The beautiful city of Yogyakarta is a cultural haven for artists, dancers and anyone who dabbles in the arts. Its rich traditional arts and cultural heritage attracts people from as far away as Europe and beyond. During the 16th and 17th-century it was the capital and the seat of the Javanese Mataram empire. It was also the capital of Indonesia once in the late 1940s during the war of independence against the Dutch. With a colorful heritage and culture, a visit to Yogyakarta is a must when you traverse across the island of Java. Here are the top 12 best things to do in Yogyakarta:
A visit to these two UNESCO World Heritage sites are a must if you’re here in Yogyakarta. The Borobudur Temple is a 9th-century Buddhist temple and is currently the biggest Buddhist temple in the world. The temple is adorned with over 504 Buddha statues and 2,672 relief panels. Nestled between the mountains in Magelang, it is quite a sight to behold during sunrise.
The other prominent temple complex is the Prambanan Temples. Also built during the 9th-century, it is not a Buddhist temple but a Hindu one. The temple complex is the largest in Indonesia and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia. The temple was erected and dedicated to the Trimurti - the Hindu lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Unleash your inner Indiana Jones as you explore these ancient temples.
Address: Jl. Badrawati, Borobudur, Magelang, Jawa Tengah, Indonesia
Website: Borobudur Temple
Address: Bokoharjo, Prambanan, Sleman Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Website: Prambanan Temple
Borobudur Temple & Prambanan Temple Tour
Get physical and unleash the adventurer in you as you venture into a heart pumping 2-hour caving experience at the Jomblang Cave. The Jomblang Cave is part of an underground cave system that covers the nearby mountain called Gunung Kidul. The decent into the cave is about 30 meters (98 feet) through a sinkhole-like structure from ground level. You will need a huge amount of concentration and hopefully, not be afraid of heights.
After the adrenaline-fueled experience, you’ll be driven to Sandranan Beach where you can enjoy the day admiring the magnificent white sand beach along the coast of Yogyakarta. You can also opt to snorkel but it is at your own expense and not included in the tour. After relaxing and swimming by the beach, you’ll be driven back to the city.
Address: Pacarejo, Semanu, Gunung Kidul Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta 55893, Indonesia
Address: Dusun Pulegundes II, Desa Sidoarjo, Tepus, Sidoharjo, Tepus, Kabupaten Gunung Kidul, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55881, Indonesia
Caving and Beach Tour in Yogyakarta
Embark on this adventure and become a fisherman for a day! Start by catching your bait, putting on the bait onto the hooks, and then casting and catching fish and even lobsters! This is a brilliant opportunity to explore the waters of Ghesing beach and the Indian Ocean. Plus, you get to enjoy your fresh catch for lunch. This is an all-day activity which includes breakfast at the beach, lunch on board the fishing vessel, fishing rods and equipment, safety gears and life jackets, sea sickness pills (as necessary). You will have an English-speaking guide and transport from your hotel to the site is provided.
Fishing in the South Sea with local fishermen
Price: 43 USD
Duration: 8 hours
In the ancient times, Jemparingan, the Javanese art of archery, was an activity for the elite and the nobility. While most game of archery are played in standing position, Jemparingan is performed seated sideways, in a cross-legged position while holding a bow and arrow and wearing the traditional Javanese costume. The target is a small white and red rubber stick, suspended by ropes at neck height. Join this unique workshop with our seasoned bowman. Discover why the sport is considered a meditation activity, a training of character and a test of discipline. This is a great way to experience for yourself how to aim and shoot your arrows like a true Javanese. Make sure you wear comfortable clothes and sunglasses for protection.
Javanese Archery: A cultural heritage that is sure to fascinate
Price: 21 USD
Duration: 3 hours
5. Taman Pintar Science Park
Taman Pintar Science Park is an interactive place for children to learn about science through their imaginations, trials and games to improve their understanding about the world around them. It is also a rather interesting place for adults who want to discover the beauty of science. The place consists of many different zones for children to interact with. They is the Playground, the Heritage Building, the Oval Building, the Square Building and the Planetarium. The different zones offer many different kinds of interactive exhibits where you will need all five of your senses.
Taman Pintar Science Park
Address: Jalan Panembahan Senopati No. 1-3, Gondomanan, Ngupasan, Gondomanan, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa, Yogyakarta 55122, Indonesia
6. Mount Merapi
Mount Merapi is an active stratovolcano which is situated just 2 hours away from the city centre of Yogyakarta. Even though it is an active volcano, Mount Merapi is a popular destination for people to climb at night to catch the sunrise in the morning. The trek starts from a village called Selo. There, you will begin your hike through the forest and upwards towards the summit. Typically, it will take about 4 hours to climb all the way up. It will be an exhilarating experience and not for the faint-hearted. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with a heavenly sunrise and the panoramic view of Java. You can even see another mountain in the distance. The best way up is to hire a local guide and this will make your trip up safer.
Address: Mount Merapi, Suroteleng, Selo, Boyolali Regency, Central Java, Indonesia
7. Ullen Sentalu Museum
Though located nearer to Mount Merapi than downtown Yogyakarta, the Ullen Sentalu Museum is a place that you must visit if you’re around the area. Rated as the best museum in Indonesia by Trip Advisor, this museum houses a myriad of Javanese artifacts, paintings and royal belongings which cannot be found anywhere else in Java. There are also guides who speak English here and they can take you through the exhibits and teach you all about the Javanese culture. It is truly a dynamic place for anyone who is into the culture of the locals.
Ullen Sentalu Museum
Address: Boyong Street KM 25, West Kaliurang, Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Website: Ullen Sentalu Museum
8. Gondola at Timang Beach
Located about 3 hours away from Yogyakarta, Timang Beach is a beautiful beach with pristine white sand and bright blue sea. The most famous attraction at the beach is the gondola ride to the Panjang Stone. The gondola consists of a rope pulley system which may look unsafe at first but in reality, it is quite safe as the team who operates the gondola are organized with walkie-talkies in hand to coordinate their pulls. Once you are up on the huge stone structure there, you can take countless photos with the beautiful ocean as your background.
Gondola at Timang Beach
Address: 55881, Jl. Pantai Sel. Jawa, Purwodadi, Tepus, Kabupaten Gunung Kidul, Daerah Istimewa, Yogyakarta 55881, Indonesia
9. Sewu Temple
About 800 meters (2,625 feet) off the Prambanan Temple lies the ancient 8th-century temple complex called Sewu. It is the 2nd largest Buddhist complex after the Borobudur Temple situated in Magelang. The name translates to ‘a thousand temples’ even though there are only about 249 of them in the complex. The original name of the temple was found to be Manjusrigrha. The temple was dedicated to the Buddha Vairocana. The temple complex itself is huge and it is a worthy place to explore for those who are curious about this ancient structure.
Address: Jl. Raya Solo KM.15, Tlogo, Kalasan, Kabupaten Sleman, Jawa Tengah, Indonesia
10. Watch the Ramayana Ballet at the Prambanan Temple
Unlike your typical western ballet performances, the Ramayana Ballet is a whole story based on a legendary Hindu story about King Rama and Shinta. Though the story originates from India, the local Javanese version intertwines the story with their gracious traditional Javanese costumes and dance movements. With all of this in the foreground of the majestic Prambanan Temple, this performance is not to be missed.
Ramayana Ballet at the Prambanan Temple
Address: Bokoharjo, Prambanan, Sleman Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia
11. Jalan Malioboro
After a long few days discovering temples, swimming out at sea and traversing through caves, it is wise to take a break and stay in town. Jalan Maliobro is definitely the street for you to visit if you want to shop ‘til you drop. There are literally a multitude of shops and street hawkers selling things ranging from exotic souvenirs, paintings, and handbags to local food and drinks such as pisang goreng or kopi joss. Popular among the locals and tourists alike, this place exudes its own atmosphere as it is one of the most prominent streets of Yogyakarta nearby the railway station.
Address: Jl. Malioboro, Sosromenduran, Gedong Tengen, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
12. Alun-Alun Selatan
The world alun-alun is a Javanese term for the big central open lawn squares, which is common in most villages, towns and cities in Indonesia. In Yogyakarta however, the Alun-Alun Selatan is filled with heaps of micro-shops and road side hawkers selling local delights and also outdoor activities. A popular activity here among locals is to walk blindfolded in a straight line and stop in between two huge Banyan trees. It sounds like a brainless feat but in reality, it’s a really difficult thing to do. You can join the locals and who knows, you might win the game.
Address: Jalan Alun Alun Kidul, Patehan, Kraton, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa, Yogyakarta 55133, Indonesia
What are you waiting for?
With a myriad of things to do ranging in adrenaline pumping caving, swimming in the sea, climbing treacherous mountains and much more, Yogyakarta proves to be a place to visit at least once in your lifetime. The top 10 best things to do here are just the tip of the iceberg. This magical city still has numerous charms to be discovered. So pack your bags, get a ticket and fly away to Yogyakarta.
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.