Yogyakarta had long been a must-visit place in Java, Indonesia. It is also interchangeably known as Jogjakarta or Jogja or Yogya (you decide!) by travelers and locals alike. From all the places you must visit in Java, this is the one place you cannot miss.
Yogyakarta is packed with all the intricacies of a good travel place with hidden treasures of bygone days, narrow alleys and main streets of delights, a vast array of delicious food to try, arts and cultures dotted everywhere, and rich histories. Most importantly it is near to two of the largest ancient temples of Buddhist and Hindhu, both equally magnificent and humbling in its own way. Being a city of half a million people, Yogyakarta is further packed in with travellers from all around the world, thanks to the tourist attractions that it offers. Come here and find out what it means by truly travelling Indonesia.
Where is it
Come here to discover the two ancient temple which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Indonesia – a foreboding unique circular Buddhist temple Borobudur and a magnificent legendary Prambanan. Not to mention the city is filled with arts and cultures and rich in history with Kraton Palace and the Water Castle. Plus the food here is the epitome of Javanese cuisine. The people is nice and the place well connected with the Transjogja bus.
When is the best time to go
Best time to go to Yogyakarta would be the dry season which is generally April to October so that you can get the best out of your time without having rain dampening your activities. But it is still possible to travel in the rainy season for it usually only rains in the evening so you can still do everything in the day. The day starts really early here with the city bustling by 6 am.
Where to stay
There are literally hundreds of budget hotels, guesthouses and hostels in Yogyakarta to choose from. Since it is a really popular tourist destination, you can be sure you will find good quality backpackers place or hostels around the town. Most of the budget hostels can be found at Sosrowijayan Street which is just next to Malioboro Street *. This place is by far the most strategic location to stay being in centre of all the tourist attractions. But another travelers’ favourite is Prawirotaman Rd, 3.5km south of the city center, which also boasts many hostels and to top it off good cafes for you to chill in.
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What to see
Being one of the top tourist place, Yogyakarta have many tourist attractions around the city. Here is some of what I thought the best tourist attractions you must see in Jogja.
Prambanan – well known ancient Hindu temple built in 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.
Kraton Palace– This is a palace from the days of the Sultans of Yogyakarta, with its own unique architecture and many heirlooms of the glory days. Be sure to get a guide to walk you through the palace (it’s free) so that you will understand and appreciate better the history and culture of Jogja.
Taman Sari (Water Castle) – This castle is a massive complex served as a former royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta and it has its various functions including a surreal bathing place. The blue pool stands starkly against the pink buildings making it almost surreal.
Candi Sambisari – among the many Candi (temples) scattered around Yogyakarta, this one stands out as it used to be buried five metres underground for hundred of years until the first slab of stone was discovered in 1966 and it had been slowly reconstructed since then. Moreover it is a good stopover on the way to Prambanan.
What to do
Shopping – Shopping in Yogyakarta will be a delight with the likes of shops along Jalan Malioboro and Pasar Beringharjo that offers so much of Indonesian goods like rattan products, silver jewelries, food, household items and handmade products.
Golf – Many tout that this is the finest place to play golf in Indonesia, with the famous 18 holes golf course located at the slopes of Mount Merapi. You can enjoy the scenic view of the mountains while playing golf, somewhat of a golfer’s paradise. This famous golf course is designed by the international firm Thomson Wolveridge & Perret.
What and where to eat
Gudeg – touted as the City of Gudeg, this dish is a must to try. It is an 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 flavours and textures to the right perfection. Get a taste of gudeg at the longest standing establishment – Gudeg Yu Djum.
Ayam Goreng – also famous for its fried chicken/ Free range chicken are meld with flavours of garlic and coriander and then fried to perfection. A place to try this is Ayam Goreng Mbok Berek
Nasi Langgi – it is something that locals eat most of the time, warm rice served with various dishes which you can choose your own. Get them at the small stall in Gandekan Street.
Angkringan – used to be sold by people using a hopper as storage, now it can be found in restaurants. This humble dish consisted of a small serving of rice with sambal and wrapped inside a banana leaf. The most popular angkringan is Angkringan Lik Man, also known as Angkringan Tugu as it is located near the Tugu station.
Kopi Joss – don’t forget also to try out this Javanase espresso dipped with burning coal, Indonesia’s answer to a good old coffee.
For slightly higher budget but worth it, you should try out Gajah Wong. I have to say the food here is up to standard and I might even go as far to name it the best restaurant in Yogyakarta. You can find the finest Javanese cuisine here. If you are at the right time, you may also be accompanied by the Javanese gamelan music which would be performed live.
How to get there
Fly into Yogyakarta’s Adisucipto International Airport, just 8km east of town, it is one of the very convenient airport hub. Garuda serve many frequent flights to here and also connects to Denpasar few times a day. Other Indonesian domestic airlines also fly here from Jakarta, Denpasar, Surabaya and other major cities. International flights like Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines flies to Yogyakarta from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Air Asia also fly from Singapore to Yogyakarta.
How to get around
Taxi – most taxis here are metered and normally trustworthy to use in comparison to Jakarta. Most fare around town would not cost more than 15,000 Rp.
One of the novel way to get around Yogyakarta is on a Becak, which you can feel the city as you go by. Remember to haggle the price before getting on.
The best bus to take here is Transjogja, which connects nearly every corner of Yogyakarta and even up to Prambanan. Look out for the bus stops, scattered around the town, to get on one. For the routes, you can always ask the attendant at the stop for assistance. A single trip usually cost around 3,000 Rp. When you are ready to get off, either flag at the driver/helper or else just knock on the windows like the locals do.
Ojek (motorbike taxi)
Many people are walking around especially on Malioboro, who would want to service you with their motorbike, just remember to haggle for the price before getting on any. It is a good choice to avoid traffic during rush hour.
You can always rent a car with a driver here, driving is not really recommended with the crazy Indonesian traffic. Rental may varies around 400,000 Rp for a full day.
Where to go nearby
Borobudur– 1 hour drive from Yogyakarta, this 9th century temple is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and is one of Indonesia UNESCO Heritage site. It consists 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.
Surakata (Solo) – a nearby town famous for its Batik.
Parangtritis beach – the nearest beach to Yogyakarta, the locals flock here during the weekend.
Stay safe here as petty crimes are rampant with such like pickpocket, especially on local bus. Also, watch out for many scams that prey on tourists here, the most famous it the one that tries to get you to see how students make batik in an art centre and then try to sell to you at crazy prices.