The mountainous island of Java has no shortage of waterfalls. Twin, multi-colored, tall and linear, cascading and gentle, overgrown - you name it. And of course, right on the Ring of Fire, you would expect a number of hot springs. But, it's a rare occurrence for the two phenomena to combine. Pancuran Pitu in Baturraden Nature Park (Lokawisata Baturraden) near Purwokerto in Central Java, is exactly that: a hot waterfall. It’s a sequence of stepped cascades, actually, each next one slightly cooler than the previous. The name itself aptly translates from Javanese as “seven waterfalls”. You can choose your own section and take a shower of your preferred temperature in the middle of the lush equatorial forest. Or just follow the trail downstream and enjoy the view.
Unusual natural phenomena are often considered sacred in animist belief systems, and so are water sources. Pancuran Pitu is no exception; next to the spring, there's a small kejawen (Javanese Hindu/animist faith) shrine. Since the surrounding area has been declared a nature park, some development followed. Hot water from the spring is initially channeled into a cement pool, and only after that flows freely down a mountain slope in a series of cascades. High mineral content in the water has painted the bedrock in shades of yellow and orange. The waterfalls are quite spectacular, even more so because of the steam floating surreally above them and over the forest. A network of trails connects Pancuran Pitu with other natural attractions in the vicinity.
Purwokerto is a large town in Central Java, well connected to the rest of the island by road and railway. From there, take a minibus to Baturraden and walk a few hundred meters to the nature park gate. There's an entrance fee of around 1$. Technically, there's an additional small fee for Pancuran Pitu, but it's seldom charged. The distance from the gate to Pancuran Pitu is about 3 km, a pleasant stroll through the jungle. In the beginning, you will have to cross the developed zone, designed for "instagrammable" selfies and resembling a neglected kindergarten. Then the trail enters the forest and traverses a mountain slope, heading gently uphill for most of the way.
There are a couple of perennial waterfalls along the way that may be spectacular during the rainy season but otherwise look like a leaking tap. Generally, the nature park is big; plan your own hike according to your fitness level. But the hot cascade of Pancuran Pitu is definitely the highlight. A couple of coffee shacks have been set up near the spring, but their opening hours are erratic. Sometimes local specialists offer a sulfuric mud massage by the public pool. Female travelers should keep in mind that this is a Muslim area, and it would be very bad manners to shower in a bikini. A modest dress is a cultural must.
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