NEPAL VAN JAVA -THE TIERED VILLAGE ON AN ACTIVE VOLCANO

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It was one of our most anticipated things to do while creating a list of unique experiences on Java island- Indonesia. And to be honest, the small town of Dusun Butuh or more commonly known as Nepal Van Java, totally exceeded our expectations.

Located in the highlands of Central Java, the settlement of Nepal Van Java is just there, holding on to the slopes of Mount Sumbing. A volcano that is surprisingly active.

That alone makes visiting this town in the mountains that more interesting.

Probably one of the most scenic neighborhoods on the island, Nepal Van Java is surrounded by terraces. Carved in the mountain slopes.

And those pixelated terraces are the main source of income for locals that produce various greens.

So expect some freshly made local meals prepared from just harvested cabbage, leeks, and lettuce.

And don’t forget about the high elevation. That means the climate is cool (or even cold sometimes) and such a high elevation also means epic views over the stunning highlands, mountains and volcanos in central Java.

A village farmer walking up the steep narrow streets while carrying 2 bamboo baskets on his shoulder.

In this guide, we will go through a few basic things that you should know before going to Nepal Van Java.

Whether you are going there by yourself or along with a tour, you’ll want to read this article so you know what to expect.

WHERE IS NEPAL VAN JAVA

The small village or rather a settlement is in the highlands of Central Java. 

Nepal Van Java is located on the slopes of Mount Sumbing. But for a better perspective, the town is somewhere further North of Yogyakarta which is one of the main cities in Central Java.

Yogyakarta is also where many people and tourists will base themselves. 

That is because Nepal Van Java is a manageable 90 minute to 2 hours ride from Yogyakarta [aka Jogja]. So it makes for a nice day trip with a journey that isn’t so time-consuming.

Jacqueline sitting in the terrace of our homestay all cuddled up with a jacket while the sun slowly starts to rise from behind the mountains.
A canyon next to the village covered in tropical vegetation and trees

HOW TO GET TO NEPAL VAN JAVA

We were staying in Yogyakarta and decided that to get to Nepal Van Java we would rent a scooter and go there by ourselves.

Since we wanted to sleep there overnight and wanted to keep the cost low, renting a scooter was the best option.

Another option would have been to rent a taxi.

The ride itself is pretty interesting. As the route goes up into the highlands and the air gets cooler, you will pass by charming small villages, loads of verdant rice fields, and some amazing mountain views.

And although most of the streets leading to Nepal Van Java are remote, don’t worry about the condition.

Almost all the streets leading from Jogja to Nepal Van Java are in a good condition.

Well yeah, there are some random potholes along the way. And the streets are narrow in some parts. So you may need to pull on one side if maybe a van is coming.

A villager trying to climb the steep streets with an over loaded motorbike that almost couldn't make it's way up

But as long as you have some sort of knowledge of driving in Asia, getting there with a scooter is straightforward.

Probably the most important thing to keep in mind is that some streets are darn steep!

So rent a scooter with at least a 125cc engine. Anything smaller than that and your 2 wheeler probably won’t manage to get up the hills.

We won’t recommend a place where to rent a scooter because the rental we chose wasn’t really a good scooter.

But you can search for scooter rentals in Yogyakarta on google. And make sure to read some reviews before deciding.

WHERE TO STAY

IN YOGYAKARTA

There are two options that will work for visiting Nepal Van Java.

One option is to stay in Yogyakarta and only go to Nepal Van Java as a day trip.

Yogyakarta is an amazing city that is right in the middle of loads of other interesting things to do.

All around the city known for its art and heritage, there are ancient temples, waterfalls, epic sunrise spots. 

And the City itself is very interesting too with its historic buildings, the popular Malioboro street, a palace with beautiful pools and an underground Mosque.

Therefore, basing yourself in Jogja is a good choice if you’re thinking of going to other places like the Borobudur temple or nearby parks.

Yogyakarta is also our favorite place for food. Loads of great restaurants and food stalls and cafes are all around the city. And we also loved the fact that there are quite a few things to do at night. Like bars, the colorful Alun Alun Kidul, and one time we went to a traditional puppet theatre.

With so many things to do in and around Yogyakarta planning an itinerary can be confusing. That is why we have created a list of things to do and put them into a practical 3-day itinerary.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT AN EASY FOLLOW 3 DAY ITINERARY PLAN

OR IN THE MOUNTAINS

But if you are serious and want to have a truly unique experience, pack a bag with a few things and spend the night there (or maybe more), in the cooler climate of the mountain.

There are a few homestays already in Nepal Van Java.

Don’t expect anything fancy though. The homestays are quite basic and are mostly rooms in the house of somebody.

But that is the whole point of this experience. Because you will live for that day (or maybe more) like the local people.

The owner of our homestay was a very cheerful lady that also invited us to prepare dinner in a traditional kitchen. Like we ended up frying tempeh in a wok over an open wood flame on an authentic Asian stove.

The comfy bed in a cozy room at our homestay in Nepal Van Java
A traditional bathroom with bright orange walls, a green squat toilet at the top of a few steps and a sort big water container.

WHAT TO PACK

Up in the mountains, the climate is a lot cooler so you will want to pack accordingly. It’s not like it’s freezing or anything but you will need to pack a few layers. Consider packing a thermal vest and a long top and long pants.

During the night you’ll be happy to have them.

Also, consider taking a raincoat and maybe an extra set of underwear. You don’t want to end up with wet socks after a heavy rainfall hits you by surprise.

Anything else you need, like body soap, shampoo, and toothpaste you can buy from one of the shops dotted around the village.

our handy travel wardrobe really effective and easy to pack for any trip

HOMESTAY RECCOMENDATIONS

Omah Bening Homestay – The homestay we stayed in.

Syakila Homestay – Probably the best homestay for the views.

NEPAL VAN JAVA – OUR STORY

GETTING THERE

Our experience in Nepal Van Java was an adventurous trip that is so far one of the most interesting things we did in Central Java.

One of the reasons is that Nepal Van Java hasn’t got to the point that it’s a super touristy place. That also means that detailed information about the place is quite limited.

With little to no information about Nepal Van Java, we decided to rent a scooter and make our way up the hills and mountains in the middle of Java island and go check the place out for ourselves.

From our accommodation, in Jogja, we were looking at around a 60 km scooter ride.

Quite an easy ride if you compare it with some epic rides that we did in the past.

On our way up the mountains, it was amazing to ride through various and constant scenes of rice fields, mountain views, charming villages and all this while the air got colder and colder.

But then it started raining slowly. And then it started pouring down a heavy tropical rainfall.

So we had to stop for a break and wait for the rain to [at least] slow down.

What is surprising is that although the village of Nepal Van Java is on one of the volcanos and at a high elevation, we didn’t see the village at any point along the way.

We only got the first glimpse of the village after turning a bend in the road about 5 minutes before arriving.

Nepal Van Java was just there. A colorful village tiered on the slopes of Mount Sumbing.

A 2 NIGHT EXPERIENCE

Somewhere at the start of the village, there is a booth that collects an IDR 10.000 ($0.70) fee to enter the village.

And there is a designated scooter parking area and also a car park.

This is because there are no cars in the village and the streets are only wide enough for motorbikes.

But don’t get the wild idea of entering with your own 2 wheeler. I was advised to not carry on further into the village and that I should park my bike. Later on, I realized why.

The narrow streets are very steep, slippery and some parts also have drop-offs into the jungle below.

And most common motorbikes and scooters wouldn’t even manage the task of going up those hills.

Although you’ll see motorbikes going at full speed uphill. And motorbike taxis transporting people up the hill, I wouldn’t try it myself.

The entrance into the village offers a stunning view of the colorful houses tiered on the slopes of mount Sumbing.
A lady walking along the narrow streets and wearing a bamboo cone shaped hat while passing by a banged up motorbike resting on the wall.

But we still had no idea where we would spend the night. So….

…we just looked above us and surprisingly we could point out a bunch of homestays by just standing at the entrance of Nepal Van Java.

That is because the houses in the village are tiered one on top of the other. And in most cases, the houses have an unobstructed view of the village entrance.

So the accommodations sort of advertise the place by writing a big homestay on the part of the house facing down to the entrance of the village

In the end, we walked up to one of the homestays that we saw but turned out to be under renovation. So the owner of that place pointed out another place right next to his.

Omah Bening Homestay is the name of the place that we stayed for 2 nights.

The glorious entry of our homestay made with wood and pretty vetrinas
The complementary jars at the homestay. One had sweet popcorn, another was sort of spicy crisp things but not sure what the brown round flaky balls in the next jar are. But they were good anyway.

We got a clean cozy room with wooden walls and a very warm blanket for the cold nights. And fast wifi speeds which was surprising when considering how isolated the place is.

A shared toilet with a shower that had really hot water. But we had to figure out how to use the squat toilet. We’re still working on that.

The owners (daughter, husband, mum, dad, grandma) of Omah Bening Homestay are a really friendly bunch. And on the first night, they introduced us to a typical authentic Indonesian kitchen. In this kitchen, the mum set up some amazing meals throughout our stay.

But it was the first dinner that was a highlight. On our first night, the owner asked us to join her in the kitchen while she prepared us an amazing dish of nasi goreng.

In the meantime, Jacqueline helped in the preparation and cooking of some chunks of tasty tempeh with sambal sauce.

It was interesting because not only did we get to prepare our own food (sort of) but because this was done in a traditional kitchen where the stove is basically a kind of wood-burning barbecue. But instead of grills, a wok is placed over a hole with the burning wood inside.

Jacqueline having a go at go at preparing a snack of tempeh before we have our dinner of nasi goreng
The lady of the homestay preparing our nasi goreng over the open wooden flames under a charred up wok

THINGS TO DO

Although it seems like the only interesting thing to do in Nepal Van Java is to just go there and maybe take a few photos and post them on Instagram, there are a few things to do while you’re there.

If you go during the dry season, you could easily spend 2 full days and always have something different to do.

WATCH THE SUN RISING

One of the best things to do only requires the effort of getting up a bit early.

Make a hot drink and walk outside your homestay.

It doesn’t matter which homestay you choose because the way the village is built, all houses have a view in some way or another.

And just watch an amazing sun rising from behind mountains and a volcano while mist clears up over the distant villages below.

We woke up both mornings to watch the sunrise. And although we were there in November which is the start of the rainy season, both days rewarded us with a stunning sunrise.

A dark corridor looking out onto the terrace with an amazing backdrop of the mountains a morning mist.
Jacqueline sitting in the terrace of our homestay all cuddled up with a jacket while the sun slowly starts to rise from behind the mountains.

WALK AROUND THE NARROW STREETS

Later on we walked up the steep village streets. And zig-zagged through the village while motorbike taxis effortlessly climbed up the mountain with local tourists wanting to reach a higher viewpoint.

Walking along the streets of Nepal Van Java offered us a first-hand experience of how different and sometimes even challenging mountain life is.

Walking walking down a flight of stairs extremely slippery because of being covered in moss
Farmers carrying a bunch of logs on their backs to sell for fires

HIKE MOUNT SUMBING

And one interesting activity is hiking all the way up mount Sumbing. I can’t really say how challenging the hike is but from the information we got from local guides the hike takes about 4 hours each way.

And the views get better the higher you get.

I can’t really go into much detail on this activity because we decided to give it a miss. This was due to each day raining which would create a muddy and slippery trail. That isn’t really an ideal hiking condition.

But if you are there during the dry months [between May to October], it would make for a good activity.

FINAL NOTE

Our trip to Nepal Van Java was one interesting activity that we did in Central Java. And probably the main highlight of that part of the island.

And actually staying for 2 nights in the mountain village amplified the whole experience.

Although we wanted to do a few things in Nepal Van Java, like hike Mount Sumbing, we gave it a miss due to the rainy days we had while there.

So probably we will return to this charming mountain village during the drier months.

If you are in central Java and want a unique experience that is still off the beaten path, make sure to add Nepal Van Java to your list.

And if you do go, make sure to let us know how it went. Or even let us know if you have any other suggestions that we may have missed.

If you’re considering adding Nepal Van Java to your bucket list, make sure to save the URL of this page. Or save the post to Pinterest for future reference. And if you have other travel buddies or adventurous family members, share it on your socials and get your friends and family inspired too!!

While you’re in Java make sure to visit the most impressive natural wonders in East Java because some are so unique you won’t find anything similar anywhere else.

READ OUR EAST JAVA ROUTE GUIDE

Read All Our Indonesia Guides.

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