- 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: Known as ‘Karungrungan’ many centuries ago, according to the Bujangga Manik.
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 south of the peak. 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. Many local hikers camp on the mountain at weekends, but all the treks can easily be accomplished as day-hikes. The question is whether or not you want to enjoy the very early morning views between 5am and 6am (usually the best time for distant panoramas of other mountains in Central Java) as if you do then you will need to either camp or set off hiking with a torch at around 3am! If you are setting off later on after breakfast then you have a greater chance of a cloudy summit and also a higher risk of sunburn as the forest on the mountain is patchy and in some cases non-existent meaning very little shade.
The Gedong Songo monument complex is open daily from 6.15am until 17.15pm and there is a small charge for visitors. This spot can get very crowded indeed at weekends but is an essential place to visit when hiking Gunung Ungaran. However, do note that at least since 2015 the trail from the temples to the summit area is overgrown due to lack of use and access is technically prohibited via the temple complex. Details on the Gedong Songo route are lower down on this page, for if it ever re-opens, but it is best to use one or both of the two most popular official trails and then visit the temples separately afterwards.
Keen baggers will want to know that the eastern peak with lots of monuments that most local hikers regard as the true summit of Gunung Ungaran is actually only the second highest according to good quality topographic map sources and numerous GPS devices. Ungaran is a surprisingly complicated mountain area. The three highest peaks are separated by large, steep drops of dense jungle and are as follows, from north-east to south-west:
Puncak Ungaran (2,031m according to Bakosurtanal and 2,027m accoding to a colonial-era map from 1943) – the regularly-visited eastern peak with numerous ‘summit’ signs on it and the destination of over 99% of hikers on the mountain. The colonial-era map labels this peak with a triangulation sign and ‘S454’ and indeed you will find S454 engraved on the top face of a small pillar. This top is what most people regard as being the ‘puncak’ or peak of the mountain and very few have heard of – let alone stepped on – Puncak Botak.
Puncak Botak (2,049m according to Bakosurtanal and 2,050m according to a colonial-era map from 1943) – as ‘botak’ means bald it is no surprise that this is a treeless, grassy peak in the middle of the range. This is the true summit of the range yet is overgrown and only hiked a handful of times per year by adventurous locals. It is best accessed via Puncak Ungaran which is the eastern peak most hikers aim to visit and it takes around 30-45 minutes each way from Puncak Ungaran. It is only about 600 metres away from Puncak Ungaran (in a straight line) but you must pass by a small valley between the two before ascending up steep, sharp grass! The colonial-era map labels this top with a triangulation sign and ‘P453′ and there are some broken remains of a cement trig pillar up there. There are two knolls of a very similar elevation just 2 minutes’ walk apart. The first one (eastern) has a small cairn (collection of stones) and the second one has the already mentioned partially-hidden remains of a cement pillar. Keen baggers should visit both!
Puncak Gendol (1,999m according to Bakosurtanal and 2,002m according to a colonial-era map from 1943) – a very rarely-hiked peak with an ancient grave or cairn at the top of it. This is the peak closest to Gedong Songo temples but as the route from Gedong Songo is now closed it is increasingly difficult to access. It probably now 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.
Hiking Routes (to the popular eastern peak):
Via Mawar Basecamp at Umbul Sidomukti (south-east of the peak) -approximately 5 hours return day-hike to the eastern top or 7 hours return to Puncak Botak
By far the most popular hiking route on the mountain, the Mawar trailhead starts at around 1,257m above sea level and has motorbike parking spaces, warungs, a hang-gliding spot and registration counter. The trail passes the hang-gliding (paralayang) area before reaching a shelter which is Pos 1 (1,350m). The path continues in forest, crossing a stream (1,415m) above which is a small waterfall before reaching another shelter, Pos 2 (1,437m).
Pos 2 is an important point on the trail because it is the junction between the old and new trails. If you are descending back to Mawar afterwards then it is best to go up one way and back down the other. A left turn here takes you up a newer trail which is a short-cut and leads directly to Pos 4. Continuing straight ahead, meanwhile, leads more gently via Pos 3 (the edge of the tea plantation) where you would then turn left and hike up to Pos 4. It is probably preferable to take the short-cut along the newer trail on your ascent and then go back via the tea plantation on your descent (or just return the same way).
Pos 4 (1,650m) has yet another shelter. Assuming you took the short-cut from Pos 2 then obviously here you need to turn left up towards the summit rather than left down to Pos 3 on the edge of the tea plantation. From here the trail gets much steeper and passes through an area which presumably suffered from forest fires in 2019 (1,692m above sea level). If you are lucky you will see lutung (Javan black monkey) here, especially early in the morning and if there are not many other hikers around.
Further up the steep mountainside are a couple of flatter spaces (1,889m and 1,925m) frequently used by local campers at weekends. Finally you will reach the eastern summit which is crowned by a large concrete platform with 3 monuments on it, plus a couple of other monuments nearby.
In clear weather, 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. Just over half a kilometre to the south-west is Puncak Botak, a grassy ridge which is the true highest peak in the range.
To reach Botak from the eastern peak, follow the trail as it drops down into woodland. In 2020, there is a minor junction (2,012m) with a left turn labelled ‘Jalur Wisata’ and a right labelled ‘Gedong Songo’. We can only presume that Jalur Wisata is an infrequently and possibly overgrown trail that leads down to the area known as Wisata Alam Perantunan south of the mountain. Down this trail a short way is a sign with Lembah Jinten (‘cumin valley’).
But for the route for Puncak Botak, ignore the Jalur Wisata sign and follow the sign for Gedong Songo. Although it is not allowed for hikers to climb Ungaran from the Gedong Songo temple complex in 2020, this old trail handily leads to the col (1,965m) between the eastern monument peak and Puncak Botak although it is a little overgrown so watch your steps carefully.
From the col, you may need to bash your way up through thorny bushes a short way before reaching the grassier area, from where it is quite obvious as there is a clear trail and one or two purple ribbons along the route. Soon you will find yourself on the Botak ridge. Left leads down to better views of Rawa Pening lake (and may even continue all the way down to a similar starting point to the Jalur Wisata route on the southern side of the mountain). Right leads to the two highest knolls of the entire mountain range as described above. The views from the top of Puncak Botak are excellent and it really does deserve to be the true highest peak. The lower western peak of Gendol is clearly seen about a kilometre to the south-west, along with Dieng’s Gunung Prau and all of the higher volcanoes of this section of Central Java.
Getting back to the eastern peak with monuments the same way requires around 30 minutes.
To descend back to Mawar you can head back the same way via the short-cut between Pos 2 and 4, or if the weather is fine and you have plenty of time better still descend to the edge of the tea plantation (Pos 3, 1,526m). This is a little overgrown but you should be able to cut through to the plantation track without too much hassle. From there you can visit the nearby Goa Jepang (Japanese Cave, 1,431m) and Candi Promasan (a Hindu temple or bathing pool, 1,421m) both of which are on the edge of Promasan village.
From Pos 3 at the edge of the plantation, take a right back down to Mawar or retrace your steps to the Pos 4 trail junction higher up the mountain. There are lots of local villagers working in the plantation and at the village so be sure to ask if you are not clear on which way to go. For the former approach, following the wide stone track and looking for signs (or taking relevant GPS traks from this very website) and you should be OK, but far fewer hikers use this path than the short-cut, especially during the week!
A left at Pos 3 (on descent from the summit) takes you on a completely different route north-west through the extensive tea plantations via Promasan village and down to Medini and towards the north coast. This makes a great traverse of Gunung Ungaran in either direction but requires extra time and logistics (see below).
Via Promasan and Medini tea plantations (north-west of the peak) – approximately 6 hours return day-hike to the eastern top or 8 hours return to Puncak Botak
This trail via the Medini tea plantations (kebun teh Medini) is beginning to get more popular but unless you have your own motorbike it is a little more difficult to access (via Limbangan) and takes a bit longer than the Mawar route. The Medini basecamp is at an elevation of almost exactly 1,000m, but motorbikes and cars with high clearance could theoretically be taken along the rocky plantation tracks as far as the village of Promasan (1,430m) which is an isolated community in the middle of the tea fields but frequently busy at weekends.
In reality, most hikers leave their bikes near the basecamp or slightly further up (1,070m) near a camping area and building to rest in. The views to the north coast including the city of Semarang are impressive early in the morning before the haze arrives. If on foot, do not follow the wide tea plantation track, but rather take a left which is a short-cut to the highest slopes of the mountain. The path is pretty well marked with signs, but you need a left (1,140m) before crossing a stream (1,154m). A little higher up, you pass a cement pillar on the left (1,309m) before taking another left (1,328m) and again (1,360m).
All of a sudden you will find yourself at the tea plantation village of Promasan (1,430m). There is even a Candi Promasan (ancient Hindu temple) in the village. This area can get very busy at weekends with campers and if like many folk here you want to visit Gua Jepang then take a left for about 5 minutes. Beyond the village, through an entrance gate with YONIE RAIDER written above it (relating to local army battalion in Semarang called Banteng Raiders), and you will find yourself at a shelter (1,505m) before the very important junction at Pos 3 (1,526m). Straight on leads you gently down to Mawar. A right turn leads you steeply up to the eastern summit (Puncak Ungaran).
Via Gedong Songo temple complex (south of the peak – rarely used and no longer recommended) – currently closed (according to latest information in 2020)
The temple complex lies at 1,200m which means you get a good head start on your hike here, if only the route were not now closed. There is also a hot sulphur spring (Kawah Ijo) a little way up the hillside and plenty of warungs selling drinks and snacks. It takes about 4 hours to reach the eastern 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, at least back in 2010 there were many signs nailed to trees with ‘G. Songo’ and ‘puncak’ written on them so it was difficult to get lost when this trail was still officially open. After just over three hours of hiking along the twisting and turning paths, take a left turn which leads up to Ungaran eastern summit. If you keep heading straight on you might reach the foot of the middle grassy peak, Botak, which at 2,050m is actually the true summit of the range.
From the left turn, it takes about 45 minutes to get to the eastern summit and its many painted monuments. In good weather the panorama is fabulous with most of Central Java’s highest peaks visible. Beyond the eastern summit, you will notice a path leading up from the east – this official and popular route is used by hikers from both Mawar basecamp and Medini basecamp as detailed above.
To descend from the eastern summit to Gedong Songo, 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, last updated March 2020. The March 2020 expedition was kindly supported by Tjiasmanto Conservation Fund.
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- 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 so Grab or GoCar are recommended instead. Local ojeks are available too.
- Guides and GPS Tracks: Want a PDF version for your phone? Looking for a guide? Need GPS tracks and waypoints? Gunung Ungaran information pack can be downloaded here.
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- Permits: Register at Mawar or Medini basecamp (around Rp8,000 per hiker in 2020).
- Water sources: It is best to take enough of your own but stream are passed on the Mawar trail (at 1,415m) and on the Medini route (at 1,150m, 1,350m) and you can probably find water at Promasan village in the middle of the tea plantation. Very limited and unreliable on the now closed route from Gedong Songo.
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)
Links and References