Climbing the holy mountain of Gunung Lawu

Gunung Lawu

Climbing the holy mountain of Gunung Lawu

I still had sore legs from climing Gunung Merapi when I started the 10:30pm climb to the top of Gunung Lawu, one of Java’s most sacred mountain and a popular pilgrimage site. I was doing this alone but had my “trusty” Lonely Planet guide that said you should start your hike at 10:30 at the latest to be on the top for the sunrise. Man were they wrong!


Gunung Lawu is a 3265 meter peak lying on the border of central and east Java. The most convenient town to do the hike from is the wonderful town of Tawangmangu. From there you have to find an ojek(motorcycle taxi) to take you to the village of Cemoro Sewu where you’ll start the hike. The ojek will cost you about 50.000 IDR each way and the entrance to the mountain in 17.500 IDR.

When and how long

The Lonely planet writer that wrote the information about Gunung Lawu has NOT climbed the mountain from Cemoro Sewu. Either that or he/she did it in a wheelchair because the time it is supposed to take is WAY off. I started the hike at 10:30 expecting a 6 hour steady hike like it says in the book. I somehow managed to miss the exit to the top of the mountain and got lost for about two hours but I still arrived at the top at 3:30am! That meant I still had about two hours until the sun came up and it was FREEZING at the top! Man was I pissed! So if you don’t miss the exit like I did there’s no need to start the hike until maybe around 1 am. That should give you plenty of time to reach the top. Then it’s about 2-3 hours down again.


Medium difficulty. It is mostly up but there is a decent path that is easy to follow going all the way up. You can do it without a guide like I did and if you are afraid to miss the exit to the top like I did then there are plenty of students doing the hike on saturdays that you could tag along with. Hiring a guide though shouldn’t cost much more than 150.000 IDR though.

What to bring

  • Good worn in closed shoes
  • 2-3 Liters of water.
  • Snacks for energy
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Warm sweater, jacket, gloves and hat. It gets extremely cold at the top.

1274832_10151712607443512_627220482_o 1277766_10151712609523512_521288486_o 1292871_10151712613423512_164260514_o

Although the sunrise was quite spectacular and the view over the surrounding mountains was beautiful the WOW factor from Gunung Merapi wasn’t there. Also, I was pretty pissed at Lonely Planet for the information they pulled out of their dark places.

Have you ever gotten information from a guidebook that is utter bullshit?


  1. Hi,

    thanks for your tips, they were very helpful. I also agree that the lonely planet time guidelines are way off.

    I climbed gunung lawu at midnight to get to the top for the sunrise. My intention was always to climb it alone, however this decision was made easier by the staff in the mountain office who offered me a price of 300.000 IDR for a guide. This price increased to 500.000 IDR and then to 700.000 IDR at 12am. I thought no chance and started the climb. Roughly 5 hours up, then another 5 hours back down.

    I personally feel that the sunrise was amazing, and that climbing it alone was a once in a lifetime event that I will always remember.

    Happy travels,

  2. Hi Skuli
    I took a photograph of the large wall poster map inside the mountain office, it helped a lot.
    I still had a bit of trouble near the top though.
    I still have two months left here, I may climb gunung merapi.
    All the best

  3. Merapi is amazing! but prepare yourself for a hard(but short) hike
    Happy travels!

Leave a Comment