Looming large on virtually all Indonesia travel itineraries, volcanoes in Indonesia are the most perceptively magnificent reason that the country is such a unique destination in Southeast Asia. They are constant reminders of the ferocious capabilities of nature to those that inhabit the surrounding areas – since evacuations always seem to be happening somewhere in Indonesia – but they also provide an endless source of inspiration for local legend and an adventure playground to intrepid visitors.
The thing is, active volcanoes are the kinds of destinations that can reinvigorate that sense of adventure we sometimes forget we have. The nine-to-five daily grind is a surefire way of not seeing anything really, truly mind-blowing. It’s also what makes travel such a great way to shake things up – since we already know that spending money on travel is effectively the key to happiness, we might as well head to the destinations that are sure to get us re-acquainted with how incredible the world really is. As for these five awe-inspiring volcanoes in Indonesia, they are a pretty spectacular way to do it.
1. Bromo, East Java
Getting the list going is Java’s most iconic natural landscape, an otherworldly expanse straight out of a science fiction film. Bromo steals the show in name alone, as the Bromo experience is as much about the surrounding visual delights as it is about this small, grey and volatile little hothead. Inside the sea of sand Bromo smokes relentlessly overlooked by stately Batok, which rises adjacent in seemingly perfect symmetry. Although not immediately destructive, towering Semeru – Java’s highest peak – is in a state of constant eruption and looks on regally from afar.
2. Sibayak, North Sumatra
One of Indonesia’s most accessible volcanoes is also the easiest to climb. The road takes you all the way up to the point from which a further 30-minute climb takes you straight to the peak. The sizable crater, most of which you can walk around in, contains small and sinister cracks that hiss aggressively from the pressure of the escaping sulfur. A large part of Sibayak’s magnificence is due to the fact that on a clear day you can see across to the more violent Sinabung, which hit headlines in 2015 for its volatility.
3. Ijen, East Java
Back to Java but so far east that it could almost be Bali, Ijen is worth visiting for a number of reasons. The bright green volcanic lake is reminiscent of an enormous witch’s cauldron and is a truly magnificent site, but equally as spectacular is the blue flame that can be seen right on the lakeside but only at night. Perhaps more intriguing still, hardy workers mine the sulfur using only a few rudimentary tools to carve out the element and then lug absurdly heavy loads of the bright yellow rocks (think 80kg+) down the mountain on their backs. The surrounding mountainous landscape is breathtaking, and can be enjoyed with an easy stroll around the crater edge.
4. Batur, Bali
Beautiful Batur is one of Indonesia’s most photographed volcanoes thanks to its position on the most popular island for tourists in the Indonesian archipelago. There are two options for scaling a volcano in Bali (the other being the higher and more difficult Agung) and you can go crazy over deciding which one to go for. Although easier, I prefer Batur because the view of Agung from Batur’s peak is simply gorgeous, especially at sunrise.
5. Rinjani, Lombok
We finish the list with monstrous Rinjani, which occupies almost half of Lombok and is less than a hundred metres short of being the highest volcano in Indonesia (the top position goes to Kerinci in Sumatra). Thanks to a gorgeous horseshoe shaped lake, Rinjani is probably in possession of the most picture perfect volcanic crater in Indonesia (and/or the world). If you’re in luck and you’re above the clouds then the surrounding views are even more mind-blowing- a true ‘top of the world’ experience.