Green jungle landscape with Mount Merapi in the distance

Climbing the Mount Merapi Volcano in Indonesia

This post was last updated on June 26th, 2020 at 06:20 pm

On our adventures, we like to walk on different paths where most “regular” backpackers don’t go. During our trip through Asia, in this case, Indonesia, it meant that we did not feel like walking the much-chosen route of Mount Bromo and the Ijen volcano. We wanted to climb an alternative volcano that was less known, but no less impressive to do. In our hostel in Yogyakarta, we talked to employees about alternatives to a volcano hike and they advised us to climb the Mount Merapi volcano. Mount Merapi is also known as Gunung Merapi, meaning “Fire Mountain“. After delving into this, we found out that this was the challenge we were looking for. With a group and several guides, we can go hiking in the middle of the night to see the sunrise from the top! Sounds cool right?


The Most Active Volcano in Indonesia: Mount Merapi

The Mount Merapi volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia and has an altitude of 2968 meters. From Yogyakarta, it’s a good idea to find a tour that offers trekking on this volcano, but you could also travel to the area itself and find a guide there to take you on the road. Mount Merapi is a stratovolcano, which means that the ascent is steep and the descent is also a major challenge.


This trek is considered to be a technically difficult ascent and descent, but don’t be put off by this! It is useful to have good, sturdy shoes, warm clothes and are well equipped beforehand. A good condition is also a bonus, but we also had people in the group who were less strong and they also made it. So this climb is achievable for everyone.


Mount Merapi view of the East side at dawn
View of the East side of Mount Merapi at dawn


The Road to the Top of Mount Merapi Starts at Night

You’ll start your trek at night, after which you quickly notice that the ascent is really steep (logical at a volcano). You don’t see anything through the darkness except for the thousands of lights from villages further down the volcano. This is a very special and beautiful view to experience. Furthermore, you are focused on following the guide and the path that goes up.


At the beginning of the climb this was easy to do, every now and then you have a moment to drink and eat and then you continue. The end of the climb is the hardest: not only is it a steep climb but there are all kinds of small stones that sink under your feet, mentally this is also a challenge. If you spend more than 4 hours in total on the climb, you’ll feel exhausted at some point and you just want to reach the top. Our tip is to make sure you do this climb with others to help each other through or find another way to drag yourself through this last stretch.


For example, we used music for that. But we can guarantee you one thing: once you’re at the top, when you see the sunrise and know you’ve made it, you’ll forget all the struggles from before. A sense of pride combined with a magical view overcomes all fatigue and you cannot help but enjoy this special experience. For us, this climb was an absolute highlight of our entire journey through Southeast Asia.


Watching the sunrise at Mount Merapi after the climb
Watching the sunrise at Mount Merapi after the climb


Descending Mount Merapi Volcano After Sunrise is Harder Than You Think

After the sunrise and after enjoying the mysterious environment that the volcano offers, it was time to descend. You now have sunlight that makes it easier to see where you are walking, but you still have to be careful because some parts can be slippery which can cause you to slip and fall. In addition, fatigue during the descent also strikes quickly, so this part may be experienced as more difficult than the climb up.


Nevertheless, the descent is also wonderful to experience: you can see the diverse flora and fauna that grow on the fertile soil of the volcano, combined with the locals who grow and obtain their income on this land. After about 3 to 4 hours you will be at the foot of the volcano and you can relax with a nice breakfast before continuing on your adventure.


Fisheye View of Mount Merapi Crater near Yogyakarta
View of Mount Merapi Crater


Do You Also Want to Climb the Mount Merapi Volcano in Java?

The Merapi volcano can only be climbed between the months of March to October when the volcano is not active. You can book a tour from Yogyakarta that takes you to the location. You’ll receive guidance during the ascent and descent and then you receive breakfast, after which you are driven back to the city.


Tip: Negotiate the Price of Your Mount Merapi Tour

It is recommended to negotiate the price and inquire with multiple agencies to get the best deal. You can also arrange transport yourself to get to the volcano and organize a trek from there with a guide or even a jeep.


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