Charming Selo, Central Java

An exceptionally cute and authentic village, Selo is set on and between the slopes of two volcanoes, and stitched together with tobacco fields and vegetable plots, 50km west of Solo.  Located in Boyolali district, Central Java, at an elevation of between 1,200 and 1,900 meters, the area joins the slopes of two of Java’s majestic volcanoes, Mount Merapi and Mount Merbabu.

Most tourists simply zip in after dark to climb Gunung Merapi or Merbabu for an epic sunrise view. From Selo, it is a very steep, three- to four-hour hike to the volcano’s summit. Allow around 2½ hours for the descent. At the top the sulphurous fumes can be overpowering – take great care.

The area is known as a fertile tobacco-producing plantation ground as well as other produce to supply much of Central Java. It also offers beautiful landscape, serenity and fresh air for visitors who come here to get away from the bustling cities of Solo, Semarang and Yogyakarta. The area is also famous with hikers as Selo provides the closest route to Mount Merapi’s peak.

New Selo is a tourist area located in Lencoh village, the last residential area before Merapi’s barren crater. There is a viewing tower at New Selo where you can see the equally majestic Merbabu on the other side — a must-visit, locals tell me. From New Selo, Merapi’s summit is only four to five hours’ trek for the average hiker, but local guides say they can climb much faster.

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Compared to other hiking paths such as Babadan in Magelang and Deles in Klaten, Selo offers the quickest and easiest climb to the summit. Another route, from Kaliadem in Sleman, has been closed since the 2010 eruption.

The trek from Selo is more crowded and is perfect for novice climbers who are just out for a good time like me. The path is clearly marked, passing tobacco fields, pine forests and barren crater area. More serious climbers may find the climb pretty mild, but not this aging reporter.

Hikers normally set off in the wee hours of morning to get to the peak in time to catch the glorious sunrise. But there are those who set out in the afternoon and set camp just below the summit at the Watu Gajah camping ground. If you don’t fancy any climbing at all, Jrakah offers a picturesque view of Merapi from the village’s main bridge, which was rebuilt after the 2010 eruption.

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A stone’s throw away from the village you can enjoy the picturesque Kedung Kayang waterfall in Wonolelo village. A further 10-minute drive from Kedung Kayang will take you to Ketep area, where you can get a 360-degree view of five of the most iconic mountains of Central Java — Merapi, Merbabu, Sindoro, Sumbing and Slamet — from the Panca Arga (Five Mountains) observation tower.

Selo offers an unforgettable experience for all, from occasional travellers looking to unwind in the mountains, to the more experienced adventure seekers and nature lovers.

How to get there

Selo is accessible an hour’s drive from Solo, through a back road connecting Solo and the famous Buddhist monument of Borobudur, known as the Solo-Selo-Borobudur (Sosebo) pass, which is littered with many viewing posts for you to enjoy the spectacular mountain scenery.

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