Semeru is the highest volcano in Java (3676m) and one of the most active: the Global Volcanism Program observes that ‘Semeru has been in almost continuous eruption since 1967′.

The view of Mount Semeru is best enjoyed from the vista point at Gunung Penanjakan. . The journey takes about 1 hour of climbing along narrow bends and sharp switchbacks. Journey usually commences between 0300 to 0330 hrs, just in time to catch the sunrise view at Penanjakan at around 0500 hrs.

For those interested to climbing Mount Semeru, the hike starts at the village of Ranupane. If you depart from Malang, you can take the local bus to Tumpang, from which you can hire a 4WD (jeep) to Ranupane across the Sea of Sands. If you are from Pasuruan or Probolinggo, you can hire a regular taxi van that passes Sukapura, Ngadisari and arrives at Cemoro Lawang, from which a rented 4WD will bring you to Jemplang on Semeru’s southern rim, and eventually to Ranupane.

The accolade of being the highest mountain on Java Island definitely goes to Mount Semeru. At 3,676m, this stratovolcano is also known as “Gunung Mahameru” (the Great Mountain) due to its supreme attributes. In fact, Mahameru actually refers to the Hindu god of Siwa in local dialects. Siwa the Destroyer (Dewa Pemusnah) is the most powerful one, hence, it comes to no surprise that Mount Semeru is named after this forceful deity.

The most unique attribute of Mount Semeru is that it spews out a smoky cloud of steam, black ashes and stones every 20-30 minutes. If you are viewing the mountain from Penanjakan’s vista point, you can almost be guaranteed of seeing the mini eruption, unless if you are really unlucky should the mountain decides to catch a breath, so-to-speak.

The first glimpse of its eruption from the vista point was greeted by oohs and aahs from the tourists who trudged the bitterly cold morning to view this great mountain. Soon enough, clicking sounds of digital cameras filled the air. Nobody wanted to miss the show.

Mount Semeru steep sides rise abruptly from the southern coastal plain on Java Island, although one could not see it from Penanjakan. Climbing the mountain isn’t for everyone but it can be done. In fact, my driver told about a group of French climbers who frequent the majestic peak during the dry season of April to October.