Indonesia has gained a reputation as a luxury and adventure destination as the island of Bali has become world-renowned. However, this country has so much more to offer than one island. In fact it is the world’s largest island country made up of over 13,000 islands! So how in the world do you choose where to focus your trip? For us, the fact that international flights flew in to the island of Java made it an easy place to start our trip. After a fair amount of research we found that the city of Yogyakarta was an arts, religious and cultural hub with some of the most significant ruins in the country. I’m always a sucker for a beautiful temple ruin so we set aside 2 nights and 2 days in Yogykarta.
You can read more on our 2 weeks in the Philippines and the Bali on the blog shortly. For the sake of space and your sanity, below is a summary of our time in Yogyakarta, our first stop in Indonesia.
Day 1 – Yogyakarta
Since we were coming from the Philippines we only had to fly from Manila to Jakarta to get into Indonesia. After a short layover at the Jakarta airport in the middle of the night, we were on our way to Yogyakarta (also known as Jogja) where we spent the first leg of our trip in Indonesia.
We booked two days here at the Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort and Spa which felt like we were being spoiled rotten after some of the roughing it we had done in the Philippines.
We chose this hotel because it was a 5 minute drive to the airport. Well that and the fact that I am a big lover of all things Sheraton and will stay at one whenever I can. Entering the lobby of this grandiose hotel felt like we were walking into an all-inclusive resort (but for a budget hotel price); complete with marble statues, swim up bars and a Mayan style water fixture in the middle of the pool.
After we settled into the hotel, we decided to spend the afternoon at Prambanan Temple Compounds. Built in the 10th century, this temple is said to be the most beautiful Hindu structure in the world and a UNESCO Heritage Site. Located just 17 km from Yogyakarta it sits on the border of the provinces of Central Java and Yogyakarta.
Admission: Adults (>10) $18, Children (<10) $9
Recommended Time Allotment: 1.5 hours
What to bring: Your camera, clothing that covers your knees and shoulders, comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, water.
As the sun started to set, the grounds were closing down, but we noticed an area beside the structure that was starting to fill up. We walked over to check it out and found Rama Shinta Garden Restaurant looking over the temple grounds. They serve an incredible buffet after which you are escorted to an open air theatre using Prambanan Temple as the backdrop put on by the infamous Ramayana Ballet; tickets for which cost around $10USD. Keep in mind that taxis are hard to come by after the ballet so make sure you have a taxi ordered from your hotel to pick you up.
Day 2 – Yogyakarta
Luckily when we landed in Yogyakrta the previous day our taxi driver offered to be our driver if needed one for a day outing. We took him up on his offer on our second day to go see Borobudur Temple (about a 45 min drive from Yogyakarta). Dating from the 8th and 9th century, Borobudur hails as the largest Buddhist temple in the world. It is one of Buddhism’s greatest monuments; not to mention it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Admission: Adults (>10) $20, Children (<10) $10
Recommended Time Allotment: 3 hours
What to bring: Your camera, clothing that covers your knees and shoulders, comfortable walking shoes, a hat/umbrella to protect yourself from the sun, sunscreen, lots of water.
Whatever you do make sure you climb Dagi Hill if you go here!! We ended up being alone at the top of the hill with this breath-taking view above.
From here, Mike asked for coffee, so the driver took us to a nearby shop, The Original Pawon Luwak Coffee, that sold “the best coffee in the world”. We walked up to see baskets upon baskets of coffee beans drying.
Mike (being the coffee lover that he is) digs right in and grabs a handful to sniff as the driver starts giggling behind us. When questioned he asked us “do you know what that is?”. Mike dropped the coffee right away. “It’s Kopi Luwak coffee which includes part-digested coffee cherries eaten and then pooped out by a palm civet”. We all giggle. Apparently this stuff is the most expensive coffee in the world which can be sold at up to $3000USD/kg.!!
After a coffee that we made sure to savor, we headed to our drivers next recommended stop; Mendut Buddhist Monestary. This was one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been. There is no entrance fee so you are free to roam around and explore this place of worship as long as you’re respectful.
The last stop we wanted to make on our tour was a visit to the Kraton Yogyakarta (the Royal Palace). However, by the time we got there it was closed. If you’re looking to visit make sure to show up early as it closes at 2pm.
Luckily, this misstep played to our advantage as we were redirected to Kampoeng Cyber; an amazing social project in the heart of the city. We met a gentleman in the parking lot who offered to give us a tour of the community for a nominal fee so we took him up on it. We first climbed over the rooftops and then into an underground tunnel system that apparently used to supply the water for the nearby Water Palace. Now empty it serves as an underground walkway and source of revenue for the locals.
We surfaced again and were surrounded by ruins of buildings that had been part of the Water Palace centuries ago.
The pool pictured here was where the Sultan would bathe. On the opposite side of the wall to the left were two pools of equal size where the women (multiple wives) and children would bathe. The Sultan would then climb the tower to look out and watch over his family. While they swam he would choose one wife to join him over in his swimming pool. Very romantic.
Surrounding the Water Palace is this really funky neighborhood that used to be housing for Water Palace staff. However, when the Palace grounds moved, many of the staff were left jobless with nowhere to go. Since they had been artists by trade, many of them continued this practice. They used their expertise in Batik art to generate sales from both the general public and the tourist population. They have fought and survived through several economic ups and downs in the last century. Thanks to a number of local youth who rose up to bring technology to their community, they are now thriving. Walking the streets you feel hopeful as you pass walls of street art, small galleries, and clothing and coffee shops. To read more on their story click here.
We then headed back to our hotel for an evening spa treatment at Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa.
The next morning we jetted off to Bali and felt like we had really seen what we were hoping to in Yogyakarta. We hope this helps you plan an amazing trip to Jogja! Do you think we missed seeing or doing anything important here? If so, let us know in the comments below and we’ll be sure to do them next time we’re in town.