Top 10 Things to Do in Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta is the capital city of the Yogyakarta Special Region in Central Java, Indonesia and also can be known interchangeably as Jogjakarta or Jogja. If someone asked me where is one place to go in Java I would say it is here as there are many things to do and also to see here.

Wedged strategically between two powerhouse of ancient temples – Prambanan the magnificent Hindu temple and Borobudur the renown Buddhist temple, this place holds more wonders than just that. You can explore the main streets and narrow alleys for hidden treasures of bygone days, taste the best Javanese food and soak yourself in history, art and culture.

Unsurprisingly, it is one of the major tourist hubs in Indonesia, due to its uniqueness and all the tourist attractions, sightseeing places and many things to do all packed into one.

Here are our top 10 things to do in Yogyakarta:

Prambanan  at Yogyakarta

Prambanan at Yogyakarta

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.

Candi Sewu (temple) at Yogyakarta

Candi Sewu (temple) at Yogyakarta

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.

Candi Sambisari (temple) at Yogyakarta

Candi Sambisari (temple) at Yogyakarta

Admire the reconstructed puzzle of Sambisari Temple (candi)
By no means in any way 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 used 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.

Jalan Malioboro at Yogyakarta

Jalan Malioboro at Yogyakarta

Shop at Jalan Malioboro and Pasar Beringharjo
Yogyakarta is almost a shopping haven too after the likes of Bandung, with a lot of cheap things to buy. At the streets of Malioboro and at the Beringharjo market you will find lots of stalls line up selling anything you can think of from clothes to bags to rattan products and silver jewelries, food and anything you thought you might find in Indonesia. The best places to stay in Yogyakarta is also situated around the Malioboro Street.

Try one of the best Indonesian food – Gudeg
Gudeg is the most famous dish in Yogyakarta, even making it a moniker City of Gudeg. This unique Indonesian dish is a stew made from young jackfruit (nangka) with palm sugar, coconut milk, meat, garlic, and spices. The special taste came from the slow melding of flavors and textures to the right perfection. Get a taste of Gudeg at the longest standing establishment – Gudeg Yu Djum.

Gudeg Yu Djum, Yogyakarta

Gudeg Yu Djum, Yogyakarta

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. There are tours that take you to Mt Merapi for a hiking day trip from Yogakarta.

Ruin houses at Mount Merapi, Yogyakarta

Ruin houses at Mount Merapi, Yogyakarta

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 used 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 strikingly by pink buildings.

Bathing pool at Taman Sari, Yogyakarta

Bathing pool at Taman Sari, Yogyakarta

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.

Reading at Kraton Palace, Yogyakarta

Reading at Kraton Palace, Yogyakarta

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!

Crossing between the Banyan Tree Myth at Yogyakarta

Crossing between the Banyan Tree Myth at Yogyakarta

Chill out at a cafe

Cafes at Jalan Prawirotaman, Yogyakarta

Cafes at Jalan Prawirotaman, Yogyakarta

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 a 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.

Bonus number 11:
Venture out to the serene Borobudur
Technically not in Yogyakarta but many will definitely do this day trip (only 1 hour drive from Yogyakarta to Borobudur) or few days trip out of Jogja just for a visit to Borobudur (a good choice if you have the time). You may also join the many tours to Borobudur and Prambanan temples in a day. Yes, it is worth the trip and it is even better if you can stay the night at Manohara Resort * and catch the temple at the dawn of light (if you pay for the sunrise tour) or at least be the first to go in when it opens at 8am. This is how to best enjoy it, when it is at its most quiet, with just a trickle of travelers like you who appreciate the silence and marvels at the beauty with respect. This 9th-century temple is an Indonesia UNESCO Heritage site and one of the largest Buddhist temple in the world, consisting of six square platforms with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha status. Thousands of Buddhists does their pilgrimage here in Borobudur during Waisak day.

Borobudur at Central Java Indonesia

Borobudur at Central Java

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Versi Bahasa Indonesia10 Tempat Wisata yang Wajib Dikunjungi di Yogyakarta

Related articles:
Yogyakarta, Central Java Guide
Borobudur Temple Compounds Guide
Top 10 Must Visit Places in Indonesia
Top 10 Things To Do in Indonesia
Top 10 Things To Do in Java




Author: Rachel

Fascinated by Indonesia, Rachel hopes to bring the best Indonesia Travel Guide to independent travelers so that they can enjoy what Indonesia has best to offer. Being an independent wanderer herself, Rachel knows what it takes to make a good, fun-filled yet responsible independent traveling. So let’s join her to discover wonderful Indonesia together. Google+