In Indonesia's volcanic, fiery, seismically unstable islands, limestone landscapes are rare. But some exist - tectonic events occasionally push old submarine coral sediments above the water level. With its almost continuous chain of active volcanoes in the middle, Java can only boast one true karst area: in Gunung Kidul, just southeast of Yogyakarta. The landscape here is equipped with all the natural wonders typical for karst: multi-tiered waterfalls, tall craggy hills, caves and sinkholes. But, as usual in such regions, the best attractions are underground.
The most popular karst attraction in Gunung Kidul is Goa Jomblang: a lovely compact cave accessible through a vertical shaft. Between 10 am and noon, sunbeams penetrate the shaft and fall onto a massive old stalagmite on the bottom, creating the background for possibly the most adventurous selfie an average person can take. There is no way to get in without belay, and independent entry is not allowed, but the ropes, guides and support are included in the program and purchasable on the spot. If you would rather simplify it, the cave can be visited on an organized day trip from Yogyakarta. This will also ensure you actually get in because Jomblang's fame occasionally attracts more tourists than the cave can handle in a single day.
Goa Jomblang, Gunung Kidul, Central JavaJetis, Pacarejo, Kec. Semanu, Kabupaten Gunung Kidul, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55893, Indonesia
Kalisuci cave tubing
If rappelling into a sinkhole is not adventurous enough, try sailing through an underground river on a truck tire. The starting point is only a couple of km from Goa Jomblang. In many ways, it is more exciting than its famous neighbor. The current will pull you through a deep narrow canyon and two caves, then a short climb will take you to the third one. There are plenty of light shafts, beautiful speleothems, and usually no people around. Definitely not to be missed!
Kalisuci cave tubing, Gunung Kidul, Central JavaJetis, Pacarejo, Kec. Semanu, Kabupaten Gunung Kidul, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55893, Indonesia
There are plenty of other sights in the vicinity. Watu Giring is an abandoned rock quarry adapted to serve as a tourist spot with limited success. Gunung Sewu Geopark lives up to its name (meaning "A Thousand Mountains") - it is an area filled with scores of hemispheric hillocks almost crawling upon each other. It is best viewed from a drone, the second best option being Gunung Bagus, one of the highest hills in the geopark. Ngingrong Doline is relatively spectacular, but the main draw here is the flying fox zipline - ever tried zipping over a big, dark, ominous sinkhole?
All the sights listed above lie within a 30-minute drive distance from each other or less. The area itself is about 1.5 hours from Yogyakarta by motorbike. A combination of a public bus to Wonosari and hitchhiking between the natural wonders of Gunung Kidul is also perfectly feasible. In this case, it makes sense to stop overnight in Wonosari - Griya Birowo is a plain but very budget-friendly crashpad. An interesting alternative would be to base yourself on a nearby beach (rocky, with great views but limited swimming opportunities) and mix exploration with recreation. Hotel Kukup Indah on Kukup Beach is probably the most logical option. Goa Jomblang tickets can (and on weekends, should) be booked online, as only a limited number of visitors are allowed daily.
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