Parahyangan – Domain of the Gods
On West Java lies the most compact mountain range of the whole island of Java, called Parahyangan. A chain of volcanoes stretches from west of Bandung to Ciamis, enfolding the Bandung highland and the smaller Garut plateau. An area with such geological activity enforces respect for higher powers. It is therefore that this untamed mountain land with its fertile highlands and its cloud touching peaks is called the Domain of the Gods, or in local speech, Parahyangan.
In the heart of this divine Indonesian mountain range lounges the large city of Bandung, on a stretched highland at an altitude of 800 metres above sea level, surrounded by extinct volcanoes, although the Tangkuban Perahu (2,076 m) in the north and the Papandayan (2,622 m) in the south are still said to be active.
The Gunung Tangkuban Perahu was created from an old crater called Gunung Sunda. During an eruption thousands of years ago, volcanic material blocked the river Citarum. The whole plateau changed into a large lake with a depth of up to 75 metres. Eventually the Citarum found a way out through the soft chalk mountains west of Bandung. This natural passage called Sanghiang Trikoro caused the lake to dry out over the centuries. Only swamps and wet lands during the rain season remind of the former Bandung lake, although the local people still tell legends about times foregone, such as the Legend of Sangkuriang.
The large pressure of the geological activity caused the earth’s crust to split at a weak spot. Thus the Lembang Fault was born, in a nearly 22 kilometres long, straight line. The volcanoes, the hot water springs and the sulphuric crater lakes of the Parahyangan attract many visitors. The first European to climb the Gunung Tangkuban Perahu in search of sulphur was Dutchman Abraham van Riebeek in 1713. Now yearly thousands of tourists stare into the gaping, damping hole of the crater, or bathe in the curing hot waters.
The scenery of the Parahyangan is completed by the numerous waterfalls and steep, narrow valleys. Rivers find their way through tough lava rocks.
The Parahyangan area and especially the Bandung plateau is home to the Sundanese people, an ethnically different group than their Javanese neighbours. East of the Bandung highlands one will find the Garut plateau with active volcanoes such as the Cikuray (2,841 m) and the Guntur (2,249 m). At Ciamis the compact mountain range abruptly ends.