After coming from Kalimantan, we truly needed a „break” to recover our strength and start with a fresh mind the second semester of our Darmasiswa scholarship program. We figured that the best choice would be the untamed southern coast of Java, Gunung Kidul Regency on Indian Ocean's shore, just 60 km away from Yogyakarta, the city where we live and study. If you ever visited Yogyakarta (Jogja, as known by the locals) one of Java's most densely populated cities, you know that finding space, privacy, silence, nature and tranquility are no easy task. We set our bar high and started our quest on the internet to spot the perfect place to stay.
We found a very promising house close to Pantai Kukup beach, and we were ready to enjoy Gunung Kidul area during the week and leave in the weekend when everyone would rush to the beach.
Queen of the Southern Sea of Java, here we come!
Public transportation in Indonesia is a little bit tricky, and sometimes it is easier to have your own car or scooter to get around. Since this wasn't our case, we had to change many vehicles in just 60 km of adventures, but we finally made it to our destination: the coast of Gunung Kidul.
Less than twenty five years ago, this south part of Gunung Kidul's Regency along the coastline, was completely uninhabited. The karst region, the water shortages and the powerful ocean famous for claiming lives, made a harsh environment for local farmers and fisherman. The people started to be terrified and placed the image of their fears into a legendary female deity, named Nyai Roro Kidul, known as „ The Queen of the Southern Sea of Java” in Javanese and Sundanese mythology. Although there are more versions of the story, everyone agrees that Nyai Roro Kidul kidnaps the soul of whoever dares to venture in her waters, specially if is wearing green color clothing, and keeps him hostage in her underwater kingdom.
Mount Sewu: “ A thousand mountains”
On the way to our hidden property between Pantai Kukup and Pantai Sepanjang, we were excited to see Gunung Kidul's countless limestone hills composing Mount Sewu, a wide area translated as “A thousand mountains”. This karst region was the bottom of an ocean some hundred's of million years ago and nowadays is home to many caves, underground rivers, endless white sand beaches perfectly shaped inside rocky bays stretching into an elegant majestic stone lace, as far as the eye can see. With the Indian Ocean blowing violently its sparkling waves, the landscape is truly breathtaking.
Few years ago, the government decided to explore the potential of the area and transform it into a touristic attraction, but most of Gunung Kidul's beautiful beaches are considered dangerous and swimming is prohibited with a few exceptions.
On Pantai Baron beach you can swim in a underground river emerging from the darkness and joining the sea exactely here.
Pantai Sadranan is where you can do snorkeling along the shore, and the little peaceful Pantai Ngandong, favorite among foreigners searching for more privacy, is the twin sister of Pantai Sundak, just across its west cliff.
Choose your beach between Pantai Baron and Pantai Sundak!
Although we had in mind doing nothing and relaxing 24 from 24 hours at home enjoying the privacy of villa Tentrem during our 4 days stay in Gunung Kidul, the endless hiking possibilities and the wild beauty around, urged us to explore every day beach by beach until the sunset.
We enjoyed Pantai Kukup's scenic viewpoint on a coral island connected by bridge and we were impressed by its colorful marine life sadly exposed in small water tanks for selling.
We visited Pantai Baron after the rain and because of that, its river bursting out of a cave was melting its color into the ocean, creating two colors tones along the shore. The picturesque fisherman base of Pantai Baron reminded us what Southeast Asia is about.
Pantai Sepanjang is stretching its white sand and bamboo bars as far as the eye can see. Here is where we witnessed a powerful sunset that put on fire all the sky.
Pantai Krakal we remember for it's huge roaring waves and pierced rocky island as a viewpoint emerged from the ocean, and Pantai Sundak as a beautiful clean beach set between two stone walls giving a feeling of security, although also here swimming is not allowed.
Hiking from Pantai Baron to Pantai Kukup: trapped in time...
More than the major attractions, the best memories were given while hiking, by discovering untouched secret beaches giving us the impression we were the first people to ever step on them.
Hiking between Pantai Baron and Pantai Kukup, our eyes embraced the entire horizon with its dramatic landscape, from the top of the high cliffs.
Going through the limestone hills, we found hidden farmer's fields in an absolute stillness that brought us back in time when Java was just an explosion of nature with just few inhabitants living in harmony with mother Earth. We felt privileged to experience such beauty, silence, peace and space just for ourselves, forgetting completely that we are on an island called Java about the size of Greece (population 11 million), but home to more than 140 million people.
In the past few years the area started developing its touristic potential attracting investors and selling land with the speed of light, so its a matter of time until Gunung Kidul's beaches will loose their magic under heavy tourism practices. Let's pray and hope I'm wrong. One thing I'm sure: NOW is the best moment to visit this magnificent area.
Villa Tentrem: the secret house between Pantai Kukup and Pantai Sepanjang
Hidden between Pantai Kukup and Pantai Sepanjang, Villa Tentrem is an isolated, remote, private accommodation with nobody around, but still just a few hundred meters away from beautiful beaches and essential services.
We sensed that the small concrete path going up the hill through the vegetation, would lead us to the gateway of our parallel universe: a converted beautiful Javanese wooden house emerged from the nature.
The colorful windows and carved motifs on the upper part of the house, with closed facade through 3 double wooden doors and a nice terrace in front, reveled the owner's love for gardening and their peaceful soul.
Inside, a functional and beautifully designed open space, with a great attention for details. Everything was prepared for us from extra gas tank and water gallon if needed, to mosquito repellant, beach mattresses and so on.
But more than just a nice private house for two, was the peaceful atmosphere supported by the “bedtime stories” of the Indian Ocean's waves whispered in our ears whenever we decided to listen to them from our bed at night, and the sound of joyful birds in the morning greeting the gentle sun. Beside the house, we walked the small concrete steps through a young forest to the top, ending with a wooden viewpoint towards the coast where we meditated and gathered inside ourselves all the peace and beauty that the landscape had to offer.
Until next time, Gunung Kidul!
We had lazy mornings, exciting hikes during the day, from beach to beach exploring the exotic nature along the coast, amazing sunsets , and relaxing evenings enjoying the peace and silence of our home.
Experiencing Gunung Kidul area proved to surpass our expectations and villa Tentrem truly raised up to its meaning („tentrem” means „peace, tranquility” in Javanese). We found what we were looking for and will not pass long until our itchy feet will bring us again to Gunung Kidul exploring the rest of its hidden beaches on the rough southern coast of Java.
Disclaimer: This article was sponsored by Villa Tentrem: while we were offered a special treatment to stay in their house, what we wrote represent our sincere experience and wasn't influenced in any way by our partnership.
If you also would like to enjoy this beautiful retreat, feel free to contact Ms Roswitha or directly book your stay through AirBnB.
You can also follow Villa Tentrem on Facebook.