Here Comes Yogyakarta's New Tourism Primadona

The lines of exotic white-sanded beach, the giant andesitic stones at the ancient volcano, and the dark alleys along the cave are ones of the charms of Gunungkidul which now have started to unveil, showing off its hidden paradise.

Updated on 15 April 2020

"In this snug retreat sat a duck on her nest, watching for her young brood to hatch. At the last the large egg broke, and a young one crept forth crying; it was very large and ugly. The poor duckling was driven about by every one. So at last he ran away, frightening the little birds in the hedge as he flew over the palings." (The Ugly Duckling, Hans Christian Andersen).

Unlike the other four regencies in the Special Region of Yogyakarta, which are all luxuriant and green, Gunungkidul consists of barren limestone hills which have always been experiencing drought. Situated at the Southern part of Java Island, Gunungkidul is the remaining of an ancient ocean. Its initial inhabitants were somehow related to the Australoid race from Sewu mountains in Pacitan, who went all the way down through the limestone valley trail and Bengawan Solo to Gunungkidul by the end of the Pleistocene age-about 700 thousand years ago.

Gunungkidul's geographical spread is an irresistible charm. It consists of volcanic plateaus, heavy-flowing underground rivers, dark vertical and horizontal caves, and exotic lines of white-sand beaches-they're all here! After tens of years being covered in the mist of the mysterious pulung gantung, the dry lands, and the frequent drought, today Gunungkidul has started to reveal itself. It starts to unveil its paradise, which has been hidden for long. The duckling has transformed into a beautiful swan.


Let's take time to explore the whole wind directions. Starting from the Northern part, you can visit Gunung Nglanggeran, an ancient volcano aged between 20 and 25 million years. Andesitic stones spread throughout the area, from the small ones to the giant ones, as if they were falling from the sky. Its volcanic ash resource helps fertilizing the surrounding area. Green farms, sometimes with andesitic stones, lies long to freshen up your eyes. The area may be regarded as the most fertile region in Gunungkidul. As a dessert, waiting for sunset at the summit of the mountain can be a romantic option. Make use of the night to take some good rest, as next day's trip to the middle part of Gunungkidul has been waiting for you.

Morning is the right timing to continue your adventure to Cave Tubing Gua Pindul. The cave is formed by an underground river flowing from River Oyo, the same river which flows across the canyon in Sri Gethuk Water Fall. Feel the total darkness offered by the cave and its flowing river, which will blind your eyes but will add more to the sensitivity of your other senses. It's like the beginning of an evolution as such experienced by ancient cavemen. If you have had visited Pindul Cave before, you can try another alternative option named cave tubing along Kalisuci Cave Tubing, which flows to its estuary at Baron Beach. You can choose between Pindul Cave and Kali Suci as there is not much time to explore both while they have similar characteristics.

Having had your cave tubing at Pindul Cave or Kali Suci, you can have lunch at Lesehan Pari Gogo. Brown rice accompanied by green chili soup will give you a perfect taste. Don't forget to try some fried grasshoppers; the insects which actually are pests are processed into distinct snack favored by many.

Interested in trying a more challenging adventure? Try exploring vertical cave. One of the most popular ones around Gunungkidul is Jomblang Cave. Going down the cave using single rope technique (SRT) to tens of meter depth, added with an ancient forest on the bottom of the cave will definitely get your adrenaline rushing. It will feel like what has been experienced by those cavers exploring Esa Ala in the movie Sanctum.

The third day is time to let the sun kisses your skin. The Southern part of Gunungkidul consists of lines of coral reefs, which is included in the development category of Seribu Mountains, one that keeps numerous underground rivers. Along the coastal line, white-sand beaches are spreading from West to East. Try visiting Indrayanti Beach, the most popular beach in Gunungkidul, or Pok Tunggal Beach which now starts gaining popularity. If you want to see the beauty of waterfall above the coastal line, then you should give a visit to Jogan Beach. As for climbers, Siung Beach offers 250 climbing tracks-a must-visit in your list. If you are interested in savoring delicious fishes, just come over to Sadeng Beach, which is also a harbor for numerous fishes. You can also check for other beach options at our beach tour segment.

Exploring each of the beaches delivers you a fascinating experience. Coral hills fill the view along the way. Smooth black asphalt roads move in waves like a snake crossing limestone mountains which, in the past, were the bottom of the ocean. You can imagine the past; when the water biota swam and hid between the reefs. Decorated by exotic teak woods, along with corn and cassava fields on the hard rocky land, the view has been a proof of how tough Gunungkidul locals have been trying to live their lives in synergy with the surrounding nature. There will be no boring trip, even if you are traveling tens of kilometers.


Some of the exotic spots in Gunungkidul are located in quite remote places, while public transportation has yet to provide access to such locations. No need to worry, however, as you can make use of rented vehicles from Jogja, which certainly will give you easier and cheaper access. As for groups, you can rent cars at Rully Transport (car only). If you have no idea about the route, you can also hire a driver to navigate you through the way; try Wijaya Trans. For more references, click our Rent A Car in Yogyakarta.


Unlike other more popular tourism destinations which have adopted modernization, Gunungkidul remains relatively quiet. There are not so many motels as such you can find in other regions. One of those we recommended is Casa Meira Gunungkidul. Located not far from the best tourism destinations in Gunungkidul, Casa Meira offers a unique experience of staying at a house with Mediterranean touch and a secret door.


In Gunungkidul, you can find various culinary courts we recommended. During the night, you can try Sate Ayam (Chicken Satay) Sate Taman Bunga. The sate court has been favored for its large meat cuts and its excellent peanut sauce. Or, you can try Sate Pak Turut, the most legendary goatmeat sate around Gunungkidul. Managed by the second generation of the founder, the restaurant offers high quality sate. If you desire to try chicken noodle, have a try at Rumah Makan Bakso Bantar Sari. Not only selling chicken noodle, the food court also offers meatball and siomay (dumplings).

Having the whole day exploring the paradise of Gunungkidul, it is a must that you stop by at Thiwul Yu Tum. The snack court is another proof of how hard and creative Gunungkidul locals are in adapting to its dry land; nowadays, thiwul has been one of the favorite gifts from Gunungkidul.

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