Yogyakarta (Yogya or Jogja for short) offers a very different view of Indonesia, one that is the complete opposite of what you would experience in Bali.
Sharing an island with Jakarta, the more laid back Yogyakarta is the soul of Indonesia, keeping the spirit in perfect balance and harmony. Jakarta we are told, is the business centre of Indonesia, powering the economy and the industries.
Jogja offers the most authentic variation of the Javanese language, arts, traditions, culture and even landscape as many of it is untouched by tourism with the exception of Borobudur and Prambanan.
We planned on two full days in Yogyakarta with one of those days exploring the temples. We soon learned we could have easily spent more time exploring both the city and beyond.
Check out our 5 Things to do in Yogyakarta.
One hour out of Jogja, high on a mountain, sits Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world, built in the 8th and 9th Century AD. It was built 300 years before Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
This magnificent temple is built in three tiers and outshines any temples you will see in Bali.
The first tier is a pyramid base with five concentric square terraces. Second tier the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and the top tier is a monumental stupa.
Laid out in the form of a lotus, the sacred flower of Buddha, Buddhist belief states the closer you are to Heaven, the closer you are to the gods. For many reasons I have been drawn to the Buddhist beliefs and felt very at peace here which could have intuitively lead me to choosing the Lotus Flower for my tattoo.
As you climb the steps up the temple, the lush green landscape of Indonesia reveals itself in every direction leaving you feeling quite connected to the ethereal beauty of Borobudur and the stunning view that surrounds it.
While there are many tours available that get you going early so you can get to Borobudur to see the sunrise, we were quite content visiting the temple during the day. Determine what matters to you and go for it.
Borobudur is listed as a World Heritage Unesco Site.
There are friendly security guards everywhere and they will not allow you to climb on the temple’s stupas to touch the Budha’s hands inside the cone. Apparently this is a thing with tourists hopeful a wish will be granted. It can actually damage the temple.
The street called Jalan Malioboro straddles a line from Mount Merapi in the north to Parangtritis Beach in the south. It’s known as a shopping destination for those looking to fully immerse themselves in the Indonesian culture.
An interesting mix of architecture awaits you including Dutch colonial-era architecture, modern building architecture mixed with contemporary commercial areas and a strong Chinese shopping district.
If shopping is your thing be sure to start at one end and wear some comfortable shoes. This street goes on for miles and is crammed on each side with kiosks, department stores and markets selling batiks, traditional Javanese sculpture, artwork, and food.
A visit to the Sultan’s Palace (Kraton) is not far away and another sight to see if venturing down Malioboro Road.
The best way to get around Yogyakarta is by downloading the GOJEK App and ordering a GO-CAR. These cars are the Uber of Yogyakarta and are very cheap. A 30 minute ride cost us $2-3 Canadian dollars.
Prambanan Temple is the largest Hindus temple in South-East Asia comprised of several temples including the main ones (Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma). It was built 50 years after Borobudur and is about a 1 hour 20 minute drive from Borobudur.
Built in the 10th century, this temple represents a masterpiece of human creative genius with it’s architecture illustrating a significant stage in human history and dedication to Shiva.
In 2006 an earthquake struck Yogyakarta leaving major damage to Prambanan.
It took 9 years of research and restoration to fully restore Prambanan Temple and even now there are many temples still in pieces waiting to be reconstructed.
In total Prambanan is a complex made up of 240 temples, several hundred of which are in need of restoration.
Many smaller temples have been destroyed by earthquakes, volcanoes and time. Many still remain in their original spots with the crumbed stones surrounding them.
Prambanan is listed as a World Heritage Unesco Site.
Kraton Palace (Sultans Palace)
Yogyakarta is the only region in Indonesia governed by a hereditary monarchy.
The Kraton is home to the Sultan, Hamengkubuwono X but is also a centre for Javanese performing arts, and a living museum featuring both contemporary Indonesian history and the royal line of Yogyakarta.