Cimaja

Cimaja

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About 100km south of Bogor, Cimaja is an attractive, low-key surf resort with a good choice of accommodation and excellent waves on tap. There’s a nice relaxed vibe to the place, and if you’ve been suffering in Java’s teeming cities, the slow pace of life and oceanic air makes an exhilarating change. To get there you have to pass through the large, unlovely resort of Pelabuhan Ratu; Cimaja is 8km further west.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/cimaja

Cibodas

Cibodas

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Southwest of Bogor the highway steadily climbs in elevation, winding through a sprawling hill resort known as the Puncak that’s popular with weekending Jakartans. This traffic-choked road winds up to 1490m before descending to Cibodas, famous for its stunning gardens, the Kebun Raya Cibodas. Spread over the steep lower slopes of Gunung Gede and Gunung Pangrango at an altitude of 1300m to 1440m, these lush gardens are one of the dampest places in Java. The Dutch tried to cultivate quinine here (its bark is used in malaria medication), though the East Javan climate proved more suitable.

You’ll find an outstanding collection of ferns and palms, 65 species of eucalyptus, Mexican mountain pines, and glasshouses bursting with cacti and succulents. A road loops around the gardens, passing via the Japanese garden with its cherry trees, and there are also paths leading through forests of bamboo to the impressive Cismun waterfall.

There are two guesthouses and a couple of inexpensive cafes in the gardens. Visitors must pay 2000Rp to enter Cibodas village.

Banten

Banten

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On the coast due north of Serang, the fishing town of Banten was once a great maritime capital, where the Dutch and English first landed in Java to secure trade and struggle for economic supremacy.

Banten reached its peak during the reign of Sultan Agung (1651–83), and in 1680 he declared war on the Dutch, but conflict within the royal house ultimately led to his downfall. Agung fled Banten but finally surrendered in 1683, and his defeat marked the real beginning of Dutch territorial expansion in Java.

The chief landmark here is the 16th-century mosque Mesjid Agung, a good example of early Islamic architecture; its great white octagonal minaret was reputedly designed by a Chinese Muslim. Next to the mosque is an archaeological museum, which has a modest collection of local clay artefacts, and spikes used by Banten’s Debus followers. (The Debus tradition involves masochistic activities such as self-piercing, which the faithful are said to be able to perform without drawing blood).

Directly across from the mosque are the remains of early ruler Hasanuddin’s fortified palace, the Surosowan, which was wrecked in the bloody civil war during the reign of Sultan Agung (and again by the Dutch in 1832).

Other points of interest around the mosque include the massive ruins of Fort Speelwijk to the northwest and the huge, crumbling walls and archways of the Kaibon palace, and nearby tomb of Maulana Yusuf, who died in 1580.

Labuan

Labuan

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The dreary little port of Labuan is merely a jumping-off point for Carita or for Ujung Kulon National Park, but it is home to the helpful Labuan PHKA office, located 2km north of town towards Carita (look out for the rhino statue).

Frequent buses depart from Kalideres bus terminal in Jakarta for Labuan (36,000Rp, 3½ hours). Regular buses also operate between Labuan and Bogor (36,000Rp, four hours). Angkots for Carita (5000Rp, 30 minutes) leave from the market, 100m from the Labuan bus terminal.

Garut & Cipanas

Garut & Cipanas

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Sixty-three kilometres southeast of Bandung, Garut is a once-lovely spa town that’s now become featureless sprawl and leatherware centre. But 6km north of here the pretty village of Cipanas makes a tranquil base for a day or two exploring some stunning volcanic scenery and soaking away any travelling tensions in a hot spring-fed bath or pool.

The region is famed for its dodol – a confectionery of coconut milk, palm sugar and sticky rice. The ‘Picnic’ brand is the best quality, and it is possible to visit the factory in Garut.

Gede Pangrango National Park

Gede Pangrango National Park

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The Cibodas gardens are right next to the main entrance to Gede Pangrango National Park, the highlight of which is the climb to the 2958m peak of the volcanically active Gunung Gede. From the top of Gede on a clear day you can see Jakarta and the south coast of Java.

Because it’s close to Jakarta, this is an extremely popular mountain to climb. Numbers are restricted and during peak holiday season there may be a waiting list. At other times you can normally just rock up and trek the next day.

On arrival, register for the climb and obtain your permit (a steep 50,000Rp for foreigners) from the PHKA office just outside the entrance to the gardens. The office has an information centre and pamphlets on the park, which is noted for its alpine forest and bird life, including the rare Javan eagle. Officially, guides to the summit have to be hired here for 350,000Rp for a two-day round trip, though the main trail is easy to follow. Gunung Gede is closed to hikers between January and March, usually August too, and during stormy weather.

From Cibodas, the trail passes Telaga Biru (15 minutes), which is a blue-green lake. Cibeureum Falls (one hour away) lie just off the main trail. Most picnickers only go this far, though some continue on to the hot springs, 2½ hours from the gate. The trail continues to climb another 1½ hours to Kandang Badak, where a hut has been built on the saddle between the peaks of Gunung Gede and Gunung Pangrango (3019m). Take the trail to the right for a hard three-hour climb to Pangrango. Most hikers turn left for the easier, but still steep, 1½-hour climb to Gede, which has more spectacular views. The Gede Crater lies below the summit, and you can continue on to the Suryakencana Meadow.

The 10km hike right to the top of Gunung Gede takes at least 10 hours there and back, so you should start as early as possible and take warm clothes (night temperatures can drop to 5°C), food, water and a torch (flashlight). Most hikers leave by 2am to reach the summit in the early morning before the mists roll in.

Batu Karas

Batu Karas

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The idyllic fishing village and surfing hot spot of Batu Karas, 32km west of Pangandaran, is one of the most enjoyable places to kick back in Java. It’s as pretty as a picture – a tiny one-lane settlement, with two beaches that are separated by a wooded promontory.

In recent years Batu Karas’s popularity has started to take off as more (very tasteful) guesthouses have opened, but the village still retains a low-key, very relaxed charm. However, an Indonesian hotel group started (and then stopped) some heavy construction work in 2012, so the situation could change.

There’s good swimming, with sheltered sections that are calm enough for a dip, but many visitors are here for the breaks, and there’s a lot of surf talk.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/java/batu-karas

Ujung Kulon National Park

Ujung Kulon National Park

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On the remote southwestern tip of Java, this Unesco World Heritage–listed national park has remained an outpost of prime rainforest and untouched wilderness, virgin beaches and healthy coral reefs. Few people visit the park (which was Indonesia’s first national park), but it is one of the most rewarding, if remote, environments in all Java.

Ujung Kulon is best known as the last refuge of the one-horned Javan rhinoceros, one of the globe’s most critically endangered mammals – there are only thought to be around 40 or 50 remaining, all right here. Until recently another extremely isolated group lived in Vietnam, but the last of these was shot by poachers in 2010.

Numbers are thought to be stable, and the rhinos are breeding: in 2011 evidence of at least five babies was confirmed. However rhinos are an extremely rare sight and you are far more likely to come across banteng (wild cattle), wild pigs, otters, deer, squirrels, leaf monkeys, gibbons and big monitor lizards. Panthers also live in the forest and pythons and crocodiles in the river estuaries. Green turtles nest in some of the bays and the birdlife is excellent.

The national park also includes the nearby island of Panaitan (where Captain James Cook anchored HMS Endeavour in 1771) and the smaller offshore islands of Peucang and Handeuleum. Much of the peninsula is dense lowland rainforest and a mixture of scrub, grassy plains, swamps, pandanus palms and long stretches of sandy beach on the west and south coasts.

Most people visit Ujung Kulon on a tour, but it’s also perfectly feasible to make your own way to Tamanjaya village and explore the park from there.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/ujung-kulon-national-park

Carita

Carita

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Carita is a spread-out, laidback beach resort with a slimline sandy beach and good swimming. Most hotels are aging resort-style enclaves geared at weekending Jakartan families, so prices are quite steep but there are few places aimed at budget travellers. It’s a good place to set up a tour to Krakatau or Ujung Kulon National Park.

The hotel Sunset View is the best place for information.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/carita

Cianjur

Cianjur

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East of Cibobas it’s 19km to Cianjur, a market town that’s famed throughout Java for the quality of its rice; indeed the town is enveloped by shimmering green paddy fields. Cianjur has a few sights of interest in the surrounding district, but most people are here to mix with locals as part of the highly successful homestay program.

You’ll find several banks on the main drag, Jl Cokroaminoto, and internet cafes are grouped together on Jl Siti Jenab.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/java/cibodas-and-cianjur