Dieng Plateau Sunrise and DIY Walking Tour: Java
The Dieng Plateau is a unique volcanic region in Central Java, with its rolling green hills, multi-coloured lakes, and bubbling pits of mud, all surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery and volcanoes. The diversity of the landscape makes the area very different from anywhere else in Indonesia. Though unless you visit Dieng Plateau in peak season, few travellers explore this natural wonder. We visited during low season, so with few other travellers around, we felt like intrepid explorers!
Discover the volcanic Dieng Plateau in Java yourself
At 2000 meters above sea level, the Dieng Plateau is in fact, both an upland volcanic plain, and the floor of a caldera complex, formed by the eruption of ancient Mount Prau. A caldera is a volcanic feature formed by the collapse of a volcano into itself. So basically, although now extinct, the Dieng Plateau is one giant volcano crater! It may be extinct, but there’s still plenty of volcanic activity in this mountainous area.
The main reason for deciding to add Dieng Plateau to our Java itinerary was for the Dieng Plateau sunrise at the top of Sikunir Hill. The plan was to get up at ridiculous-o-clock, see the Dieng Plateau sunrise and then do some light trekking to the other Dieng Plateau highlights. Most travellers book themselves onto a car/jeep tour but as usual, we were keen to explore with a DIY walking tour. Not just for the freedom, but also for the hiking benefits for the body and mind.
Dieng Plateau Sunrise At Sikunir Hill
Although you can see the Dieng Plateau sunrise as a tour from Yogyakarta, we based ourselves at Wonosobo for a couple of nights. Being just an hour from Dieng, meant we could sleep for an extra couple of hours before setting off. Our taxi was a few minutes late, and at 3:20 am, we drove into the darkness towards Dieng.
It took around 40 minutes for our taxi to reach the foot of the path that leads to the top of Sikunir Hill. At 4:00 am, it was still dark and pretty cold. It’s much colder here than in the surrounding lowlands. The coldness was a bit of a shock to the system because we’d remained in tropical climates for the past 7 months. However, we were prepared by wearing several layers of clothes.
The hike to the Dieng Plateau sunrise viewpoint at the top of Sikunir Hill takes 20-30 minutes. We first passed a few huts selling hot tea and coffee to visitors making the ascend. As tempting as it was, we decided to continue to the top to make sure we got a good spot. The path was in total darkness so we used our iPhone torch apps to help us navigate the steep steps. When we got to the top, there were just 20 or so other people there. All Indonesian, so we got the usual stares as if they had never seen a white person before.
The view was epic and it was pretty clear now why “Dieng” means “abode of the gods”. A bit of cloud but clear enough to see the twinkling lights of villages down below and 3 to 4 silhouetted volcanoes. On a clear day, you’re supposed to be able to see up to 8 volcanoes! 5 minutes later, some low mist started to roll in, covering the lower land villages. This was fine, we expected this from what we’d read online and the peaks were still visible. But few minutes later, we too were engulfed by cloud at the top of Sikunir Hill.
The clouds kept coming, so we couldn’t see a thing for the remaining few hours of the Dieng Plateau sunrise. Every now and then, for just a few seconds, the clouds would break to allow a small window view of one or two peaks, but that was it.
The clouds did disappear shortly after sunrise so we were able to get a handful of photos, but nothing compared to the beauty of what’s possible from the Dieng Plateau sunrise viewpoint.
Top Tips for the Dieng Plateau Sunrise
- Stay in Wonosobo so you don’t have to leave Yogyakarta at 12:30 am to see the Dieng Plateau sunrise. Or you can even stay at Dieng Village but accommodation options and amenities are not as good.
- It’s possible to see a “double sunrise.” The first ‘golden’ sunrise is the one we saw (you need to be around 1700 metres above sea level – the plateau is 2060 metres above sea level). The second, a ‘silver’ sunrise, can be seen from the ancient Hindu temples. It’s a unique natural phenomenon so if the weather’s good – go for it!
- Use a shared van from Yogyakarta to Wonosobo. You can book through any Yogyakarta accommodation or tour company and it works out about the same as riding the needed two public buses. We paid 70,000 rupees per person with accommodation pick up and drop off.
- We recommend Duta Homestay in Wonosobo. The really helpful owner can provide a map and taxi.
- Keep climbing to the highest of two Dieng Plateau sunrise viewpoints at Sikunir Hill.
- Try to see the Dieng Plateau sunrise on a weekday for fewer crowds.
- Pack some cold-weather clothing.
- Bare in mind that in the low season (rainy season), clouds are more likely. We visited in March.
Dieng Plateau: Telaga Warna Lake
From the top of Sikunir Hill, we walked all the way to Telaga Warna Lake after the Dieng Plateau sunrise. Telaga Warna Lake, or ‘Colourful Lake’, contains water that can change in fluctuating colours. At times it can be green, purple, yellow, or even taking the colours of the rainbow! This phenomenon occurs because of its high sulphur content which reflects in varied colours when the sun hits the water.
It takes around 1.5 hours to walk from the top of Sikunir Lake to Telaga Warna Lake. After a coffee at the foot of the hill, we walked through many potato farms, tobacco plantations, and villages, finally in the sun! The friendly locals smiled and waved as we passed. Again, we were the only foreigners around and the only tourists walking this route.
We kept walking straight on the main road until we reached the big sign for Dieng Theatre on the right. It’s then a quick 10-minute incline to reach the theatre. From the theatre car park, after paying 30,000 rupees per person, we walked to the Telaga Warna Lake viewpoint on top of a huge rock
The view of the colorful lakes was great, but with clouds covering the skies, we didn’t see any magnificent colours. There’s also a small swing bridge to an even higher viewpoint for an extra fee.
Beside the colorful lake you’ll also find the reflectiveTelaga Pengilon or ‘Mirror Lake.’
Top Tips for Telaga Warna Lake
- An alternative free viewpoint is Batu Pandang on the other side of the lake.
- Arrive in the AM before the afternoon mist rolls in.
- Don’t pay the 100,000 rupees to visit the lake on ground level. The viewpoints are better.
Dieng Plateau: Sikidang Crater
One of the highlights of the Dieng Plateau is Sikidang Crater. The walk from Telaga Warna Lake to Sikidang took us around 30 minutes. The entrance fee of 30,000 rupees includes entrance to the Temple complex (our next stop).
Sikidang Crater is an open sulphur crater with angry bubbling mud and bellowing steam. It’s set amongst a bumpy and dusty landscape that made us feel like we’d arrived on another planet. The sulphur stinks like rotten eggs and depending on the wind, you can smell it in many parts of the Dieng Plateau.
Unlike the previous Dieng Plateau sites, the Sikidang Crater area is spoilt by many tatty market stalls selling unappealing tourist souvenirs. We also noticed some awful looking statues of gorillas and monsters currently being erected amongst the landscape by local people.
Top Tips for Sikidang Crater
- This is an active volcanic region so consider buying a mouth mask if breathing in the sulphuric fumes is a concern for you. Prolonged exposure can make you ill. The volcanic craters used to filled with water and because of the sulphur, were poisonous lakes.
- Be careful where you step near the edges of the volcanic craters. The main volcanic crater now has a fence around its rim but other parts could easily be fallen into.
Arjuna Temple Complex
Another popular Dieng Plateau highlight is the Arjuna Temple Complex. The walk from the Crater to the Temple Complex took 30 minutes.
The complex is located in a large park on the edge of Dieng village in the centre of the valley. It houses eight small Hindu temples dating back to the Sanjaya Dynasty in the seventh century. They may not be as impressive as the grander temples of Prambanan and Borobudur, but these small temples are some of the oldest surviving temples built by ancient Javanese Hindus in central Java.
The rain was pouring by the time we reached the Temple Complex so we didn’t stay long. We simply walked through the site to gain access to Dieng Village to catch our return public bus to Wonosobo.
Many of the temples seemed to be in a state of repair. Many ancient bricks were laid out on the floor, ready to be rebuilt. We assumed the damage was from the 2006 earthquake.
Top Tips for the Arjuna Temple Complex
- Don’t plan to spend too long here. Unless you’re a temple enthusiast, the temples are not too impressive.
- Finish your DIY walking tour here so you can catch a public bus back to Wonosobo just a few meters from the exit.
Our Dieng Plateau Sunrise and DIY Walking Tour Conclusion
The Dieng Plateau is beautiful and the Dieng Plateau sunrise potential is off the scale. Unfortunately for us, we chose a day with bad weather conditions so we did not get to see it at its best. The next day we woke to blue skies so was just very unlucky timing. But making our own DIY walking tour made the experience enjoyable still. We may have failed to see the best Dieng Plateau sunrise and got soaking wet in the rain, but the experience of walking through the local villages in between sites made it all the better. We would have missed out on this if we did as most people do and book on an organised tour.
Would we try again in the rainy season? Maybe not. But follow our tips in this post and you should have a fantastic time exploring the Dieng Plateau by yourself.