- Elevation: 1,764 m (5,787 ft)
- Prominence: 1,041 m
- Ribu category: Kurang Tinggi
- Province: Jawa Barat (West Java)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: Karantenan is the name of the highest peak
Gunung Sawal is a large mountain range of modest height at least as popular with wildlife researchers and pilgrims as with ordinary hikers. There is a population of javan leopards (‘macan tutul’) in the forests here, along with ancient sites of coniderable significance locally, so all conservation researchers and history enthusiasts will hope that a visit here never becomes like the commercialised trekking experience you find on other mountains.
Karantenan – the true summit of the Sawal range
The mountain range can be approached from several directions and by far the best route for the highest summit – known locally as Karantenan – starts at the small village of Tembong (938m) which lies to the north of the peak, a few kilometres south of Panjalu and Situ Lengkong lake.
You are requested to register in the book at Rumah Abah Ading (Abah Ading’s house) which is on the right side of the road just before it ends after the crossroads. Abah Ading is the ‘kuncen’ or ‘juru kunci’ (guardian of sacred places) for this mountain. Ideally take Abah Ading or someone else with you from the village, so that they can tell you about the interesting sites on the trail. If you aren’t Indonesian they will definitely be surprised to see you!
Regular hikers can be at the summit in just over two hours, but there are couple of places you could go wrong near the beginning. After the last house on the right, immediately take a narrow path to the right instead of following the cobbled track in front of you. The correct path curves round and begins to lead up the hillside.
The trail leads initially through coffee plantations and then a mixture of pine woodland and coffee. In clear weather conditions there are some excellent views of Ciremai to the north. There is a short section of undergrowth before you see a log hut above you to your right. Just beyond this hut, views are even more impressive, not just Ciremai but also smaller Tampomas to the north-west.
In recent years, the trail has become a little better-known and it was even featured on local television and online video channels. You will see several metal signs made by the local media organization Kawali TV, the first of which is Pintu Gerbang 1 (1,115m) near a few rocks.
Beyond this is Dadatar Akhir Kebon Kopi (1,245m) which marks the end of the coffee plantation. The proper entrance to the forest (1,279m) soon follows but is unmarked except for a wildlife banner a little higher up (1,289m). Back in 2010, several regional boundary markers were noticed in the forest (DB8 at 1,285m, DB10 at 1,314m and DB12 at 1,360m) but in 2020 they weren’t spotted although markers lower down in the plantations were.
At 1,412m there are some large rocks on the trail, one of which is ideal for sitting on. You are already past halfway to the summit. A little further on is a more impressive cluster of rocks, one of which is so flat that the spot is known as Batu Datar (1,425m).
There are few views due to the density of the forest but if you take a left at Batu Datar, a side trail leads you to a waterfall known as Curug Putri Dewi Haryani Ningsih after the wife of Prabu Trisna Jati Antaputih, the founder of the Panjalu Kingdom who is said to be buried at the summit.
The main trail continues via Tunggul Pohon Besar (1,492m) and Pohon Kembar (1,605 – ‘the twin trees’) before finally reaching the summit.
Near the top are a couple of water pools – one small and one large) and a small upright stone (supposedly an ancient grave). It is said that the pools here never run dry and local pilgrims visit this spot to make offerings, pray and bathe in this water. It is also claimed that originally the water was carried in a jug from Mecca and that is why this spot remains of considerable local significance since even before the time that Islam first arrived in West Java.
The very highest point is a grassy area just above the water pools and there is a small cement cube with a geodesy marker on top. This, the highest of the Sawal range’s peaks at 1,764m, is known as Karantenan. In 2020, there is another banner about widlife, and a small sign mentioning the period use of camera traps here to capture images of the leopards.
You may be able to glance north towards more shapely yet smaller peaks in the Sawal mountain range such as the more commonly climbed Gunung Bongkok (1,429m – spelt ‘Bangkok’ on the Bakosurtanal map) near Tasikmalaya.
Note that the mountain can also be climbed from Tabraya (‘Kertabaya’ on Bako maps) just 1km to the west of Tembong. From here, plantation tracks lead quickly into the dense forest. There are numerous ‘summits’ of a very similar height (1,739m and 1,727m spot heights on the Bako map but with no names) stretching along a crescent-shaped and enjoyably narrow ridge for over two kilometres but getting to the highest point is very tricky from here due to the complexity of the layout of the mountain ridges. The Tembong approach is definitely the one to take for the true highest summit.
Gunung Bongkok (1,429m)
Not to be confused with the mountain of the same name near Gunung Parang and Jatiluhur Reservoir, Sawal’s Gunung Bongkok is a steep peak on the south-west edge of the range, easily accessed from Tasikmalaya. The trail starts in the village of Palasari, Sukahurip (675m), which is also the starting point for Curug Salosin (Salosin waterfall).
The villagers are very keen on a plastic-free and litter-free philosophy which is highly commendable indeed. Routefinding is a little tricky at the very beginning so it is a goo idea to take someone from the village with you. Just beyond a bridge over a small river, you need to climb up to the left onto a small ridge before dropping down to some fields and then into vegetation and the beginning of forest.
Pos 1 (895m) is soon reached and is a nice spot and would be suitable for camping. Two cement pillars (1,018m) mark the proper beginning of the forest and Pos 2 soon follows (1,038m). This is another reasonably option for campers who started too late in the day to reach the summit.
After this is a steeper section known as Tanjakan Asoy Geboy (1,082m). Pos 3 (1,180m) is not as suitable for camping due to the ground being less than flat, but down to the left is the main water source on the trail. After Pos 3, there is a lot of giant bamboo (1,300m) surrounding the trail and this can be a little slippery in places. Look out for pitcher plants (‘kantong semar’) which definitely do grow on the higher slopes of this mountain.
The summit is an open grassy area with enough flat space for several tents and in good weather very pleasant views of the higher ridges of the Sawal range and down to the city of Tasikmalaya.
Most hikers will be up here in just over 2 hours and it takes slightly less to descend.
Gunung Cakrabuana (1,732 m)
About 20 kilometres north-west of Gunung Sawal is another range with a similar height, equally obscure, known as Gunung Cakrabuana. According to the Bakosurtanal map, the highest peak is 1,732m which gives the mountain a prominence of approximately 950 metres, so not that far off Ribu-status!
The mountain can be explored from several starting points including from Bunar (approximately 1,050m) and Pangkalan (900m) on the west side of the highest ridge, Cakrawati (Lemah Putih) (1,210m) on the north-east side, or from Kebun Teh Cipasung Lemahsugih (Cipasung Lemahsugih Tea Plantation) (approximately 1,100m) on the east side. Regional boundary markers much like the ones on Gunung Sawal are encountered on at least the Pangkalan and Cakrawati routes.
The Bunar and Pangkalan routes both start from the same mountain road leading into the heart of the range via Nanggewer from the south at Pagerageung. The Pangkalan route is preferred as it is slightly less steep and is not as far up the rather bumpy road as Bunar. Pangkalan is also a very friendly little village and has a nearby waterfall called Curug Panyusupan. The mountain trail starts opposite the mosque.
There are few signs on the trail on this side of the mountain and lots of junctions, so be sure to go with someone who has already hiked Cakrabuana from this side, preferably recently, in order to avoid getting lost. The trail is very steep in places but most should be up on the mountain ridge at what locals call Bayangan (1,391m) in well under 2 hours. You will also almost certainly have ‘met’ one or two leeches (‘pacet’) which, quite unlike the vast majority of mountains in Java, are an inevitability in the Cakrabuana forests. Indeed, some say that if you haven’t met any leeches then you aren’t yet on Gunung Cakrabuana!
Bayangan is just a small spot, not really large or flat enough for camping, but marks the beginning of more straightforward trekking along the ridge. About 5 minutes along the ridge is a large boulder (1,454m) on the left of the trail which in good weather would provide some good views. Another 5 minutes and you will see a small water pool (‘kolam’) on the left. This pool is allegedly reliable year-round but as it is not fresh water it would need boiling before use and perhaps best kept as an emergency source only.
Just beyond the water pool is the best camp area on the ridge, known as Pos 4 (1,490m) on the sign nailed to a tree. This spot is also known as Puncak Kancana / Sanghyang Prabu Wirakancana to some and ‘kawah’/’kulah’ to others, despite definitely not having anything resembling a crater.
This is also a very important trail junction. Down to the right is the trail from the east at Cipasung Tea Plantation. And continuing to the left, the ridge rises gently up to the highest tops of the range. Following the trail along the ridge to the left, via the small but signposted Pos 6 (1,674m), it takes around 2 hours or less to reach what is known as Puncak Sanghyang Wenang to locals. Along the way, look out for pitcher plants (‘kantong semar’) which along with the leeches are another rare feature that can still be experienced on this still-natural mountain.
Puncak Sanghyang Wenang (1,726m) is regarded as the ‘peak’ of the range by almost all hikers and is certainly the most interesting, with a small cairn on top of a rocky ground, a popular place for locals to pray and a place of likely historical significance. It is also another important trail junction, with the trail from Cakrawati leading up from the north-east. The Bunar trail is easy to miss, apparently meeting the main ridge trail a few hundred metres before Sanghyang Wenang.
Despite this being thought of by almost all as the summit of Cakrabuana, according to the Bakosurtanal map and satellite data the true summit (1,732m) is actually a further kilometre along the ridge leading to the north-west. You will see the trail drop steeply down from Sanghyang Wenang, and at first it seems as though there is indeed a proper trail. However, this soon deteriorates and the terrain becomes more challenging, with crumbly, narrow sections of mud and roots that can easily give way without much warning should your weight be too great!
Groups of student hikers have spent several days exploring the range in recent years, but it is not clear if any reached the true summit or even knew of its existence. It would probably only require an hour each way from Sanghyang Wenang, but the terrain is challenging and occasionally dangerous. The fact that there is a trail at all suggests that it has been visited but how recently is another matter.
For those descending from Sanghyang Wenang to Cakrawati, it takes only 90 minutes to 2 hours on what is a delightfully steady gradient. For an ascent, assume around 2.5 to 3 hours, depending on whether you are carrying camping equipment or not. Once at the bottom, be sure to turn left on the track to the village if you are looking for transport home, otherwise you will end up in a network of plantation tracks with very few people.
In reverse, starting down in Cakrawati, the trail leads up past a river (on the right) where there are several seats and features clearly designed for tourists, and via Pos 2 (1,374m) which is a rock where you continue to the right, a huge tree (1,443m) with massive buttress roots, another Pos (1,472m) which is the best one for camping at on this trail, and a final Pos (1,625m) before Sanghyang Wenang.
Bagging information by Daniel Quinn
For a high quality PDF version of this and other trail maps, please download from our Trail Maps page.
- Getting there: From Jakarta, there are two choices. First, take the toll road to Bandung and continue beyond to the end of the toll at Cileunyi. Follow signs to Tasikmalaya but turn off to Panjalu before Tasikmalaya. Primajasa buses to Tasikmalaya leave from Jakarta’s Lebak Bulus and Cililitan bus depot frequently during the day. The second choice for drivers is to go via the north coast toll road towards Cirebon, turning off before Cirebon and heading to Situ Lengkong via Jatiwangi and Majalengka. The nearest train station is Ciawi but far fewer trains stop there compared to Tasikmalaya and Cipeundeuy.
- Guides and GPS Tracks: Want a PDF version for your phone? Looking for a guide? Need GPS tracks and waypoints? Gunung Sawal information pack can be downloaded here.
- Permits: Register in Tembong at Rumah Abah Ading. For Gunung Bongkok, ask villagers in Palasari.
- Water sources: There are several small rivers on the mountain, but reaching them would require a considerable detour. Pos 3 on the Gunung Bongkok trail has water nearby.
- 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
Sawal or Shawwal is the tenth month of the Arabic-Islamic calendar. It is the month after the fasting month of Ramadhan, so it opens with the festivities and celebration of Idul Fitri that mark the end of the Fast. It is possible that Gunung Sawal may have had an older name that reflected Hindu or pagan culture, and this name was replaced by the more positive, celebratory Islamic name “Sawal” when the people of the surrounding region converted to Islam. Compare Gunung Slamet. (George Quinn, 2011)