The Arjuno-Welirang mountain range, located around 50km north of Surabaya is one of the most popular hikes in the Surabaya area. The thing is that it is only popular for Indonesian students and some older Indonesians. Apart from that you’ll find no foreigners and have a truly authentic Indonesian experience.
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Getting to the start of the hike is quite straight forward depending on how you go about it. As the trip is only 50kms from the heart of Surabaya it’s possible to take a taxi there. There are buses, gojeks, private car and scooter rental, the options are endless. 
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Depending on what kind of hike you’re looking for there are also 5 different starting points. If you wanted to get in and out as fast as possible then Tretes in Prigen would be your best bet. If you wanted to take your time and spend one night camping on Arjuno and one night on Welirang then a traverse of the entire range would be the best thing to do. 

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I only went up Tretes route and would recommend this route if you want to make a basecamp at Pondokan so you can then climb Arjuno one day and Welirang the next. 
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From Surabaya you can arrange a tour if you need or if you’re adventurous you can get to the start point via motor bike or taxi. 
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Below I’ll list my experience so you can see if that’s something you would like to do or not. 

 

 

I flew to Surabaya from Kuala Lumpur and landed at 5pm. I had looked on google maps and found some motor cycle rental places around the city. If you type “motor rental” into google maps this brings up many options. The main way to contact most people in Indonesia is to use watsapp. Many motorbike rental places and camping places owners can’t speak english but you can arrange everything on watsapp before you even arrive. If you can’t speak or write in Indonesian then you can just use google translate for your messages. I went with Mas Eko of Motor Rental Surabaya and he can be reached on watsapp on +62 856-4909-3091
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I arranged to pick a motorbike up at 6pm. So as soon as my flight landed I was in a taxi heading straight to the motorbike rental place. I had also arranged all the camping gear at another place, also via watsapp. 
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I arrived at the motorbike rental place and quickly learned the guy, Eko, was also renting camp gear. I took him up on the offer and rented camp gear and a motorbike for 700k for 4 days. I had to leave one photo ID which was my old drivers licence from Australia. They just take a photo of your passport and you fill in the paperwork and that’s it. Around 30 minutes of picking up gear you’re on your way. 
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I slept the night at Krowi Inn in the heart of Surabaya. They are super friendly there and let me leave my computer bag and other miscellaneous things that I wouldn’t need to take with me on the hike. 
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I tried to get a good night sleep but there were some other travellers that arrived at 1145pm so I was kept awake by them for a while. 
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I was up at 4am, loaded my bag onto the bike and made the 90 minute ride from central Surabaya to the start gate at Tretes. 
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The reason I left so early was because I wanted to climb Arjuno summit that afternoon, camp at Pondokan and then hike to Welirnag for sunrise the next day. This may not suit everyone but if you are fit then you should have no problem with this kind of schedule. 
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I arrived at the gate at 6am and found around 50 Indonesian students there waiting for the office to open. I had come at this time to precisley avoid the ticket office as they charge foreigners 10-20x what an Indonesian pays. 
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At the gate there is a a tea shop and old Pak there has secure parking. I parked my bike but then he said that I would have to wait until the office opened before I could start my hike. I told him that I had a flight to catch from Surabaya so I had to go early otherwise I would miss the plane. I explained that I would pay once I got back to the gate the next day. He nodded his head in agreement and said “ok”. 
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I was off. The secure parking there gives you peace of mind that your bike will at least be safe and not stolen. There are a lot of Indonesians out hiking who have also left their bikes there as well so there really is nothing to worry about. If you have taken a taxi just get the number so they can come and pick you up, alternatively the people at the gate should certainly be able to help you out with finding a way back to the city or on to Malang if you need. 
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The hike itself starts through a really nice forest and the trail is very pleasant. As I was off at 6am the temperature was very pleasant and it was a privilege to be walking at such a time. There was not a soul to be seen as the young Indonesians were still waiting at the gate for the office to open. After around 30 minutes I reached the gate for the national park entry. There was no one around except for a puppy and its mother. As no one was there I just carried on up the path. The track is very obvious and there is no way on earth that you would ever become lost. 
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Pondokan, a 10km hike from the parking area, is where all the sulphur porters bring the sulphur down from Welirang to. There is an old rocky jeep track that was made that goes all the way to the sulphur porters huts. It was used for the jeeps to bring the sulphur back down the mountain so it can be sold. This jeep track is the main hiking trail in the national park so it is very easy to follow. The manmade track is quite pleasant to walk up but be warned, coming down is an absolute nightmare. The rocks underfoot are painful as they just aren’t natural. You have to constantly be on your lookout where to put your foot next. And with the track being 10km long it is quite tiresome and painful on the way down. 
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I reached Pondokan at 10am, 4 hours after I set out from the entry gate. I saw some other hikers out and about on the trails as I went up. The Indonesians love to camp and they spend 4 or 5 days out on the mountain. They usually won’t walk all the way out in one day and camp around halfway down the jeep track. There is also a small waterfall halfway down that you can get water at if you so need. There really isn’t a need to bring more than a litre or 2 as there is an excellent water source 5km in and another one at Pondokan, at the 10km point. The water certainly needs to be treated because there was a huge worm that I found in my water bottle once I filled it up.
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Once I reached Pondokan I erected my tent at the back of the sulphur porters huts and rested there for an hour or so. The camp area is quite disgusting and it may be better to camp towards Arjuno. I didn’t know there were other campsites but if you take the small grassy trail to Arjuno, after 500m or so you’ll find a really nice grassy area where you can set up for the night. 
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I left my tent at Pondokan and set off for Arjuno at 11am. Usually, the weather in Java is quite cloudy in the afternoons but this day not a single cloud was to be seen. The weather was quite warm and I was baking in the sun. Definitely bring a good hat and you can check the weather on mountain-forecast.com. I find that site to be quite accurate in regards to the weather in the mountains. 
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The trail from Pondokan to Arjuno is 5km and 800m of up. The trail starts right when you enter the Pondokan camp. As soon as you see the tree with the sign on it as you come into camp this is where you turn left. There is a small trail through the grass and you just follow that trail all the way to the summit. There are signs all the way along this trail saying “puncak” with an arrow so it’s impossible to get lost, even if you are travelling at night.
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The first part of the trail is very flat and goes through some really nice forest. After the first 2km is when the trail really begins to jack up and it becomes quite hard. I went in June and the trail was very dusty and very slippery. Some hiking poles and some good trail running shoes or hiking boots with good grip will do you well here. You will come to one 3 way fork in the track once you get up close to the ridge. Straight and left essentially the same trail and they join further up the ridge. The other trail on the right takes you up and over the Kembar to Welirang. The vegetation is sparse here so you will have no problem. From this point you just follow the ridge line all the way to the summit. 
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I reached the summit after 2 hours. The Indonesians walk very slow and will tell you it takes much longer but its only 5km and the trail isn’t that bad that it would take you very long. Bank on 3 hours and you should be fine at that speed, even with rests. 
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The summit area isn’t really clear as the highest point is the big pile of rocks before you go out to the viewpoint. At the viewpoint there are all the flags and a summit sign but this is actually 2m lower than the other summit. When I was there some people were camping at the top in the very exposed area. If you are keen then you could certainly camp here but you’d need to bring all of your water with you. The summit is also way less interesting than Welirang so if you were going to camp on a summit I’d say Welirang would be the one. 
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I stayed on the summit for around an hour, taking in the views and having some lunch. The weather was amazing and not cold at all. I was up there in shorts and a t-shirt and didn’t need my jacket, even though I was at over 3300m. The way down is quite slippery and this is where you will need either poles or good shoes with grippy soles. It doesn’t rain that much here so the trail becomes extremely dusty. The dust covers the rocks they become like ice. 
I was back down at my camp after an hour and a half of descending. The way back was really enjoyable. The forest walking was great, I chatted with the local Indonesians and had a great time. Once I was back at camp I made my dinner and settled in for the night, the next morning I was up at 3am. 
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The hike to Welirang from Pondokan is far easier in my opinion. And if you only have enough time for one mountain then I’d certainly recommend without a doubt to climb to Welirang only. Sure it isn’t the highest but it is certainly the most beautiful. And as everyone goes to Arjuno for sunrise you’ll have the smaller Welirang all to yourself. 

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Sunirse in Java is quite early, depending on the time of year it can be as early as 530am. This means that you’d want to be not he top no later than about 515 if you can. The distance is 5km from Pondokan and only 600m. The path is much easier than the path to Arjuno so even if you are very slow it wouldn’t take more than 3 hours to reach the top. Be warned that it is very very cold up the top. When I was just below the summit the grass had frost on it, so bring some extra clothes with you. 
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The path from Pondokan starts in the forest and continues through there for about 1/2 of the total journey. The 2nd half of the trip the path winds its way around the side of the mountain, before coming out at a flat camp area and then its just 10 minutes to the summit. If you’re luck enough to make it here before sunrise you’ll get to see the glow out towards Semeru and Arjuno and the sulphur plumes coming from Welirang. The summit is marked with a big Indonesian flag and its here that you’ll get the best views for sunrise.
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The top is absolutely incredible and you have 360 views all around. The best thing is that you can see the Kembars and Arjuno right there in front of you, something that on other volcanoes you just can’t see. 
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I rested here for an hour to eat my breakfast, enjoy the absolute tranquility before heading down. I didn’t see a sole until I was almost back in camp. It seemed that all the Indonesian hikers that I’d met the day before had all gone to the summit of Arjuno for sunrise. 
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The way back to camp was just one hour. Here I packed my gear and was heading back down the mountain by 730am. The way down is absolutely soul destroying. The rocks underfoot kill with every step as they just aren’t natural for your feet to be walking on.
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At one point I stopped dead in my tracks and listened intently. I heard a motor and thought it couldn’t be. Sure enough a really really old jeep, with 6 people crammed inside and one on the bonnet came roaring up the trail. It bumped along at double walking speed, dropping oil and bumping up the hill. Then another jeep just behind came rocking and rolling its way up the hill. I really couldn’t believe my eyes seeing he 2 jeeps coming up the hill. 
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After 3 hours of painstaking walking down I was finally back at the gate. By this stage it was 1030am, I was super tired and cranky from the early start and long day. I had hiked 36km since the day before and over 3000m of elevation. The sun was also gaining in intensity by this point so I just wanted to be back at the gate and for it to be over.
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I remembered that I had said to old Pak that I would pay when I came back but I didn’t want to be stitched up with the foreigner rate so I quickly went over to my scooter and got ready to leave. Sure enough old Pak saw me and then escorted me to the office so that I could pay. I had no idea how much it would be but as a foreigner I was sure it had to be a lot compared to an Indonesian. 
We sat down and he pulled out the ticket book. He ripped 2 tickets out and then handed them to me. One read 5k for parking and the other 5k for entry to the forest. I couldn’t believe it, $1 for everything. I paid up and then old Pak wanted a selfie with me. He said he hadn’t seen another foreigner for some time and especially one that was alone. I got the photo, bought a drink off his wife and then I was on my way, I had just hiked the most beautiful volcano I could imagine.

Logistics for the trip

How to get there

You can rent a scooter from Surabaya and then ride to the gate. The scooter rental I used was Rental Motor Surabaya. His name is Eko and he can be reached on watsapp on +62 856-4909-3091 , he also rents camping gear. I rented a tent, cooker, gas, mattress and sleeping bag off him and his prices are very reasonable. He charged me 100k per 24 hours for the scooter and 70k per day for all the camping equipment. He will even deliver to your hotel if you need and the service you receive is great. 
 
If riding a scooter isn’t your thing you can take a blue bird taxi as it is only 50km and should cost around 300k one way. You can find the location of the entry gate by clicking here. You can download the “gojek” app to book the motorbike taxi or blue bird online.
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Where to Stay

If you want to go there and sleep the night, Prigen has a lot of hotels and accommodation available. There are quite a few hotels advertised on booking.com or there as well if you want to pre book before you arrive. The hill station is located at 700m so it isn’t that high up and its really not that far from the main highway. I never stayed there over night so I can’t comment on the accommodation but I did see a lot of hotels around. The area is very popular with Indonesians from Surabaya on the weekends so you don’t have to worry about not finding a place.

How long is the hike

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In a word, long! My GPS calculated 36kms with 3300m of elevation gain. This hike has 2 parts to it and if you just wanted to go to one summit then you could certainly do that. Arjuno is the highest of the range so a lot of people want to go there but as it is just a rocky outcrop it isn’t that interesting.

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On the other hand, Welirang is 200m lower but far more interesting as it is an active volcano with sulphur plumes spewing from its crater and around the east side of the volcano. The 2 mountains share Pondokan as the basecamp, as you can see from the strava map located just below. If I knew what I knew now and only could climb one mountain I’d climb Welirang as it is far more interesting than Arjuno. I’ve added a GPS track below with all of the trails on the mountain and you can see that if you wanted to go only to Welirang then the Claket route is the best route.

 

Gear

  • Sleeping bag 
  • Mattress
  • Cooker
  • Gas
  • Lighter
  • Hiking Poles
  • Tent 
  • Hiking boots/trail shoes
  • Sandals or thongs for camp
  • Water and water treatment – at least 2l and then you can refill but boil or treat do not drink raw
  • Cold weather gear – no need for gloves really its not that cold. Might get to 0 but that’s about it
  • Hat
  • Camera
  • Phone
  • Torch
 

If you’ve done this hike or are planning to please leave a comment, I’d love to know how you got on.