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Garut, Indonesia: A traveller’s guide

By Shenny Fierdha 21 November 2021

Header image courtesy of David Traña (via Unsplash)

Garut is one of the biggest regencies in West Java, covering an area as wide as 3,065 square kilometres. Due to its diverse geographical features, Garut is blessed with both picturesque beaches as well as skyscraping mountains that make this regency a complete one-stop-shop destination. It is dubbed as “Zwitsers van Java”—or “Switzerland van Java”—due to its surrounding of mountains—just like Switzerland—including Mount Papandayan, Mount Guntur, and Mount Cikuray. 

Not only does Garut steal the hearts of many visitors, but it also gratifies the bellies of hungry foodies with its local Sundanese delicacies. Located around 120 kilometres away from the provincial capital Bandung, there is no reason to exclude this regency from your itinerary. Check out our guide to Garut for a vacation you will never forget.

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Talaga Bodas

In Sundanese, Talaga Bodas means “white pond“ thanks to its predominantly white surface accented with turquoise. This pond is actually a crater that was created centuries ago following a volcanic eruption. Despite its sulphuric content, the pungent odour does not spread to the surroundings. Overall, Talaga Bodas looks more like a sandy beach with calm waters. Bubbles sometimes break the still surface, hinting at the volcanic activities beneath the earth.

Other than proudly displaying the elegant crater, Talaga Bodas has three natural hot springs that many believe can help cure skin diseases. There is also a cold waterfall roughly 100 metres away from the hot springs.

Pusat Konservasi Elang Kamojang

Established in 2015, Pusat Konservasi Elang Kamojang (PKEK)—or Kamojang Eagle Conservation Centre—is an educational tourism destination that allows curious visitors to learn about these kings of the sky. Several species are found at this 16-hectare conservation site, including the endangered Javanese-hawk eagle, endemic to Java Island.

PKEK is Indonesia’s biggest eagle conservation. So far, it has taken care of at least 100 local eagles which sustained injuries from natural causes or gunshot wounds, or as illegal pets. During their stay at the conservation, they are locked in different cages which serve specific purposes—for display, observation, quarantine, and more. Once those majestic birds have fully recovered, they are released back to the wild.

Kebun Mawar Situhapa

Literally translated as “Situhapa Rose Garden” in English, this five-hectare piece of land is full of roses and other kinds of exotic flowers, including begonias, orchids, and cacti. Boasting over 500 varieties of plants, this is the biggest flower garden in Garut, and all the flowers and plants are classified into different zones, such as Rose Zone, Azalea Zone, and Water Park Zone. You can see the flowers at their best and breathe in their fragrance during the dry season from June to July. Even if you come before or after the dry season, they will still look and smell amazing. Pretty park benches and treehouses are scattered throughout the site, offering perfect photo spots.

To entertain flower fans even more, Kebun Mawar Situhapa provides a restaurant serving both Indonesian and Western cuisines that guests can enjoy while gazing at the lush garden. For an extended experience, do not miss the aromatic sensation of waking up in the middle of thousands of flowers at Kebun Mawar Situhapa’s luxurious hotel. You will go home feeling recharged and refreshed, like a newly blossomed bloom.

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Rancabuaya Beach

This beach directly faces the grand Indian Ocean, known for its dangerously strong currents, big waves, and sharp rocks along the shore. Although Rancabuaya’s sea is not safe for swimming or surfing due to the rough conditions, the beauty is undeniable. The aerial view of the sea shows a mix of three contrasting colours—white, green, and dark blue. Rancabuaya Beach is also an ideal place to catch the sunset—watch the sky as it turns golden yellow or pinkish-red.

One thing that sets Rancabuaya Beach apart from other beaches in Garut is its freshwater waterfall, cascading from a hill near the shore. It provides a natural shower for beachgoers to rinse off the sand sticking onto their skin. To end this lovely day at the beach, how about having some seafood for lunch or dinner? Simple food stalls and kiosks are lined up along the coast, offering the catch of the day including succulent tuna, crab, and shellfish.

Food, transport, and hotel

Your trip to Garut will not be complete unless you try authentic Sundanese cuisine, which is sure to satisfy your craving for hot and spicy food. Try the savoury nasi liwet (liwet rice), which is rice topped with chunks of chillies and anchovies, served with chicken, duck, fish, tempeh, tofu, and of course, sambal, a hot chilli condiment.

Save some room for awug—a Sundanese steamed dessert made from rice flour shaped like a cone and stuffed with brown sugar. Of course, don’t miss this regency’s number one edible souvenir—dodol Garut—a sticky and chewy sweet made from glutinous rice, palm sugar, and coconut milk. You can find all these delights everywhere in Garut, from high-class restaurants to pushcarts on the streets.

Garut is only accessible by land—be that by private car or bus. If you want to travel the easy way from Jakarta, you can get on the Primajasa bus serving its Jakarta-Garut route from Primajasa Bus Shelter in Cililitan subdistrict, East Jakarta. Stop at Guntur Bus Terminal in Garut. Once in Garut, just rent a motorcycle to reach all points of interest, which costs IDR150,000 for eight hours.

There are plenty of affordable hotels in Garut to choose from, such as Hotel Agung Permata Artha in Tarogong Kaler district at IDR155,000 per night. Alternatively, you can stay at Hazza Family Homestay—also in Tarogong Kaler district—for IDR170,000 per night.

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Shenny Fierdha

Contributor

Shenny is a freelance writer/journalist/translator who can write both in English and her mother tongue Indonesian. She loves backpacking to lesser-known destinations, especially those with a comfortably cold climate. An avid history fan, she enjoys spending hours at museums while others might yawn and try to find the nearest exit.

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