If Jakarta is Java’s financial and industrial powerhouse, Yogyakarta is its soul. Yogyakarta (pronounced ‘Jogjakarta’ and called Yogya for short), is where the Javanese language is at its purest, Java’s arts at their brightest and its traditions at their most visible.
Fiercely independent and protective of its customs, Yogya is now the site of an uneasy truce between the old ways of life and the onslaught of modernity. Still headed by its sultan, whose kraton remains the hub of traditional life, contemporary Yogya is nevertheless a huge urban centre (the Yogya conurbation is 1.6 million) of cybercafes, malls and traffic jams, as it is a stronghold of batik, gamelan and ritual.
Yogya remains Java’s premier tourist city, with countless hotels, restaurants and attractions. It’s also an ideal base for exploring nearby attractions, including Indonesia’s most important archaeological sites, Borobudur and Prambanan.
Unsurprisingly, it is one of the major tourist hub in Indonesia, due to its uniqueness and all the tourist attractions, sightseeing places and many things to do all packed into one.
Top 10 Things to Do in Yogyakarta
1. Be awed by the magnificent Prambanan Temple
Candi Prambanan (temple) or also known as Candi Rara Jonggrang, is a well known ancient Hindu Temple in Indonesia. It is built during the 9th century for Trimurti as an expression that God is the Creator (Brahma), Preserver (Vishnu) and also the Destroyer (Shiva). The temple compound lies just 18km east of Yogyakarta and can be easily reached with the Transjogja public bus, which is by far the cheapest and best option to visit Prambanan. It is one of the Indonesia UNESCO World Heritage Site, being one of the largest Hindu temple architecture in Southeast Asia.
2. Unearth the secrets of Sewu Temple
Located just 10-15 minutes walk from Prambanan temple, is definitely worth a visit if you want to be greeted with temple ruins that are eerily captivating. The place, a good respite from the crowds in Prambanan, seems to hold many secrets in its many hidden and dark corners. The name Sewu means thousand, despite that it only has 249 temples, due to the legend of Loro Jonggrang. Partially restored, it seems more authentic and self exploration allows your imagination to run while you do your own interpretation of the place, its structures and carvings.
3. Admire the reconstructed puzzle of Sambisari Temple (candi)
By no means in anyway stand out from the shadows of the above temple, it is still a good stopover when you are making your way to Prambanan. Sambisari temple use to be buried five metres underground for hundred of years until the first slab of stone was discovered in 1966. This temple that took more than 20 years to excavate and reconstructs seems to stand as a bold testament of many archeologists best effort in restoring the glory of the past.
4. Hike the ruins to Mount Merapi (Volcano)
Even if you are not a serious hiker or climber, you should try the short hike towards Mount Merapi and find yourself amidst the leftovers of houses and such after the recent volcano eruption in 2010. You will find yourself humbled by the immensity of nature’s wrath and how people respond to it bravely. If you reach the place of Mbah Maridjan, you will learn how a keeper of spirits stood by his duty even when the volcano erupted.
5. Enjoy the sights and stories at Kraton Yogyakarta
A well maintained palace from the days of Sultans of Yogyakarta, you will find unique architecture and heirlooms of the days of glory here. All travelers will be accompanied by a local guide who amazingly can speak all kinds of language, and though you may wary of a guide idea, you will definitely find it enjoyable as you listen to myths, rituals, stories and even humor as you go along the palace grounds. Indeed a must visit to understand the deep rich history and culture of Jogja.
6. Sneak into Water Castle (Taman Sari)
Use a back way from the other side of the castle and try to sneak your way in through rundown defense walls and scattered village houses. Once you got in, you will find yourself in mazes of underground water holes, secret chambers and gardens and pools. This castle is a huge complex that use to be a former royal garden of Sultanate of Yogyakarta used for various functions including bathing place. You heard me right, bathing place, which personally I find the most intriguing, with a calm blue pool surrounded starkingly by pink buildings.
7. Join the local myth and try your luck crossing between two trees
After Kraton, walk further south to the Southern Park (alun-alun) where you will find two huge banyan trees side by side in the middle of the square. Local myth has it that if you manage to walk between the trees while blindfolded, you will get what you wish for. There are many entrepreneurial Indonesians hanging around here to sell you this service by lending you a black cloth to blindfold, then they will proceed to ‘help you’ to walk from the end of the park to cross between the trees by shouting “left! right!” But even with their help or not, you will find it almost impossible to walk straight in between the trees and many had failed. Therefore the myth persists and continues to draw many people to come and try their luck!
8. Chill out at a cafe
At the end of a long day walking and exploring Yogyakarta, you can have your evening chilling out at one of the many cafes, there are many to choose from at Jalan Prawirotaman (road) . Here you will find good atmosphere to just sit for a long time and probably catch up on that email or with friends. Food choices among the cafes are a mix of local and international of main meals and snacks. Drinks may range from local sweet drinks to lassi and of course coffee. Get to one of the cafes here to mingle with people or just sit at a corner all tuck in by yourself.
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