Ungaran

Facts

  • Elevation: 2,050 m (6,726 ft)
  • Prominence: 1,320 m
  • Ribu category: Tinggi Sedang
  • Province: Jawa Tengah (Central Java)
  • Google Earth: kml
  • Rating: 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (12 votes) Add your rating
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  • Other names: Known as ‘Karungrungan’ many centuries ago, according to the Bujangga Manik.

Photos

Bagging It!

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 2.30am! 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 peak that everybody thinks is the true summit of Gunung Ungaran is actually only the second highest according to two good quality topographic map sources. This contradicts most information widely available online yet seems to be accurate and we are already planning a return trip to the mountain in late 2020 to take a GPS reading.

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 – 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 the best estimate is one hour 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’ so there may be the remains of a trig pillar up there.

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 1,265m 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 (1,370m). The path continues in forest, crossing a stream (1,415m) above which is a small waterfall before reaching another shelter, Pos 2 (1,440m).

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.

Pos 4 (1,640m) 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 (1,700m above sea level). Further up the steep mountainside are a couple of flatter spaces (1,890m 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, the true highest peak in the range.

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 better still descend to the edge of the tea plantation (Pos 3, 1,525m) and optionally visit the nearby Goa Jepang (Japanese Cave). From Pos 3, take a right back down to Mawar. 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 and 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 (1,155m). A little higher up, you pass a cement pillar on the left (1,308m) 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 10 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 (1,525m). 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 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 January 2020.

Practicalities

    • 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.
    • Accommodation: Plenty of places in Bandungan, but a much wider variety in Semarang.
    • 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.
    • Permits: Register at Mawar or Medini basecamp (around Rp10,000 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.
    • 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):
semarang

Location

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

Wikipedia English
Wikipedia Indonesia

8 thoughts on “Ungaran

  1. I decided to hike Ungaran again this month after not having hiked it for 10 years (!) and being curious about the other trails. Last time I went up from Gedong Songo and reached Puncak Gendol by mistake, thinking it was the true summit. I just about managed to get to what at the time I thought was the true summit – the eastern one with the many pillars / monuments on it. Well, it was a good thing I returned as I ended up making an interesting discovery after my hike, more of which below.

    First of all the hike itself. Well, I was staying in nearby Bandungan so decided to visit Gedong Songo the day before the hike. It was Chinese New Year, but even so the traffic all the way from Bandungan to the temple complex was totally 100% jammed. Luckily i was on a motorbike otherwise it would have taken perhaps 90 minutes each way!

    Sadly, Gedong Songo and the area which surrounds it has been over-commercialized yet without the infrastructure to deal with such huge numbers of people. There is a massive family attraction on one side of the road, with huge buses trying to pull in and out from a village road, and motorcyclists taking up more than half the side of the road instead of allowing traffic to flow in both directions. The usual brainlessness and selfishness that – multiplied by a hundred – turns a simple outing into a near traumatic ordeal! Gedong Songo was always popular, but now there are even more stores and lots of new ‘selfie spots’. It is far from a transcendental or deep experience, despite the stunning backdrop. Go on a weekday, and get as far up the hillside as you can and then, if you are lucky, you may find some solitude and atmosphere. Rp10,000 for locals and Rp75,000 for foreigners but you may get the local price like me if you show a KITAS or similar.

    The forecast for the next day was terrible, but the rains came at night and the day turned out to be pretty good – certainly for January! Me and Ricky got ojeks from Bandungan all the way round to Medini basecamp (about 1 hour and some great views on the road to Limbangan of Sumbing and Sindoro) so we could do a traverse, dropping down to Mawar afterwards. It all went very well, with the tea plantation quite beautiful in the early morning sunlight and very clear views to Semarang city and the north coast.

    There was some kind of tree planting event at Promasan and hundreds of tents. Quite surreal to find yourself in an isolated spot like that and turn the corner to find hundreds of people! By the time we got to the summit it was a little hazy as expected. Hundreds of hikers on the trail – so unlike back in 2010 when I didn’t meet anyone at the summit – perhaps so many because it was a national holiday, or perhaps because Ungaran is one of the few mountains that is not closed for the rainy season. We were up from Medini in 3 hours without any breaks. Surprised to see my GPS only giving a reading of around 2,033m – a good 15m or so below the published figure. Perhaps one of the overestimates, or perhaps my GPS was playing up for some reason, or so I thought at the time.

    We made it down to Mawar in less than 2 hours as I had to get back to my hotel to check out and get back to Semarang for a train to Jakarta. No time for Candi Promasan or Goa Jepang but as it turns out I will be back later in the year….

    Upon checking the Bakosurtanal map to give precise elevation figures for the three main peaks, I did a double-take when I read a higher figure for the middle peak (Puncak Botak) compared to the north-eastern peak that has the summit monuments and which everyone just assumes is the peak. A second map from 1943 confirmed Botak as the higher peak. I then rushed to see if it was possible to reach Botak from the monument peak (it is and a few hikers go there every couple of months or so). Next I looked through my old photos from when I went to Gendol peak and the eastern peak to see if there was anything from Botak to confirm I had bagged it too. Nothing. I presumably got to the monuments and thought ‘great, I’ve done it!’ like everyone else. I also checked photos of Botak from the monuments and it does look very close indeed. Too close to call, unless you have GPS readings and/or decent topo maps, both of which I do indeed now have (aside from GPS reading for Botak itself).

    It may only be 15 metres but I need to head back just to confirm that the maps are correct – I think they almost certainly will be. Probably mid-November. Other folk who have done the ‘tourist peak’ but not the true peak are welcome to join me. Probably a hike from Mawar at night for sunrise at the tourist peak before an extension to Botak and back down to Mawar. I’ve claimed Ungaran as a bagged Ribu so now I need to truly bag it before the year is up! Really wasn’t expecting this but… looking forward to it already! This time a gap of ten months rather than ten years!

  2. Just did a great and straight forward hike up Ungaran from Base Camp Mawar. My original plan was to go via Gendong Songo but I was informed by my guide that the trail from Gendong Songo was either closed or going through maintenance.

    From Mawar, I went at moderate pace and we were up on the summit in less than 2.5 hours. The first part is an easy and mostly flat walk through farmland and forest, before emerging into tea and coffee plantations. Finally you reach the base of the vertical face, where at a moderate hiking pace you can be on the summit in around 1.5 hours. Very leisurely if you are used to other mountain hiking in Java/Indonesia. Summit is large and flat and affords great views of other Central Java mountains including Sumbing, Sindoro and Merbabu.

    Descend the same way but also do a short (30 min) detour via the tea plantations to Goa Jepang (Japanese caves) which are a worthy diversion for 10-15 minutes. After that go back up through the tea plantations and descend to Base Camp Mawar.

    All in all you can go up and down Ungaran with a stop at Goa Jepang in about 5 hours. 2.5 hours up to the summit, then an hour going down to the Goa Jepang and exploring, then an hour and a half back to base camp. I started at 9am and was back by 230 or 3pm, a very easy and enjoyable day out.

    Make sure to visit Gedong Songo by car after you finish at Base Camp Mawar. Very interesting temples.

    One option that is apparently common is a traverse of Ungaran, presumably from Gedong Songo (assuming the trail is open) to Mawar. That would be a great option, though I’m not sure whether I would prefer starting at the temple complex or ending there.

  3. We climbed Gunung Ungaran from Gedung Songo on 19th July. (In Bandungan, Hotel Azaya is a pleasant place to stay.)
    There is a string of warungs between Gedung I and Gedung II. The trail you want starts after the last warung; instead of following the cobbled track round to the left, keep going straight up between the forest to the left and vegetable fields to the right. Bear to the forest side and ascend steeply for 15 minutes or so before the slope eases somewhat and the trail bends gradually to the right. After about 2 hours heading northeast, you reach a flattish section at 1720m with a couple of campsites; take the right fork at the large campsite. From here, steep ascents alternate with long, flatter sections as the trail wends its way tortuously around behind Botak summit. Although some parts of the trail are overgrown, this is actually a pleasantly cool hike through the high forest, the only drawback being the difficulty of knowing how near or far away the summit actually is. After about 3h30 you should reach the junction where you can head to Botak summit to the right or Ungaran summit to the left; you cannot miss this junction as there are about 10 signs nailed to trees instead of the usual one or two. Ungaran summit is about 20 minutes further on.
    Allow about 3 hours to descend and enjoy a long soak in the hot spring pool at Gedung Songo.
    This hike is not particularly spectacular, but it would be nice to feel the trail was more used, given how close it is to Semarang.

  4. I made a very big mistake on Ungaran. So beware! From Gedong Songo, the most visible peak is the western peak (Gendol) which lies above a steep rockface. I made the assumption that the peak was the summit, or at least near the summit. So I followed a trail past a little hut above the sulphur spring, past a monkey statue and a spring and round to the left (west) of the rockface. From here, a few vague paths lead up the side of the mountain. Note the word vague! I followed one which took me a couple of hundred metres up the side of the mountain before vanishing. I should, at this point, have descended and found the correct path from the warungs but instead I decided to jungle-bash my way up to the top of Gendol. This took two incredibly painful and exhausting hours. I have never seen so many spiky plants and my hands are the evidence of that! Finally, after two horrific hours for which I have only myself to blame, at the top of the rarely-visited western peak I found ancient cairns. I also looked eastwards to see a higher grassy peak (Botak) which lay beyond a huge steep drop and dense jungle. Somehow I found the energy to carry on and hacked my way down to the col. Fortunately I eventually found a good trail running between the peaks which was the one I should have been on in the first place. It led round the base of the grassy peak Botak and to a further third peak – the true Ungaran summit – lying further east. In total it took me 7 hours to get to the true top instead of 4! On the plus side, the extra time foolishly wasted in dense spiny foliage allowed me to enjoy the combination of dangdut karaoke from the many bars in Bandungan and the mega-amplified call to prayer from nearby mosques. Quite a mixture.
    Never underestimate these smaller peaks, turn back if you lose the trail and always remember to take a guide! There are some remarkably steep areas on this mountain. Maybe it’s time for me to buy a GPS.

    • i wonder if you saw fortress at the top of gunung ungaran ? this fortress build Japaneses people back at around year 1943. this fortress was carved inside of ungaran mountain. maybe next time we can go together …

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