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Updated: 3rd November 2015
Dieng Plateau, a sulphuric marshy land in Java, has started to gain much more attention as a tourist destination over recent years. If you are looking for an Indonesian experience with a local feel, add this to your itinerary.
Located a few hours’ drive from the temple of Borobudur, this was one of my favourite parts of exploring the central island of this never-ending archipelago. It’s a great addition to your trip after exploring the best of Yogyakarta, a royal city in central Java.
What is Dieng Plateau like?
When I arrived at my homestay in Wonosobo, I realised after a good ten minutes of knocking that no one was home and no one was nearby that was going to be able to help.
As fate would be, it was pissing it down, so I grabbed a bowl of Bakso noodles for 50 cents from a nearby stall and took a seat in the rain beside him, much to the entertainment of the never-ending school girls who kept coming to the window across the street to laugh and giggle at me. This was to become the running theme of my time in Dieng.
It’s that laughter that has me hooked on this country. A friend once told me she loved Indonesians because they are so quick to find humour, and damn, we need more laughter in the world.
Once settled in and having been welcomed with a guest book to sign, the first person in nine months it appeared, I used my exemplary hand gestures to arrange for the owner’s son/friend/neighbour to give me a tour on his bike the next day for 120,000 IDR.
Whoever the guy was, he rocked up on time and was awesome. He snuck me into parks before they were open, shared lunch with me, and then drove me around all of his friends’ homes on the way back so they could take a selfie with me. Wonosobo, the bigger town a 20-minute ride from Dieng, was like that. There were no tourists here, shopkeepers didn’t know how to over-charge, and everything was communicated with smiles – my favourite way to travel.
Top 5 things to see in Dieng
The best thing is, you don’t need to do a Dieng Plateau tour, it is simple enough to explore by renting bike or just hiring a driver for the day.
Explore the Volcanic craters. The whole of the Dieng Plateau is an active volcanic area (last erupting in 2009). You can wander through bubbling craters and ‘enjoy’ the sulphur smell pretty much undisturbed in the early hours.
Watch Sunrise above the clouds For the bargain price of 50,000 IDR ($4.50/£2.50) you can head to the village of Siknur and its mountain peak for a pretty amazing sunrise above the clouds. The ‘trek’ is short and pretty easy (20 minutes when starting from the village). No guide was needed, and there was just a small crowd of locals watching the day start with me.
Explore untouched nature off the beaten path. I went two days without seeing another Tourist or speaking English. After a week in Bali, it was great to get into Indonesia properly and the scenery is truly beautiful, the vast rice fields and dramatic landscapes sure make you feel you have hit the remote lands.
Explore near empty parks. The national park, which holds the ‘colour changing’ lake, as well as various temples, has an entry attached of 100,000 IDR. Try to head there before it opens and ask your helpful guide to have you ‘sneaked’ in for 50,000 IDR. It worked for me, and I got to enjoy the whole park undisturbed.
Tour the temples. From little temples to great lakes where you can hire boats, Dieng has plenty to keep you busy or relaxed for a couple of days.
Getting to Dieng Plateau
To get to Dieng, you can jump on a tour from Yogyakarta for around $35, though you will miss the sunrise by taking this option. Alternatively, you can hire a driver for a couple of days for about $100 or take the local bemos round trip for under $10. The route is Yogyakarta – Wonosobo – Dieng, going via Borobudur as a stop is also possible – Expect around 6 hours by Bus and 3 with a driver.
Bemos are small local buses; without a timetable, you can wave them down and kill time with the locals. If you are happy meeting livestock, teaching English to school kids, and sharing fruit with older ladies while doing their errands, then you’ll enjoy it as much as I do. If not, hiring a private driver might be more to your taste.
Viator offers a reasonably priced package which can be booked in advance, starting in Semarang and then touring Dieng.
I paid 150,000 IDR in Wonosobo for a driver/guide/bike for the day, or you can hire your own bike for around 50,000 IDR. The price will really depend on whether you are staying in Wonosobo or Dieng itself.
Where To Stay
With a choice of hotels and guesthouses starting to crop up, you can now book some accommodation in both Dieng and Wonosobo online, but be aware that much of the accommodation in the area is not on the internet, so just rocking up can present both deals and/or hassle. Generally, I find that Agoda has a better selection throughout parts of rural Indonesia.