Yogyakarta and surroundings Terima Kasih!
Traveling without a plan is wonderful … but exhausting. Although I squeeze and enjoy each adventure as if it were the last, continuous improvisation demands a lot from me, and for that reason I always try to relax on the last days of travel. And Yogyakarta, Jogja to friends, seemed like a perfect place for that “vacation . ” This is how this lovely Indonesian city is.
The last time we spoke, we had just spent a few days among fish, coral and plastic bags on Gili Air , a tiny hidden paradise very close to Lombok. Our stay in the Gili Islands would end precisely in Lombok, where we would catch a plane to Yogyakarta, one of the most interesting cities on the island of Java .
The island of Java
To start with putting a little bit of information, I will tell you that Java is an island in Indonesia that stretches for more than 130 thousand square kilometers (a quarter of Spain), but where nearly 150 million people live (almost four times Spain ).
With these figures I don’t think it will surprise you if I tell you that Java is the most populated island in the world , with a density of more than 1000 people per square kilometer. In addition to being a great place to see lots of people, Java is also a good place for sightseeing, making it another common stop on Indonesian tours. Volcanoes, temples, landscapes, beaches and some charming towns are your letter of introduction.
For this and other reasons, on our initial route we had planned to spend at least a week touring it, but our already so habitual traveling improvisation ended up reducing the stay to four days . And once there, Yogyakarta would be our base of operations.
As I mentioned, there are some other interesting cities to see in Java, but, from what we have seen and read, Yogyakarta is one of the best options. Unlike the chaos and madness of Jakarta, the capital, where about 10 million people live, just 300,000 reside in Yogyakarta, making it much more bearable for tourists .
In addition, Yogyakarta is the closest city to two of the most impressive places in Java (and Indonesia): the Prambanan and Borobudur temples, so it was considered a good place to settle for a few days. If you also stay here, I leave you some accommodation recommendations :
- An economical and quite curious option is the Abrakadabra hostel. 16 euros per night is the price of a private room for a couple.
- If you are looking for something a little more level, for 35 euros you can access the double room of the Hotel Neo Malioboro.
- If you want to indulge yourself, for 60 euros you can sleep in the great hotel The Phoenix, valued with almost a 9 in Booking.
We would opt for Losmanos, a very pleasant hostel very well located and at a very Asian price. In our case, we found it on the Airbnb page, where there are also a good handful of good options to consider.
What to see in Jogja
I would be lying if I told you that Yogyakarta is an irresistible city, with history around every corner, so much to see and do. The reality is that Yogyakarta is a very Asian city, for good and for bad, with a very pleasant university atmosphere and with some things to see. But above all, it is a perfect place to settle while visiting the area. Still I can’t stop recommending some things to see in Jogja.
Want it or not, if you go for a walk in Yogyakarta you may end up in Malioboro, the commercial and leisure artery of the Indonesian city .
24 hours a day – 7 days a week you will find something to do on that street , as long as the whole city and as intense as street life is usually on this continent.
Malioboro is a good place to do your shopping or to enjoy some of the trendy places.
The Water Castle Taman Sari
Maybe when you see it you think that it is neither a castle nor does it have a lot of water …
… But the so-called water castle is one of the most historic places in Yogyakarta .
Its origin dates back to the middle of the 18th century , at which time the Sultan built this enclosure for his enjoyment and that of his sentimental companions.
In its beginnings, it had more “pools” than those that are preserved today, but it still has its own. Especially considering that you only have to pay € 1 for the ticket.
Sumur Gumuling – The Underground Mosque
In times of Instagram, the Sumur Gumuling (Underground Mosque) is an ideal place for like hunters .
Curiously, the origin of this mosque is connected to that of the previously mentioned castle …
… Although at present it is nothing more than a very curious place with many photographic possibilities. Of course, take a turn because you don’t get rid of the line for sure .
The Sultan’s palace
One of the great peculiarities of Yogyakarta is that, despite being a political and administrative part of the island of Java , it has its own government, including the sultan, with the added addition that in the immediate future it will be a woman . And, precisely, visiting his palace is one of the great attractions of the city, although we never find it open. Spanish schedules and various holidays made it impossible.
The city of Yogyakarta is known for Batik, a fabric dyeing technique . This artisan technique of Indonesian origin uses wax to protect the parts of the garment that do not want to be dyed …
… thus being able to selectively color the garments. As you can guess, this process can take a lot of work, so the price of these “souvenirs” is not exactly low.
Now, there are high-level workshops where you can get hold of small works of art . Or even try your technique. We had a good time at Purnomo Batik Art Group , although it is still another gallery oriented to the tourist.
Urban art in Jogja
I cannot stop talking about Yogyakarta without giving a minimum space to the urban art of this town, one of its great charms .
If you go off the main routes and wander a bit, it won’t take long for you to come face to face with walls full of graffiti , some of them very high-level.
But as I have already told you, the main attractions of Yogyakarta are not in the city, but in its surroundings. Besides being a good reference to visit a volcano or go hiking, the temples that surround there are the main reason to visit it: Borobudur and Prambanan , Prambanan and Borobudur. Although I will talk about them calmly in a specific post, I would like to give you a couple of strokes on each one.
I start with Borobudur for being the most renowned and the one that, personally, most impressed me. Borobudur has to its credit, among other things, being the largest Buddhist temple in the world . A huge monument in the shape of a great stupa (a type of Buddhist building dedicated to religious worship), representing a journey through the three levels of Buddhist chronology.
Although there are no exact dates on its construction, it is believed that about 1200 years have passed since it was built , although it has been long forgotten. We had to wait until the 20th century for it to be given the attention and care it deserved, making it worthy of the World Heritage distinction.
If we talk about Prambanan, we are talking about one of the largest Hindu works in the world . More than 200 temples of various sizes and shapes coexist in this enclosure, although the six largest ones stand out among all of them, dedicated to each of the main Hindu gods (Shiva, Bisnú and Brahma) and their mounts.
The history of the latter has many elements in common with that of its “neighbor” Borobudur, since in its more than 1000 years of existence it also spent several years in absolute ostracism, including an earthquake that seriously damaged it. Fortunately, a restoration began in the 20th century as well, giving it the proper appearance and its label as a world heritage site.
Although I will explain it calmly in the specific publication about these temples, I anticipate that it is possible to visit them with public transport , but due to the distances and frequency of Indonesian buses, depending on the time you have, it will be much more costly to face them in format on tour.
Chicken Church – Gereja Ayam
A chicken-shaped church in the middle of the jungle? Yes, it exists and it is in Java. If you are lucky enough to visit the area with some type of private transport, don’t miss the opportunity to take a walk around the so-called Chicken Church, the “Church of the chicken” (although it is actually shaped like a dove).
It is curious to find such a place so close to temples of the size and historical importance of those previously mentioned, but in religion there is room for everyone , including the devotees of the giant pigeons.
Very curious place that was started in 1990 and abandoned due to lack of funds, but that the tourist fame of recent years has given it a bit of air. Although it is more impressive from the outside than from the inside, the views from “the ridge” are worth it.
And with the “Church of the chicken” I say goodbye to this post about Yogyakarta and its surroundings, one of the regions with the most tourist weight on the island of Java . Leaving the city and the “avian church” aside a bit, I think that just visiting the impressive temples of Borobudur and Prambanan is worth making a dent in your trip to Indonesia. Don’t you think