When arriving to Yogyakarta either by plane or train, you will have to get to your accommodation as quick and easy as possible. For us that meant using the Grab app (check out our post about transportation in Indonesia) which is a quick, cheap and easy way to get around in Indonesia.
A totally difference experience is actually to walk with backpack and all to your accommodation. On the way you will directly be immersed in the Javanese culture and kind greetings of the local Javanese people. Smile and nod and you will be overblown by the positive reactions you will be returned. A great experience to start your stay in Yogyakarta with.
There are a lot of options when it comes to accommodation. Via the usual hotel booking website you can book hotels or hostels for a very flattering price. We chose to book a shared bedroom through Hostelworld called ‘Ostic House‘ which had amazingly good reviews. From the moment we stepped in the hostel, we got a very warm welcome and directly got maps and full-blown explanations about Yogyakarta restaurants, facilities, tourist spots, cultural performances and pretty much any else you could ever ask about. Definitely one of the best information we have ever got from a hostel! We would recommend this hostel to any traveler planning to stay in Yogyakarta. So let’s start with a rough itinerary of what we found were the best things to do:
In the morning have a walk to the Kraton palace . It is the cultural and political heart of Yogyakarta. The palace consists out of a series of luxurious halls, courtyards and pavilions built in the 18th century with European flourishes, such as Dutch-influenced stained glass. Daily performances in it’s inner pavilion are included in the price of entrance (about 1000 to 3000 IDR). Between 10 AM and 12 PM local groups perform different acts. For example a classical dance, a puppet show or Javanese poetry.
Take a Riksja (after haggling a good price) back to your accommodation or to one of the many good restaurants around in Yogyakarta. Our recommendations:
- Kedaikebun (Javanese food)
- Milas (Vegetarian indonesian, Indian food)
- Bu Ageng (Indonesian food)
- La pergola (Italian food)
- Via – Via (world kitchen, bakery for breakfast)
Take a stroll on malioboro street, the main shopping street of Yogyakarta. This is the most liveliest area especially in the weekends with things such as markets, music and art galleries. When you walk around here you will get the feeling of being a rockstar as not many Javanese have seen westerns before you will become a target of every camera around. Sometimes they will approach you to ask for a picture with them. Be polite and respectful as this is a compliment to you after you and cherish these moments because you won’t get this back home!
In the evening there is light parade in Alun Alun Kidul Park where a grand series of decorated cycle rickshaw’s go round the park. Also there is a cultural game between the two trees in the middle of the square. Indonesians believe that the person that can walk blindfolded from one side of the park to the other side without deviating their course, that means by going straight between the two massive trees, will have a pure heart and hence are a great choice for a partner. Apparently only 25% can manage to do it, so maybe you are one of the lucky ones? You can rent a blindfold for 5000 IDR. Don’t go to bed too late because perhaps you would want to book a sunrise tour to Borobudur the next morning which means getting up at 3 in the morning.
If you have booked a sunrise tour for Borubodur, which you can book at your hostel or other travel agencies in Yogyakarta, you will have to get up very early (3.30 am). We can really recommend going on the sunrise tour as it makes the experience more real. You will probably have two options. You can either watch the sunrise from ‘the hill’ or from in the temple. Our suggestion is to watch it from in the temple because of the Buddhist vibe you will experience. Also this way you can see the sun’s rays falling upon the statues heads creating quite a divine view. Watching from ‘the hill’ is the cheaper option but as previously said you will get more of your money’s worth if you go inside the park. Also you get a free breakfast in the park containing tea or coffee, fruit and some Javanese Pastries.
Borobudur is the world largest Buddhist Temple in the world and is also a UNESCO heritage site. The temple consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. It has 504 Buddha statues where the central dome is surrounded by 72 of them, each seated inside a perforated stupa (a mound-like dome structure with many holes in it).
On the way back to your accommodation you will drive through rice paddy fields and get a feeling of what the Javanese countryside is like. The drive there and back takes about one hour and you will most probably get time to walk around in Borobudur from 5 until 8.00 or 8.30 getting you back to your accommodation around 10.00.
Have a rejuvenating lunch and perhaps a ‘siesta’ in order to get ready to visit the Prambanan Temple site in the late afternoon/early evening.
The Prambanan temple site is, like Borobudur, also a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia and one of the biggest in South-east Asia. Although it’s surroundings are not as impressive as Borobudur nature-wise, the buildings itself are still very well preserved and look impressive at sunset. Walk around the three different squares and go back to the Shiva Temple area for sunset.
You can easily do this trip by leaving around 2.30 PM so you can make the sunset in Prambanan with ample time to spare. From Yogyakarta center it’s about a 45 minute ride. You could either go there by local bus from the downtown bus stop. Simply take a Route 1A or 1B bus to the final stop, Terminal Prambanan. Local bus tickets cost 3,600 IDR / €0.20. Another option is to order a Grab and it will take you there for less than 5 euro by car (definitely preferable if you are with more than one person) or motorbike when travelling solo.
Have dinner in one of our recommended restaurants or go explore the many other delicious Indonesian dishes. If you want to continue your journey through Java we would recommend you to buy your train tickets one day in advance if possible. Especially for long train rides e.g the 8 hour journey from Yogyakarta to Probolinggo which you will need to travel through if you would like to visit Mount Bromo.(read how to visit Bromo by yourself here)
Prepare yourself for the long but scenic train ride to your next destination. Preferably in executive class which is more comfortable but a little bit more expensive than in economy class. You can also decide to take a flight from Yogyakarta to Surabaya for example but in our opinion you will miss out on that authentic Java experience.
We hope that was useful, let us know if it was or simply if you wanna holla at us!