Sights near Yogyakarta include traditional villages like Kasongan, a village of pottery makers that produce traditional as well as modern ceramic handicrafts. You can climb up the active volcano Mt. Merapi, or enjoy eco-tours visits to rural villages like Candirejo near Borobudur, or Kembang Arum in Sleman, . Trips to Mt. Merapi are often not happening because of eruption danger. Kaliklatak (on the slopes of Mt. Merapi) is a privately owned spice plantation where you can see cloves growing on trees; cinnamon growing as the bark of trees; pepper hanging on vines; and nutmeg, a golf ball-size pear-like fruit hanging off of broad leaf trees. By far to biggest attraction in the area is Borobudor Temple (40 kilometers to the northwest), one of the world’s most outstanding Buddhist monuments, dating from about the ninth century. Almost as impressive is Prambanan Temple (15 kilometers east of Yogyakarta).
Imogiri (17 kilometers southeast of Yogyakarta) is the official cemetery of the Yogyakarta and Solo royal families. The tombs are built within three courtyard and sit on top of a hill that can be reached by climbing 345 stone steps. It was established by Sultan Agung and inaugurated with his mausoleum in 1645. His tomb and the tombs of the other royal family members are pilgrimage destinations for mystical Javanese Muslims. Imogiri can be reached by bus. If you are not wearing a sarong, you'll have to borrow one at the entrance gate to get in. Visitors are only allowed to enter the smaller courtyards housing the tombs of the princes. The cemetery is open on Monday 9.00am to 12.00pm and Friday 1.00pm to 4.00 pm The cemetery is closed during the Muslim month of Ramadan.
Magelang (on the road from Semarang to Yogyakarta) is the home of Taman Kyai Langgeng, a cheesy tourist park with dinosaur statues, and go cart tracks, fishing ponds, etc. One of the main activities you can do here is tubing on the Elo River in Magelang. The Elo River is regarded as fun and somewhat challenging, yet safe if you are a reasonably good swimmer. The trip takes about 2½ — 3 hours to complete. The course has been graded between Grade II and III, meaning that it is safe enough for beginners. The put in place is not that far from Borobudur, and approximately 30 minutes from Yogyakarta. Among the many tubing operators operating out of Magelang are Mendut Rafting and Jogja Adventure
Candirejo Village (three kilometers southeast of Borobudur in Magelang) is quaint town, where ancient traditions are still followed. The village is set amidst lush green fields and tropical rainforests but is kind of touristy. Visitors can experience and participate in a variety of cultural attractions and activities. Many homemade handicrafts and souvenirs are also made here, such as beds, benches and bookshelves of bamboo, and bags and mats made of pandanus; all of which are available for purchase. The word Candirejo is a combination of two Javanese words: Candi and Rejo. Candi means temple, but it can also mean stone, and Candirejo happens to be quite a stony area. The word Rejo means fertile, so when put together, Candirejo got its name as the land that was full of stones, but yet remained fertile. Candirejo has over 50 homestays open to visitors. Several tour packages include cooking classes featuring traditional cuisines and snacks. For more information, contact the Candirejo Tourism information Center: Koperasi Desa Wisata Candirejo, Sangen Candirejo, Borobudur, Magelang, Central Java 56553, Tel. +62 — 293 — 788608, Mobile: +62 — 8175414855 (Ian), +62 — 81328808520 (Tatag), + 62 — 811252169 (Wawan)
Jatijarjar Cave (30 miles west of Kebumen) is of both historical and natural interest.. Inside is the Kamandaka statue as well as good stalactite and stalagmite formations. Krakal hot water springs are located eight miles northeast of Kebumen. Banuraden (14 kilometers from Purwkerto) is an outstanding mountain resort on the slopes of Mount Slamet. Occupying a fine site on the slopes, 650 meters above sea level, it is known for it cool air, nice gardens, pines forest, hot springs, ponds and bungalow-style hotels.
The easiest way to get to these places is to hire a car and driver of go as part or an organized tour. There are plenty of tourist agents in Yogyakarta, and Solo that will make arrangements for you.
Borobudur (42 kilometers from Yogyakarta) is the largest Buddhist monument in the world. Built in the A.D. 8th century, it ranks with Pagan in Myanmar and Angkor Wat in Cambodia as one of the great archeological sites of Asia, if not the in world. The eminent Dutch archaeologist A.J. Bernet Kempers called it "a Buddhist mystery in stone. An actual meeting of Mankind and the Holy. A shining tower of the law." It’s name is derived from the Sanskrit word "Vihara Buddha Uhr" which means "Buddhist monastery on the hill." Borobudur is located in Muntilan, Magelang, in the Kedu Valley, in the southern part of Central Java. It is about 100 kilometers from Semarang.
Borobudur is a square 123 meters (403 feet) on each side and 32 meters (105 feet) high.Constructed of unmortared grey andosite and volcanic basalt stone and surrounded by lush green fields of the Kedu Plain and tourist infrastructure, it is about the size of a stadium, and took about 80 years to build. Four large volcanos, including the often-smoking Mount Merapi, and numerous hills are visible in the distance. The temple’s design in Gupta architecture reflects India's influence on the region, yet there are enough indigenous scenes and elements incorporated to make Borobudur uniquely Indonesian. The monument is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues.
Borobudur is a step pyramid, built around a natural hill, comprised of a broad platforms topped by five walled rectangular terraces, and they in turn are topped by three round terraces. Each terraces is outlined with ornaments and statues and the walls are decorated with bas reliefs. More than two million blocks of volcanic stone were carved during its construction. Pilgrims have traditionally walked around the monument in a clockwise manner moving up each of the five levels, and in process covering five kilometers.
Prambanan Temple (15 kilometers east of Yogyakarta) is the largest and most beautiful Hindu temple in Indonesia.. Named after the village where it is located, it was built in the 9th century 50 years after Borubudur and is known locally as the Temple of the Slender Virgin (Roro Jonggrang).Prambanan contains many lavish decorations and sexually-suggestive sculptures, scenes from the Ramayan and motifs that mix Hindu and Buddhist symbols. It has eight shrines which lie among green fields and villages. Architecturally, it is sort of like Angkor Wat with a central artichoke-shaped stupa surrounded by four smaller ones.
The three main temples are dedicated to Hindu gods Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The biggest temple is dedicated to Shiva —the destroyer, and the two smaller ones which flank it on the east and west are dedicated to Brahma — the creator and Vishnu — the sustainer. The tallest temple of Prambanan—the main Shiva temple—is a staggering 47 meters (130 feet) high. Its peak is visible from far away and rises high above the ruins of the other temples.The temple across from the Shiva temple contains a fine image of a Nadi bull and the Lingga Batara Siwa stone, a symbol of fertility. . The main temple of Shiva houses the magnificent statue of a four-armed Shiva, standing on Buddhist-style lotus blossoms. In the northern cell is a fine image of Durga, Shiva’s consort. Some believe the Durga image is actually that of the Slender Virgin, who according to legend was turned to stone by a giant she refused to marry. The outsides are adorned with bas-reliefs depicting the Ramayana story.
Prambadan is surrounded by the ruins of 240 small “guard “ temples. Altogether there are 400 temples in the Prambadan area. Most are within five kilometers of Prambanan village and are generally not visited except by archeology nuts. But that is not to say they are not without merit. A good way to explore them is to rent a bicycle. The proximity of Prambanan and Buddhist Borobudur temple tells us that on Java, Buddhism and Hinduism lived peacefully next to one another.
Parangtritis: Mystical Beach and Home of the Southern Sea Queen
Parangtritis(28 kilometers south of Yogyakarta) is a mystical beach where lush green scenery and jagged cliffs clash and merge with a glistening volcanic black sand beach with crashing waves and seas that are meant to be looked at not swum in. The mystical side of this beach is particularly present at night, when the South Cross is visible overhead and star light shines on the beach’s silvery-black dunes. There are many local myths about this area. This whole region is filled with beaches, caves, lakes, paths and gravesites, each with their own mystical story.
According to legend, Parangtritis is the domain of Kanjeng Ratu Kidul, Queen of the Southern Ocean who is not known for being welcoming to newcomers. For this reason the Javanese will not wear green, especially yellow-green around here as it’s believed that this attracts the Queen. People here hold great respect for the power of the Queen. Each year at Parangkusumo, one kilometers. west of Parangtritis, the Sultan of Yogya makes ceremonial offerings to the Queen, believed to be the Sultan’s mystical consort. Many Javanese give offerings to sea queen and ask her for aid, guidance and blessings.
Walking along the shoreline is the best way to enjoy at the landscape here. The roaring ocean currents here are very rough and strong so swimming is very dangerous and not recommended. While you can rest at one of the makeshift shelters which line the beach and for a small charge, you can sit and enjoy some shade. Nearby Parangtritis are the hot springs, Parangwedang where, for a small fee, you can take a 15 minute dip. The easiest way to get to Parangtritis beach is to drive or hire a car and driver from Yogya. It can be reached in two ways, through Kretek village or through a more rugged road that runs through Imogri and Siluk villages.
Mount Merapi (25 kilometers north of Yogyakarta, near Borobudur) is by some reckonings the most active of Indonesia's 127 active volcanos. Located in Central Java, it is a 2968 meter-high (9,737 foot-high) stratovolcano with steep slopes and an almost perfect cone shape. According to volcanodiscovery.com: “It erupts on average every five to ten years and is feared for its deadly pyroclastic flows - avalanches of hot rocks and gas that are generated when parts of new lava domes constructed during eruptions in the summit crater collapse and slide down the mountain's steep flanks.” The name "Merapi" comes from the old Javanese language and means "the one making fire". It is a popular name for volcanoes: another volcano with the same name Merapi is in the Ijen Massif in East Java and similarly one called volcano "Marapi" lies on Sumatra Island.
The United Nations cites Merapi as one of 16 volcanoes worldwide that pose especially serious threats because of their activity and vicinity to major population centers. Despite this many people continue to live on the volcano’s flanks and farm the fertile soil. Merapi dominates the landscape immediately north of the city of Yogyakarta in one of the world's most densely populated areas. Despite its frequent eruptions, Mt. Merapi is very central to the lives of the Javanese people and kings. For through its eruptions Merapi spews lava, ash and minerals to the surrounding areas. These provide nutrients for the soil.
Merapi has determined the lives of kings and kingdoms. In the early 11th century, the once mighty ancient empire of Mataram mysteriously disappeared, and power suddenly shifted to East Java. Scientists surmise that a violent eruption of Merapi in A.D. 1006 was behind the change. This massive eruption also buried the nearby Borobudur temple .
Every year, the Sultan of Yogyakarta makes an offering of his hair and fingernail clippings to Merapi. The volcano plays an important part in the accepted cosmos of the Javanese sultans. The Kraton of Yogyakarta faces the mountain in one direct line. Merapi is also guarded by spiritual “guards” who give offerings to the mountain. Annually, on the anniversary of the Sultan’s coronation, offerings (labuhan) are brought from the Kraton of Yogyakarta to Mt. Merapi, together with similar offerings carried to the Indian Ocean to the south, to appease the spirits of the mountain and the sea, in order to bring welfare to the inhabitants of Java.
Jomblang Vertical Cave
Jomblang Vertical Cave (50 kilometers from Yogyakarta, or about 10 kilometers from Wonosari) can be explored by novice cavers. Located in Jetis Wetan Village, Semanu Sub-district, Gunung Kidul Regency, it was featured in the CBS TV reality game show, “The Amazing Race” in 2011.
Jomblang Cave is one of hundreds of Caves found within Gunug Kidul. The cave is a vertical collapse doline type which was formed by the geological process when the soil and all vegetations on it plunged beneath the surface of the earth some thousands of years ago. The collapse created a sinkhole of approximately 50 meters in diameter which became the mouth of the cave. The sinkhole is known to locals as “Luweng”, thus the cave is also known locally as Luweng Jomblang.
To descend down Jomblang Cave, one must have sufficient caving ability, particularly the Single Rope Technique (SRT) or using single rope to ascend and descend vertically. However for beginners or those with little caving experiences, there are many professional cavers who can guide and assist to reach the floor of the cave. Cavers can choose from 4 different tracks with varying heights. The first is known as the VIP track which features 15 meters of a “walkable” steep slope followed by about 20 meters SRT descend. This track is known as the most common and easiest, hence the name VIP. Other 3 tracks present higher challenges since visitors must descend the SRT line from higher altitudes: 80 meters for track A, 60 meters for Track B, and 40 meters for track C.
While the trip down to the bottom of the cave offers more than unforgettable adventure, the grand prize awaits down below at the bottom of the cave. Since sunshine can still penetrate the floor of the cave, amazingly one can find lush large trees and also mosses, ferns, and shrubs decorating the cave’s interior. This so called primeval forest is formed by the initial vegetations that continue to grow after its plunge episode and have attained great age without significant disturbance, thereby exhibiting unique ecological features.
500 meters away from the base of Jomblang through the natural corridor, more fascination awaits at the base of Grubug Cave. Here, two huge green-brownish stalagmites stand fascinatingly on the cave’s floor. Around high noon, the sunshine penetrating the eternal darkness creates an amazing spectacle that is unlikely found elsewhere. The beautiful ray of light from the top of the cave that illuminates stalactites and stalagmites as well as the cave floor is so fascinating that some even call it heavenly light.
North to the stalagmite boulder one can find an underwater river. During the dry season, one can explore this river by using rubber boat following the current. The river connects the base of Grubug Cave with several other caves within the Karst Mountain Range. However, during the wet season the current tends to be strong and the water level significantly increases. Thus, boating in the wet season is not advisable. An operator for caving this particularly deep cave is, among others, Dusun Merapi.For more information contact: dusunmerapi.com
Dieng Plateau (3 hours from Yogyakarta and 4 hours from Semarang) is where some of the oldest Hindu temples in Java are found. These small monuments are situated, unbelievably enough, in the crater of a volcano amidst sulphurous fumes. In July 2003, Dieng Volcano produced its strongest eruption in 10 years. It spewed out so much lava people living in the area were put on the highest alert. The name ‘Dieng’ means ‘Abode of the Gods’
Most of the 400 or so temples on the plateau were built in the 8th and 9th centuries, making them some of the oldest historical monuments in Indonesia. They were abandoned around the same time as Borubudur and were not rediscovered until the 1950s when a flooded valley was drained. Although they are of great archeological importance they are not that interesting visually. The temples that are in best condition like boxes. The main attraction of the area is the volcanic and mountain scenery. Whitewater rafting trips, with level III and IV rapids, are offered on the picturesque Serayu River.
The Dieng Plateau is quite high at 2093 meters. It is a good idea to do most of your walking and looking in the early morning before the afternoon mists arrive. There are lovely walks to beautiful lakes, hot springs, bubbling mud pools and steaming vents. Each of the small temples is named after figures in the epic tale of the Mahabarata such as Bima, Gatutkaca, Arjuna and Srikandi. It is believed that these temples used to serve as residences of Hindu priests who would spread Hindu teachings. The Candi Arjuna (Arjuna Temple) complex holds the oldest Hindu temples in Java Although many parts of the temple are little more than ruins, the Shiva temple of worship, built in A.D. 809, still stands. There is a small museum with some of the better reliefs and statues retrieved from the site.
Most people visit the Dieng Plateau (116 kilometers from Yogyakarta) as part of a two-day, overnight tour from Yogyakarta. From villages on the plateau, some of which have guest houses, villagers can show you the way to a colored sulphur lake, one of the best restored temples and a couple of craters in a three hour walk. Other lakes and craters take more time and trouble to get to The road up to the top of the plateau winds through tobacco plantations and beautiful mountain scenery.
Wonosobo (one hour from the Dieng Plateau) is the town closest to Dieng Plateau Located at 900 meters and home to 25,000 people, it has a number of guest houses and restaurant and is about a three hour drive from Yogyakarta. Many visitors stay in Wonosobo and take a day trip to Dieng The easiest way to get to Dieng plateau is by car. It is located in Central Java, around a three hour drive from Yogya or only 25 kilometers from Wonosobo. It is advisable to leave for the plateau early to reach the site before noon. Because of the altitude, the plateau is often covered in mist by early afternoon. By public transport, you can take a bus from Yogya to Magelang and change for Wonosobo. From Wonosobo, take a minibus to the village of Dieng. The sites on the plateau can be reached on foot from the village of Dieng. If you are driving, parking is available near the main sites. The Dieng Plateau Theater provides complete information on the different spots to visit and latest happenings around Dieng. It is located on the slopes of Sikendil Hill, near to Tenaga Warna.
Coloring-Changing Lake of the Dieng Plateau
One of the greatest attraction of the Dieng Plateau are its lakes: There are sulphuric ones with green and yellow hues as well as ones with the pristine clear waters such ‘mirror’ lake.The mirror lake is particularly impressive as it offers a perfectly reflective image of the landscape. While sadly, the impact of logging can be seen as many of the trees surrounding the lake have been cut down, it still remains an impressive natural phenomenon.
Diengs Telaga Warna means the “Color-Changing Lake.” Located in the Kejajar District about an hour’s drive from Wonosobo, it is a fascinating place in its own right plus it is surrounded by beautiful natural forest The mystical atmosphere created when the white mist rolls in the afternoon and envelopes the tall, shady trees which surround the lake is magical. FromTelaga Warna you can also visit the Pengilon Lake, Goa Semar, Goa Jaran, and the Sikendang Crater.
The lake is called Telaga Warna due to a natural phenomenon that causes the water of the lake to change in fluctuating colors. At different times it can be green, yellow, purple or even a rainbow of colors. This phenomenon occurs because of the high sulfur content in these waters. When the sun hits the water it reflects in varied colors. You can also see an area in the center of the lake where the water appears to be bubbling. This is also due to its high sulfur content. It is not a good idea to swim in the lake, again due to its high sulfur content.
On the side of the lake is a small balcony to sit and relax. At another location you can where you can right next the lake’s edge. You can also climb to the top of one of the hills bordering the lake along a narrow trail and view the entire lake. The path is very narrow, with just enough room for one person to pass at a time. The climb is not so steep, but is slippery enough since the Dieng area is known for its high rainfall. After a few hundred meter climb, you will reach the top of the hill. The lake is often purple around the edges, green towards the middle, and light green at the center. From this hill, you will also see another beautiful lake called Telaga Pengilon, meaning “:Reflection Lake” so named because its waters are so clear and mirror kile that you can see a perfect reflection of yourself in it. Some local residents believe that this lake can reveal the inner feelings of the human heart. Further along Prau Mountain and Pakuwaja Mountain form a circle as if created to protect these two beautiful lakes from any harm.
Around Telaga Warna, there are several ancient Dieng caves worthy of a visit such as the Gua Semar Pertapaan Mandalasari Begawan Sampurna Jati. In the front of this cave is a statue of a woman holding a water pitcher. This cave also has a small pool whose water is believed to cure diseases and make the skin more beautiful and reduce the appearance of ageing. Other caves that may be of interest are Gua Sumur Eyang Kumalasari, and Gua Jaran Resi Kendaliseto. The caves around this area are often used as a place for meditation.
Jumping Crater and Dreadlocked Children of Dieng Plateau
Sikidang Crater has traditionally been used by sulfur miners but is now the main attraction in area with so many craters in some places you to be careful where you step. In some places the craters are filled with bubbling water, and the smell of sulfur is very strong. Despite its strong odor, the steam that contains sulfur is believed to smoothen the skin and eliminate acne. Among the many small craters, the Sikidang is the largest. It is full of bubbling grey mud, and is usually engulfed in clouds of white steam. The bubbling liquid is said to have a temperature of 98 degrees Celcius. The name Sikidang is taken from the word "kidang" the Javanese word meaning deer, and so named because the crater moves, jumping from place to place like a deer. A large hole in front of today’s crater was the former main crater before it got "bored" and “jumped” somewhere else.
Dieng Plateau means “Place of the Gods” and many myths are still believed by the local people of Dieng. One myth is the phenomenon of “anak gimbal” (or dreadlocked children). For an unknown reason the hair of many children in this region suddenly turns into dreadlocks. Although born with normal hair, just like other children, when the kids suffer a sudden high fever they grow dreads on their heads. This usually happens around the ages of 1 or 2 years old.
Scientific studies of this phenomena have not found a logical reasons why this happens. Most people believe that the children are descendants of "The Pepunden", the ancestral founders of Dieng. The dreadlocks however, do not remain forever on the children's head. During a traditional ceremony, the hair is cut off because of the belief that if the dreadlocks remain until the child grows up, they could bring disaster for the children or their family. The cutting process is done with great care. The child determines the time. If the hair is cut without the child’s wish, the hair will continue to grow although cut off many times. Every August, Sura in the Javanese calendar, there is a mass procession ritual at the Arjuna Temple complex. Dreadlocked children are bathed with water from seven springs, paraded and pelted with yellow rice and coins. The dreadlocked hair is cut by traditional leaders who then throw it away into the Telaga Warna (Colorful Lake).
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Indonesia Tourism website ( indonesia.travel ), Indonesia government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020