Almost everyone who visits Yogyakarta will indutibly visit the double UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the cultural wonders of Borobudur and Prambanan.
This just serves as a rough visual guide on what you can see, how to get to those places and how much it costs.
Borobudur is a beautiful and ancient Mahayana Buddhist temple complex, dating all the way back from the 9th century. It is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, Indonesia’s most visited attraction and also a UNESCO WORLD heritage site (1991).
The Borobudur Temple Compounds consists of three monuments: namely the Borobudur Temple and two smaller temples situated to the east of Borobudur. The two temples are Mendut Temple, whose depiction of Buddha is represented by a formidable monolith accompanied by two Bodhisattvas, and Pawon Temple, a smaller temple whose inner space does not reveal which deity might have been the object of worship. Those three monuments represent phases in the attainment of Nirvana. (UNESCO)
The temple consists of nine stacked platforms, six squares and three circulars, topped by a central dome. The temple is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa. (Wikipedia) The 60,000 m³- (2,118,880 ft³-) stone structure is 34.5 m (113 ft) tall and its base measures 123 x 123 m (403 x 403 ft). Just imagine how immense it is!
Borobudur is an amazing place to take pictures. With the morning light filtering past the misty atmosphere of the Buddhist stupas and a backdrop of Mount Merapi, other mountains and the lush green verdant plains of Kedu, what more could one ask for?
How to get there
You can always take the public buses to Borobudur from Jogja. It just takes a few changes which of course cost time. It is also not really much cheaper so maybe a direct taxi or a tour is actually better.
You will need to get to Borobudur Bus terminal. To get there, get to Jombor bus terminal first via the Trans-Jogja buses 2B and 2A (Rp 3,000). Then, take the bus to Borobudur which takes around an hour + and cost RP 25k one way. The Trans-Jogja staff and Jombor station staff are very friendly and will direct you to the correct buses. The bus takes about 60-90 minutes and will cost Rp 25,000 one way (pay on the bus). The bus will stop at Muntilan Bus Terminal for around 10-15 min. From Borobudur Bus Terminal walk 5 minutes to the south and reach the big parking lot of Borobudur Temple.
However, for us, we booked the student price the sunrise tour of Borobudur (typical package) for 95k RP. They will pick you up with breakfast at Borobudur (just a ticket at one of the stalls) but you will have to pay for entry into Borobudur. You will get up this hill at 5 to see the sunrise, which apparently allows you to see Borobudur.
You would have to walk up this hill for around 15 minutes. Please wear proper shoes because if it is wet, it becomes really muddy! It was misty for us so it was really underwhelming, but if you look at the picture and notice on the mid right side of the picture you see this spire protruding out, that’s apparently what we are looking for. So, if you didn’t get the see the view, just take a look at any postcards they usually have it.
They will then drive you to Borobudur at around 6 am where it opens. Most people take this tour or are trying to reach Borobudur at the earliest time so the crowds would already be there. Just try to rush in, the breakfast ticket is tempting but you can always have it later.
You might be able to avoid the crowds, but more often than not it will be crowded. Take your time to walk around and soak in the atmosphere at Borobudur because the Buddhist statues on top of the morning mist make it a very tranquil experience ( bar the number of people trying to feel the same way).
We had a stop at Mendut temple with some well-preserved statues. Breakfast is actually just some toast at the stalls. When you end Borobudur, you will go through this market where you can buy souvenirs as well as hell lot of food stalls around. You will most likely end by noon + and have time for the city of Jogja or to prepare for the Merapi Climb.
TIP: Always bring your student card. Be it ISIS or your country student card when you travel. For Prambanan, you can get a discount. This applies to almost everywhere you travel, you’ll never know! This applies to Borobudur too!
The temple compound is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia, and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia. To get there, simply take public bus Transjogja 1A for 3k Rp to Prambanan and walk around. I think the bus service opens at 6 am.
Once again, like most Indonesian sites, there are different costs for the locals and foreigners. So, if you followed my tip earlier, you can get around 100,000 RP for a student, if not pay maybe around 200k RP depending on the package. You can purchase the ticket now online! You have to wear the sarong, as well as a little green helmet while walking around in the dastardly heat.
It is at this time that Guides might be a good idea to hire, which cost around 75,000 RP, if not you will just be walking around going: “Okay, looks cool. Wow, looks ancient. Interesting”, before everything melds into familiarity because they all start to look the same without any context of history. For me, I’ll just hang around other people with guides to try to eavesdrop some stories.
I think I didn’t take pictures of the main temple site because I couldn’t stand the crowds. You will basically be jostling with lots of kids and youths while weaving in and out of the temples.