Yogyakarta, or Jogjakarta, became popular to travelers as the gateway to see UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple. But this Special Region in Java actually has much more to offer besides temples. As the only remaining region to still be governed by a Sultan, Yogyakarta’s monarchy plays a big role in its colorful history and cultural heritage. If you’re visiting the city, here are other places and things to do that you can’t miss in Yogyakarta!
- 1 See the Breathtaking Views in Kalibiru National Park
- 2 Watch the Sunrise from Candi Borobudur
- 3 Let the Sun Illuminate you From Inside Jomblang Cave
- 4 Go Sandboarding at Gumuk Pasir Parangkusumo Sand Dunes
- 5 Ride the Gondola at Timang Beach
- 6 Visit the Prambanan Temple and Ramayana Ballet
- 7 Go on a Merapi Lava Tour
- 8 Sunset at Ratu Boko Palace
- 9 Wander Around Finding Street Art
- 10 Go Shopping at Malioboro as You Try the Street Food
- 11 Taman Sari (Water Castle)
- 12 Visit the Ullen Sentalu Museum
- 13 Hike Up Gunung Api Purba Nglanggeran
- 14 Adventure in You Recommendations: Where to Stay in Yogyakarta
See the Breathtaking Views in Kalibiru National Park
Located in Menoreh mountain range, this national park became famous online for its wooden platforms on trees overlooking Lake Sermo. Having your photo taken on these platforms is the highlight of Kalibiru so better schedule your visit during weekdays for it can get real crowded during weekends and holidays! Adrenaline junkies can also try flying fox, rock climbing, trekking, and tightrope walking in Kalibiru National Park.
Watch the Sunrise from Candi Borobudur
Aside from Bali, Borobudur Temple is one of the most visited sites in Indonesia. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Borobudur is one of the largest Buddhist temples in the world. Watching the sunrise from the twin volcanoes Mount Merbabu and Merapi with the silhouette of the stupas and Buddha will certainly be one of the most magical sunrises you’ll see.
Let the Sun Illuminate you From Inside Jomblang Cave
Known locally as Goa Jomblang, Jomblang Cave is a thousand-year-old sinkhole/vertical cave in Gunungkidul. It is best visited from 10 AM to 2 PM to maximize the sun rays through a smaller hole inside the cave. To get to the bottom, you must rappel down the vertical cave. And then walk through a forest trail and a tunnel to get to the hole where you can take a photo of you silhouetted against the heavenly light.
Go Sandboarding at Gumuk Pasir Parangkusumo Sand Dunes
Not a lot of people know that there’s also a sand dune in Yogyakarta. In fact, you can also go sandboarding in Gumuk Pasir Parangkusumo, a crescent-shaped sand dune formed from the eruption of Mount Merapi. If you haven’t been to a sand dune yet, then sandboarding in Gumuk Pasir will certainly be good to experience when you visit Yogyakarta. After sandboarding, you can head to the nearby beaches, Parangtritis beach and Depok beach to catch the sunset or for other activities like ATV driving and horse riding.
Related: 4×4 Off-Roading in Bandung
Editor’s Note: Looking for more inspiration? Check out our stunning photos of Yogyakarta
Ride the Gondola at Timang Beach
Around three hours drive from Yogyakarta is one beach famous for its makeshift cable car. This “gondola” used to take lobster fishermen from the edge of Timang beach to a rocky outcrop in the sea called Watu Panjang Island. This one of a kind ride will definitely bring out the adventure in you!
Visit the Prambanan Temple and Ramayana Ballet
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Prambanan temple is regarded as the “most beautiful and graceful Hindu temple” in Indonesia. The three biggest temples are dedicated to the three Hindu gods – Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. Marvel at the details of the bas-reliefs and try to find the scenes from Ramayana depicted in the inner gallery. Watch out as well for the detailed statues of the Hindu gods inside the temples. You can watch the famous Ramayana ballet in the outdoor theatre beside Prambanan temple complex.
Go on a Merapi Lava Tour
Literally meaning “Fire Mountain”, Merapi is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia and the world. The Lava Tour involves a tour showing the effects of Merapi’s eruptions on the villages near the crater. The tour starts in Kaliadem, where you can hire a jeep that will take you to the museum, underground bunker, off-road sights, and the “alien stone”. This tour is usually popular for those who want to watch the sunrise at the base camp but for non-early risers, there are other routes you can choose from.
Sunset at Ratu Boko Palace
One popular destination to view the sunset in Yogyakarta is in Kraton Ratu Boko. It is another archaeological site that is a remnant of an ancient Javanese kingdom. It is not as preserved as Borobudur and Prambanan temples, hence visitors only see ruins of what was once a huge palace complex located on a plateau. You can also view Mt Merapi and Prambanan from Ratu Boko Palace.
Wander Around Finding Street Art
While Yogyakarta may not be popular as a street art destination, the street art culture has slowly been growing in the region. So go on a street art tour and try to look for as much as murals and graffiti you can find in alleys and streets of Jogja. Streets with street art sightings include an alley near Malioboro, Jl. Prawirotaman, Jl. Tirtodipuran, Jl. Gejayan, Jl. Pathuk, Jl. Dl Panjaitan, Stadion Kridosono, and Kampung Cyber.
Go Shopping at Malioboro as You Try the Street Food
Used to be a ceremonial street, this street in the heart of Yogyakarta is now a famous shopping avenue filled with rows and rows of shops selling local goods, street food, souvenirs, and a whole lot of other products. You’ll surely be overwhelmed with all the things you’ll see and smell, so walk at your own pace and hope you don’t leave Jalan Malioboro empty handed!
Editor’s Recommendation: Speaking of food, if you’re a fan of fried chicken, you HAVE to go to Ayam Goreng Suharti while in Yogyakarta. Trust me on this one! It’s a bit far out but very worth the drive. (Click the link above for the location.)
Taman Sari (Water Castle)
Although used for several purposes by the Sultan and the royal family, Taman Sari which is located near the Kraton (Royal Palace of Yogyakarta) became famous for the bathing pools used by the Sultan and his Princesses. This is where the Sultan would “hunt” for his two-legged conquest.
Visitors also become fascinated by the underground tunnels and mosque.
Visit the Ullen Sentalu Museum
If you like visiting museums, then Ullen Sentalu Museum should be on your list when visiting Yogyakarta. You’ll learn about Javanese history, arts, and culture from the collections exhibited in the museum. The collections here are from the Royal families and there are only designated areas which you can take a photograph of. The walls and floors are made from stones spewed from Mount Merapi’s eruption. The museum is located in Kaliurang mountain resort.
Hike Up Gunung Api Purba Nglanggeran
Hiking enthusiasts can also visit Mount Nglanggeran in Pathuk, Gunung Kidul to get that fresh air and awesome views. The ancient volcano is an ecotourism site and there are lots of viewpoints available. Be sure to watch out for the karst formations, the rice paddies, the other mountains around the area, and the man-made dam atop a hill. Visitors can also camp, go sunrise or sunset watching, look for the Comberan water spring, and learn about the reason why there is always 7 families living on top of the ancient volcano.
Related: Best Indonesia Mountain Treks
Hopefully, this article has given you a few ideas on how to spend your time in Yogyakarta. Teeming with local life, culture, and history, Yogyakarta is one of my favorite places in Indonesia and is a place that I highly recommend you stop by for a visit.
Adventure in You Recommendations: Where to Stay in Yogyakarta
Don’t know where to stay in Yogyakarta? Here are some of the many hostels and hotels offering the best value-for-money in Java across all room rates.
Budget Hotels in Yogyakarta
The Patio Yogya – This highly-rated heritage B&B/ homestay is set in a stylish Dutch colonial home featuring a spacious patio with jacuzzi and bean bags. You’ll love the fact that The Patio Yogya is located in the quiet area of the old town center. The rooms are Instagram-worthy as they are decorated with works by local artists and comfy beds. The hostel serves either a traditional breakfast or breakfast on the go.
The Packer Lodge Yogyakarta– Located in the heart of “Yogya,” this eco-friendly hostel is a great choice if you want to be near cultural attractions like the Kraton (the Palace of Yogyakarta Sultan). The Packer Lodge comes with all hostel, including a getaway spot for some “me” time. Do note of hostel events where you can mingle with the rest of the guests.
Mid-Range Hotels in Yogyakarta
Hotel Neo Malioboro– Near Malioboro Mall and Malioboro Street, the rooms offered at this hotel are modern and stylish. It’s also right next to the train station, which is convenient for you if you intend to commute to Yogya’s points of interest. Hotel Neo also has an airport shuttle and laundry services at your convenience for a fee.
YATS Colony– If you’re into food trips, city walks, and ancient landmarks, book a room at this resort hotel. Museum Sonobudoyo, Yogyakarta Presidential Palace, and Fort Vredeburg are just nearby. YATS Colony itself is something to look forward to, with its fusion of modern style, small pockets of greens and shrubs, and an outdoor pool. The rooms are modern with traditional accents, offering pool views. You can also arrange a car service or dry cleaning with the hotel’s 24-hour front desk.
Luxury Hotels in Yogyakarta
Grand Aston Yogyakarta– This 5-star hotel is coveted by shopping aficionados, as it is literally walking distance from the main shopping streets. Guests love the spacious bedrooms in neutral colors, the comfortable beds, the breakfast served at the all-day Saffron Restaurant on site, and the superb service. The hotel also has spa services for guests who wish to get pampered after a day of exploration or shopping.
The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta– Located in Yogyakarta’s city center, this hotel carries the Sofitel brand and promises world-class service to its guests. From the warm welcome from staff (with pastries and drinks!), down to the Asian-European inspired rooms and facilities, you might want to stay for another day. Do enjoy the Indonesian, Western and Chinese cuisine at the Paprika Restaurant on site or cocktails and wines at the hotel’s 1918s Lobby Bar