city
Semarang old city

Move out of the old town and into Chinatown and you find a part of the city that is surprisingly well-looked after. Chinatown is a great place to go on weekends when food markets are set up there.

Karimunjawa Islands

The Karimunjawa Islands are located about 100km off the north coast of Central Java — a cluster of small islands, some of which are inhabited by fishermen. Tourists go there because the water is crystal clear, there’s plenty of coral for snorkelling and the sand on many of the beaches is simply blindingly white. It’s a basic place where food is simple as is most of the accommodation. You rarely see another white person while you’re there and riding a motorbike around the island truly gets you into virgin territory for foreign visitors. This place is magical and is one of my favourite places in Java.

Karimunjawa has white sand and clear water
Karimunjawa has white sand and clear water
Karimunjawa Central Java
Karimunjawa Central Java

Dieng Plateau

Dieng Plateau is another one of my favourite places, but it couldn’t be more different than Karimunjawa. Dieng is located at 2100m above sea level and is home to the oldest Hindu temples in Java, boiling pits of mud and farms that spill down massive steep mountains. It’s cold, cloudy and absolutely enchanting. Overnight temperatures often dip below freezing in the dry season and day time temperatures can be quite frigid too, especially after having arrived from the stifling lowlands.

Small town on the Dieng Plateau
Small town on the Dieng Plateau

The great thing about sleeping overnight in Dieng is that most of the accommodation is located in people’s houses. This means friendly and warm service and some of the quirks you’d expect in an Indonesian house like no heating when it’s practically snowing outside. Needless to say, you do breathe steam out of your mouth the whole night and if you need to get up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night, you’re in for an icy trip across the tiled floor in bare feet as of course Indonesian bathrooms are constantly wet. The best way to get around this is to dehydrate yourself.

Boiling water near Dieng Central Java
Boiling water near Dieng Central Java
Telaga Warna, the coloured lake in Dieng
Telaga Warna, the coloured lake in Dieng

Random photos

These random photos are of a place that isn’t in any of the guidebooks and won’t be in the travelfish guidebook either mainly because it took all day to get to on the back of a motorbike. Almost did me in. Only stayed for about 15 minutes and got bored, but it does make for some good photos. Everyone loves a mud pit!

Bleduk Kuwu Central Java
Bleduk Kuwu Central Java
Exploding mud of Bleduk Kuwu
Exploding mud of Bleduk Kuwu

Of course there are other places in Central Java that I went to that I could go on and on about, but no one has time for that. And there’s also Yogyakarta and Solo, both of which are already written up for travelfish and I didn’t have to visit. Central Java is truly magical and almost completely untouched by white folk. I went about a week without speaking to another one. YES! What you reckon? Good place or not?

4 thoughts on “Central Java – culture, beaches and natural wonders

  1. I hope you will put Bledug Kuwu in the travel book! Our family went there when we travel between Jogja and Surabaya by car. Not far detour, and so much satisfaction. Also they will sell you the legend of the formation fo the place (that they take quite seriously). Well, I went there 5 years ago. I wonder how it is now.
    THis is my bledug kuwu shot. Give 2 long ears, color it yellow, voila, Pikachu it is!
    http://www.vagabondquest.com/asia/indonesia/friday-photo-amazing-mud-volcano-eruption-in-java-indonesia/

  2. @Dina – Yeah, I think it is still the same now. 🙂 The problem is that it really is in the middle of nowhere when you consider how the vast majority of foreign visitors travel. So I don’t think I will write it up as it really is a whole day of travelling and although it is really fascinating, people won’t think it’s worth it. 🙂 I’m glad I went there though. A great experience.

  3. Hi Adam

    Have just come across your website and will star reading all your travel fish articles. Just wondering if there’s anything else in Java you’d strongly recommend that didn’t get a write up in the blog? We’ve got a motorbike so can get just about anywhere. We’re based in Bandung so particularly interested in anywhere around here.

    1. Joshua — Well, having the motorbike is a great start, but the going is slow. To get to Pangandaran takes around 7 hours and that’s still in West Java! But if you’re adventurous, I would suggest just hopping on the bike and cruising through Java which will force you through rural areas which in my view are where the real Java is.

      Around Bandung there is lots of exploring to in the hills and I haven’t even done it myself yet. My plan is to get into the hills in the south around the back of Gunung Papandayan. When you take the train from Bandung to Yogya, you get into the hills and it is spectacular. So yeah, I’d recommend that. I’d also recommend getting to Garut and exploring some of the volcanoes around that way as well as the thermal area of Kawah Kamojang. It can be a nice ride down to Kawah Putih — not just for Kawah Putih, but also for Situ Patengan and the hotsprings. The other area worth exploring is in the hills to north of Bandung — but not directly north. I’m talking a bit to the east or west of Ciumbuleit/Dago/Setra Sari. Plenty of rural areas up there with great views of Bandung. Just get the bike and explore really.

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