LAST EDIT: DEC 2019 YOGYAKARTA TRAVEL GUIDE 2019 | Things to Do in Yogyakarta | All right, let me start this with a little narrative that requires your five-minute attention span. If you can’t stomach a little storytelling, you can simply skip the first part and proceed to the next where the usuals—ranging from how to get to Yogyakarta and what to do in Yogyakarta—are answered.
Our story started with a lesson on pronunciation and holiday traffic: first, it is Jogja or Jogjakarta for the locals—a little trick in replacing the y sound with j; and second, negotiating with locals in Jakarta’s Pulo Gadung Bus Terminal could be trickier than pronouncing our destination: we waited for eight hours for a VIP bus that never arrived. To compensate, we were spared two seats in a cramped bus. There was chaotic holiday traffic by the bus window.
Sixteen hours later, we arrived in this central Java city facing the Indian Ocean.
Our arrival was a welcome respite. Sleep, more than anything else, was what we needed the most.
Our energies recharged, we joined a throng of holiday travelers in Jalan Malioboro, a major shopping district in the city, not to shop but to indulge in palatable pleasure. Our favorite place was the varied lesehan, open-air restaurants, that existed along the streets at night. We feasted on the variations of goreng and sambal.
We never lost sight of the reason why we were here in Jogja before heading to Mt. Bromo. We were here to be awed by the beauty and grandeur of the temples: Borobudur and Prambanan.
We were not disappointed. At all.
There was something to be said about temples. There was something to be said about Borobudur and Prambanan. Both were built in the 9th century. One is Buddhist, the other Hindu. It might be because of dynastic rivalry that these two coexisted in the same city. Borobudur was built by the Sailendra Dynasty, an advocate of Mahayana Buddhism; Pramban by Sanjaya Dynasty. From the perspective of a 21st century traveler from a Catholic country, these living testaments of two religions were nothing short of ironic and fascinating—Buddhist and Hindu temple in a country home to the largest Muslim population in the world. As a consequence, they were under threat of terrorism attacks by Muslim extremists.
These two temples, which made it into the sacred list of UNESCO heritage sites, shared some things in common.
Their stacks are divided into three realms that represent their respective cosmology and ideology.
We were and are still in the stage of Bhurloka in Hinduism, Kāmadhātu in Buddhism—the world of desires. We might die trying to reach the second stage: Bhuvarloka or Rupadhatu—the world of holy people and of glimpsing the light of truth. Svarloka or Arupadhatu is the gods’ world where the most sacred bathed in enlightenment.
But this knowledge was beyond us.
Wide-eyed, we walked Borobudur’s nine stacks, inspecting some narratives written on its 2,670 individual bas-reliefs. In Prambanan, we entered and exited several doors, without knowing that the narrative panels depicting two ancient Hindu literature, Ramayana and Bhāgavata Purāṇa, should be read from left to right—midst the crowd, we looked at how the sun glazed honey-like yellow on Prambanan’s tall walls.
Amidst the crowd, we sat on one of Borobudur’s stack’s edge, poured coffee from our travel thermos into our borrowed clay cups, and sipped our coffee slowly. Behind the foggy ranges, the dutiful sun slowly rose up.
Two places. One sunrise. One sunset. Two human beings. Countless beautiful moments unfolding before us. At Once.
Depending where you want to start your Indonesian trip, your Point A can be varying. In this case, I’m going to have Bali and Jakarta as Point A.
This is the most comfortable option you have. The flight only lasts for an hour and ten minutes. The best way to get to the airport and leave the airport is by Bluebird Taxi. Bluebird Taxi is the most trusted and honest taxi company you can find all over Indonesia. The drivers are polite and honest. The meter is accurate. The cost is about $15. Grab and Uber are now available in Indonesia as well. So whatever floats your boat. But we’re talking about comfort here, which we didn’t think of in our younger traveling years. Tsk. We did the uncomfortable Option 3.
There are two types of trains servicing the Jakarta-Yogyakarta route. The cheaper option, which is the business and economy class trains, depart from Pasar Senen station; while the executive trains—the more expensive ones—leave from Gambir. What’s the main difference between the two? The number of stops, primarily. The cheaper ones have more stops than the expensive one. But the service is quite the same. Locals highly suggest that you take the day train. It is a long ride and you might as well enjoy the view. The views in the countryside Java is picturesque and relaxing.
Our trip lasted for a month. We started in Jakarta and bused our way to Yogyakarta. On a holiday. We started our journey three days before Christmas, thinking it would not be a hectic holiday in Indonesia—which is a widely Muslim country. But to our surprise, they have a certain holiday, Cuti Bersama, on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is also declared a holiday. So be warned. Traveling on a holiday by train or bus can be stressful. The train was packed, which left us with bus options coz the flight tickets skyrocketed. With the holiday traffic, the bus ride lasted for sixteen hours in total. If you’re traveling on non-holidays, you can simply pop in at Giwangan Bus Terminal and book your ticket. But if your trip happens to be on holiday, book your tickets in advance. You can either do it online or go to a trusted travel agency or go to the terminal. We did the last option.
Well, since Bali is an island next to Java, the best option you have is to fly from Bali to Yogyakarta. Luckily, there are eight flights from Bali to Yogyakarta and vise versa. We did bus our way from Malang to Bali. I will write a different travel guide for that. After our short stay in Yogyakarta, we traveled to Malang and Mt Bromo.
Depending on your budget and the location you want to be in, Yogyakarta has a lot of comfortable, quirky, and creative accommodation.
| This is the ideal location. Malioboro Road is a lively place and has a lot of activities around. You can hop from one restaurant to the next or visit galleries after the other. There is a bustling night market you can check out as well.
Here are some of the hotels near Malioboro Road.
Well, if you are have the money to splurge on a fancy accommodation, here are the best luxury hotels, resorts, and villas in the city.
If you want to have a quiet holiday and not up for some late nightouts, then this area should be for you.
Talking about off-the-beaten accommodation in a rising destination like Yogyakarta. The accommodation in the area is not as many as the ones found in Malioboro Road.
The most comfortable way of getting around is using Grab, Uber, and Go-Jek. These apps are gaining popularity in Indonesia. Go-jek is the country’s local version of the global Uber and Asian-wide Grab. With Go-jek, you can order food and have it delivered to your place. Yes, it can do errands for you.
When it comes to taxis, Citra and Bluebird are the most trusted in the city.
Renting a motorbike is also possible. We did this. We simply asked our host to link us up to a local that rents out a motorbike.
Now this is quite a read. It is pretty long.
Visiting the Unesco World Heritage sites was our main reason we visited Yogyakarta in the first place.
Borobudur Temple is one of the grandest Buddhist temples I’ve seen so far. Better experience this place either early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the light casts beautiful silhouettes and shadows on the storied walls.
Entrance Fee: US$22/Rp 325,000 for adult non-Indonesians. US$10/Rp 190,000 for non-Indonesian registered students (proof, e.g. ISIC or university card is required).
Mode of Payment: You can either pay by credit card or cash.
Prambanan Temple, a Hindu temple, was built in the same century as the Borobudor Temple, out of rivalry, I supposed. Go read the narrative above. 😛
Entrance Fee: US$18
TIP: If you intend to visit both Borobudor and Prambanan, better buy the combo ticket. A combo ticket costs $30 while if you buy individual tickets for the two, it adds up to $38.00
Ratu Boko Palace might not be as grand as either Borobudor or Prambanan Temple, but it is worth a visit. The best time to visit is sunset time. But if your budget is kinda tight, then you might have to drop this one in your list.
ENTRANCE FEE: $25 for adult foreigners
Ullen Sentalu Museum is a great place if you want to have an educational adventure and know more about Yogyakarta’s history, culture, and quirkiness.
ENTRANCE FEE: IDR 30 000.00 | 2.25USD
Malioboro Street is a great place to walk around. There are many things to see and experience. The road has a lot of interesting sculptures you can check out as well. From shops to street food, from horse-riding to expensive restaurants, you can find them all by Malioboro Road.
Watu Giring, a remnant of stone mining, becomes a popular destination among local travelers. The mining area looks like ruins of a fallen empire.
Seribu Batu Songgo Langit is a place that is going to transport you to the mystical worlds. Be it the Hobbit or the curiously shaped houses, this place is for the kid in you.
Pinus Pengger (Hutan Pinus Dingo) makes you feel inspired. Twigs are transformed into different sculptures from a romantic nest to a gigantic hand.
Luweng Sampang Watery Curtains is a beautiful off-the-beaten destination in Yogyakarta, especially for waterfall chases out there.
Address: Jl. Juminahan, Sampang, Gedang Sari, Kabupaten Gunung Kidul, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55863
From Malioboro Road: an hour away by car or motorbike
Photo via @areajogja
Sri Gethuk Waterfall somehow reminds me a bit of Kuang Xi Waterfall in Laos. The cascades on smooth and flat riverbeds give me that nostalgia.
Address: Sri Gethuk Waterfall, Jl. Air Terjun Sri Gethuk, Bleberan, Playen, Gunung Kidul Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta 55861
From Malioboro Road: 1 hr and 20 mins
Photo via https://www.pegipegi.com
Air Terjun Kedung Kandang is your stairway to panting. Haha! Kidding aside, this waterfall has endless tiers of waterfalls. You better get ready to sweat out and be rewarded.
Address: Air Terjun Kedung Kandang, Nglanggeran, Patuk, Kabupaten Gunung Kidul, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55862
From Malioboro Road: 1 hour
Air Terjun Gedad is a beautiful sight. It cascades through the rocks, making it look like a magical creation.
Address: Waterfall Gedad, Dusun Gedad, Banyusoco, Playen, Kabupaten Gunung Kidul, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55861
From Malioboro Road: 1 hr and 35 mins
Curug Pulosari is a quick getaway from the city. Its drop has a natural pool where you can take a dip.
Address: Curug Pulosari, Krebet, Sendangsari, Pajangan, Sendangsari, Bantul, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55751
From Malioboro Road: 41 mins
Kaliadem is the best place if you fancy going for a quick hike.
Address: Jl. Raya Merapi Golf, Umbulharjo, Cangkringan, Kabupaten Sleman, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55583, Indonesia
From Malioboro Road: 1 hour
Gunung Api Purba Nglanggeran makes you pant and sweat. This is a favorite camping destination for many locals.
Address: Ancient Volcano Nglanggeran, Nglanggeran, Patuk, Gunung Kidul Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta 55862
From Malioboro Road: 1 hour and 10 mins
Batu Miring is one of the perfect places in Yogyakarta to witness the sunrise. That being said, it is ideal to visit this place early in the morning.
Address: Can’t find the coordinates on Google Maps
From Malioboro Road: It says it takes an hour and twenty minutes
Bukit Klangon, Merapi is another hiking and camping destinations. Local come here with packed food and tent and spend the night stargazing. In the morning, the volcano provides a lovely backdraft.
Address: Bukit Klangon, Glagaharjo, Cangkringan, Sleman Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta 55583
From Malioboro Road: 1 hr and 15 mins
Gedangsari Green Village is the place to be if you love ziplining and communing with nature.
Address: Green Village Gedangsari, Mertelu, Gedang Sari, Mertelu, Gedang Sari, Kabupaten Gunung Kidul, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55863, Indonesia
From Malioboro Road: 1 hr and 30 mins
Timang Beach is not for swimming but for the adrenaline junkie in you. People come here for one thing alone, and that is to ride the fragile-looking and old-school “gondola.” You pedal your way to the islet and back with the raging waters meters away from lapping you.
Yogyakarta is not really known for its beaches when you have Lombok and some parts of Bali. We haven’t been to any of these places, but with research done for this looooong Yogyakarta travel guide, there are some beaches worth visiting for some dips and laps.
Wedi Ombo Beach is not know for its neverending shoreline but for its tidal lagoons. This is a great place for a swim without the waves swallowing you up.
Address: Wediombo Beach, Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia
From Malioboro Road: 2 hrs and 1 5 mins
Wohkudu Beach is a little secret cove sandwiched between cliffs. I don’t think it is great for swimming, but it can be an awesome place for some camping adventure by the beach.
Address: Pantai Wohkudu, Dukuh Wiroso, Girikarto, Panggang, Girikarto, Panggang, Kabupaten Gunung Kidul, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55893, Indonesia
From Malioboro Road: 1 hr and 30 mins
Kukup Beach is the place to be if you want some nice time on the beach. This place is popular among local tourists.
Address: Kukup Beach, Jl. Pantai Selatan Jawa, Kemadang, Tanjungsari, Gunungkidul, Special Region of Yogyakarta 55000
From Malioboro Road: 1 hr and 40 mins
Nglambor Beach lets you experience a snorkeling adventure. So don’t forget to bring your snorkeling gear with you.
Address: Pantai Nglambor, Purwodadi, Tepus, Gunung Kidul Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia
From Malioboro Road: 2 hrs and 15 mins
Parangtritis Beach is the place for sunset lovers. With its wide stretch of fine black coastline, you have a spacious place to explore.
Address: Parangtritis Beach, Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia
From Malioboro Road: 1 hr
Watulawang, Gunungkidul is quite far from Malioboro, but it is a great place for salt-water lovers.
Address: Pulau Watulawang, Sidoharjo, Tepus, Gunung Kidul Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta
From Malioboro Road: 2 hrs
Ngrenehan Beach is the beach I wish we visited when we were in Yogyakarta. It looks small, inviting, and peaceful.
Address: Ngrenean Beach, Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia
From Malioboro Road: 1 hr and 50 mins
Jogan Beach is spectacular for one good reason. A waterfall directly drops to the raging sea. During low tide, you can take a show right under the waterfall.
Address: Pantai Jogan, Jalan Pantai Siung, Purwodadi, Tepus, Purwodadi, Tepus, Kabupaten Gunung Kidul, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55881
From Malioboro Road: 2 hrs and 20 mins
Klayar Beach is pretty far from the center of Yogyakarta. But if you are up for some adventurous road trip and an awesome dip in its wondrous waters, then definitely it is worth the drive.
Address: Klayar Beach, Kalak, Sendang, Donorojo, Sendang, Donorojo, Kabupaten Pacitan, Jawa Timur 63554
From Malioboro Road: 3 hours
Siung Beach is about 75 kms away from the heart of Yogyakarta. It is part of a different province. But if you are up for some adventure, nothing is going to stop you from doing it. Better yet, pack a tent and camp out for the night.
Address: Siung Beach, Purwodadi, Tepus, Gunung Kidul Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta
From Malioboro Road: 2 hours and 15 mins