Gunung Lawu is one very interesting mountain and one that lays claim to the highest warung in Indonesia. The trail to the summit is a well laid rocky trail with a shop at the top and this makes it a very good and easy one if you are worried about time or just want an entry level hike. There are 3 stops along the way that also double as shops so all you’ll need is a good jacket (it has the coldest ever recorded temperature on Java) and some decent shoes and you’ll be good to go.
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I climbed Lawu at the end of June 2019 so I’ll detail my account below.
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I had just got back to Surabaya from climbing Semeru (which you can read here) and had a rest night in the city. I wanted to go to Solo on the train rather than the bus so I looked online and couldn’t find anything. The guy I rented the scooter off had recommended that I go to the station and see if they had tickets there. I was way too tired after a long day climbing Semeru so I went to sleep and would deal with it the next day. 
I had seen online the timetable and knew the train was at 830am so I got up at 6, caught a gojek to the station and went to the ticket office. To my amazement there was one ticket available so it was now a rush to get back to the hotel, get my things and get back to the station. In Java, at the train stations the gojeks or online taxis aren’t allowed near the stations so I had to walk quite a ways to find a driver and I didn’t think I’d have enough time. I found one guy and he took me to the hotel and back to the station again, a trip that took over an hour. You can’t under estimate the traffic in Surabaya at all even if the trip was only 7km one way.
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To buy train tickets for Java click here.

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I got the train and it was a very pleasant 4 hour ride from Surabaya to Solo station. Once I got to Solo I had arranged via google maps and watsapp to rent a motorbike straight way. I caught an ojek and went directly to the motorbike rental place. I rented off Arya Trans Sewa Motor Solo for 90k per day and got a brand new bike, I was stoked. If you need or want to rent off this guy click here.
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I’d also booked on booking.com a small room that cost me just 90k per night and was there by 1pm to check in, so far everything was running smooth. 
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I planned to climb Lawu that night so I had the whole afternoon to explore the city. I couldn’t be bothered as I was still quite tired so I rested up and got myself ready to climb Lawu. Solo is pretty big and to travel from one side of the city to the other is about 25 mins. I wanted to climb Merbabu the next day so I stayed on the west side of the city near Solo Square shopping mall. If you want to just go to Lawu I would suggest staying on the east side of the city so it’s not so far of a drive in the middle of the night.
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I had checked google maps and seen that the trip would take around 1h 15mins to ride to the entry and I also saw that the hike would take around 3 hours. So working backwards I worked out I would have to leave at 1am from Solo to make it to the summit for sunrise. I set my alarm for 1am and got an early night, going to sleep at 6pm. Java has a strange timezone and its dark by 530pm every night so its certainly not that hard to get to sleep by 6pm.
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Sure enough the alarm went off and I just followed the directions that google maps gave me. If you want to go directly to the start of the hike click here for the location. It took exactly 75 minutes and I arrived just after 2am. There was not a soul around at the gate at all but there were a lot of motorbikes parked so I just parked my bike with all the others before starting to head up. 
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The first part of the trail is very flat and after about 2km is when the path really begins to jack up. The whole trail has been man made and is just a huge stoney path. There is another path that starts around 1km back towards Solo but this is longer and not used as much. Apparently it is a “real” trail and quite nice to walk on but I just went up the main trail that everyone uses. Click here for the start of the “real” trail.
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I didn’t see hardly anyone for the first 2 hours. There are 3 Pos’ that are make shift shops during the daytime. They were all closed and people must camp in them in the night-time. Lawu is famous for the coldest temperatures in Java so be sure to bring a good jacket. I saw some grass that was frozen solid and felt some really chilly patches in the valleys that you pass through.

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There really wasn’t anyone on the trail until the top where there are some campsites and some shops as well. I reached the summit at 5am to the eastern glow of the sky and there were around 5 people on the summit already. The summit of Lawu isn’t like most volcano summits, with it having a huge pilar erected at the top and the crater is grassy and off to the south. It is a volcano none the less and very interesting.

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I stayed on the top for around an hour before starting to hike back. I found a trail that went to a hut so I followed it and got talking to a fellow hiker who convinced me to go with him and check out the highest warung in Indonesia. I thought, sure why not go check out this place and it was the most interesting thing that I had seen on any volcano.
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I could smell it before I could see it. The toilet must have overflowed because the smell of urine was absolutely mind blowing. The warung was just a simple hut and there is a woman that lives there with her son and pet monkey. The poor monkey is chained up out the front during the daytime and apparently it sleeps with her at night. Inside the warung is where people can sleep, for free, if they so need and the warmth from the fire is amazing. The lady has a TV from the 1990’s and runs everything off solar panels mounted on the roof.
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The hiker I had met bought me a kopi susu so we sat out the front basking in the sun and chatting with other hikers that had spent the night there. It was a very interesting experience and certainly more interesting that the summit itself. If you come to Lawu be sure to visit the highest warung in Indonesia, you wont be let down. 
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By this stage the sun was well and truly up and that freezing feeling was long gone. It was 8am and time for me to head back down. The way back was a totally different experience to the way up. It was a Saturday morning and there were hundreds of hikers from a club in Jakarta that were making their way up the mountain. I stopped to get some selfies along the way and they were very interested to have a chat with a badly Indonesian speaking foreigner.
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After a few stops I was back at the base at around 930 in time for a much needed breakfast. The weather was getting hot and I was in need of a good rest. I got some souvenirs from the people at the basecamp before getting on the bike and heading back to Solo. The ride back was very long and the temperature was getting really hot. I was super tired and was so happy to be back at my apartment. It was a long day but I had made some awesome friends along the way.

Logistics for the trip

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How to get there

I spent the night in Solo and rode the 50km to the start of the hike, leaving at 1am. The time to drive depends on where you are staying in Solo but bank on around 90 minutes to get there. Getting back to the city takes a bit longer because the traffic has started to build up by the early morning. I rented a scooter off Arya Trans Sewa Motor Solo for 90k per day. The bike was brand new and I felt totally safe riding it. If you didn’t want to ride a scooter there you’ll have limited options as the start of the hike is on the main highway. You may be able to get public transport or hire a taxi but I’m not 100% sure of how one would arrange all this. For convenience sake it is just far easier to have your own transport so you aren’t relying on others. 

Where to Stay

I stayed in Solo and found an apartment for 90k per night on booking.com. They were having a sale so I got the room for a really good rate. I prefer to stay in the city and ride the hour or so to the start of the hike. If this doesn’t suit then there are plenty of guesthouses in Cemoro Sewu that you can stay at. The elevation of the pass is 1900m so make sure you take some warm clothes if you are staying here.
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How long is the hike

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The hike isn’t that long and would make a good first hike in Indonesia. The trail is very stoney and well laid so there is absolutely no chance of becoming lost whatsoever. My GPS read 14km return with 1400m of elevation gain. It took me around 3 hours to reach the top and then about 90 minutes to come down. I stopped for about 2 hours at the top and at the warung so total time was around 6.5 hours from parking to parking.

 

Gear to take 

  • Hiking Poles
  • Hiking boots/trail shoes
  • Cold weather gear – May need gloves as it gets very cold
  • Hat
  • Camera
  • Phone
  • Head Torch
  • Food
  • 2L of water (Can buy hot drinks/food from the shops on the trail.)
 

 Do you plan to hike Lawu? Let me know in the comments how you get on.

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