Literally “Mountain of Fire”, Mount Merapi is the most active volcano in all Indonesia — no mean feat — and it has erupted 68 times since 1548 and was largely responsible for the downfall of the Hindu Mataram kingdom and the desertion of the huge temple complex at nearby Prambanan. A massive eruption in 2006 covered much of Java in ash
A recent eruption in 1994 killed 43 people.
Anyone thinking of climbing the mountain must first check if it is safe to do so. While climbing the mountain with a qualified guide is recommended it is not necessary or mandatory (locals will tell you otherwise in the interest of a quick buck) as the track to the summit is wide and clearly marked.
Selo is the last village on your way to Merapi. A taxi from Yogyakarta airport to Selo and back will cost you around Rp 1,000,000. Most of the drivers will happily to wait for you while you climb Merapi and will take you back to your hotel.
Selo has a group of local guides who will take you to Merapi.
] Climbing Merapi
Trekking on and around Merapi is a popular activity (at least when the volcano isn’t spewing out hot gas and ash). From Selo, the nearest village on the north slope, it is 3-hour hike to the summit for the fit and healthy. For others it will take 4+ hours to climb, and nearly the same time to get back down again.
Carry a small pack with some food, a good flash light, with spare batteries (available for purchase in Selo village), and at least 2 litres of water per person.
The track to the top is a reasonable grade and is clearly defined and easy to follow. Once through the tree line the track is less defined and the final climb to the summit (after the memorial plaque) is a very steep scramble over loose and broken rock. While not in itself dangerous, do take your time on the last section.
Most climbers start at about 1AM to be sure of reaching the summit by sunrise at 5.30AM. Night climbing is wise in any case, as the upper reaches of the mountain are completely treeless and the sun can fry you to a crisp. The sunrise views across East Java are quite stunning.