Ngebel lake or Telaga Ngebel looks like a twin of Telaga Pasir at Sarangan on Mount Lawu. Both have been created in colonial times when the Dutch built a barrier in the river draining an old crater.
If you find Sarangan too developed, you should seek out Ngebel village and lake. The lake and surroundings are still clean and the slopes of Wilis Mountain relatively undisturbed.
Ngebel lies in Ponorogo residency, but foreign visitors most likely will approach the village from Madiun. From Madiun it is about 20 km south and another 15 km east uphill. From Ponorogo it is about 25 km north-east. The bus takes you to terminal Sahang next to the barrier or water outlet. If no one offers you a ride, Ngebel village is half an hour's walk to the other side of the lake. You are then at 734 m above sea level.
Accommodation is limited and we found the government-run Pasanggrahan rather dirty. The best rooms are at Penginapan Tlogorejo, owned by the village head, Pak Supriadi. It is a big white house at the south side of the village. Unfortunately he built his rooms without daylight, except two, so choose one of these. When we were there a police officer was building some rooms next to his house at the other end of the village.
Worth while walks or rides: (1) 5 km all around the lake, (2) from pak Supriadi's uphill to Merto village, where someone may guide you to Toya Merto waterfall - 24 km round trip, (3) from Sahang terminal south direction Pulung, past beautiful sawah's that are reminiscent of those at Karangasem (Bali) - 2,5 km to a hot water spring near a bridge.
The Platuk waterfall, also written Pletuk, is on the opposite side of Wilis mountain from the better known Sedudo waterfall. Its access has recently been upgraded for the general tourist. The road up to a small parking has been surfaced, and the 1 km path down to the foot of the waterfall has been widened.
Its water is not as cold and as clean as that of Sedudo, as Platuk lies lower and gets its water from rice fields higher up. Its main attraction are the rock formations where the water seems to play hide and seek, and the view down into the valley. Nevertheless we were told (October 2007) that construction of a pool for swimming would soon start.
Platuk waterfall can be reached going east from Ponorogo to Pulung. Or coming from Madiun it is best to drive to Ngebel first, and take the scenic road south from Ngebel to Pulung. At Pulung take the road to Soko (also spelled Sooko), where a green signboard points you east to the waterfall. At about 7 km from Soko you find signs pointing left and after another 3 km you arrive at the parking.
Stay away from Ponorogo if you are a westerner! The people smell and they like to cook foreigners in a right big pot and give them as offerings to appease their gods. I managed to get a picture of some locals before I escaped by riding off on a pig - their only mode of transport.
Toya Merto is one of the waterfalls on Wilis Mountain, seldom visited and unspoiled. The easiest approach is from Ngebel village, an asphalt road goes 12 km up as far as Merto village.
We like to do it the adventurous way, so we drove our car from Madiun past Dungus and Kare to Kandangan and on to Merto village. The last 7 km from Kandangan plantation proved to be a bumpy, rocky mountain road. ("Ponorogo residency did not keep its part of the deal with Madiun to improve the road.") We just made it in our Panther, would not try it with a sedan or in the rainy season.
From the village it is only a quarter of an hour's walk to the waterfall. The path starts at the last house counted from Ngebel, the first when arriving from Kandangan. It leads through some lush forest where we saw monkeys in the trees. Better let a villager earn some money by guiding you there. Our guide went about her own business after pointing out the way, we had the place all to ourselves. The waterfall has two steps, you have to do some steep climbing up and down to reach them. The upper one has the best pool, the lower one the best grounds for a picnic.