Indonesia is generally known for Bali, beaches, and tropical beauty. But if you want something different from the typical palm trees and coconuts, be sure to check out the massive crater of Tangkuban Perahu. Our quick lessons we learned about our trip to the “Upturned Boat” are as follows:
- Go early or on weekdays
- Be aware of aggressive sales from guides and local vendors
- Entrance fees are
- Weekday: 20k for Domestic and 200k for Foreigners ($15 USD/20 AUD)
- Weekends: 30 for Domestic and 300K for Foreigners ($23 USD/30.50 AUD)
- Sorry, guides are “compulsory” for the hot springs
- Wear appropriate clothes, especially if you want to dip in the waters
- Bargain, bargain, bargain
When to Go
Tangkuban Perahu is an extremely popular destination. It pulls in all manners of tourists, locals, city dwellers, school group trips, and more. We highly suggest you go as early as possible in order to better enjoy the surroundings. We arrived around 8am and found plenty of parking, enjoyed the peaceful hiking trails with subdued efforts from local vendors. It was a very peaceful, quiet hike we began in the morning. As the sun rose higher and the park filled more, we had to push our way through crowded trails to see more of the views. We were also more aggressively hassled by vendors selling local strawberries, clothing, and other such wares.
Apart from parking and the crowds, you should also consider the time it will take to arrive and leave. There is only one two way street which is, in the typical Indonesian fashion, not very well maintained after you leave the mountain park area. If you’re traveling alone, we suggest hiring someone on a motorcycle to take you up, or if you are eligible to, then rent a motor yourself. If you are in a car be prepared for extended traffic that will take hours to push through during high traffic times. If you’re coming from Bandung, the closest city and capital of Western Java, you can expect (in traffic free conditions) to arrive in a little over an hour to reach the park.
Prices shift according to the day and your status as a native or foreigner. If you have a KITAS remember to bring it with you so you may enjoy the Domestic ticket price. There is some grey area about Work Permits, where for some it has worked and for others the park entrance has insisted they pay a Foreigner price. If you speak some Bahasa, that can go a long way in insisting you get a domestic price. As a mixed couple traveling together, very often it is automatically assumed that we are a local guide and tourist traveling together until I point to my ring and my husband, “Dia suamiku” (he is my husband) and hand over my KITAS.
Visiting Tangkuban Perahu
Welcome to the Upturned Boat! There are a variety of variances and subtle differences to the story of this crater, one of which you can read here. This gist however is that a young man named Sangkuriang fell in love at first sight with a woman, Dayang Sumbi, who turned out to be his mother *dun dun duuuuun* Only the mother eventually recognized Sangkuriang as her son, whom she had banished for having killed his father and fed it to her for dinner so many years ago. Dayang Sumbi asks Sangkuriang to build her a boat and a lake before dawn. He agrees, summoning a bunch of spirits to help out. She freaks when she realizes he might complete the task after all and then orders the villagers to wave red silk on the horizon to imitate the dawn. Seeing the dawn he gets so pissed that he kicks the boat he’s almost finished, smashes into the land carving out what is Tangkuban Perahu today. Oh incest, you’re so cruel. Game of Thrones, Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers, the story of Oedipus, and the horrible scene in Marco Polo’s season two. The world may not agree on politics and religion, but we all seem to feel that families should not be getting down with one another.
When you arrive in the parking lot there are two trails. One heads to the left which seemingly goes further up into the woods but in fact stops rather abruptly after 10 minutes of walking. It offers a really nice view from the highest vantage point over the main crater, Kawah Ratu (Queen Crater).
The trail to the right goes past a variety of shops, vantage points, food vendors, and trickles out into a less visited hiking trail that continues to wrap around the crater. A word of caution. Some vendors will be very aggressive, insistent, or friendly and follow you in order to push sales. It can ruin what is otherwise a nice trip. Just take care if you are a foreigner because you will become a target. To politely refuse something, simply say “nggak, makasih” (nnnn-gah, mah-kah-si) which means “no thank you” and wave your hand while shaking your head if someone becomes too insistent. If you would love to get your hands on some of the beautiful wooden instruments, crafts, shirts, and more than don’t be afraid to bargain!
Don’t worry about bringing your own food. The park is packed with plenty of eateries, snack vendors, and all manners of Sudanese style dishes. Additionally, you can drive out from the park and find plenty of places to eat along the road.
There’s 30-40 minutes of hiking in this direction and at one point you may find a gated trail where you can be escorted down to other crater spots. We chose not to hire a guide and go, but continued past and enjoyed a bit more of an upward hike. This area was far from the rumble of the tourist trap. Songbirds, wind, and endless fog below our visage covered the mountainside in this area.
Visiting Kawah Domas
It is pretty typical to be required to hire a guide at parks in Indonesia. A guide was necessary in the Mangrove Park trails to Tiga Warna since they were flooded at different parts of the day according to the tide. In the case of this park, they say it is necessary because the volcano is active and guides are present in case of an emergency evacuation. In reality, the guides are taking you down an incredibly well groomed, wide trail that is easy enough for a two year old to navigate. But you will need to hire a guide if you are a foreigner, all grumbling aside. Sorry.
There are two outposts to get to the hot springs. You may either enter from the top of the park near the crater which leads down a very windy, steep trail. Very good if you want to get your blood going. If you’re looking for something less challenging or it has been raining leaving the trail slick, you drive back down the entrance road to an additional outpost. There the guides may be a bit cheaper since the trail is fairly flat and easy to access.
We were able to get a tour guide for IDR 150K for the two of us from the flat trail outpost but I’ve seen English speaking reviewers pay 300K for their group. There are no published prices, this is all done by word of mouth and if you are near the entrance looking wide eyed you will most certainly be approached to go. Also keep in mind that if you are parked at the top, you will need to climb back up the steep trail where your guide may return. It may be possible to leave the hot springs using the flat trail and walk the moderately steep paved sidewalk or hire an ojek (motorcycle) to deliver you back to the top, but communicating this to your guide might be a challenge.
BEWARE! There are reports of guides increasing the price after you are dropped off, or if you stay long at the springs. Guides make their money based on the number of entrants they escort. Before you set off, don’t be afraid to barter, as there are no published rates for guides meaning they will try to size you up and squeeze what they can. Ensure that the price you are paying is for the whole trip, and seal the deal with a slightly aggressive smile and quick nod. Do not let them cajole you into paying additional money for an “hourly price” at the end of your trip. We had a particularly sullen looking, distant guide who like a hawk, began to circle us in an effort to get us to leave after an hour. We probably would have liked to have stayed longer was it not for the rain and our guide’s attitude.
At the Springs
Now that you’ve arrived it’s time to party! Take in the view. Beautiful stone outcrops set to the sound of bubbling water, and surrounded by lush jungle. This was absolutely our favorite part of the trip as far as scenery goes.
Chose a pool, and take off your shoes to enjoy a nice warm dip in the water. We were a little puzzled as to why there was a completely empty pool since the others were crowded, and so took off our shoes and began to test the water. We realized the reason our spot was so empty was because the water was absolutely boiling! After we switched to a better pool, we enjoyed the low roar of mixed languages from around the world converging at this one spot. Indonesian, Farsi, Arabic, English and more swirled around our heads as we looked out over the jungle. The sun dipped in and out of the clouds, and our legs had never felt better.
BEWARE! You will be pressured into buying goods such as bracelets and trinkets. There are several people offering up massages with the local mud which is, in fact, quite delightful. But there are those who will corner you and straight up pull your feet out of the water and start right away without your consent. Be polite, but firm as always. Intimidation is used to drum up business so be wary. That aside, a massage with the local mud looked like great fun if you were into it, as this guy surely was.
So, leave your tight hipster jeans and jeggings at home. You will want to wear shoes you can take on and off easily. Wear pants you can roll up or a skirt that won’t be too revealing when you sit. Unless revealing is your thing, in which case perhaps find a better place where that could be better appreciated like at a bar or something.
If you have any questions about the spot be sure to ask us! Here is a lovely video of our trip so you can get a taste of the adventure for yourself.