In 2014 we started our Indonesian journey through its capital Jakarta, which pretty much disappointed us. On the other side, the second stop Yogyakarta was promising. Historically one of the country’s most important cities it even was the nation’s capital during the revolution. Today Yogyakarta has a special status still governed by the sultan. Much smaller than the capital its atmosphere is relaxed, plus there are some truly amazing attractions inside or nearby.
Most visitors to Yogyakarta stay in one of two main hotel streets: Sosrowijayan near the main Malioboro street and Prawirotaman* south east of the city centre. While the former has some cool bars, clubs and is close to great shopping, the later has a chill out atmosphere with cool cafés and massage parlours. The most interesting neighbourhood is the central Palace area with the Kraton of Yogyakarta, the Sultan’s residence, as the main building. While the Palace itself is quite modest, the surrounding area with endless narrow streets will take you into the quiet world of Old Indonesia. Getting lost in the area and visiting nearby Taman Sari (Water Palace) is definitely worth it.
But the real treasure of all South East Asia lies some 40km northwest of the city. Borobudur – the spectacular Buddhist temple from the 8th century is still the largest of its kind in the world. It consists of three levels: a pyramidal base, three circular platforms, and a monumental stupa. Due to its size and importance at least two days are mandatory. Taking part in organized tours is not really my thing, and since getting there was relatively complicated (more time consuming) we decided to book transportation with an organized tour but to stay overnight in Borobudur village, what a great idea! Not only were we able to watch the sunrise from the temple, but we also had a great bike ride through the surroundings. The locals are friendly as hell and the landscape is magical.
Another interesting place to visit is Prambanan, a 9th century Hindu temple. If you have visited Angkor Wat in Cambodia or Bagan in Myanmar you might get a little bit disappointed, but the temples are beautiful, and there are not that many tourists. Even better, most of them are locals and will probably ask you to take a picture with them! Besides it is located between the Yogyakarta and the airport, thus easily reachable. Due to a 2006 earthquake parts of the temple are still in ruins, but what remains shows all the glory of Hindi heritage.
Yogyakarta is a delightful middle size city where slow pace and tranquillity reign. The educational and cultural hub of Indonesia, it is also known for its conservative views. Although it is Java’s premier tourist destination it is not overrun by tourists and it still pretty exotic. The abundance of Candi or ancient temples and graffiti which can be found all over the city give it a fine mixture of old and new. An obligatory destination if you are in Southeast Asia.
If you plan on visiting Bali you should check this itinerary!