I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a nature lover! But, as far as cities go, Yogyakarta (or Jogja for short), is a good one!
Make sure you add Yogyakarta to your Java, Indonesia, itinerary if for no other reason than to visit some of the stunning and world famous temples nearby.
Having said that, I’d recommend spending at least three days in Yogyakarta.
It’s a city full of life and culture!
And the best part is that it has a relatively compact centre, which makes it super easy to (mostly) explore on foot! As well as that, there’s a great (and cheap!) public bus service that makes it incredibly easy to visit temples like Prambanan on your own.
With this comprehensive Yogyakarta travel guide, you’ll get absolutely all the tips and insights you need for your trip to this beautiful Javanese city. For details on where to stay, where to eat, what to see and how to get there in the first place, read on!
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How To Get To Yogyakarta
Multiple airlines fly to Yogyakarta from across Indonesia as well as surrounding countries numerous times a day. If you’re coming from Jakarta, it’s a short 1 hour flight.
Read More: Check out all my best kept secrets on how to book cheap flights here!
There are currently two airports serving the Yogyakarta area, so double check which one you’re flying in to.
Adisutjipto International Airport (JOG) is the older airport. It is conveniently located only 10km from the city centre, and an easy trip on the local bus system into Yogyakarta itself. The new Yogyakarta International Airport (YIA) is slowly set to replace Adisutjipto though, and is located about 45km south west of Yogyakarta city.
Train travel in Indonesia is great – still relatively affordable and in our experience, trains are extremely clean!
As with the airports, there are also two train stations in Yogyakarta.
Tugu Station is the “main” station, but Lempuyangan Station is right next to Tugu and tickets are generally much cheaper! Both stations are located at the top of the touristy Malioboro Street, and therefore a very manageable walk to your accommodation (more on this below!)
Make sure you book your train travel well in advance. Seats generally fill up a couple of days before departure.
While perhaps not as comfortable as train or plane travel, buses connect Yogyakarta with cities all over Java at very reasonable prices.
From Jakarta, it’s about a 10 hour bus ride though, so consider this as part of your plans.
The main intercity bus terminal is called Giwangan and is about 6 km south of Yogyakarta city centre. For only IDR 3,500 per person, you can catch the local Trans Jogja bus into town.
Where To Stay In Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta BnB – Near Malioboro Street
We stayed at Yogyakarta BnB during our time in Jogja, and really liked it! The breakfast in particular was fantastic, with different local treats to try out every day. They write your name on the door of your room, which is such a nice personal touch! Somehow it made our stay feel really homely!
Yogyakarta BnB offers both private rooms (from US$14 per night) and dorm beds (from US$6 per night), although either way, you’ll have to deal with shared bathrooms.
It’s also worth noting that private rooms are fan only so it can get a bit warm in the hotter months! There is a shared kitchen and, importantly, free unlimited water refills!
Pro Tip: Go green and bring your own refillable water bottle!
I will say that I wasn’t actually a massive fan of the Malioboro Street area… It’s definitely the most touristy area of Yogyakarta, and one of the few places in Java where we were hassled by vendors to buy things.
Still, staying here is convenient in terms of getting around, and Yogyakarta BnB is a couple of blocks back from the main street so it’s actually very quiet.
Where To Eat In Yogyakarta
Do: Street food is a great option for “proper” Indonesian food (most likely – Nasi Goreng -> Fried rice). Get away from the hustle and bustle and brave one of the random street vendors making meals fresh from their carts at the side of the road.
Don’t: Bother with the small “restaurants” along Malioboro Street with the low tables and mats to sit on. We didn’t find the food here at all spectacular. Head further out from the main tourist area to get a decent meal.
If you are happy to spend a little more than a couple of bucks on a meal, the best restaurants in Yogyakarta are undoubtedly in the hip Prawirotaman neighbourhood. You’ll also find plenty of accommodation options in this area, but generally it’s a bit pricier.
Our best meal in Yogyakarta (and maybe even in Indonesia) was undoubtedly at Mediterranea Restaurant. And no, it’s not an Indonesian restaurant, sorry! Trust me, we had our fair share of Nasi Goreng (fried rice). But sometimes you just need a good, juicy steak!!
After having a severe bout of food poisoning in Langkawi, Malaysia, from a (really poor!) steak, I was a little hesitant to give it another go. But holy moly!! Mediterranea knows how to cook a good steak!
While it is a bit pricey by Indonesian standards, we still thought it was really great value for money. For a shared starter, a fantastic steak each, and a desert to share, we only spent around US$30 in total. Worth every penny!!
If you’re looking for vegetarian and vegan meals, Via Via is a great option. Although they do serve meat too if you prefer!
There is definitely something for everyone here, with everything from pasta, burgers and Indonesian food on their menu.
The highlight? Via Via bake their own fresh bread daily, and even have gluten free options available!
Top Things To Do In Yogyakarta
As I mentioned earlier, Yogyakarta is a great place to explore on foot. The main central sights in Yogyakarta are located in a relatively compact area in the south of the city.
For some of the attractions further afield, you’ll need to rely on local buses, rent a scooter or a driver, or book a tour.
Beware Of: The Batik Gallery…
If you stroll down Malioboro Street you will undoubtedly be approached by a local man before long. Usually, they’ll start off with the standard “Where are you from?” greeting.
Sooner or later, they’ll all tell you about this wonderful Batik Gallery that’s “only open on Tuesdays” (or whatever day it happens to be today).
Out of interest, we did actually go to this gallery. I mean, it’s nice enough and could be a good place to buy some souvenirs if you were so inclined. But, since we’re travelling long term, we had no interest in carrying around art.
The reason I’m telling you to be careful is because we found it very difficult to leave the gallery as the owner kept blocking our way and actually started to get quite aggressive about trying to sell us something when we said no.
So, go at your own risk!
This palace is still the home of the reigning Sultan of Yogyakarta and his family. As such, not all areas are open to the public, and the parts that are, only open to visitors in the morning (8.30am – 12.30pm).
Entrance fee – IDR 15,000 pp
This includes a free tour and if you get there early, you might also get to enjoy one of the daily performances in the inner courtyard.
Note that there is an additional IDR 1,000 fee for taking photos with a camera.
Water Castle (Taman Sari)
Just a short stroll from the Palace, Taman Sari is worth a quick visit.
But don’t expect too much grandeur here as much of it is in poor repair. Still, it gives a glimpse into the splendour that this garden once was, and does provide some pretty photo opps!
Entrance fee – IDR 15,000 pp
Prambanan Temple (Candi Prambanan)
For me, Prambanan Temple was the highlight of our time in Yogyakarta. It is simply breathtaking!
We didn’t plan it this way, but we ended up being at Prambanan for sunset, which was spectacular! The temples just seemed to light up with a golden glow as the sun set.
Prambanan Temple is one of Yogyakarta’s two UNESCO world heritage sites. The three largest temples in Prambanan are dedicated to the Hindu Gods of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The tallest temple is an impressive 47 metres high!
The complex is pretty big though, and there are many more aside from these main ones. We spent the whole afternoon exploring the beautiful Hindu temples.
While they are impressive from afar, they are magnificent up close too, so make sure you take in the details. There are so many intricate carvings and designs to admire!
What’s great about Prambanan is that it is really easy to visit on your own. Trans Jogja bus 1A leaves from Malioboro Street and takes about 1 hour to get to Prambanan. Get off at the final stop, and you’ll have a short walk to the main entrance.
Entrance fee – IDR 350,000 pp
Bus to temple – IDR 3,500 pp
Borobudur Temple (Candi Borobodur)
The second UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Yogyakarta area is Borobudur Temple. This is considered to be one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world.
The temple is built in tiers representing the many layers of Buddhist theory. It’s hard to get a true sense of the magnificence of Borobudur from the ground. Unlike Prambanan, Borobudur is one large temple in the shape of a traditional Buddhist mandala, which you would really only see from a birds eye view.
Still, it is definitely impressive, for no other reason than the 72 stupas (bell like structures) and 504 Buddha statues!
It’s popular to visit Borobudur Temple for Sunrise, which is what we did. It includes breakfast and a “complimentary” souvenir (a scarf).
Honestly, though, I didn’t think it was worth the extra money (Sunrise tickets cost IDR 475,000 pp).
Maybe it’s because I’m not naturally an early riser and my personal preference is for sunsets rather than sunrises anyway. But, doing it as part of a tour meant we didn’t get much time to simply walk around and explore on our own which left me feeling like we didn’t get to fully experience Borobudur Temple the way we would have liked.
This is completely down to personal preference though, of course!
Entrance fee – IDR 350,000 pp
Which Is Better – Prambanan vs Borobudur?
It’s almost impossible to compare Borobudur and Prambanan as they’re really very different.
Prambanan is Hindu while Borobudur is Buddhist.
Prambanan is a large complex with many different temples, while Borobudur is a single (but huge!) temple.
If I had to pick one, it would be Prambanan. But, it’s very much a personal choice and everyone’s tastes and experiences are different. If you have the time, I’d highly recommend visiting both (although not on the same day unless you’re up for a loooooong day and lots of walking!)
Top Tip: If you do have time to visit both, buy a combo ticket for IDR 630,000pp. This ticket will save you IDR 70,000 pp and is valid for 3 days, so you can take a break between temple visits.
Mount Merapi (Gunung Merapi)
Mount Merapi (literally translated as “Fire Mountain”!) is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia. As we drove closer to it, we could see plumes of smoke coming out of the top of the volcano.
Merapi last erupted violently in late 2010, when around 350 people sadly lost their lives. The small museum at base camp is quite an eye opener to the devastation this eruption caused. I had no idea that ash from a volcano could cause so much damage!
It is possible to hike Mount Merapi (when it’s not closed due to volcanic activity…) but we opted for an off-road jeep adventure instead. It’s a bumpy ride but a fun alternative. It’s popular with Asian tourists in particular though, so there are lots of photo (read -> Selfie!) stops along the way!
There are short, medium and long tour options available at different prices.
Our short jeep tour took just under 2 hours and cost IDR 350,000 for the jeep.
If you still have some time left after ticking off all of the above things to do in Yogyakarta, you could consider Pinus Pengger for something a bit different…
It’s a pine forest of sorts, although not really a place for walks, if that is what you’re after. It’s really more of an outdoor art spot. Local artists have created numerous creative art installations, shaped from pine branches, which are popular with locals for instagram shots!
You’ll want to rent a scooter for this outing (our day rental set us back IDR 70,000, which we organised through our accommodation). Make sure it’s a decent one because Pinus Pengger is up a very steep road! You’ll be rewarded with some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside at the top though.
Entrance Fee – IDR 3,000pp
Parking Fee – IDR 2,000 per scooter
Some artists (if they’re around) will also charge you a small fee (IDR 2,000) for taking a photo on or with their creation.
We really loved our five days in Yogyakarta! No doubt you could easily spend much longer here if you were so inclined. But, at the very least, you’ll need three days to see the highlights outlined in this Yogyakarta travel guide.
Have you been to Yogyakarta? What was your favourite part of your trip? Let me know in the comments below!
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