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“Puncak” - meaning “the Peak”, has been known ever since Dutch colonial days as the mountain resort for Jakarta’s inhabitants to breathe in fresh mountain air over the weekend. With its grand vistas facing the volcanic peaks of Salak, Gede and Pangrango, here is where Jakarta’s rich build their out of town bungalows atop hills overlooking green ricefields irrigated by gurgling streams.
The scenic but winding Jakarta-Bogor-Puncak road was once the only route to Bandung before the Cipularang toll road was opened which cut travelling time between the two cities to a mere two hours from the former 4 to 5 hours over the climbing and turning mountain roads.
Nevertheless, the Bogor-Puncak-Cipanas area remains a favorite destination to spend the weekend or even for just a few hours. Over the years, however, either side of the main road has, unfortunately, become overcrowded with settlements, blocking the views from the car. Therefore, to truly enjoy the beautiful countryside one has to turn into a side road, visit a resort, a hotel or restaurant to view the full glory of the grand scene that will suddenly unveil before you.
The first popular resort nearest Bogor is Cisarua where is found the Safari Park where tigers, lions, zebras and giraffes roam around freely staring at people who are safely entrenched in their cars. Sometimes a curious lion may walk up and sniff at your car window. This Park gets really overcrowded on weekends and holidays, so it is best to avoid those days.
Further up the ever winding road, nearing its highest point called the Puncak Pass, the view opens up and you will only see miles and miles of the Gunung Mas tea plantations that cover hills and valleys.
This is also a favorite area for paragliding. On weekends you will see enthusiasts with colorful parachutes picturesquely glide down the green valleys. (For information check: www.flypuncak.com or www.indonesia-paragliding.com)
At the top of the road is the Puncak Pass Resort, an old Dutch guesthouse that offers a most panoramic view of the mountains and plantations, and until today still offers superb Dutch menu such as bitterballen, garnalen sla, erwtensoep, Dutch beefsteak, poffertjes and pannekoek.
Some 4 km. down the Puncak Pass is the large Cibodas Botanical Gardens, an extension of the Bogor Botanical Gardens, specially built to grow subtropical plants. Covering an 85 hectare area built in 1852 by Johannes Ellias Tijsmann, Cibodas lies at the entrance of the Mt. Gede-Pangrango National Park at an altitude of 1,300 meters to 1,425 meters above sea level. It has a collection of 1,293 species of plants, 144 types of lichens, and 1,826 herbariums. Besides being sprawling gardens for tourists to enjoy and relax, Cibodas is mainly a center for conservation, research and education on the environment. Right next to the Gardens is the road that leads trekkers up Mt. Gede-Pangrango.
The rhododendron gardens here contain a collection from Indonesia, Japan and China, as do the cherry blossom or sakura gardens that also have a collection from the Himalayas. Best time to see the flowers in bloom are January to February or between August through September.
Cibodas used to be the source where Java’s first coffee and quinine was planted for exports to become famous all over the world.
The Gardens have two guesthouses which are open to guests.
Away from Cibodas, and further down the road is the town of Cipanas. Here is the Cipanas Palace, the President’s mountain residence set amidst manicured lawns and refreshing hot springs.
Cipanas has grown into a sizable town, where is a market where tourists come to shop for fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, decorative plants and souvenirs.
And everywhere along the Bogor-Cipanas route up to Bandung there are plentiful hotels, from the most exclusive accommodation complete with meeting facilities, to housing estates, to the more simple accomodation. There are also many flower gardens, fruit gardens, playgrounds and much more for families to enjoy.
Travel to the mountain region of Puncak, Cibodas or Cipanas is by private car, taxi or tour bus, which on a weekday takes around one and a half hours from Jakarta via the Bogor toll road, but a lot longer during weekends and holidays. This area is best enjoyed during the week, since the road is normally jam packed on weekends, from Friday afternoons through Sundays, and especially on long weekends and school holidays. At weekends and holidays Police enforces one way traffic hours to ease heavy traffic congestions on these narrow roads, alternating travelling hours for traffic going up or down the mountain to and from Jakarta.