Yogyakarta & Borobudur
Take a step back in time, to the old soul of Indonesia, where language, tradition and culture are at its most vibrant. Explore Yogyakarta, a city touched with colonial flare, or Borobudur, filled with iconic and mesmerising temples.
Situated on the island of Jakarta, Yogyakarta is known as the soul. Central to the island’s artistic and intellectual heritage, Yogyakarta (pronounced ‘Jogjakarta’ and called Yogya, 'Jogja', for short), is where the Javanese language is at its purest, the arts at their brightest and its traditions at their most visible. Put it all together and you have Indonesia's coolest, most liveable and lovable city, with street art, galleries, coffee shops and cultural attractions everywhere you look.
The historic kraton area harbours most of Yogya’s most important buildings and tourist attractions and is eminently walkable, which allows you to see contemporary life sprout from the ruins. This is no sleepy relic, but a unique urban neighbourhood. The east of the city has several more interesting sights, including the silver village of Kota Gede and several museums.
Along with Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Bagan in Myanmar, Borobudur makes the rest of Southeast Asia’s spectacular sites seem almost incidental. Built in the 8th and 9th centuries AD during the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty and standing tall amongst bright-green rice paddies and swaying palms, this Buddhist monument has survived Gunung Merapi’s eruptions, terrorist bombs and the 2006 earthquake to remain mysterious and beautiful.
It’s well worth planning to spend a few days in the Borobudur region, which is a supremely beautiful landscape of impossibly green rice fields and traditional rice-growing villages, all overlooked by soaring volcanic peaks. Locals call it the Garden of Java.
This region is establishing itself as Indonesia’s most important centre for Buddhism, and there are now three monasteries in the surrounding district. Visitors are welcome and you can even join the monks at prayer time for chanting.
- Book into one of the most fun and up-close tours of the volcano, Mt Merapi, in a jeep! Roar up the mountain with the wind in your hair, over rocks and boulders, and discover the sheer force of the mighty volcanic destruction from years before.
- Get up in the early morning to make the pilgrimage to see the glowing sunrise from Setumbu Hill, rising over the majestic temples of the World Heritage-listed Borobudur Temple.
- A must-visit at night is the Alun-Alun Selatan Kraton, where locals decorate old VW Beetles. You can also try your hand at the Masangin game, where you are blindfolded and attempt to walk between two sacred trees.
- Visit Goa Jomblang, where you are lowered 60m down a sink hole into the depths of the world, and discover a hidden forest!
- Take a rustic gondola ride at Timang Beach - this little cable cart is made of wood and attached to a rope pulley system, allowing guests to zoom across the choppy reef below.
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