6 Incredible Places to Visit in Java
Our featured travel writers Bas Kötter and Kirstie Dyke gives their recommendations why Java should not be missed on any Indonesian itinerary and they also include the top things you should do if you are planning a trip...
Do you love megacities? Go to Jakarta. Otherwise, skip it and take the 8-hour train journey to Yogyakarta. You will be amazed about the great views from your train window of volcanoes, rice paddies and all the people that live in small ‘kampungs’ (villages). Yogyakarta, a city with 700.000 inhabitants, tucked between volcanoes, close to the Borobodur and the Prambanan temples, is one of those magical spots in Java. Certainly don’t miss the other great (not so obvious) places in and around Yogyakarta. Hire a motorbike or bicycle for a few days and discover the region yourself. Trains are good, buses and so called ‘bemos or becaks’ can be useful plus metered taxi’s are widely available.
Yogyakarta is a great place to explore on your own as well as a base for day trips. There’s a sweet juxtaposition between the traditional walled compound of the Kraton and the bustling streets and markets of the rest of the city. Within the Kraton you can find the Sultan’s Palace, where tour guides passionately talk of Sultans in times gone by. The nearby water palace was once used to hide concubines from suspicious wives. Plenty of artisans are housed within the Kraton and you won’t forget a visit to a shadow puppet workshop after watching the artists painstakingly decorate the small leather characters. The markets in the rest of the city are great for people watching and a good place to pick up some cheap local batik work. Jump on a becak (a cycle rickshaw) for a tour from a friendly local.
Three volcanoes loom over the city which is full of palaces and friendly locals. The great temple complex of Borobudur is only a short journey from Yogyakarta. The largest Buddhist monument in the world emerges out from the surrounding valleys, covered in 504 statues of Buddha and 1460 scenes carved into the stone panels which decorate the bottom levels. The largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, Prambanan, could also be seen on the same day. The only thing about Prambanan more impressive than the height of the central temples is the size of the compound, with over 200 temples waiting to be restored to their full glory after years of earthquake damage. It’s stunning at sunset and a great place to catch an open air rendition of the Ramayana ballet, the story of which can also be seen on the sides of one of the temples.
4. Mount Bromo
With the most active volcanoes of any country and a lot of them on Java, the island is a dream for any amateur volcanologist, hiker or nature lover. One of the most visited is Mount Bromo. An early morning start to watch the sun rise over the so called Sea of Sands and three active peaks is a mesmerising experience. Those with a head for heights can walk up the sides of Mont Bromo to peer over the edge and stare straight into the crater to hear the rumbles from within.
5. Samigaluh Waterfall
Feeling adventurous? If you hire your own wheels, drive west via Jalan Godean, once you have crossed the big river turn right and follow the river all the way to the Samigaluh waterfall. You will pass magnificent scenery on your way, volcanoes, farmers working in the rice fields and little villages. If you are lucky, once you have reached the top of the mountain you can see the Borobodur temple in the distance. Leave early though, because it will take you 2,5 hours to get there and another 2,5 to get back to the city. Hire a decent motorcycle, since some climbs are pretty steep.
If you don’t like riding a motorbike, book the bike tour of Viavia instead. Viavia is located in the Prawirotaman area. They will take you just south of the city to show you the life of the Javanese people. You will experience more about rice cultivation, how to make ‘krupuk’ and several other great things about the locals. It will only take you a half day, it’s cheap and good fun!
With all this diversity just a thirty minute ferry ride from Bali, Java should be on the list for any Asia adventure.