Exploring the Historic Temples of Yogyakarta, Indonesia

by Mark Wiens on April 11, 2011 · 9 comments

Borobudur Temple, Java, Indonesia

Borobudur Temple, Java, Indonesia

Yogyakarta (pronounced Jogjakarta and nicknamed Jogja) is a pleasant city located centrally on Indonesia’s most populous island of Java.

From the smog choked megalopolis of Jakarta, Jogja was a literal breath of fresh air.  The town had an entire different feel to it, a charm that seemed to make anyone smile as a result of the attracting atmosphere.

I set out to Yogyakarta, not exactly knowing what to expect, but nevertheless eager to explore and looking forward to the wealth of historical and adventurous sites in the region.

It was dawn when our train pulled into the station; there was a crowd awaiting the trains arrival.  Despite the touts and bicycle taxis that were there to hustle customers to their particular guest house, they were unobtrusive and not nearly as pushy as their counterparts in Jakarta.

I avoided the interaction, knowing that it was just a short distance to a selection of decent guest houses just down the road.  Along the walk I decided it would be a great idea to grab a bite to eat.   I settled for what I later found out was a delicacy in Yogyakarta: Soto Ayam (chicken and noodles in a soup).

Yogyakarta makes a great jump off city to a number of staggering historical attractions in the area.

Borobudur at Night

Borobudur at Night

The two largest and most significant temple complexes located near Jogja are Borobudur and Prambanan.

The entire scene of Borobudur was breathtaking, an ancient historical site with intricate details and marked by acute construction.  I visited the temple twice, the first time at night.  Amidst the dark surroundings, Borobudur was illuminated with bright lights reminiscent of an ancient fortress.

Borobudur Temple

Borobudur Temple, Java, Indonesia

I returned the following day to see Borobudur in the daylight.  The temple complex consists of a series of levels and platforms, all stacked on top of each other with stone reliefs carved into the outer walls.   In theory, a Buddhist pilgrim is supposed to walk all the way around each level of the temple in order to follow all the narrative relief panels.  Completing this religious walk is symbolic of the path of enlightenment.

Prambanan Temple

Prambanan Temple

From a distance, the temple complex of Prambanan looked like a series of rockets, waiting to blast off from the ground like space shuttles.  As I walked closer I could see the fine details, the jagged ancient stones that were placed thoughtfully throughout the entirety of the temple structure, similar to the complex of Angkor Wat.  Walking around Prambanan I was stunned by this architectural wonder, a picturesque masterpiece of human construction.

Prambanan Temple

Prambanan Temple

Constructed in the 9th century, Prambanan was built in honor of the most important trinity of Hindu deities: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.  The tallest and most impressive steeple within the complex is the Shiva temple.

Borobodur and Prambanan are the two most grandeur and most visited sites near Jogja, but there are a host of other temples and ancient buildings spread all around the outskirts of the city that are also very impressive.

Indonesia Temple

Plaosan Temple

Along with a few local Indonesian friends and aboard a trusty motorbike, we were able to visit a number of other temples including Candi Mendut, Candi Pawon, Sambisari Temple, and the highly impressive Plaosan Temple.

The charming warm atmosphere paired with world renowned historical temples makes Yogyakarta one of the most interesting cities to visit in Indonesia.  Even the least known temples were impressively constructed and incredible to see!

About the Author:

is the author of 164 posts on Go Backpacking.

Mark was raised in central Africa before migrating back to the US for University. After graduating, he decided to continue traveling the world. On Migrationology, he shares the cultural side of travel from a slow paced local perspective that often revolves around his love for eating all forms of food. Join him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @migrationology, and add him on Google Plus.

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Categories: Features, Indonesia
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Andi Perullo April 12, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I can’t wait to visit Indonesia one day!


Mark Wiens April 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Great Andi! I’m sure you will have a wonderful time when you visit!


Islandvacations April 12, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Going over this post had boosted my appetite to visit Indonesia… in the very near future.


Mark Wiens April 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Awesome! An incredible country!


Toferik April 23, 2011 at 7:23 am

How much time would you recommend spending on Yogyakarta? More than one day?
And how are the nearby accomodation facilities?


Nurfuadi June 20, 2012 at 2:33 am

It’s always interesting to see what foreign tourists write about Indonesia…
Btw, we just made a video about leather craft “tatah sungging” made in tourism village Wukirsari, Yogyakarta. Make sure to check it out if you have time :) http://youtu.be/8IUdUrdHOTU
It might not have detail information about how you can get leather souvenirs directly from the craftsmen. But we already summarize how it is actually made, by steps. Enjoy :)


Aggy November 13, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Glad you enjoyed my hometown. How I miss soto ayam! Truly love Prambanan and Borobudur.


ramanathan August 10, 2013 at 12:24 am

I live in Malaysia.I have visited these two great temples, including Mendut. Who exactly are the great people or organisation involved in reconstructing these temples? Credit to them.


suzette nellas April 11, 2013 at 4:07 am

this is simply awesome… i can t wait to book tickets and see them for real… thanks for posting…


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