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Exploring the Historic Temples of Yogyakarta, Indonesia

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 entirely different feel to it, a charm that seemed to make anyone smile as a result of the attractive atmosphere.

I set out to Yogyakarta, not exactly knowing what to expect but 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 train's 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 guesthouses 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 several 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 stacked on top of each other with stone reliefs carved into the outer walls.  

In theory, a Buddhist pilgrim is supposed to walk around each temple level to follow all the narrative relief panels. 

Completing this spiritual walk is symbolic of the path of enlightenment.

Prambanan Temple
Prambanan Temple

The temple complex of Prambanan looked like a series of rockets from a distance, 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.

Still, 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 several 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!

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Monday 11th of January 2016

Thanks for the post Mark! Do you have any advice on how to see the two main temples? I am going to be in Jogja for about a day and a half. I'm arriving at about 5pm, spending the next full day and then flying out early the next day.

suzette nellas

Thursday 11th of April 2013

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


Tuesday 12th of January 2016

Jogja known as gudeg -traditional food but the best gudeg is in surakarta "gudeg ceker" nearby balapan station in solo, infront of SMUN 2 Surakarta


Tuesday 13th of November 2012

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


Saturday 10th of August 2013

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.


Wednesday 20th of June 2012

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 :) 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 :)


Saturday 23rd of April 2011

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

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