For those looking to escape the heat and enjoy a relaxing holiday with the family, Central Java offers a perfect retreat. Perched on the slopes of Mount Lawu, Tawangmangu promises a cool time for everyone. The Jakarta Post contributor Kartika Bagus C traveled to the resort area and found that there was much more to Tawangmangu than the cool climate. He explored the areas natural attractions, its traditional rituals and its special delicacies, and came back with the following stories.
West Java has Puncak (literally meaning peak), while Central Java has Tawangmangu, a tourist resort known for its cool climate.
Perched on the western slope of Mount Lawu at an altitude of 3,265 meters, Tawangmangu enjoys temperatures of between 22 and 31 degrees Celsius.
Tawangmangu is located in Karanganyar Regency, Central Java, some 45 kilometers, or about a two-hour drive, from Surakarta to the southeast. The resort is easily accessible by car or motorcycle. And for visitors arriving at the Adisumarno International Airport in Surakarta, it is easy to get a cab or bus to Tawangmangu.
According to Sri Hartono, 40, of the Karangayar tourist office, Tawangmangu Resort has numerous hotel choices for visitors. He said there were 44 hotels -- from the star-rated to more modest accommodation -- ranging in price from Rp 20,000 to Rp 250,000 per night.
Though its climate is the main draw, there is much more to Tawangmangu. The attractions at the resort include waterfalls, Taman Ria Balakembang, the Lawu Resort campground, Bumi Perkemahan Sekipan, Puncak Lawu, hot water springs and Candi (temple) Sukuh, Candi Ceto and Candi Bromo.
There are also cultural attractions, such as the traditional ceremonies in the villages of Mondosiyo and Dukutan.
Sumini, 44, an employee at the district's tourist office, said there were also periodical dangdut and campur sari performances, as well as traditional art performances.
One of the main attractions at the resort is the Grojogan Sewu waterfalls. With its pristine nature, the breathtaking 81-meter high waterfalls remain the most frequented spot in the 20-hectare forest area of the resort.
The park, which has been managed by Natural Resources Conservation, in Bogor, and run by PT Duta Indonesia Jaya since 1956, provides visitors with swimming pools, camping areas, a recreational park, souvenir shops and restaurants.
The 3.5-hectare Taman Bakembang is specially designed for families. Small children can enjoy themselves in its vast playgrounds and parents can relax with a game of tennis.
If you still have the energy, you should not miss Candi Sukuh, a temple located in the middle of a coffee and tea plantation on the mountain's western slope in Berjo village, at the foot of Tawangmangu. The temple is accessible by car via a five-kilometer-long road.
""And now we are encouraging tourists to walk down the road to the temple,"" said Hartono.
The temple was built in the 15th century during the time of the Majapahit Kingdom. In the past, the Hindu temple was used as a place for worship and religious rites, but now it is used as a place for meditation and to give offerings.
Sumini said the local administration was actively promoting the resort as a tourist destination, and was considering selling CD-ROMs depicting the attractions of Tawangmangu. Information about the resort can be accessed on the Internet.