- Elevation: 2,050 m (6,726 ft)
- Prominence: 1,320 m
- Ribu category: Tinggi Sedang
- Province: Jawa Tengah (Central Java)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: none.
UPDATE AUGUST 2016: It is now prohibited for hikers to climb from Gedong Songo and the trail is overgrown. The main route is from Mawar where there is a basecamp. The Mawar trail is clearly-marked and there is a warung selling snacks about one hour up the trail (of course this may not always be open so always take your own food and drinks).
Just an hour by car from the city of Semarang is Mount Ungaran. Many people visit the southern slopes of this mountain, not because of the mountain itself but because of the impressive ancient Gedong Songo temple monuments which are scattered across the hillside. The name ‘gedong songo’ literally means nine buildings, and these Hindu relics date from approximately 900AD and were ‘discovered’ in the nineteenth century by Stamford Raffles and later restored.
This area is a popular weekend retreat for those living in Semarang and so there is an abundance of accommodation in the nearby town of Bandungan. The Gedong Songo monument complex is open daily from 6.15am until 17.15pm and there is a small charge for visitors. The temple complex lies at 1,200m which means you get a good head start on your hike and that the views are simply stunning – particularly in the early morning you can see Sumbing, Sindoro, Merbabu and the smoking cone of Merapi lurking behind Merbabu. There is also a hot sulphur spring a little way up the hillside and plenty of warungs selling drinks and snacks. It takes about 4 hours to reach the summit and just under 3 hours to descend. There are one or two places where you might be able to find a small amount of somewhat muddy water but it is better to take enough of your own supplies.
Follow the path past Gedong Songo 1 and – before you reach Gedong Songo 2 – take a right turn at the blue and orange tarpaulin-covered warungs near a sign for ‘adventure center’. (Whatever you do, do NOT head left towards the hot sulphur springs and steep rock face as this trail leads up towards Gendol, the western peak, which is totally covered in dense and spiky foliage.) The vague and slippery trail left leads up through farmland before climbing steeply and heading beneath a rocky outcrop on the left. The trail then leads into denser forest and between two of Ungaran’s three peaks. The trail twists and turns before leading round to the right (east) and then round the base of Ungaran’s grassy middle peak, Botak. Although the trail is overgrown, there are many signs nailed to trees with ‘G. Songo’ and ‘puncak’ written on them so it is difficult to get lost. After just over three hours of hiking along the twisting and turning paths, take a left turn (this time west) which leads up to Ungaran summit. (If you keep heading straight on you would reach the middle grassy peak, Botak, which is just a few metres lower than the true summit.)
From the left turn, it takes about 45 minutes to get to the summit and its many painted monuments. The summit appears to be known locally as ‘Sarung Pala’. In good weather the panorama is fabulous with most of Central Java’s highest peaks visible. Beyond the summit, you will notice a path leading up from the east – this route is from the village of Promasan near Jimbaran and takes longer to ascend. There are plenty of places just below the summit suitable for camping.
Ungaran is a surprisingly complicated mountain area. There are three peaks separated by large, steep drops of dense jungle. The middle grassy top clearly visible from the true summit is called Botak (Indonesian for ‘bald’) and is only a few metres lower. A third top called Gendol lies even further west is only a few metres lower again. The middle grassy top, Botak, is reasonably easy to reach from the main Ungaran trail (instead of taking a left to the summit, keep going straight on). However, Gendol – which has ancient cairns at the top – requires hours and hours of hard work finding a way through the dense forest and trying not to get lost or stuck on a steep ledge and is therefore not recommended.
To descend from the summit, simply retrace your steps and follow the many signs for Gedong Songo. The slippery path is at times overgrown with foliage so be careful not to stray from the correct route. When you finally reach the warungs it is worth having a rest and then exploring the temple complex. The hot sulphur springs are just a ten-minute walk towards the rockface below the visible western peak Gendol.
Bagging information by Daniel Quinn
- Getting there: Basic public transport between Semarang and Bandungan is slow but readily available. Taxis will take you to Gedong Songo from Semarang but unless you book in advance it may be difficult finding one to take you back. However, ojeks are available.
- Accommodation: Plenty of places in Bandungan, but a much wider variety in Semarang.
- Permits: None required but take a photocopy of your passport photo page just incase – you will have to buy a ticket for entry to Gedong Songo, only a few thousand rupiah.
- Water sources: Very limited and unreliable – take sufficient supplies with you.
- 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
Ungaran is the name of a place meaning something like “new town”, “new settlement” or “a place where a new start is made”. It is likely, I think, that the town of Ungaran gave its name to the big hill or mountain looming over it. (George Quinn, 2011)