The most beautiful place I’ve visited, Nepal Van Java Indonesia is an agricultural village on the slope of an active volcano.
When I planned my road trip through Java island I left a few open days for flexibility. I figured I may want to stay a day or two extra in my favourite places. Or maybe I’d discover a new town.
I didn’t know about Nepal Van Java until my video editor sent me an Instagram reel with drone footage.
I had to see it with my own two eyes.
Nestled on the slopes of Mount Sumbing, this remote village is known for its vibrant, colorful houses.
Despite its stunning views and picturesque houses, very few tourists make the journey to Nepal Van Java, making it a delightful secret to keep for the adventurous traveler.
I guess I’m not good at keeping secrets.
Though not yet a mainstream tourist destination, its beautiful and unique scenery is starting to gain attention.
While Indonesians love to visit on the weekends it hasn’t reached foreigner’s radar.
Over time, this area has grown in popularity, and now, it’s beginning to embrace its nickname with pride.
As a traveler myself, it’s exciting to see a quaint village before it turns into a common must-see spot on everyone’s list.
Where is Nepal Van Java
Its official name is Dusun Butuh, the colorful village of Nepal Van Java is situated in Kaliangkrik, Magelang Regency.
It’s a bit north of the remarkable city of Yogyakarta in Central Java.
The village got its unique name due to the similarity in its landscape with that of Nepal. It’s name literally means Nepal in Java – as it’s located on the Indonesian island Java.
The village was first painted in 2016 by students from Semarang State University to attract tourism.
This may sound like a familiar story as it’s also when students in Malang Java painted the now famous Jodipan neighborhood.
In 2019 it earned the nickname Nepal van Java after a European tourist posted photos.
He compared the charm of local houses piled on top of each other on the slopes of Mount Sumbing with the Himalayan village of Namche Bazaar.
And since then, it has drawn in more curious visitors in search of something different. Locals saw new economic opportunities to open small businesses with food, drink and accommodation.
Although it’s still very much small scale operators, at least right now.
While I came for the painted buildings, what struck me most was the most beautiful scenery I’d seen in Java.
The nature, fresh air and weather is incredible.
And the people!
I was blown away by how people were working in the fields well into their 80s and 90s, carrying heavy parcels on their backs up and down steep hills in the altitude.
It was difficult to walk a block without huffing and puffing. I felt very humbled.
Dusun Butuh offers the chance to experience the warmth of the locals, the beautiful surroundings of the village, and the exciting feeling of exploring an off-the-beaten-path destination.
It’s also an opportunity to support sustainable tourism, more on that below!
Nepal Van Java is an amazing destination that offers an opportunity to experience the beauty of Indonesia’s nature, culture, and people, while also enjoying a sense of adventure.
With charming houses painted in cheerful colors and the warmth of the locals welcoming you, visiting this village truly feels like stepping into another world.
Local Life in Nepal Van Java
I’ve visited many agricultural areas around the world. Often tourism takes over as it’s more profitable than farming. And you feel that it’s often a bit of a show.
Dusun Butuh doesn’t have the polish of those areas. But it offers so much more.
There are 475 families, just over 1000 residents in Nepal Van Java, I was immediately struck by the friendliness of the locals.
Everyone I met was genuinely warm and welcoming, many do not speak English but are happy to see you.
The village is primarily home to petani, or farmers, who put great effort into maintaining the beautiful countryside. It’s a mix of ancient techniques with terraces alongside a modern approach.
You cannot help but feel tremendous respect for such hardworking people.
It’s also why I think staying in the village is so important. Everyone is up at dawn and inside at dusk as the sun leaves the cold rushes in.
How to Go to Nepal Van Java
As there is not a lot of information about how to get to Nepal Van Java I dedicated an entire YouTube video to our adventure.
I traveled with my boyfriend who is Indonesian from the nearby island of Sumatra. As language is not a barrier we usually travel more easily than foreign tourists.
But not this time. Learn from our mistake as it was quite the day!
The video is a service piece because we couldn’t find reliable information on Nepal Van Java in English or Bahasa Indonesia.
It’s still very under the radar and so most tourists are from outlying regions in Central Java. And they drive there.
But we had heard there were no roads in the village and you could only visit by motorcycle.
This isn’t quite true.
Much of Nepal Van Java is a series of agricultural terraces only accessible by walking or narrow motorbike paths. However, there is a road leading to the bottom of the main village.
And we saw them working on building more roads throughout the village.
But what made us laugh was seeing Indonesian tourists arriving on the back of pick up trucks. We didn’t know it was an option!
But here are your options to visit Nepal Van Java:
Take a Group Tour
If you only have a day it’s better than not going at all!
It’s becoming a more popular day trip from Yogyakarta and Semarang with Indonesian tour agencies. You can also buy online on Tiket and Traveloka.
Public Transportation from Yogyakarta
We thought this was our best and cheapest option.
- To get to Nepal Van Java we needed to:
- get a Grab taxi to the bus station
- take a bus to Magelang
- hired a van to take us to the village below
- hired individual ojek (local motorbike taxi) to take us up the mountain with our backpack on.
It cost about 200,000 rupiah each, which was $12.98 USD and took a long time. I would not recommend this option.
Rent a Motorbike
Many foreign tourists rent a motorbike from Yogyakarta for a few days and go themselves. Motorbike rentals in Yogyakarta begin at 80,000 rupiah or $5.19 USD a day.
Unless you are a very experienced on a motorbike in less than ideal conditions I would not recommend this.
As we drove from the bottom of the Java volcano up to the village I realized the 40,000 rupiah ($2.60 USD) I paid for the ojek was worth every penny.
Locals drive big bikes up the steep mountain. It’s not possible with a small scooter under 125CC. The roads are often broken up and alongside cliffs.
In fact, roads are so bad there are no motorbike rentals in Nepal Van Java for anyone, even Indonesians.
Too many tourists have had accidents in Nepal Van Java they realized they needed to create safer ways for visitors to explore. They banned rentals and formalized tours and prices.
Hire a Taxi
If we had known there were roads we would have hired a private taxi from Yogyakarta.
Nepal Van Java is a two hour drive from Yogyakarta and a taxi is worth the convenience of time and safety.
We would not recommend a Grab taxi as there is a lot of animosity toward Grab in this area. In some cases Grab is not allowed to pick up or drop off in some places.
Use the app to determine a fair price to negotiate with a private taxi.
Nepal Van Java Entrance Fee
As you enter Nepal Van Java there is a booth to pay an entrance fee. The fee is 10,000 rupiah or approximately $0.65 USD, which is quite affordable.
However, when we came through on the ojeks toward our homestay they waived us onward.
So the entrance fee may be for day visitors and as we were supporting local tourism we were not asked to pay at any time entering or leaving.
Where to Stay in Nepal Van Java
Typical hotel booking sites weren’t showing many accommodations in Nepal Van Java.
Instead I searched “Nepal Van Java homestay” on Instagram and found 5 options and we settled with Ompingai Homestay.
It’s owned by a local guide and is a new building with a great rooftop view. It’s also across from a restaurant from all the ojek drivers go that has fantastic chicken soup.
The view from our room was incredible and we were very comfortable.
Keep in mind that as most tourism here is local none of the homestays have western toilets.
However, there is much needed hot water and it was an amazing spot for 250,000 rupiah a night or $16.23 USD.
Best Things to Do in Nepal Van Java
As soon as I arrived in Nepal Van Java I knew I needed more than the one night we originally planned.
It’s the kind of place that gives you the tingles. Foggy mist dances with sunshine and you’re surrounded by beauty.
We stayed two nights but you could stay longer.
Explore the Village
One of the first things you’ll notice is the colorful houses that make the village stand out. It’s most likely why you came to Dusun Butuh but you’ll experience so much more.
You’re at an altitude so don’t push it. Take a leisurely stroll through the village and admire the unique architecture.
Hire A Guide to Tour the Nepal Van Java Hillside
Although Nepal Van Java is becoming known for tourism it’s main focus is agriculture. This is a community of farmers working the rich volcanic soil.
They don’t retire and will make you feel lazy with their work ethic.
Whether you’re a nature lover or not, you definitely want to explore the terraced fields surrounding the village.
These terraces are the main source of income for locals who grow various greens, potato, cabbage and green onion.
The pemandangan or view here is truly breathtaking.
This is where you need to hire a tour guide.
Even experienced drivers won’t know the best spots to see and many of the roads are very dangerous. And Google Maps is not reliable here.
While I’m always looking to save money this is not the place to DIY your own tour.
And if you really care about tourism for the better of the community hiring a local guide is the best way to do it.
You jump on the back of a motorbike and explore the area like a local visiting local cafes and everyone on the road has lots of smiles and kids run up to say hi.
The good news is that local guides offer set prices for day trips. No need to worry about haggling over price.
And they are surprisingly fantastic at taking photos and vertical video.
Here are some of the best spots for photos in Nepal Van Java,
Most tours begin here as Silancur offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and terraces. It’s becoming an emerging area for glamping opportunities.
Our guide took us to a great outdoor cafe with fantastic prices for drinks.
The guides don’t expect you to rush, take your time with photos and admiring the views.
In the heart of the farming terraces on the side of the mountain. You’ll see locals working on a patch work quilt of different greens and vegetables.
It is absolutely beautiful and there aren’t many people around.
Locals have built a couple of good photo spots and because it’s Indonesia you can expect a vendor close by selling cold and hot drinks.
Tour the Look Outs
There are so many beautiful look off spots in this colorful village.
Guides know all the best spots and will make sure you get to see everything. You could not find all of these places on your own as they are not marked.
At the end of our tour the guides took us through a wild ride of the buildings to the top to see everything below.
We ended the tour with a local Indonesian oat drink that was warm and comforting as the cool misty clouds came in.
Nepal Van Java Restaurants
This is a developing tourist area visited primarily by Indonesians so expect lots of fantastic Indonesian food at small spots in the village.
Although Dusun Butuh is busy on the weekends it was very quiet during the week.
However, we found two restaurants that were great.
Ojek Driver Restaurant
There is no sign but it’s where you’ll find residents and the bright jackets of Ojek drivers. It was also across the street from our homestay and the only place open after 7pm.
They don’t have a formal menu but will share what they have for the day, often fried rice or noodle and a delicious soto ayam / chicken soup. I ate it several times because it was so good.
They also have a number of traditional Indonesian snacks.
The women cooking are so welcoming and it really feels like you’re invited into someone’s home.
If you’re looking for espresso or something other than tubruk coffee Nestra coffee is the place.
A more formal tourist cafe that accepts credit cards, it is just outside the core of Dusun Butuh. It’s worth the five minute walk and the terrace has a great view of the village.
The menu is more modern with Korean and international options. My only issue is that they only serve in disposable cups and plates, which is unnecessary and I wonder where all the garbage goes.
Best Time to Visit Nepal Van Java
As it’s an active volcano in the altitude the weather is cool and crisp. Be prepared to wear pants and a jacket in the early morning and at night.
While the weather changes every 5 minutes that the wind blows clouds in and then away I would not visit during rainy season.
Is Nepal Van Java Safe
As long as you’re not driving a motorcycle you should feel safe exploring Nepal Van Java.
My only concern was that I didn’t think to ask my guide for a helmet as locals don’t wear them on the mountain.
I’m sure if I had asked when he arrived without one he would have gone to get one.
But if you take an ojek back into town they will provide them as it’s required in town. I should have requested in advance.
But in terms of walking around town and safety around locals we felt welcomed as guests and never had an issue.
Leaving Nepal Van Java I felt as fresh as the mountain air. I really hope this village is able to maintain what makes it special as it continues to warmly welcome visitors.