Yogyakarta is the most popular tourist city on the island of Java. Many people would consider it the soul of Indonesia, an area that has fiercely held tight to its cultural heritage and celebrates its roots. Yogyakarta is not simply an old fashioned city however, its a sprawling urban center full of contemporary art, cuisine, shopping, universities and technology. It’s an impressive fusion of the old and new worlds.
Historically, Yogya (as it’s lovingly known) played an important cultural and governmental role in Indonesia. In the 9th century, it produced the grandiose Buddhist temples of Prambanan and Borobudur. In the 16th century, Yogya acted as the capital of the powerful Mataram Sultanate. Many magnificent structures still remain from these eras and make Yogya an exciting place to visit.
The Old World Treasures
The Kraton is an enormous walled city that houses the palace of the sultans of Yogyakarta. This city within a city has its own shops, markets, schools, mosques and silver cottage industries. Kraton is Javanese culture at its finest.
Within the walls you’ll find amazing traditional architecture, sprawling courtyards and beautiful pavilions. In the center you will find the Golden Pavilion with its intricate roof, marble floors and stained-glass.
There is a museum housing many important artifacts from Javanese history as well as gifts from European monarchs, a royal family tree, old portraits of sultans much much more.
Also included in the price of entrance is daily performances, they range from classical dance to Javanese poetry to puppetry. Kraton is the one thing you must do in Yogya.
Since it is centrally located, it’s not a bad idea to make sure you’re staying close to Kraton. Be sure to book online the hotels that fit your budget and are convenient. Hotel Neo Malioboro is an excellent option.
Entrance is about $1 USD and they are open everyday except for Sunday.
Just a half a mile north of Kraton is Yogya’s main market, Pasar Beringharjo. This is a traditional market and will really give you a taste of Javanese life. Even if you can’t speak the language, you’ll enjoy the experience immensely. The first half of the market is full of traditional batik. However you can find a wide range of products from fruits to spices to knickknacks to animals.
Built in the 9th century, Borobudur is an exquisite Mahayana Buddhist Temple that has been preserved in time. It features over 500 Buddha statues spread over nine stacked platforms with a central done in the middle. It is an impressive example of traditional Javanese architecture and sure beats any of the puny New England landmarks we have here.
While not directly in Yogyakarta, it is only a short (25 mile) journey outside of the city. Since it is the number one most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia, there are plenty of tour companies who will take you out to the site.
New World Wonders
Affandi is one of Indonesia’s most famous artists. He lived and worked out of his home studio a little ways east of Yogya town center. His home has been preserved and converted to a museum featuring an extensive collection of his works.
It is open every day from 9 to 4. It costs about $2 USD to enter.
Museum Sasana Wiratama
If you’re a fan of Imperial Era heroes, then you must check out the Museum Sasana Wiratama. This museum is an homage to Prince Pangeran Diponegoro; he lead the bloody rebellion of 1825-1830 against the Dutch occupiers. His home has been converted into a museum and you can find a collection of his belonging and other great exhibits there.
It is open 8am to noon, Tuesday through Sunday.
Yogyakarta, So Much to Explore
Yogya is the perfect fusion of tradition and modernity. Spend the day exploring a 1000 year old temple and the evening sipping a cappuccino in a cybercafe. Yogya is the heart of Javanese culture and will not disappoint.
Have you been to Yogyakarta? What was the most exciting thing you experienced? Comment below