Gunung Kidul

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Travel Guide Asia Indonesia Java Central Java Yogyakarta Gunung Kidul

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Introduction

Gunung Kidul (Southern Hills) is the regency southeast of Yogyakarta which is characterized by an endless range of limestone hills, and because of that it is also referred to as Gunung Sewu (Thousand Hills). These limestone hills extend from Parangtritis for about 200 kilometres to Pacitan in East Java and beyond. This has always been a poor area because the soil is infertile, and lacks water in the dry season because rain is soon absorbed by cavities in the limestone. That also implies that there are numerous caves and underground rivers. Since the 1970s much effort has gone into improving the living conditions of Gunung Kidul regency. Bumpy roads have been surfaced, villages connected to the electricity grid, water pipes installed all over the region, and the bare hills replanted with acacia and teak trees. The coast has been opened up and attracts many domestic visitors, while the caves cater to the more adventurous youth.

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Sights and Activities

Beaches

The beaches of Gunung Kidul regency are not your typical white sandy ones under waving palm trees. Generally the limestone hills end abruptly in cliffs overlooking the Indian ocean. Sometimes these are interrupted by a cove or river mouth with a stretch of sand. But even there the sand does not extend to the sea bottom, which instead is also limestone falling dry at low tide. So if you come for easy swimming, go elsewhere. With a few exceptions the surf is considered unsafe and all you can do is playing in the waves at high tide (10:00am till noon) when the water is waist-high on the limestone sea bed. That said, in recent years some beaches are attracting surfers, who have to walk out towards the breakers. Except for Parangtritis, there is no regular bus service to these beaches, so you will need a rented car or motorbike (ojek) to reach them.

  • Parangtritis is a village just outside the western border of Gunung Kidul, 30 kilometres south of Yogyakarta. It is here that the black sand beach makes place for the limestone hills. In the early seventies Parangtritis was discovered by backpackers, so-called hippies. The village could then only be reached by boat and horse-cart (bendi), because there was no bridge across Opak river. Since then domestic tourists have taken over and Parangtritis has sprawled to cater to their needs. There are a bus station, a car park and a monument for independence hero Sudirman. At every house there are rooms for rent or cheap meals offered. Little children can play in canvas pools on the beach, and bigger ones race around in buggies. The horse-carts are now for hire for a ride along the beach. So the main attraction of Parangtritis for foreign tourists today is to see how Indonesians recreate. If that is not to your liking, walk as far east as you can beyond the reach of the bendi's or stay at the only decent accommodation, the Queen of the South resort. Of course then you are also out of the reach of the rescue squad. The undercurrents are notoriously treacherous, if you go swimming it’s at your own risk. Still local boys try to master the art of surfing out at the breakers. If you are really adventurous and not afraid of heights, make the one hour hike and the precarious descent to Goa Langse - the cave where the queen of the southern ocean is believed to come ashore.
  • Baron Bay - Coming from the west the first popular beach one encounters is at Baron Bay, 60 kilometres from Yogyakarta. As an exception this one is safe for swimming because the beach lies in a deep bay with sandy bottom. Perhaps in prehistoric times here was a river mouth. Nowadays an underground river flows into the bay, creating an area with freshwater suitable for bathing. Regrettably Baron is overdeveloped and crowded on holidays. So if you want to experience the serenity of Baron Bay, better come on a weekday. When exploring the bay do not miss the cave mouth of the river in a corner on your right hand when facing the sea. And climb up the footpath on the east side of the bay towards a lighthouse that was built there in 2014. If you are adventurous, try hiking in the hills on the west side to find a deserted cove. There is some accommodation at Baron Bay, unfortunately in bad shape. An entrance fee of IDR 10,000 is exacted for Baron Bay, which is also valid for the beaches farther east.
Kukup Beach

Kukup Beach

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  • Kukup Beach - When you have come as far as Baron Bay, do not omit to go the extra kilometre to Kukup Beach east of the bay. This is a wider beach with rock formations not unlike Australia's Twelve Apostles, one of which can be accessed by a bridge reminiscent of Tanah Lot in Bali. The coast is rocky with some sandy patches and a strong surf, not advisable for swimming. Instead at low tide one can look for shells, and one can climb to one or more of the lookout points. Like Baron Bay, Kukup Beach is crowded on holidays. Spots in the shade of cliffs are in demand then, but you can get a free seat on a tikar mat if you buy a young coconut drink. No accommodation at Kukup Beach. There is some at Krakal Beach 6 kilometres further to the east.
  • Krakal Beach - Krakal beach is much longer than Baron and Kukup beaches. It is arguably the most scenic, and the most interesting for seeing local people at work. At low tide they come harvesting sea-weed on the exposed limestone shelf and catching small fish in the crevices. It is worth-while to climb a lookout rock near the west end for a great view to the east. On holidays the locals extract a fee of IDR 2,000 for the use of a ladder. But on weekdays you may use the stairs intended as exit. Of late Krakal beach is attracting surfers, who have to walk out over the coral seabed to the breakers.
  • Indrayanti Beach - Indrayanti is a the longest stretch of white sandy beach in Gunung Kidul regency. Moreover, it is the only place where the east-west road runs immediately alongside the beach. Here you can jump from your vehicle into a wood-and-bamboo cabin and from the cabin into the sea. But as elsewhere the sand does not extend under the sea. At high tide the waves cover a bottom of limestone rock, that lies bare at low tide. So the best time for playing in the water - not real swimming - is between 9am and noon. If you want more action there are jet ski's for hire - this is the only beach of Gunung Kidul regency considered safe enough for the sport. Indrayanti and neighbouring Sundak beach seem to be privately owned. One pays a IDR 5,000 fee for access behind the low fence. The fee is included in the rent of the primitive and overpriced cabins.
Cable way to offshore rock

Cable way to offshore rock

© All Rights Reserved theo1006

  • Timang Bay - Timang Bay is typical of many beaches on the Gunung Kidul coast: a strip of sand in a bay, while the sea bottom is of limestone. Located rather far from Yogyakarta, the beach relatively unspoiled, ideal if you want to spend time on your own ‘private beach’. Actually there are two small bays with a low hill between them. An island rock faces the hill, and a cable-way contraption connects the two. Fishermen use it to seek lobsters at the island. The distance from Baron is 27 kilometres; head east to Danggolo, there turn south to the coast.
  • Siung Bay - Siung beach is a strip of sand in a 200 metres wide bay. As elsewhere along the Gunungkidul coast the sand borders a limestone shelf that falls dry at low tide. There is a small fishing community here, that provides very modest accommodation to visitors. Those visitors are mainly aficionados of the sport of cliff climbing. There are said to be 250 different routes to try out. Location about 30 kilometres from Baron beach.

Wediombo Beach - (Wide Sand Beach) largest bay between Parangtritis and Pacitan. Being far from Yogyakarta and other towns, Wediombo is unspoiled. There is not only sand at this semicircular bay. There are lots of rock formations too, and unlike elsewhere in Gunungkidul these are black extrusive rocks, not limestone. One meets many villagers making their livelihood from the sea, collecting sea weed, angling or fishing with nets. The favourite spot for angling is a rock peninsula facing deep water. There are good opportunities for hiking, e.g. to Pulau Kalong (Flying Fox Island, also known as Pulau Glatik (Sparrow Island), accessible by a bridge). There are a few food stalls, the owner of one of them lets guests sleep in her shed for free. Distance: 30 kilometres form Baron Bay, 70 from Yogyakarta.

Caves

The caretaker returning from Goa Langse

The caretaker returning from Goa Langse

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  • Goa Langse or Langse Cave is a small cave located at sea level below a 100-metre high vertical cliff. The cave is sacred, because it is believed to be the meeting place of the legendary queen of the south sea Nyai Roro Kidul and the sultan of Yogyakarta. If you are looking for a cliff scaling adventure, this is the one. But no safety lines provided! The climb down starts with a bamboo ladder on to a square metre “balcony”. Then you have to step out on a 20 cm ledge with only a wooden railing to hold on to and a sheer drop on your other side. Yet villagers, women as well as men, descend the cliff with a load of firewood or victuals as naturally as walking on a street. They even built a prayer house and toilets near the cave, so they must have carried bricks and sacs of cement down as well. From Parangtritis it is a 3-kilometre walk or ride uphill. The sealed road ends at a parking, a motorbike can proceed along a rock paved road. At the end of this lives the caretaker/guide, where you sign the guest book and pay a donation. For a negotiable fee the caretaker is ready to guide you all the way down and up again.
  • Goa Jomblang - Jomblang Cave is a sinkhole that connects to another sinkhole, Grubug Cave, through a 300 metres tunnel with river. The caves are a prime attraction in Gunung Kudul regency for those seeking adventure. Several operators offer trips including equipment for descending by single rope techniques. Prices start at IDR 500,000 and advance booking is required. The Jomblang sinkhole is 40 to 80 metres deep and has moss, ferns and trees growing at the bottom. When you are in Grubug sinkhole, you are at a depth of 90 metres and at the right time sunlight reaches down to the bottom. The river in the connecting tunnel is the same as Kalisuci two kilometres to the north, where the sport is ‘cave-tubing’. Jomblang Cave and Kalisuci are located in Semanu district, 45 kilometres from Yogyakarta.
  • Goa Pindul - Cave tubing is floating down an underground river on an inner tube. Since a decade the activity has become popular in Gunung Kidul, Goa Pindul in Karangmojo district being one of two sites where it can be done. It is claimed that the only other countries where one can go cave tubing are Mexico and New Zealand. The location of Goa Pindul is at 41 kilometres from Yogyakarta.
Men at work at Ngungap Cave

Men at work at Ngungap Cave

© All Rights Reserved theo1006

  • Swallow cave at Ngungap - Chinese kill for it: birds' nests soup. And the best nests come from a cave below the cliffs at Ngungap, the sea washing into the cave. Fearless locals harvest the nests three times a year, in January, in May and in August, after a proper ceremony to ensure their safety. The trick is to gather the nests before the swallows lay their eggs - then they will make a new nest and the population is not threatened. To reach the nests inside the cave, each harvest a new rope ladder is made to scale down the 70 metres cliff, and a scaffold is built of bamboo and lianas hanging from the ceiling of the cave and reaching 50 metres into it. A merchant buys up the nests paying per kilogram. The locals have been about this for many generations. Junghuhn visited Ngungap in May 1836 and reports in his book 'Reisen durch Java’ that the latest harvest amounted to 313 pounds, 60 nests making a pound. Address: Ngungap coast in Girisubo district. 38 kilometres east of Baron Beach and 78 kilometres from Yogyakarta. Ask for directions in Girisubo village.

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Getting There

Take a bus or ride a scooter/drive from Yogyakarta to Wonosari.

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Getting Around

Ideally you come with a scooter or a car, as the beaches are far apart.

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Sleep

  • Queen of the South - A beautiful resort, high on limestone cliffs, overlooking but isolated from the sometimes crowded beach below. The resort was built by a nationalized Dutchman and started business in 1995. In 2006 it was hard hit by the Yogyakarta earthquake. It took three years before the resort could receive guests again, but by now it has fully recovered and been enlarged. The reception hall and restaurant, both pendopo's, are beautiful examples of Javanese architecture. From the garden one has great views over the beach and the ocean. A flight of stairs, over 100 steps, leads down to the beach. Address: Parangtritis village, Kretek district, Bantul regency. Phone: +62.274367136.
  • Kampoeng Baron - Located close to Baron Bay, Kampoeng Baron offers rooms for two with open-air bathroom, cottages and villas, all built and decorated in local style. Welcome drink and snack, and a good Indonesian or Western breakfast are included. The restaurant doubles as an art gallery; paintings are for sale as well as some rustic furniture. Address: Jalan Baron km 21, Gunungkidul 55881, DIY.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet is becoming more widely used in Indonesia, and warung Internet (warnet) - Internet cafés - are emerging everywhere. A lot of restaurants and cafés in big cities normally have wireless internet available for free. Internet connection speed in Indonesia varies between ISP and location. Prices vary considerably, and as usual you tend to get what you pay for, but you'll usually be looking at around Rp3,000 to Rp5,000 per hour with faster access than from your own mobile phone. In large cities, there are free WiFi hotspots in many shopping malls, McDonald restaurants, Starbucks cafes, 7 Eleven convenience stores, and in some restaurants and bars. Some hotels provide free hotspots in the lobby and/or in their restaurants and even in your rooms.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

You can use 112 as an emergency number through mobile phones. Other numbers include 110 (police), 113 (fire) and 118 (ambulance).
The international phone code is 62.

If you have GSM cellular phone, ask your local provider about "roaming agreement/facility" with local GSM operators in Indonesia (i.e.: PT Indosat, PT Telkomsel, PT XL Axiata). The cheapest way is buying a local SIM card, which would be much cheaper to call and especially use internet compared to your own cell phone's sim card.

The Indonesian mobile phone market is heavily competitive and prices are low: you can pick up a prepaid SIM card for less than Rp 10,000 and calls may cost as little as Rp 300 a minute to some other countries using certain carriers (subject to the usual host of restrictions). SMS (text message) service is generally very cheap, with local SMS as low as Rp129-165, and international SMS for Rp400-600. Indonesia is also the world's largest market for used phones, and basic models start from Rp 150,000, with used ones being even cheaper.

Post

Pos Indonesia provides the postal service in Indonesia. Pos Indonesia is government-owned and offers services ranging from sending letters and packages to money transfers (usually to remote areas which have no bank branch/ATM nearby) and selling postcards and stamps. Sending a postcards, letter or parcel is relatively expensive, but fairly reliable. It takes several days at least to send it within Indonesia, at least a week internationally. It is recommended to send letters from a Pos Indonesia branch, not by putting it inside orange mailbox (called Bis Surat) in the roadside, because some of the mailboxes are in very bad condition and aren't checked regularly by Pos Indonesia. Opening times of post offices usually tend to follow general business hours: Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm (sometimes shorter hours on Fridays), Saturdays from 8:00am to 1:00pm, closed on Sundays. Bigger cities, tourist areas and central post offices tend to keep longer hours, into the evenings.

Private postal services based in Indonesia include CV Titipan Kilat (CV TIKI), Jalur Nugraha Ekaputra (JNE), Caraka, and RPX. There are also foreign postal services that have branches in Indonesia, including DHL, TNT, UPS, and FedEx.

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This is version 26. Last edited at 12:15 on Jul 7, 18 by theo1006. 1 article links to this page.

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