Yogyakarta: temples & culture in Java

After a brief stop in the capital Jakarta, we boarded our first train to Yogyakarta in search of temples & culture. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy, clean and efficient the trains were!

The countryside en route to Yogyakarta was just amazing. Lots of agricultural, paddy fields and Indonesian life!

I love a good train trip, but after 8 hours in the basic seats my back was a little sore. Time to explore our next destination in Java!


This city is known for its arts and culture and is home to the famous Borobudur and Pranbanam temples! 

We’d read that this area is known as being backpacker friendly – which we found to be true! With numerous sites to visit and plenty of budget accommodation.  We decided to stay in prawirotaman street, a slightly more upmarket area with lots of hotels and restaurants. This made for very easy living and felt like we were in a bubble.

There were lots of travellers and holiday makers around the area, but predominately French. I was pleased to see lots of other families here too! A very popular, busy and safe area. 


Where to stay in Yogyakarta

We stayed in a smaller guesthouse called Sartika hotel. It was only a small place with very little atmosphere but it was a cheap place to eat. The staff were friendly but we never saw anyone! I tend to like a hostel or homestay with a bit more life, bit out was in a good location and cheap!! 

We were served an Indonesian breakfast in a takeaway box each morning. I really loved the variety & freshness but the boys were less than enthusiastic.  To be honest, we had no idea what we were getting most mornings! 

Where to eat in Yogyakarta

Via via

Definitely our favourite place to eat & the most popular eatery here. It was a very nice place with a lovely atmosphere. Service was a little slow, but the food was good, reasonably priced and tasty! 

Play on

We stopped here on out first night. The food was nice and they had plenty of staff serving.  The boys chose to sit in a seated booth, which wasn’t the best for eating! The menu was varied but slightly overpriced, as the portions were small.  

Warung Hera

A slightly higher priced Indonesian restaurant. But good felt homely and fresh so with the little extra. Service was attentive and speedy. Nice little place. 

K’meals bar and restaurant

We decided to try this restaurant one night. When we arrived it seemed fairly quiet but had a few people. The staff were milling around or on their phones. After 15 minutes of not receiving a menu – we left! That’s not even basic customer service – I wouldn’t recommend! 

Outside of prawirotaman we only stopped at,


Water castle cafe 

While out exploring we found this little cafe situated in a little square. Only a limited menu, but good price with delicious fresh juices and nice coffee. 

Things to do in Yogyakarta

The main reasons people visit Yogyakarta are to see the famous temples of Pranbanam and Borobudur.  But it was only when we arrived that we found out the cost! (Pranbanam is IDR 362,500 & borobudur is IDR 325,000 – there is a a combo ticket for IDR 520,000 pp.  It’s a bit much for a temple – especially for both!! So we decided that we would only visit one site borobudur – the bell temple and known as a beautiful sunrise site.



It’s easy to access from Yogyakarta. There are 2 ways you can do it. Either take a day trip (with a very early start to catch sunrise!) Or stay a night nearby. We chose option 2 & took a grab car up to Borobudur town for IDR 180,000. 

We stayed at Lingkar homestay. A family run, quiet but basic accommodation for a good price! The room was decent enough though, with the only oddity being you needed to go onto your balcony to get to the bathroom!

This allowed us the afternoon to stroll around the town and visit a small temple. It felt very relaxed and friendly! 

While we were walking around, we realised there were a few people cycling and that there are in fact a few cycle routes around this area. I would have liked to have stayed another night and explored the area more.

Sunrise tour at borobudur

We decided that keith would do the sunrise tour at Manohara hotel.  You just need to arrive before 4.30am on the day. It is very popular, but there is no limit to tickets. It’s the only way to enter the complex before 6am.

Sunrise ticket price includes breakfast at the hotel afterwards:  Adult Price: IDR 475.000 & Children Price : IDR 250.000 (Children under 6 years old free of charge)

Note :Ticket counter opens from 4.00am

A copy of your passport is required for Borobudur Sunrise registration – see https://www.manoharaborobudur.com/en-gb


Borobudur temple entrance fee

The boys and I slept a little longer and got up at 5.30am to head to the main gate. These opened on the dot and we raced to get our tickets first. You are offered a free tea or coffee as you enter, but we raced past to head straight to the temple.

Costs: IDR 325,000 for adults & IDR 250,000 for children under 10

Note: (August 2019) and I was able to pay by credit card at the ticket office.

By now the sun had already risen (but still chilly!).  But you still got to see the mist hanging in the valley and the golden glow as the sun rose. For me, it was the setting that made this temple the most memorable. As the clouds cleared you could see the mountains in the distance.

We spent an hour wandering around the temple taking photos and looking at the view.

After, we followed the route through the back and were surprised to see elephants & deers in an enclosure. I have no idea why, but we didn’t stop. 

As only Keith purchased the sunrise ticket (and so only he got the free breakfast) so we decided to leave and head out. A beautiful way to spend the early morning. 


Water castle – Taman sari

Our first stop in Yogyakarta was to the Water Palace – Taman sari. We arrived and it was a little oasis in this beautiful city.

The pools were previously private swimming areas of the Sultan and his family.  

We enjoyed just sitting in the former gardens of the Sultan of Yogyakarta. There wasn’t a huge amount of information but it was ok for half an hour or so.

It was cheaply priced at IDR 15,000 each (less than £1), & you could pay extra for a tour guide. 


Yogyakarta Royal palace 

Note: there are two entrances with different fees. One is for a walkway overlooking the palace grounds and we were advised isn’t worthwhile. The other (near the clock – locals will point you in the right direction) is to enter the main palace.

The palace, otherwise known as Kraton, isn’t huge and although gives some historical markers wasn’t that impressive. There is a large courtyard with ornate features and a few badly displayed artifacts, but that’s it. 

The best to visit the palace is in the morning. Each day there is a free cultural performance (except holidays) for around an hour. We only watched it for 15 minutes and then moved on. It was lovely to watch the local musical instruments & local attire:

  • Monday: Gamelan Music at 10.00 am
  • Tuesday: Gamelan Music at 10.00 am
  • Wednesday: Menak Puppet show at 10.00 am
  • Thursday: Traditional (classic) Dance show at 10.00 am:
  • Friday: sing a Traditional song (Macapat) at 9.00 am
  • Saturday: Leather Puppet (Wayang) show at 9.30 am
  • Sunday: Traditional (classic) Dance show at 9.30 am

Please note, this may have changed!

We only spent an hour strolling around – but it was a cheap entrance fee & worth it if you catch the performance, so we didn’t mind.

Cost: IDR 12,500 per person plus 1,000 for a camera fee.

A very easy stop in Yogyakarta a chance to catch our breath! Now it’s time to go and find an active volcano..

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