Yogyakarta (Jogja as popularly referred by locals) defined my trip to Java. It so happens that I leave a piece of my heart in a particular city or a town while exploring a country. While I had immensely fallen in love with Hoi An on my visit to Vietnam few years back, this year it was Yogyakarta for me during my trip to Indonesia. When I added things up, I realized that it is the untouched culture, the unmoved heritage and the local connect of these towns and cities which makes me skip a heartbeat every single time I come across them.
Yogyakarta has been quoted as Java’s soul many times before and having visited various cities of Indonesia, I can vouch for the saying. The spirit of this city which is named after the Indian city of Ayodhya (famously known for the Ramayana epic) is unfathomable. Jogja is known for the well-preserved art and culture but that doesn’t deter it from getting urbanized. From convenience at the airport to the app based taxi rides, the city is absolutely ready for one to unveil the layers of heritage of the city.
I had put Yogyakarta on my Indonesia itinerary for 3 days. The number of days were just appropriate to not only visit the main attractions of the city but also to indulge in some shopping and lip smacking local delicacies.
What to see in Yogyakarta?
As soon as I entered the premises, I was greeted by a Hindu temple dedicated to Brahma (creator), Vishnu (Preserver) and Shiva (Destroyer) situated amidst lush greenery and beautiful landscape. Prambanan Temple is a UNESCO world heritage site. The architecture of the towered temples left me in awe of their sheer magnificence. Watching sun go down here was absolutely other wordly.
My visit to Prambanan Temple did not complete till I witnessed the grand Ramayana ballet performed by more than 200 artists against the backdrop of white lit Prambanan Temple.
Candi Sewu temple
Although being in the same compound as Prambanan Temple, Candi Sewu sees a fewer visitors and thus I got a chance to explore this temple more peacefully. An open bus plies from Prambanan to Cansi Sewu which otherwise can be reached on foot too. I ofcourse hopped on the bus and took a slow bus ride till the temple and were given 20 mins to explore the temple before bus leaves for Prambanan Temple.
Candi Sewu is the 2nd largest Buddhist temple in Central Java. It’s has spectacular architecture in the shape of mandala and statues of guards facing each other at the entrance. It has 4 entrances, all guarded by the statues of Dwarpals (guards). It is said that there was huge Buddha statue in the central building which was looted in previous times. Interesting stories oozed out from every corner of this lesser known temple.
Kraton Palace is the main seat of Sultan of Yogyakarta. The courtyards and pillars are intricately designed in Javanese style. The Palace also has a museum where palatial artifacts are displayed. Statues carved in rock adore the entrance of the palace. The typical Javanese music was being played while tourists indulged themselves in exploring the palace.
On the way to Kraton Palace, there are twin banyan trees and locals believe that upon being blind folded, one who can walk straight between the trees will have good luck and prosperity in future.
Taman Sari castle
A castle which served various functions like resting area, hiding place, a meditation place in the ancient times. The castle was known as a royal garden for the Sultan of Yogyakarta. What remains well-preserved is the central bathing complex whereas the rest of area of the castle is inhabited by locals. The walls of local settlement looked quite quirky with interesting wall arts all around.
This castle has a lot of Instagram worthy corners like the 4 staircases meeting at the center in a once upon a time mosque. The top floor of the castle gives a bird’s-eye view of Yogyakarta. I honestly would have missed out on a lot of interesting facts if a local man hadn’t volunteered to show me around. The real charm of exploring a place definitely lies in seeing the place through local’s eyes.
Yogyakarta boasts of world’s largest Buddhist temple called Borobudur Temple. This UNESCO world heritage site follows Javanese Buddhist architecture and is dotted with more than 500 statues of Buddha. Sun rays reflecting from the perforated stupas at the time of sunrise is sure to leave one spell-bound. Undoubtedly Borobudur temple stands as the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia.
This one is no ordinary cave and definitely not for faint hearts. It is a vertical cave which can be entered through rappelling and sees heaven light for few minutes every day. Set amidst a green dense forest, this cave can tickle anyone’s adventure bone. The cave is a photographer’s delight too as it’s extra ordinary to capture the divine sun rays.
The credit of origination of the marvelous batik art belongs to Yogyakarta. So, how could I miss trying my hands on batik painting while in Jogja. The locals passionately tell you all about the techniques of the batik painting and the fine details of the art too. There are plenty of Batik schools where one should definitely try the art and one simply can’t miss to pick up a batik painting from there.
Before hitting the more famous cities of Indonesia, I made sure I pick up the Indonesian handicrafts, souvenirs and local styled clothes from Marlioboro street. From Marlioboro mall to the street shops, I satiated my shopping appetite in Yogyakarta. This street is otherwise also a delight to sit back, relax and see locals do their things. While I was strolling aimlessly on the Marlioboro street, I spotted few artists settled on footpath, making portraits of people in no time. I couldn’t miss the horse buggy ride on streets which looked so classic and surely transported me to some other world even if for a short while.
Where to eat in Yogyakarta?
The restaurant on the ground floor of white orange house definitely serves the best Gudeg in town. Gudeg is the local Jogja delicacy made out of young jackfruit and its taste and receipe differs from one restaurant to other. I enjoyed a hearty meal at Gudeg Sagan while the local artists gave a live musical performance.
LN Fortunate coffee
The best vegan food in town is served at this quirky cafe. Youngsters are seen chilling here. I visited the cafe multiple times for its great coffee and delicious burgers. A perfect place for a quick grab or a full-fledged continental meal.
While there are many worth visiting restaurants, my pick were these because one offers best authentic cuisine of the town and other offers coffee, the best one in town. Yes, coffee. Need I say anything more?
Where to Stay in Yogyakarta?
Yogyakarta is definitely evolving as a tourist destination. Thus, the city offers plethora of staying options from luxury resorts to budget stays to hostels.
I found my perfect stay at Pondok Ijo Guesthouse & Restaurant also known by Villa Bougenville. It is centrally located and in close vicinity to Kraton Palace and Taman Sari Water castle. The guesthouse is run by a Dutch gentleman who decided to settle in Yogyakarta after his visit here. The story of the guesthouse and the said man deserve a separate post, so watch out for that one.
How to Reach Yogyakarta?
By Air – Yogyakarta has a bustling international airport and is convenient to fly in from any part of the world. It was third city on my itinerary after Jakarta and Bandung, so I flew from Jakarta to Yogyakarta.
By Train – The railways are unbelievably organized and are a convenient mode of transport to travel to and fro Yogyakarta. I was stunned by the cleanliness maintained at the railway station.
By Road – The roads are well-connected too to reach Yogyakarta from most of the places in Java.
Travel Tips while in Yogyakarta:
- Download Grab and Go-jek apps on your mobile for a quick call to Taxi. Uber also runs in the city but is expensive compared to these two.
- Don’t hire a parked rickshaw as they will treat you as tourists and charge you a bomb even for very small distance. Instead, call for one passing by. I didn’t believe it until a local asked me to try the difference for myself.
- Prambanan & Borobudur Temple –
- The temples like Prambanan and Borobudur are around 20 kms from the city center, so plan your travel accordingly. I took Go-jek taxi till Prambanan which costed IDR 69000 and IDR 139,000 till Borobudur.
- Plan Prambanan for sunset and then Ramayana Ballet and Borobudur for sunrise.
- Buy the combo ticket for Prambanan and Borobudur for IDR 540,000 as it will be more economic to buy rather than buying individually.
- Don’t miss the exotic dinner and Ramayana ballet at Prambanan temple which will hit your pocket by IDR 75,000 and IDR 125,00 respectively.
- Taxis are not easily available after the Ramayana ballet gets over at Prambanan Temple. The buses ply from the temple to the city which will cost IDR 80,000
- Both these temples stay open from 6am to 5pm.
- Kraton Palace & Taman Sari Water castle –
- The entrance fees of Kraton and Taman Sari Castle is IDR 15,000 each.
- You can club the visit to these two places as these are situated only 200 m apart.
- While Kraton timings are 8:30am-2pm for Sat-Thu; to 1pm Fri, Taman Sari castle stay open from 9am to 3pm.
- On your way to Kraton, don’t miss to try the Twin Banyan challenge which will only cost you IDR 3,000 for renting the blind fold.
- These are located right in the city center and around 500 m from the above mentioned guesthouse.
- Jomblang cave
- The fees to enter the cave is IDR 450,000 which includes safety equipments, guide and lunch.
- The best time to witness the heaven light is 11:30 am to 12:30 pm.
- Plan to reach the cave before 9 am as the registration might take time on busy days.
- The cave is 2 hours away from the city, so start in time to not miss the heaven light.
Trip Expert 2017 Awards
I have compiled this post for the nomination in “Travel Expert Awards -2017”.
Thanks Suruchi from All gud things for nominating me for the award.
Check the contest rules here.
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