Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple were a must stop on our trip to Southeast Asia. These two great architectural masterpieces are very close to Yogyakarta, cultural and artistic capital of the island of Java in Indonesia.
It seems incredible that two temples of such beauty are so close to each other. However, it has a very simple reason; The real struggle between Buddhism (Borobudur Temple) and Hinduism (Prambanan Temple) in this area of the planet. And this benefits Yogyakarta, attracting masses of tourists who come to this place to admire these constructions.
HOW LONG TO STAY IN YOGYAKARTA
We spent two full days in Yogyakarta, in which besides visiting the temples, we walked through the center of the city and took the opportunity to have some rest. For those who have the tightest agenda, keep in mind that in one morning you can visit the Borobudur temple and in one afternoon the Prambanan temple. However, two days is more convenient to be able to do some sightseeing in Yogyakarta.
Also, if you are taking a trip through Southeast Asia and you pass through Yogyakarta you can take advantage of their prices for doing the laundry or indulging yourself in a pleasant massage; which in other places more popular like Bali would be more expensive.
TRANSPORTATION IN YOGYAKARTA
Yogyakarta has one of the best public transport systems in Indonesia. Trans Yogya is made up of several air-conditioned bus lines that link the entire city, including the airport and even the Prambanan Temple.
In each station there is a marquee where a person charges you the ticket price (3,000 IDR, 0.20€ approx), another helps you pass it through a revolving door and another tells you when to enter the bus. Apart from the driver, inside the bus, there is an usher that tells you where you have to sit. In short, I don’t know if this system is too efficient. What it is clear is that the system gives work to many people. Here you can see the Yogyakarta map of Trans Yogya. The bus schedule is from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
TRANSPORTATION YOGYAKARTA AIRPORT
The airport is one hour from downtown Yogyakarta by bus. We took the line 1A which is the one that goes through Malioboro Jalan street (main street of Yogyakarta). If you arrive at the airport at night the price of a taxi to the center is approximately 100,000 IDR ( 7€).
HOW TO GET TO PRAMBANAN temple
The best way to get to the temple is by Trans Yogya. From Malioboro street, take the bus that goes to Prambanan Temple, which is again line 1A. The bus leaves you about 10 minutes walk from the entrance of the temple.
visiting prambanan temple
The entrance fee is different for locals than for foreigners. We paid 173.000 IDR (13 € approx.) per person, with the bad luck that I forgot to take the student card, with which I would have paid half.
Actually, Prambanan is not a single temple but is a complex composed of more than 200 Hindu temples that were constructed throughout IX Century.
Prambanan is closely related to the Buddhist temple of Borobudur since in part the first one tried to overcome this architectural work. This is why Prambanan symbolizes the return of a Hindu dynasty to power after almost a century of Buddhist domination in central Java.
To celebrate it was built this immense complex where the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Preserver (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva) was venerated.
HISTORY OF PRAMBANAN
In the XVI century, an earthquake destroyed most of the buildings. After the disaster, the ruins were almost completely abandoned. However, there were still Hindus who came to worship the ruins.
In 1811 the Scottish topographer, Colin Mackenzie, came to the temples by chance. From then until 1880 a constant looting of the ruins was carried out. In 1918 began the reconstruction and restoration of the complex. However, to this day, and as we could see, the work has not finished.
Fortunately in 1991 Prambanan was included as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, so we hope this work of incalculable value can be preserved.
If you want to eat during your visit I recommend the restaurant that is in the temple complex. Try the avocado smoothie and eating the fried banana with chocolate and cheese.
On the way back to the center of Yogyakarta we decided that we wanted to see the sunrise at Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world and therefore the most visited monument in Indonesia. In this way, we would avoid the agglomeration of tourists that is usually constant throughout the day.
Although there are some tours that allow you access before the temple opens, our idea was to enter as soon as the temple opens, at 6a.m., as it would still give us time to see the sunrise with no extra payment. So despite staying in the hotel in Yogyakarta, we booked another hotel next to the temple so we could be there first.
HOW TO GET TO BOROBUDUR temple
You can go to Borobudur by bus. You have to take line 2A or 2B to Jombor and from there another bus to Borobudur. The price of this second bus (it is no longer Trans Yogya) is about 10,000 IDR ( 1€ approx.). Remember not giving more if they ask you. Later we tell you about our experience returning from Borobudur.
In total it takes about two hours from Yogyakarta to Borobudur. We didn’t look at the schedules so when we got to Jombor there were no buses to take us to Borobudur and we couldn’t go back to Yogyakarta either. Finally, we had to take a taxi driver that we shared with other locals and left us at our hotel.
visiting borobudur temple
The next morning we were at the door of the Borobudur temple, only 5 minutes from our hotel, waiting in the rain for it to open, at 6 am. The tickets cost 220,000 IDR (16€ approx.). for students, there is a 50% of discount.
We entered at full speed trying to reach the main temple before dawn. However, the thick fog did not give us the sunrise we expected. It might be a pity for everything we did to be there so early, to get soaked in the rain without the incredible twilight we were looking for. However, it was worth it. We were practically alone in that imposing sacred place.
See the surroundings of the temple submerged in the fog is priceless. And it is not only the massive construction, but also the idyllic context where it is located.
Unlike Prambanan, Borobudur is surrounded by thick vegetation, which isolated and helped to its preservation. This added to the majesty of the architectural work supposes a trip towards the spiritual thing, towards the most intimate part of oneself.
Climbing the main pyramid through its 6 quadrangular terraces, and its 3 circular ones until reaching the great bell, is an ascent towards Nirvana, the Buddhist paradise.
On the top, you cannot stop circling back and forth, over the platforms where the 72 bells so characteristic of this temple, are located. Each of the bells has a Buddha statue inside them. Some of the bells are uncovered in such a way that we can look at all the details of the Buddha.
HISTORY OF BOROBUDUR
Incredibly, this masterpiece was built between the year 750 and 850 to represent the Buddhist cosmos. In the 16th century, while Prambanan was destroyed by an earthquake, Borobudur was abandoned and forgotten until the jungle ended up devouring it.
It is not known for certain whether the abandonment occurred because of the damages suffered by different natural inclemency (earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that covered it with ash) or the rise of Islam on the island of Java.
What we do know, is that it was totally forgotten. It was in 1814 when the English ruler Thomas Stamford Raffles rediscovers it 3 years after the Prambanan reappeared.
In one of his expeditions, he heard of this temple. It took 200 men and two months to make their way through the jungle and unearth the temple covered almost entirely by volcanic ash. Imagine what those men had to feel when they finally climbed into Nirvana.
The damage was such that the temple was at risk of collapse.
However, restoration work did not begin until the 1970s. It was when UNESCO included the monument in its plans of conservation of the Patrimony of the Humanity.
OUR EXPERIENCE ON THE RETURN bus
To return to Yogyakarta we had an incident with the bus that goes to Jombor. The bus wanted to charge us more than the 10,000 IDR normal price. After seeing that we were not going to get in for more money, they told us that they agreed to charge us only 10,000 IDR. Throughout the trip, two other collectors came to ask us for more money. We refused, even taking the risk that they would make us go down before the destination. We spent a very uncomfortable time without knowing if they would let us get to Jombor or not. This seems to be very common on this journey.
That could not spoil what we experienced that morning. If you have the opportunity visit these two wonders of the world. They will not be erased from your retina.
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN YOGYAKARTA
As I said in a day (if you get up early), you have time to visit Prambanan and Borobudur. However, it is convenient that you take more time to explore it thoroughly, as there are other things to see and to do in Yogyakarta and surroundings.
enjoy A MASSAGE
Yogyakarta is an ideal place to enjoy a massage since the prices are very good. We tried at Monggo Relax, where we paid 6 € for a 30-minute massage. We liked the site and the treatment so we recommend it.
As a consequence of taking this message, Balinese massages disappointed us a little. We prefer this one to the one we took in Bali.
LOOK AT MALIOBORO STREET STORES
In your visit to Yogyakarta, it is essential that you walk Malioboro Jalan street from top to bottom and let yourself be seduced by its Arab style shops, bargains, souvenirs, bazaars … There is everything. Of course, you will understand why this street is the nerve center of the city.
VISIT THE KATRON
At the end of the Malioboro Jalan street, you will be near the Katron (the Sultan’s Palace). The province of Yogyakarta is the only one in Indonesia that still maintains a sultanate. The current Sultan is Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X. And as he continues to live in the Katron, if you want to visit his palace you will have to do it with a guide.
The entrance price is 13,000 IDR (0.80 €) and the schedule is from 07:30 to 13:00, and Friday until 24:00. Although visiting the main building is not so interesting, because you are not able to visit too many rooms as they are for the Sultan’s personal use, it is a good idea to visit the surroundings and get to know the more traditional life that encloses its walls.
The Taman Sari (the water castle) is also nearby. These gardens used to be a recreational place for the Sultan although at present they are quite deteriorated.
And to finish, if you want to disconnect from the city, there is nothing like visiting Pinus Pengger. It was a pity to have known this pinewood in the mountains, just half an hour from the center of Yogyakarta, when we had already left. Definitely, a place that we signed up on our list of things to do on our next visit to Indonesia.
The most characteristic is a hand made of pieces of wood from where the best sunsets of Yogyakarta are seen. I leave you an image so you can see what I’m talking about.
Although the sunset is the best time to visit it for the views, we read that it is very crowded at this time and you will have to stand in line to be able to take the photo. The price for entering the pinewood is 2,500 IDR (0.20 €).
20 minutes to the south we will find Jurang Tembelan, another ideal place to see the sunset as well, or to have other amazing views. I left another image for you to choose which one you like the most.
WHERE TO EAT IN YOGYAKARTA
With so many excursions to the temples, we almost didn’t stop to eat. However, in the center of Yogyakarta, for dinner, I recommend that you go to the restaurant Kedai Rakjat Djelata, on Dr. Sutomo Street No.54.
The place is very well decorated and is usually frequented mostly by locals. However, the price cannot be lower. We had diner and drank cold tea for less than a euro. And the quality was excellent.
Also right on the street is an Italian ice cream shop very chic, Ciao Gelato. Although the price was not friendly (it cost more than three times the dinner), I must admit that it was delicious.
WHERE TO STAY IN YOGYAKARTA
To finish with this article I will tell you the hotels of Yogyakarta where we stayed during the two days we spent there.
HOTEL IN YOGYAKARTA CITY
The hostel on our first night, the Laura’s backpacker 523, was near Malioboro Street, but not so close as to be a tourist area. The area was very traditional and without cars. The hostel was full of young people to talk to. Breakfast included vegetable soup, fried vegetable balls, and fruit. It was not the typical breakfast that they give to tourists in all of Southeast Asia, but it was traditional style.
I recommend it especially if you travel to Yogyakarta as a backpacker and you want to meet people. It is cheap since you will share a room with other travelers and you are very close to the center.
HOTEL NEAR BOROBUDUR
The second night we stay in a hotel near Borobudur since we wanted to go to the temple at sunrise. As we said, you can go by public transport to Borobudur. But if you want to see the sunrise from the temple you will have to spend the night in the surroundings. That is why we finally stayed at Cempaka Guest House Borobudur. We spent just 5 hours in the hotel, that’s why I do not dare recommend it to you. What I can say is that it was very cheap and it was 5 minutes from the temple.