- Elevation: 1,602 m (5,256 ft)
- Prominence: 1,594 m
- Ribu category: Kurang Tinggi
- Province: Jawa Tengah (Central Java)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: none.
Gunung Muria is a dormant volcano – apparently having last erupted just over 2000 years ago – which dominates the Muria peninsula on the north coast of Java, east of the city of Semarang. The Muria mountain is actually a range of different peaks, of which Songolikur is the highest. It is a very popular hike with local students at weekends, but considering the spectacular views of the Central Java mountains and northern coastline from the summit, and the shortness of the hike itself, relatively few hikers come from afar specifically in order to climb it. It can be climbed from Rahtawu (30km north of Kudus) or from the Jepara side via Candi Angin (‘Temple of the Wind’), but the former is by far the most common route used to reach the highest peak.
The whole area north of Kudus (meaning ‘holy’) is a place of pilgrimage as this region was very important during the beginnings of Islam in Java. There are many grave sites on the slopes of the mountain, most notably near Colo village, at the foot of the Argowiloso peak. Many visitors come to the tomb of Sunan Muria, an early Islamic preacher in Java. Indeed, the mountain is dotted with cairns, prayer huts, small Hindu statues and warungs. The highest peak is often referred to as Peak 29, but there are different stories relating to why this is so and nobody seems to have the definitive answer. There are many minor peaks in the mountain range so it could well be that Songolikur is the highest of 29 peaks in the Muria range. However, some people suggest it may have a more ancient, mythical meaning related to Wayang Kulit. Be sure to ask locals for their explanation. The most impressive other peaks seen from the top include Argowiloso (further east, in the direction of Gunung Lawu), Abiyoso (a very impressive peak further southwest) and Watopayon, the triangular peak east of Songolikur where the sun rises. Abiyoso looks daunting but it is often climbed from near waterfalls further towards Kudus on the west side of the road up into the Muria mountain range – there is even a small sign.
The starting point for the hike to the Songolikur peak is just beyond the village of Rahtawu and it takes a leisurely 3 hours to reach the summit. To get to Rahtawu it is best to take an ojek (motorcycle taxi) from the nearby town of Kudus, although angkots operate during the daytime. The journey is delightful – slowly rising into the hills by the side of the river valley – and at weekends it is a favourite spot of young couples eager to escape the watchful eyes of their parents! Beyond the main village of Rahtawu, the road continues to snake upwards into the mountain range and into Semliro hamlet. Take a left over a tiny white bridge to where the trail begins. The starting point is a trail beyond the cluster of houses and the owner of the house on the left will happily let you store your motorbike inside while you climb. Finding enough space to park a car or larger vehicle would require negotiations with friendly villagers.
The trailhead is at an elevation of 813m so it’s only another 800 metres ascent to the very top. The first section of the trail is along fairly flat and well-defined farming tracks which follow the river into the mountain range and cross several streams. After less than an hour, you will reach a wooden building at a sharp corner in the trail. This is known as Pos Zigzag (1,005m). Views south are already very impressive indeed and the imposing rockface of the Abiyoso peak of the Muria range on your left is pretty spectacular. Soon afterwards, you reach Pos Bunton (1,157m) – a camping barn and a warung with freshly made gorengan (fried snacks), noodles and coffee/tea. It would appear to be open 24 hours a day for local student hikers and farmers.
Beyond Pos Bunton there is a small signposted junction (1,242m). The right turn goes over the hillside to the village of Tempur beyond the peak of Muria itself. Do not take this turn, just keep on heading straight along the more obvious path to the Songolikur peak itself. Between approximately 1,264m and 1,350m there is an area of recent landslide (lonsor). This represents the only real difficulty in the whole hike. You need to be extra careful on certain short sections as a slip here would have very serious consequences. Another hut comes into view (1,350m) and is actually the first of many empty huts that look as though they are sometimes used to sell hikers snacks and drinks. There are some vegetable plots here and it feels very much like somebody’s well-kept garden. There are also one or two tiny shelters with what appear to be gravestones inside them.
After the collection of huts, the trail starts to rise steeply up the side of Muria’s highest peak itself. From here you should be able to see Merbabu, Merapi and Lawu in the distance. There are two tiny prayer huts (1,426m and 1,554m) on the steep side of the Songolikur peak. As you finally reach the top of the mountain range, you are confronted with two red welcome posts and an Indonesia flag. There are all manner of buildings up here – another tiny shop/warung (run by the elderly Pak Sijan, once again seemingly 24 hours a day!), a telecommunications mast of some sort, camping barns and a walled enclosure with several Hindu statues inside. If you have a look at your GPS, you should see a reading of approximately 1,592m – 10 metres below the highest point of the range. Indeed, the true summit itself is a further five minutes’ walk along a short vegetated ridge which is crowned with a cement pillar halfway along it. The highest point, which is slightly further north, is a collection of boulders and a small Hindu shrine. The location offers great views over the coastline of the Muria peninsula and eastwards along the north coast of Java. The view also now encompasses the twin giants of Sindoro and Sumbing to the southwest. Muria may not be one of the highest peaks in Java, but in good weather it is definitely one of the finest viewpoints.
There are places to camp – indeed you can stay at Pos Bunton if you wish – but considering the short length of the hike, it can easily be enjoyed without the need for camping equipment. It is best to reach the summit in time for dawn to enjoy the sunrise. After you have leisurely returned the same way, there are several other natural attractions in the area such as several minor waterfalls right next to the road which leads back into Kudus.
Bagging information by Daniel Quinn (updated January 2013)
Gunung Genuk (670m)
Several kilometres to the north of Gunung Muria is the northernmost mountain in Java. At just 670m it is really just a hill but it has considerable historical significance to those interested in the history of mapping in Indonesia.
It was here in the 1870s where the very first trig point (topographic surveying pillar often found on hill summits) was established. This became the first non-zero reading (presumably they had a zero from sea level from somewhere near the Portuguese Fort a few kilometres away) and the basis from which all other elevations on Java and nearby islands were derived.
In December 2018, the remnants of the pillar are still easily found on this rarely-hiked hill-top, along with a couple of other construction remains which may be from a later date.
The village of Guwo is the starting point for the short one-hour hike to the top. Dusun Guwo is nestled in the Genuk hills at an elevation of around 400m and there is a reasonable road all the way there. Allow around 90 minutes from Jepara and expect to have to ask locals for directions!
From Guwo you will see a telecommunications tower on the southern top of Genuk (roughly 500m elevation) but the true summit is further north. You will probably need to take a local villager as a guide or else ask for directions. There is a well-used muddy, slippery plantation path leading to well over 500m but soon you enter dense vegetation and if nobody has hiked here in recent months then it will be slow going indeed.
On the higher slopes, be very careful on what is unstable and occasionally very steep ground with little to hold onto should you fall. Eventually you will reach an area with large rocks just before the summit and then will find yourself on the small summit with a pleasant panorama of Gunung Muria to the south, the 806m-high Gunung Celering / Gunung Argo Puro Lasem to the south-east, and the Portuguese Fort (‘benteng portugis’) and little Pulau Mandalika to the north.
On the ground around you are the remains (both from the 1870s and some probably more modern) of simple constructions that were the basis for the entire Java triangulation system.
After brushing yourself clean of the many tiny ants on this hill, and admiring the pleasant view, you can be back down in Dusun Guwo in 40 minutes or so.
Bukit Gajah (506m), Karimunjawa Islands
Out in the Java sea to the north-west of Jepara is an increasingly popular mini-archipelago called Kepulauan Karimunjawa. The only significant hill is Bukit Gajah (‘elephant hill’) but there are currently no reports of anyone having recently hiked to the top. A video on Youtube shows a local group hiking halfway up after getting permission from the forestry department in the main town. As of October 2018 there are daily Wings Air flights from Semarang (just 25 minutes) so it is quite possible that Bukit Gajah will become better-known soon.
Gunung Argopuro Lasem (806m)
About 70 kilometres to the east of Gunung Muria, also overlooking the northern coastline of Java, is Gunung Argopuro Lasem. Not to be confused with the giant Argopuro in East Java that requires 3 days to traverse, this mountain near Rembang is listed as 803m high on the Bakosurtanal map but 806m in many other sources. It seems to be called Gunung Lasem locally, with a summit peak known as Argopuro (or Argo Puro).
It can be climbed from several directions, but by far the most popular is from the south at the friendly village of Ngroto (315m), which is around 25 minutes by motorbike or car from Lasem and accessed via Pancur. It takes most hikers less than 2 hours to reach the summit and the trail passes Pos 1 and Pos 2 but these do not have signs at the time of writing (2019).
Despite the lack of signs, the trail is pretty obvious and if you head up and stick to the main trails you should be fine without a guide (but best don’t hike alone). At 630m you will find yourself on a pleasant narrow ridge with views down to both sides. You should have reached this point in about one hour from Ngroto. The trail then skirts round the highest part of the hillside before reaching a junction (740m) next to a boundary pillar of some sort.
The trail down to the right was closed off with branches in 2019, and it is unclear where this starts from, and the way to the summit is a sharp left. Just beyond this junction are old foundations of a small building (750m) presumably from Dutch times. If anyone knows what was up here then please leave a comment below. It is very pleasant hiking from here, with a couple of decent, flat camp spots (785m) and then the airy summit ridge itself.
In clear conditions the summit offers views south to Gunung Lawu, west to Gunung Muria, and north to the Java Sea. There are actually two minor summits, with the pillar and flagpole between them. It is quite likely that the 803m figure on the Bakosurtanal map refers to the height at the pillar, as both tops, east and west appear to be 2 or 3 metres higher than the pillar and therefore may account for the 806m figure given elsewhere. Be careful between the pillar and the west top as there is a sheer drop next to a rock.
From the western top you can look down to the town of Lasem and beyond along the north coast to the Muria peninsula. From the eastern top you can observe Java’s northern coastline east of the range. You can be back down in Desa Ngroto in about 90 minutes.
Other trails include from the villages of Gowak and Kajar which are to the west of the mountain, only 15 minutes by car or motorbike from the town of Lasem but unless a group has used them prior to your own visit both of these trails are likely to be overgrown and therefore more time-consuming. There is an ancient, small Hindu shrine in Gowak called Candi Malad. This apparently dates back to approximately 1351.
The traditional Chinese heritage buildings (‘Tiongkok Kecil’) and unique batik shops in Lasem are very much worth a visit for a few hours when you are in the area. You will probably be surprised that you hadn’t heard of this unique place before.
- Getting there: There are plenty of buses to Kudus from Semarang. From Kudus, take an ojek or angkot towards the Muria mountain range and Rahtawu village (30km). The starting point at Desa Tempur is difficult to reach, lying nearly 3 hours away from Jepara.
- Accommodation: Plenty available in Kudus, Jepara and Semarang. Kalingga Star in Jepara is basic but well-priced and friendly.
- Permits: None required but take a photocopy of your passport photo page just incase.
- Water sources: Finding water on the usual hike from Rahtawu (south of the peak) is never a problem. There are many streams and even tiny village shops selling water on the trail itself.
- Travel insurance: We recommend World Nomads insurance, which is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities including mountain hiking.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):
Origins and Meaning
(probably) High and Noble Mountain. Probably muria (pronounced /MOOR.yo/ in Javanese) is a variant of the Javanese word mulya (pronounced /MOOL.yo/) meaning (among other things) “high, noble”. Note that in the evolution of Indonesian languages /l/ often morphs into /r/ and vice-versa because the points of articulation of /l/ and /r/ are almost the same inside the mouth. Thus we have (for example) the title of the ancient spirit deity of the southern ocean Nyai Roro Kidul, who is also often Nyai Loro Kidul. (George Quinn, 2011)