Java has many wonderful spots to visit. It has both cultural and historical highlights. And besides that it also has an enchanting natural beauty. Below is a list of the five most popular tourist attractions on the island Java. Of course, your private driver can show you these and other tourist attractions during your trip to Java.
At about 40 km northwest of Yogyakarta you’ll find the most popular tourist attraction in Indonesia. The Borobudur (literally: “the temple of Buddha on the mountain” ) is regarded as the largest Buddhist sanctuary in the world. It was founded around the year 800. In the period until the 10th century the Borobudur temple was the spiritual center of Buddhism in Java. Then when the power center shifted from Central Java to the east the Borobudur was in decline. Until the 19th century the complex was hidden under vegetation and ash from the surrounding vulcanoes. After the rediscovery in 1814 and subsequent excavation several restorations were made. In particular, the rigorous restoration which took place in the period 1973-1984 with the support of UNESCO has ensured that the Borobudur has recovered its old grandeur.
The temple complex is built on a hill in the shape of a large stupa. A stupa is a Buddhist structure that contains the relics of a buddhist saint. The square base measures 123 by 123 meters. The height of the monument is 31.5 meters. The building has nine floors, of which the lower six are square and the upper three round, while a central stupa is forming the top of the structure. On the top three floors are 72 small stupas in which Buddha statues are placed. On the square base are 1500 beautiful reliefs to see about the life of Buddha and historical events and stories. It is not just the temple which is beautiful, from the top floor the view is magnificent.
A few kilometers east of the Borobudur are the buddhist Mendut Temple and Pawon Temple. Inside the Mendut Temple there are three large sculptures, including a three meter high Buddha statue. On the outer walls of this temple are beautiful reliefs.
Though less known than the Borobudur but certainly a sight not to be missed is the Prambanan temple complex located less than 20 km east of Yogyakarta. Prambanan (real name: Lara Jonggrang ) is the largest Hindu temple complex in Indonesia. The temples were built around 850. But like the Borobudur after a short time these temples also were in decline . In the early 19th century, the temple was rediscovered. Several restorations followed, but the recovery was slow. Only in 1953 the reconstruction of the main temple was completed. Since then the reconstruction is progressing steadily and till the day further work is continuing on the restoration of the temple complex.
The complex consists of several temples on an elevated courtyard. This courtyard is, in turn, again surrounded by a slightly lower plateau in which the remains are of 224 smaller temples that each should have been about 14 meters high. The three main temples are dedicated to the three main Hindu gods Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The Shiva temple stands in the middle and is 47 meters high and 34 meters wide. To the south is the temple dedicated to Brahma and north the one dedicated to Vishnu. The main temples – especially the Shiva Temple – feature beautiful relief sculptures that include imagining the Ramayana epic. Opposite are three smaller temples dedicated to Shiva’s bull Nandi, Brahma’s mount goose Angsa and Vishnu’s eagle Garuda.
An unforgettable experience is to attend an evening performance of the Ramayana Ballet (accompanied by gamelan music) in the open-air theater at Prambanan. A beautiful colorful spectacle in a magnificent setting with lit Prambanantemples in the background.
Not far from the Prambanan located on the south side situated on a hill are the ruins of the Ratu Boko Palace. In itself, the complex is not really special, but it is a place with a beautiful view on the Prambanan and where the sunset produces a fine spectacle. North of Prambanan are also some interesting temples. One is the Sewu Temple, with its temple guards. The temple was badly damaged during the 2006 earthquake.
3. Mount Bromo Volcano
For many, a visit to the Bromo volcano is one of the absolute highlights of a Java journey. Bromo, which is part of the Tenggermassif, is located in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. It is not the 2392 meter high volcano Bromo itself that makes it a special attraction, but rather its location is unique and unsurpassed. Bromo volcano is situated along with two other volcanoes in a giant sand flats of 8 to 10 kilometers at an altitude of about 2100 meters. These sands – the Tengger Sand Sea – has ever been caused by an eruption of the giant Tenggervolcano. The stretch of sand is actually the crater of this old erupted volcano on which a number of new volcanoes have formed thereafter again. In addition to the Bromo the Batok (2470 m) and the Kursi (2581 m) have been formed on the sands. Of the three, the tree-clad Batok is no longer active. The sea of sand is in turn again surrounded by the steep rising large crater wall of the old Tenggervolcano.
At its most beautiful is the Bromo and the surrounding volcanic landscape at sunrise. There then gather in the early morning large numbers of visitors to watch the colourful spectacle of the sunrise. A popular lookout point to see this unforgettable spectacle is on the top of the 2770 meter high Mount Penanjakan, one of the mountains that surrounds the sands. Realize that the morning can be icy cold here. It is also possible – via a staircase with over 200 steps – to reach the rim of the crater of the volcano. From there one can look into the turbulent crater and hear the rumbling closely. And of course also from the crater rim, the sunrise and the view over sand sea is breathtaking.
Incidentally, the area in and around the national park is inhabited by the Tengger people, one of the few Hindu communities in Java. Their presence here, according to tradition, is the result of advancing Islam in the fifteenth century when many people fled to inhospitable regions to profess their own religion. To the Tengger people the Bromo volcano is of special religious significance. They believe that the god Brahma resides here. Once a year they come to Bromo to throw offerings in the form of rice, vegetables, chickens and other objects in the crater. In 1993, at the foot of the Bromo, a Hindu temple (Luhur Paws) was built.
In the south of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park is a second volcanic complex. This complex includes Mount Semeru, with 3676 meters the highest mountain in Java.
Yogyakarta is not only the capital of the special district, but also the most important center of Java in the field of art and culture. Here the various art-forms are developed to a very high level. It is here that one can find the outstanding batik dress, the Ramayana ballet, gamelan music, beautiful silverware and the mysterious puppet show with traditional leather shadow puppets. In Yogyakarta and the surrounding area you will find many attractions well worth a visit. Among these are the Borobudur and Prambanan, the two world famous temple complexes. Some seventeen kilometers southeast of Yogyakarta is Imogiri. Here is the official cemetery of the royal families of Yogyakarta and Surakarta. There are several tombs of rulers of Central Java.
Many sultans of Mataram and the sultanates of Surakarta and Yogyakarta are buried here. Sultan Agung had this cemetery built in 1645. An attraction of a different sort is Mount Merapi (“Mountain of Fire”). This 2968 meter high volcano is located 35 km north of Yogyakarta. It is one of the most active and dangerous volcanoes in the world. Merapi in fact is an ongoing threat to Yogyakarta and surrounding villages. The last major eruption took place in 2010, when Kaliurang village – located at the foot of the volcano – was almost completely destroyed. Hundreds of people died and thousands were injured. In Ketap, located east of Magelang, the lookout Ketap Pass offers – weather permitting – stunning views of Mount Merapi and the (adjacent) Merbabu volcano. But also within the city limits Yogyakarta has a lot to offer.
First of all, the walled Kraton, the palace of the Sultan of Yogyakartathe, situated in the center of the city. The oldest buildings of the Kraton date from 1756 and were founded by Sultan Hamengkubuwono I. Since then the sultan resides here. So now the current sultan Sultan Hamengkubuwono X resides here. The Kraton is a fine example of Javanese palace architecture with a number of luxurious rooms and elegant spacious courtyards and pavilions. The palace is only in the morning open to the public.
The tours are provided by traditional Javanese dressed palace guards. Just southwest of the Kraton is the Taman Sari Water Palace, the former royal garden of the sultan. Of the original is not really much left. In fact, only the central bathing complex, with the tower from which the sultan could watch his harem women bathing is in reasonable condition. Not far from the kraton and the water palace is the famous and colorful bird market (Pasar Ngasem), where especially songbirds and pigeons are sold. But you can also buy all sorts of other animals, from snakes to geckos and iguanas to bats. For those looking for souvenirs is Jalan Malioboro, the most famous shopping street in Yogyakarta, well worth a visit. This is a busy and lively shopping area with on either side a chain of shops, restaurants, stalls, food stalls and eateries. Numerous street vendors are trying to sell their wares. But here are also buildings from the Dutch colonial era as the Main Post Office (1910) and Bank Indonesia (1923).
A little further lies Fort Vredeburg (1900-1940), in which now houses a museum dedicated to the struggle for independence. Opposite is the former Resident House (1823). Nearby is the Pasar Beringharjo, the largest local market in Yogyakarta. For the real batik lovers there is the Batik Research Center, located in the eastern part of Yogyakarta. Here one can see closely how batik products are made. For refined silverware one must be in Kota Gede, five kilometers southeast of Yogyakarta. In this historic suburb are located several local workshops where you can see how craftsmen hand make the finest silver works of art.
5. Dieng Plateau
At an altitude of over 2000 meters, is the Dieng Plateau located. It is a volcanic plateau once created by the eruption of the volcano Prau and the attendant collapse of the crater walls. Due to the location at altitude here it’s considerably cooler than in the surrounding lowlands. And not only that, it is often foggy, which emphasizes the mystical character of this area moreover.
Between the eighth and ninth centuries Javanese Hindu built hundreds of temples here and made of Dieng Plateau a holy place. The name is derived from the words Di (residence) and Hyang (Gods) and so it means “City of the Gods”. Of the many temples that once stood here, there are about eight left, including the Arjuna temple complex (also known as the Pandawa temples), consisting of five Shiva temples. They are considered to be the oldest Hindu structures in Java and are therefore of great archaeological significance.
But the Dieng Plateau has far more to offer. Then not only the presence of the ancient temples but also the scenic beauty makes a visit to this area more than worth. In the beautiful landscape of mountains, lakes and volcanic activity one can make wonderful walks. For instance to the Kawah Sikidang, a volcanic crater with bubbling and steaming geysers, sulfur springs and mud pools, which can be approach to within a few meters. This once again shows that the Dieng Plateau is still an active volcanic area. Another attraction in the enchanting and unique landscape of the Dieng Plateau is the beautiful Telaga Warna. A lake that is colored green to blue due to the sulfur content of the water. For those who are willing to get up very early in the Dieng Plateau has a fascinating spectacle in store. From the Viewpoint Setieng it’s possible – if the weather conditions allow – to witness an unforgettable sunrise. The sunrise here is of an unparalleled beauty, then one does not speak for any of the ” Golden Sunrise “.