Top 12 Things to Do in Yogyakarta

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Considering what to do in Yogyakarta, also known interchangeably as Jogjakarta or Jogja, is no problem with its many tourist attractions. 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 here.

Wedged strategically between two powerhouses of ancient temples – Prambanan, the magnificent Hindu temple, and Borobudur, the renowned 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:

Be awed by the magnificent Prambanan Temple

Candi Prambanan (temple), 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 the cheapest and best option to visit Prambanan. It is one of the Indonesia UNESCO World Heritage Sites and one of Southeast Asia’s largest Hindu temple architecture.

Prambanan  at Yogyakarta

Prambanan at Yogyakarta

Catch the sunlight bursting through the roof of Jomblang Cave

Jomblang cave is truly an of its kind experience where you will be lowered down via a rope into the cave, including trekking through to find yourself bathed in sunlight rays through the cave’s roof. The light of heaven shines through the foliage giving a magical sense. A tip for this tour is to bring a shower cap and a pair of socks, as you will have to use the helmet and the rubber boots provided there. Many people couple this trip with a visit to Prambanan Temple.

Unearth the secrets of Sewu Temple

Located just a 10-15 minute walk from Prambanan temple, it is worth a visit if you want to be greeted with eerily captivating temple ruins. 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, but 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 interpret the place, its structures, and its carvings.

Candi Sewu (temple) at Yogyakarta

Candi Sewu (temple) at Yogyakarta

Admire the reconstructed puzzle of Sambisari Temple

By no means in any way, stand out from the shadows of the above temple, but it is still a good stopover when you are making your way to Prambanan. Sambisari temple was buried five meters underground for hundreds of years until the first slab of stone was discovered in 1966. This temple which took more than 20 years to excavate and reconstruct, seems to stand as a bold testament to many archaeologists’ best effort in restoring the glory of the past.

Candi Sambisari (temple) at Yogyakarta

Candi Sambisari (temple) at Yogyakarta

Shop at Jalan Malioboro and Pasar Beringharjo

Yogyakarta is almost a shopping haven, too, after Bandung’s likes, with many cheap things to buy. On the streets of Malioboro and at the Beringharjo market, you will find lots of stalls selling anything you can think of, from clothes to bags to rattan products and silver jewelry, food, and anything you thought you might find in Indonesia. The best places to stay in Yogyakarta are also situated around here, find hotel deals at Malioboro Street *.

Jalan Malioboro at Yogyakarta

Jalan Malioboro at Yogyakarta

Try one of the best Indonesian food – Gudeg

Gudeg is the most famous dish in Yogyakarta, making it the 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 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. Some tours take you to Mt Merapi for a hiking day trip from Yogyakarta.

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 get in, you will find yourself in mazes of underground water holes, secret chambers, gardens, and pools. This castle is a huge complex that used to be a former royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta used for various functions, including bathing place. You heard me right, the bathing place 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 the 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 can speak all kinds of languages. Though you may wary of the idea of a guide, you will 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 says that if you managed to walk between the trees while blindfolded, you would get what you wished for. Many entrepreneurial Indonesians are 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 have 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

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 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 sit in a corner all tucked in yourself.

Cafes at Jalan Prawirotaman, Yogyakarta

Cafes at Jalan Prawirotaman, Yogyakarta

Venture out to the serene Borobudur

Technically not in Yogyakarta, but many will do this day trip (only 1-hour drive from Yogyakarta to Borobudur) or a few day’s trips 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 8 am. This is how to best enjoy it when it is quiet, with just a trickle of travelers like you who appreciate the silence and marvel at the beauty with respect.

This 9th-century temple is an Indonesia UNESCO Heritage site and one of the largest Buddhist temples in the world, consisting of six square platforms with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. Thousands of Buddhists make their pilgrimage here in Borobudur during Waisak day.

Borobudur at Central Java Indonesia

Borobudur at Central Java


Best Accommodations in Yogyakarta

Booking.com is a good choice as most of the bookings can be canceled right up to the trip, allowing flexibility. While Agoda.com * has one of the most extensive listings in Asia with great deals.

In Yogyakarta, staying in the city center would help to save time in visiting all the must-visit places, but if you are looking for also some relaxation, just a little off-center to the north or south are some great choices. Here are a few of the best accommodations that we recommend for a stay in Yogyakarta:

Luxury (from 150 USD)

Mid-range (50 – 150 USD)

Budget (below 50 USD)

Travel Tips:
1. Book the best accommodations – Booking.com* or Agoda.com *
2. Find the cheapest flight options that suit you – Omio.com * or 12Go.asia *
3. Rent a car in advance and make your trip more convenient – Rentalcars *
4. Make the most of the time that you have! Exciting excursions, professional guides, and more – Klook *

Versi Bahasa Indonesia10 Tempat Wisata Jogja yang Wajib Dikunjungi

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