INDONESIA | Borobudur and Prambanan

INDONESIA | Borobudur and Prambanan

Yogyakarta is a great city in itself, there is a lot of culture, you can do some great shopping, and the people are lovely, but what makes it really special is the two massive temple complexes in the area. Borobudur is the most famous one and an absolute must see when traveling to Java. However, in my opinion Prambanan was equally as beautiful and therefore I believe you should definitely visit both on your trip to Yogyakarta.

Borobudur

Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and I have to say it was indeed very big. It consists of 9 levels, the lower six are square shaped, while the upper three are round. The upper levels are filled with small stupa’s, with Buddha’s inside. I’m not an expert at the Buddhist faith, but I’ve learned that Buddhists always walk around temples in the clockwise direction. It didn’t seem like a big deal at this temple, as most people were walking all over the place, but it is the respectful thing to do.

When to go
The best time to visit this temple is early in the morning. Either to watch the sunrise or right afterwards. I visited right after the sunrise and I was happily surprised to find out there weren’t that many other people yet. It was still somewhat possible to snap a picture with no other people on it. Maybe I was just lucky, but I definitely do recommend going early in the morning, also because then it won’t be so hot yet when you have to climb up all the steps. I believe that if you want to go for sunrise or sunset you have to pay a little extra, because you need to entre the park outside of the opening hours.

How to get there
Me and my travel buddy decided to go with the easy option and go with a tour arranged via our hostel. It wasn’t really a tour, more just a shuttle service. They picked us up early in the morning, drove us to the temple and then just let us walk around for 2 hours or so by ourselves. This was more then enough time to explore the temple and park around it. I’ve read elsewhere that it’s also pretty easy to take a public bus there, which is probably the cheaper option. Just make sure you research beforehand at what time to first and last busses go, because you don’t want to be forced to take an uber or grab back to the city, as that will be quite expensive.

Prambanan

Prambanan is located on the other side of the city, a little closer than Borobudur and somehow I’ve heard a lot of people talk about skipping it because they’ve already visited Borobudur. Believe me, the temples are very different, as Prambanan is a Hindu temple compound, and therefore both are definitely worth a visit. I think I honestly liked Prambanan even better than Borobudur. The buildings are all very impressive and together they make form an almost unrealistic scenery.

When to go
I visited Prambanan on a Saturday, late in the afternoon, because we were combining it with a visit to the Ramayana ballet. It was definitely busy, but the setting sun made the temple complex look even more beautiful. I think if you want to go at a quite time, your best shot would be early in the morning, just like at Borobudur. However, I personally really recommend going for sunset, because it was stunning!

Ramayana ballet
Next to the temple complex is an outdoor theatre where the Ramayana ballet is performed on specific dates during the dry season (May till October). This is a traditional dance performance (not actually ballet), with live music. If you have the opportunity I thing you should definitely go see this spectacular show. The story is quite hard to understand. What I got out of it was that a princess who got kidnapped. There were monkeys and giants and a special white monkey. The white monkey tried to save the princess, but didn’t succeed so he burned down the whole village (they light a pretty big fire on stage). Then he saved the princess from the burned down village and then the prince didn’t want to marry her anymore and made her put herself on fire. Makes sense right? Anyways, even though the story might not really be understandable the show is pretty cool and the view of the lit up temple complex in the background is spectacular.

How to get there
Just like when visiting Borobudur, it’s really easy to book a tour at your hostel or somewhere in the city center to take you to Prambanan. However, we couldn’t really find a tour that suited our planning, so we decided to give the public bus a shot. It was pretty easy. You can catch bus 1A or 1B from Malioboro street (the main shopping street in downtown Yogyakarta) and ride it all the way to the final stop. From there it’s only a couple minutes walking to the entrance. You can buy your bus ticket at the bus stop and it will only cost you about 25 euro cents. Unfortunately, the last bus back departs quite early, so if you want to go to the performance, you’ll have to take a grab or uber back, which is not too expensive if you share it with a couple of people.

Essentials

Tickets
You can buy your ticket at the entrance of either temple. If you are planning on visiting both temples, it’s smart to buy a combi-ticket for around €32 (loose tickets for the temples are €25 each). You can get a discount with a (real or fake) student card, just make sure that there is a picture and expiry date on it. Mine didn’t have one so they made me log in to my universities online platform, which I was luckily still able to do at that time.

Dress code
Remember to always dress appropriately when visiting a temple. I had the feeling they weren’t really to strict about it at these two temples, but if you ask me it doesn’t really matter if they check it or not. Dressing appropriate is just the respectful thing to do. So, just make sure to always cover your knees and shoulders when you’re visiting a temple.

Visiting Borobudur and Prambanan were both memorable experiences in my mind and I can not press enough that they are both definitely worth a visit. If you have the time I’d say visit them on separate days to really appreciate them, but if you are a little sort on time it’s doable to visit one in the morning and the other one in the late afternoon for example. Just keep in mind that they are both on opposite sides of town and thus quite far apart. I hope you will get the chance to visit these two beautiful temple compounds and I hope my experiences will help you prep for your trip. I also wrote a post about traveling around Java by train, so definitely check that out if you are planning a trip to Indonesia. Let me know if you have any questions and don’t hesitate to post a comment and share your own experiences.

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