Yogyakarta is one of the must-visit places in Java, Indonesia. It is also known as Jogjakarta or Jogja or Yogya (you decide!) by travellers and locals alike. Of all the places you must visit in Java, this is the one place you cannot miss.
If you have 3 days to spend in Yogyakarta, your itinerary would include an in-depth tour of this exciting city plus visiting the two famous temples of Borobudur and Prambanan.
Here is our suggested itinerary in Yogyakarta for 3 days.
Day 1 – Yogyakarta city center
It is good to stay near the city centre, as it helps quick access to all the tourist attractions in Yogyakarta. It includes the experience of living in a bustling city in Indonesia. If you arrive from an overnight train early, grab a typical Indonesian breakfast at one of the food mongers spread along Malioboro Street.
Also, check out the famous Pasar Beringharjo (market), where you can find souvenirs. Bring out your bargaining skills here!
Without wasting more time, head to the famous Keraton Palace, a well-maintained palace from the days of the Sultans. Here you will find unique architecture and heirlooms of the days of glory. Everyone will be accompanied by a local guide who can speak all kinds of languages, and it is indeed a good experience as it gives you insights into the rich history and culture of Jogja.
Next, head to Taman Sari (Water Castle), which is not far from the palace. Use a back way from the other side of the castle and try to sneak your way in through rundown defence 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 vast complex that used to be a former royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta used for various functions, including bathing.
After that, it is time to test your luck. Head to Alun-Alun Kidul (South Square park) in Yogyakarta, where an urban legend has it that anyone who successfully crosses between the two giant banyan trees blindfolded will get what they wish for. The fantastic thing is many people failed at this attempt despite the huge gap.
Day 2 – Museums, Gudeg, and chill at a cafe
One of the famous museums here in Yogyakarta is the Art museum. It features the works of Indonesia’s legendary painter Affandi, who spent most of his life here, producing many masterpieces while keeping them away from other painters.
Sneak in a lunch at a long-standing establishment Gudeg Yu Djum for possibly the best Indonesian dish ever called Gudeg. This unique Indonesian dish is a stew made from young jackfruit (nangka) with palm sugar, coconut milk, meat, garlic, and spices. The unique taste came from the slow melding of flavors and textures to the proper perfection.
After that, head to Sonobudoyo Museum, another museum worth visiting. Do not forget to watch the special leather puppet show featured here, available every day from 8- 10 pm. It is accompanied by Javanese Gamelan music and language. While waiting for the show, you can take a look at the collection of artifacts and collections of batik, keris, wayang, and antique weapons.
In the evening, return to Alun-alun Kidul park and find the new trend of bling-bling cars. They are small cars decorated with bold lighting that will bring you around the city. Many locals love to give this attraction a try.
For dinner, head to a traditional food stall north of Malioboro street in an Angkringan Lik Man alley. Angkringan is a typical roadside stall in Yogyakarta that you can find in almost every corner of the city. Lik Man is the most special as it has an anti-mainstream coffee to warm up your night, which is coffee served with flaming charcoal. You must also try the Nasi Kucing and other side dishes, such as chicken intestines satay, gizzard satay, quail eggs, and satay.
Day 3 – Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple
It is time for our day trip to the two ancient temples of Java, Indonesia. Borobudur temple is a 1-hour drive from Yogyakarta, and it is well worth the trip. Try to get there early to avoid the crowd and enjoy the place’s silent 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.
After visiting this temple, you can grab a quick lunch in Borobudur city before heading back to Yogyakarta but with a stop at the next temple – Prambanan Temple.
It is a well-known ancient Hindu Temple in Indonesia built during the 9th century for Trimurti as an expression that God is the Creator (Brahma), Preserver (Vishnu), and also the Destroyer (Shiva). It is also one of Indonesia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Southeast Asia’s most significant Hindu temple architecture.
At the same time, don’t forget to check out Candi Sewu, located just 15 minutes walk from Prambanan temple. This place is a good respite from the crowds of Prambanan, featuring many hidden structures and carvings for self-exploration. If you are here on the right day, there will be a Ramayana Ballet show, with 200 artists playing a role and dancing to classical Javanese music. This show does not run every day so check online if you want to catch it. The ticket price starts from IDR 125,000, and the show begins at 19.30.
With that is the end of your entire 3-day itinerary in Yogyakarta. There is always something more to explore in Yogyakarta if you have the time, there are a lot of cafes to check out in the city, and there are several options for day trips, such as Mount Merapi, Gunung Kidul, Jamblang Cave, or Mangunan Fruit Garden. Check out our Yogyakarta 5 days / 4 nights Itinerary for the expansion.
Best Accommodations in Yogyakarta
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 staying in Yogyakarta:
Luxury (from 150 USD)
- Rosseno Villa For those who want tranquillity and privacy, this villa lies just 15 minutes south of the city center, surrounded by rice fields. It comes with a private pool, all meals provided, and all-day use of a car and driver! Well worth the splurge here.
- Phoenix Hotel – McGallery by Sofitel Run by the well-known Sofitel, this hotel is for those who want luxury in the center of Yogyakarta. The hotel’s interior comes with a blend of grand Asian and European decor, with the rooms terraces overlooking a courtyard and pool.
Mid-range (50 – 150 USD)
- Novotel Yogyakarta For those who seek a well-known brand and comfort, this hotel is located strategically to visit tourist attractions. You can expect clean, modern rooms with a wide range of delicious breakfasts. It also comes with a pool. Definitely value for money.
- Dusun Jogja Village Inn For those looking for a nature getaway and some tranquility, this hotel is like an oasis in the middle of the city. Surrounded by tropical gardens of palm trees around a beautiful pool. It is also well located, just south of the main attractions area.
Budget (below 50 USD)
- Griya Wijilan Just nestled next to the Keraton Palace; this small and Javanese-designed boutique hotel is for those who know a good deal. The location is hard to beat! There is also a lovely terrace and garden for those who hang out to rest in between the hustle and bustle.
- Rumah Mertua Boutique Hotel For those looking for a boutique hotel that combines comfort with the budget, this hotel comes with Javanese-decorated rooms and a pool surrounded by romantic gardens. It is a 20-minute drive north of the city center in a tranquil setting.