As it lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region of substantial seismic activity, the Indonesian archipelago is home to the most volcanoes in the world. Strung across the country’s 17,000 or so islands are a staggering 150 volcanoes, with many of them still active to this day.
With their smoking calderas, glimmering crater lakes, and lofty peaks, these volcanoes certainly make for stunning natural sights. Such is their majesty, that many of them have been revered and worshiped by locals for centuries. Now popular tourist destinations, these magnificent mounts and their glorious natural surroundings make for some fantastic hiking and outdoor adventuring – provided, of course, that they’re not erupting…
Lying in the east of Java, the most populous island in the world, Kelud is an active stratovolcano that is known for its frequent and violent eruptions. The last of these occurred in 2014 when boulders and ash were propelled up to 500 kilometers away. When not covered in molten lava, Kelud makes for some fantastic hiking, with its summit towering to 1,731 meters. From its rim, visitors can enjoy marvelous views out over the wonderful scenery, which looks particularly stunning during the rainy season when the crater is filled with water.
Although Ijen and the various cones, craters, and volcanoes that lie around it certainly make for an amazing sight, the undoubted highlight is its gorgeous turquoise crater lake. Said to be one of just two such sulphuric lakes in the world, Ijen’s acidic waters are now a popular tourist attraction. The lake looks particularly arresting when smoke and sulphur flames rise off the water in the early morning. Nestled away at Java’s eastern end, Ijen is fascinating to explore. The volcano’s highest point lies 2,769 meters above sea level.
As it boasts some of the best views in Bali, Mount Batur is one of the most popular volcanoes to hike in the whole of Indonesia. While this means that its trails can get quite crowded, watching the sunrise from its 1,717-meter-high summit is certainly a memorable experience. This is because it lies in the middle of two concentric calderas, with a glittering crater lake below and the domineering Mount Agung looming in the distance. With lush jungle coating its lower slopes and lots of pristine nature on show, Mount Batur will delight nature lovers and outdoor aficionados alike.
Once one of the tallest peaks in Indonesia, Mount Tambora now stands at 2,850 meters after its colossal eruption in 1815 reduced its size. This was the largest eruption in human history; its outpouring of volcanic ash not only exacted a large death toll but also changed the Earth’s temperature for years to come. Now, calm, safe, and monitored continuously, the mighty mount has an enormous caldera for visitors to explore, with lots of great views to be enjoyed from up high. As it lies on a remote peninsula on Sumbawa island surrounded by steamy rainforest, Mount Tambora takes some getting to, but it is well worth the effort for its fantastic wildlife and nature.
Named after the mythical mountain that lies at the center of the world in Hinduism, Mount Semeru certainly makes for an awe-inspiring sight and is often referred to as ‘the great mountain’ by locals. Towering to 3,676 meters, it is the highest peak on Java and dominates the coastal plains that surround it. The spectacular stratovolcano is blessed in terms of its ecosystems: savannahs and flower-filled fields lie alongside barren, rock-strewn landscapes. This makes it a very popular hiking destination, with the gorgeous lake of Ranu Kumbolo just one of its many highlights. Besides its already fetching features, conical-shaped Mount Semeru is also known for the impressive plumes of smoke and steam that it regularly emits from its crater.
After lying dormant for centuries, Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra violently erupted in 2010 and has been continuously active since then. Rising dramatically above its surroundings, the colossal mount’s lava-scarred slopes soar to 2,460 meters, with four volcanic craters found near the summit. While massive columns of smoke and ash have all too regularly been spied gushing forth from the volcano, Mount Sinabung does make for some wonderful hiking – providing of course, that it’s not erupting.
Located between the huge islands of Java and Sumatra is the small island of Krakatoa, one of the most famous volcanoes in the world. Its fame dates back to 1883, when its explosive eruption created seismic shocks and tsunamis, killed countless people, and cooled the Earth’s climate. In addition, it also reduced Krakatoa and the surrounding volcanic archipelago into the caldera we see today. Although it is considerably smaller than it used to be, Krakatoa still makes for an epic sight with the sparkling waters of the Sundra Strait surrounding it. Now a popular tourist destination, many people who visit the volcano go hiking on its lower slopes or snorkeling in the surrounding waters, which teem with marine life and are home to colorful coral gardens.
The second highest volcano in the whole of Indonesia, Mount Rinjani dominates the delightful national park of the same name and can be found on the island of Lombok. While its 3,726-meter-high peak looks majestic outlined against the sky, the views from its summit are simply jaw-dropping. Hiking around the national park is a delight: lots of hills and valleys surround the mount, with lush forests and sparkling waterfalls also on display. Of its many sights, the turquoise crater lake of Segara Anak is the undoubted highlight as it is ringed by the volcano’s scenic and secluded caldera rim.
Meaning ‘Fire Mountain’ in both Indonesian and Javanese, Mount Merapi is one of the most active mountains in the country. Due to its regular eruptions and the lava flows and smoke columns that gush forth, the volcano can be quite dangerous to hike. Picking your way through the charred and lava-scarred landscapes is an unforgettable experience. From the mount’s 2,910-metre summit, you can see five other volcanoes off in the distance. Lots of myths and legends swirl around this mysterious mount, and many locals still bring offerings to the spirits and gods which they believe reside within Mount Merapi.
One of Bali’s most famous tourist attractions, Mount Agung fills the island’s skyline with its looming presence. Reaching 3,031 meters, the conical-shaped stratovolcano has long been revered by locals, who believe that their ancient ancestors and the gods themselves inhabit its higher realms. As such, numerous temples and shrines have been built on its slopes, with Pura Besakih the most important of them. While the majestic mount looks magnificent from below, many choose to hike the volcano through the night to watch the sunrise from its summit. Seeing the sunrise over Bali after a tiring but rewarding hike is an unforgettable experience, with breathtaking panoramas wherever you look. As well as being noted for its beauty, Mount Agung is also famous for the numerous eruptions that took place between 2017 to 2019, disrupting and grounding flights and filling the sky with plumes of smoke and ash. To date, hiking this volcano is banned due to ongoing activity, but you can gaze upon it from neighboring Mount Batur.
As it boasts not one, not two, but three colorful crater lakes, it should come as no surprise to learn that Kelimutu is an increasingly popular tourist destination. Located in the amazing national park of the same name, the 1,639-metre-high volcano is home to lots of craggy cliffs and rugged rocks that surround its glimmering lakes – the defining feature of the park. Sparkling in the sun, these three lakes, which regularly change color, stand out magically against the desolate landscapes around them, and many people come to watch the sunrise over their waters. Located on the island of Flores, Kelimutu and its lovely lakes are well worth visiting if you have the chance.
Blessed with one of the most impressive and iconic views in Indonesia, Mount Bromo is set in an absolutely divine spot, with majestic mounts and steaming volcanoes dotted around it. Named after Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, the 2,329-meter-high peak rises dramatically from a low-lying plain that is gloriously known as the ‘Sea of Sand.’ The best view of Mount Bromo and its spectacular backdrop of Mount Semeru and other volcanic peaks is from the viewpoint on Mount Pananjakan, which lies across a sandy plain from it. Watching the sunrise slowly over the stupendous scene is an unforgettable experience and is the main reason why Mount Bromo is one of the most popular tourist destinations in East Java. In addition to this, the national park in which it lies also has a delightful desert for you to explore alongside Mount Bromo’s gorgeous crater, which also boasts some fantastic panoramas.