A city of South East Asia like no other where the eOasia team decided to spend some time there looking for some fun things to do in Yogyakarta.
Yogyakarta, most commonly referred to as Jogja or Yogya, is known as Indonesia’s cultural capital, and also home to a lot of art and tradition still very present in today’s culture. Yogyakarta is also the only city where a sultan lives and is recognised by the government.
We’ve shortlisted our top 10 reasons to visit this artistic driven city in the heart of Java, and hope it will help you make your Yogyakarta travel plan a more exciting one.
1. UNESCO world heritages and temples
Yogyakarta is home to two of the eight UNESCO world heritage present in Indonesia. Let’s start by introducing you to Borobudur temple, the most visited attraction in Indonesia. Located on a hilltop overlooking green jungle, and facing the active volcano Merapi, the world biggest Buddhist temple is usually visited during the sunrise while climbing the magnificent temple still shrouded in the myst. Wake up early in the morning around 4AM, but it will all be worth it. You will discover the beauty and mysticism of this temple, and understand the reason of its popularity. We highly recommend that you visit Borobudur with a guide to hear about its legend and inspiring stories.
Not far away from the world biggest Buddhist temple seats the largest Hinddu temple. This is a testament of how these two religions were harmoniously present since its past . If you are planning to make the most of Yogyakarta and its temples in one day, you might come there around the sunset time. Also, if you visit between May and October, you will have the chance to assist to the epic Ramayana show performed by 250 dancers, telling you legends and romances of ancient princes. A must visit among Yogyakarta attractions.
2. Cultural and Artisitic capital of Indonesia
Yogyakarta has inherited from a rich art culture, a unique architecture, and a nationwide musical heritage. Today, the city is home to famous artists, painters, philosophers, musicians which influences its people and observable all over the city.
You will notice street arts on the city’s walls, and also musicians all over the place, sometimes spontanously inviting themselves to your table playing one or two songs for you.
All year long, you’ll be able to pick from an array of cultural events among Yogyakarta attractions, we suggest you the leather puppet shows (Wayang Kulit), usually taking place at night. These overnight performance reflect Javanese culture through colourful leather puppets accompanied by the rhythm of the Gamelan traditionnal instrument. Among the places to watch it, you can try Sasono Hinggil where it can last all night or Bangsal Sri Manganti during the day, although the best would be to ask at your hotel.
Other than that, you can pick in eOasia’s workshops catering to different arts and cultural experiences.
You will find in Yogyakarta an unique architecture that has been kept and protected from the ancient time when Yogyakarta was still a kingdom. You can also enjoy passing in small streets and discovering a large variety of street arts on the city’s walls.
3. Cheap and good food for the soul
As you may know, each region of Indonesia has its own special delicay. In Jogja, the most wanted dish is the Gudeg, tasting very distincly from any other Indonesian dishes. Gudeg is made of Jack fruit cooked with coconut milk and spices, which gives it a sweet and spicy taste as you can guess. In addition, it is usually prepared with cow skin, egg, soya cake, and chicken, definitely a must eat in Yogyakarta! You may go to Gudeg Bu Tjitro on Janti street or at Gudeg center in the area of Wijilan. You can however find it in many places, or ask a local that you meet during your trip to give you a good address.
Among the places to visit in Yogyakarta, Prawirotaman area is one of the area we would recommend you to buy souvenirs and try some of the good culinaries selection Yogyakarta has to offer. Viavia restaurant offers delicious western and indonesian food at a reasonable price, Milas is an excellent vegetarian restaurant (do try the tempe burger!), or visit Nanamia Pizza for a good pizza, Aglio restaurant for good pasta. Lastly and our favourite was Mediterranea where you’ll get a mix of french and greek food, somptuously cooked! Bon appetit!
Jogja being one of the most coveted cities for Indonesian students offers some of the lowest prices whether it be for the food, accomodations or transport.
4. Well connected to other touristic sites of Indonesia
You can not say that you’ve seen the whole Indonesia if you’ve only been to Bali, this is the reason why most travellers choose Yogyakarta as a main point in their itinerary to Indonesia. Yogyakarta tourism is constantly growing and indeed, pretty well connected to the rest of Java offering easy access to the mounts Bromo & Ijen , also known as a route to Bali. Choosing this itinerary will take you about 4 days including a fair amount of trekking before finally getting a rest in the island of the Gods, Bali.
Oher travellers looking for least known exotic destinations take the route to the archipelago of Karimunjava, an archipelago of 27 islands, declared since 2001 as a national park. There you may find pristine water, snorkeling and tranquility. The best season to visit Karimunjawa is between May and October, when you can make the most of its tropical sun, while snorkeling in the crystal water.
5. Natural attractions heritage of Yogyakarta tourism
Tree huggers, this place is for you! You will find a few eco-tours in the area, where guides are sensitive to protect the nature, and work actively in keeping those tourist places green. Travelling around Yogyakarta will bring you to some of the geo-heritage sites of Indonesia, among them sand dunes, caves, rivers, beaches, volcanoes, waterfalls…
Jomblang Cave is one of our favourite attraction in Yogyakarta where you will learn to master the single rope technique of going deep into a vertical cave hidden below a dense forest. Once in the cave you can walk on a 300 meters alley connecting it to another entrance where a heavenly light appears from the top, do not forget your camera for some unforgetable photo shoots! Another exciting cave experience in Pindul gives you the possibility to do river tubing into the cave, this is another of the popular Yogyakarta attractions.
If you feel for something even wilder, we also suggest you to make a trip to some of the hidden beaches (2-3 hours drive from Yogyakarta) where some of the Yogyakarta tours will bring you. Among them Siung beach and Wediombo beach where strecthes of white sand with colourful corals await you. Lastly, some tours can bring you to Sri Gethuk waterfall, an impressive 30 meters waterfall that flows all year long in an area which is surprisingly known to be dry. For most adventurers, do check out the rafting trips!
6. Large choice of hiking and trekking activities
Do you feel adventurous enough to climb the most active volcanoe of Indonesia, the mount Merapi? This trek is usually done by night with plan to reach the top for the sunrise at a peak of 3,000 meters of altitude. A must for trekking travellers.
If you don’t feel to trek it, you can also visit by jeep the villages that have fallen victim to the fury of Mount Merapi, and paths that once used to be flowing rivers. Do not worry, though Mount Merapi is active, the last eruption was in November 2010.
If you are in the mood of a less known hike track with uncontestably breathtaking view, we would suggest you to hike the mount suroloyo. This is a six kilometers trek passing through tea plantation to finally reach the peak of the mount Suroloyo, a land above the clouds that offers you a unique 360 degrees landscape.
A third option would be Gunung Kidul, a 4 hours hike on a mountain considered sacred for many Javanese. This is in the same region as Sri Gethuk waterfall and caves, you can actually make the most of this nature feast in one day.
As a trekker, your next stops should be in East Java to concquer to Mount Bromo & Ijen on route to Bali.
7. Capital of the Batik
We wrote last week a whole article about Batik, so if you are interested in the topic, we highly recommend you to read through this post. You will find the largest selection of Batik of Indonesia in the streets of Jalan Malioboro at affordable prices. Jalan Tirtodipuran is another area to buy batiks but prices are definitely more tourists oriented.
Lastly, if you want to learn a bit more about Batik art, we encourage you to try some of the Batik workshops, which are some of the most popular Yogyakarta attractions.
8. Romantic activities
Even though you are not at one of the beautiful white sand beaches in Bali or Lombok, we can assure you Yogyakarta has a lot of romantic activities to be shared with your partner.
Watching the sunrise in Borobudur is truly a romantic experience, but not only this, you can also have a romantic elephant ride in the quiet and beautiful nature surrounding Borobudur temple.
Many of the restaurants listed earlier are also appropriate for going out as couples, where guitarists will accompany you with some of your favorite songs. Another option is to dine with a candle light in the ricefields of south Yogyakarta.
For your relaxation, there are a few places to visit in Yogyakarta , among them quality spa salons offering couple treatments, and whole experiences dedicated to your romantic time.
Finally, if you want to learn a bit more about Javanese romantism, we invite you to visit their erotic temples Sukuh and Cetoh. A must for couples!
9. Mystical places and activities
Java and especially Yogyakarta is one of the spiritual capital of Asia, counting many different sacred places, and legends. Among them, the famous Parangtritis beach and the Queen of the South; if you want to learn more about all this mysticism shrouding these different sacred places, you can get an introduction into some of the spiritual tours, where you will experience the Javanese culture at its most.
For more info, read our article about spiritual activities in Java
Yogyakarta, as a city of artists is known for having about 70,000 handicrafts industries. In other words, you will find a lot of souvenirs to bring back home and shopping places to visit in Yogyakarta.
Among them, you should definitely have a look at the Kota Gede (the Old Town) where you will find a lot of silver handicrafts, you can also do a silver workshop and make your own!
However, if you are planning to shop you might end in Malioboro street, batik clothes, batik paintings, batik pillows, even batik ties! You can also find different kind of jeweleries made with precious stones, as Indonesians love them!
Leather lovers might head to Manding, the central of leather crats, which is about 30 minutes from the city, you’ll find there all kind of leather souvenirs such as vintage bags, bracelets, sandals, and different items remembering you your travel to Yogyakarta.