Prambanan and Borobudur – How to visit both without a tour

Yogyakarta is an extraordinary Indonesian city nearby two stunning UNESCO world heritage sites. The Borobudur and the Prambanan.

I highly recommend spending time in Yogyakarta and using the city as the base to visit both sites.

The Borobudur and the Prambanan temples are vastly different in architecture and style, the first is Buddhist and the other Hindu. Prambanan impresses more for the details, and Borobudur impresses because of its size.

Borobudur had my slight preference, purely because I loved the carvings and the views from the top.

I also really liked the Prambanan’s temples set against a green landscape but in the end, Borobudur left a bigger impression.

Both deserve a visit and if you are short in time you can visit both easily on the same day, without a tour, using only public transports.

Just keep in mind that Borobudur and Prambanan are not close to each other. Borobudur is located to the northwest of Yogyakarta (45km) and Prambanan is closer to the east part of Yogyakarta (16km).

How to see both Borobudur and Prambanan in One Day

My suggestion is to visit the Borobudur temple in the morning and the Prambanan temple in the afternoon catching the sunset.

Get the Trans-Jogja busses 2B or 2A (Rp 3,500 ~$0.25) to go from central Yogyakarta to Jombor bus terminal located in northern Yogyakarta.

Get the bus to Borobudur Bus Terminal, the journey takes about 60-90 minutes (Rp.25,000 ~$1.40)

From Borobudur, Bus Terminal walk 5-10 minutes to the Borobudur Temple.

When you finish visiting the temple, take a bus from Borobudur back to Yogyakarta and get the TransJogja bus that goes directly to Prambanan – Route 1A (Rp.4,000 ~$0.22)

Hope you’ve found the tips useful 🙂

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Prambanan Temple – Hindu temple

The Prambanan Temple was built in the 9th century and is the biggest and most complete remains of Java’s period of Hindu culture. Nowadays it comprises the remains of some 244 temples.

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Prambanan is Indonesia’s largest Hindu site and a World Heritage site part of the UNESCO.

Prambanan Temple

Prambanan’s temple highlight is the central compound, where eight main and eight minor temples are assembled on a raised platform. Each of them has beautiful carvings and a religious statue inside.

The three biggest temples, called Trimurti (“three forms”), are dedicated to the three Hindu Gods: Shiva the Destroyer, Vishnu the Keeper and Brahma the Creator.

Even though Prambanan is a big tourist sight, it wasn’t too crowded when we visited. I was there at the end of the day, which is a good time (just like early morning) to avoid larger groups of tourists. The complex is open from 6.00 to 18.00 daily.

Prambanan Temple

Visiting the temple without a tour

Personally, I like to sightsee on my own and I always avoid tours unless completely impossible. I don’t really mind if it’s harder or it takes longer because I love the flexibility for doing what I want for as long as I like.

Visiting the Prambanan Temple on your own, its simple and easy to do.

The entry fee for Prambanan is Rp.325,000 ($23.85), but you can get a combined ticket to the Prambanan and Borobudur for Rp.520,000 ($38.15).

Prambanan sunset

How to get there

Prambanan Temple is a one-hour drive from Yogyakarta, using the local public bus. From downtown, simply take a Route 1A or 1B bus to the final stop, Terminal Prambanan, because is the end of the line, you don’t have to worry about missing your stop.

Local bus tickets cost Rp.3,600 ($0.25), they run fairly frequently, are comfortable and have air-conditioned.

The other options you have is to hire a driver for the day, take a Grab Taxi or rent a scooter to have the flexibility to explore other sites.

Thoughts about Prambanan

Although I enjoyed the Borobudur temple more the Prambanan was also a highlight, It was absolutely lovely to spend the afternoon strolling around the temples and the lush green garden surrounding them.

If you are planning to go to Yogyakarta and Borobudur temple, you should definitely head over to Prambanan too. Just be prepared to have locals approaching you to take photos with you!

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Bondowoso City, East Java

Bondowoso is located in East Java, Indonesia, between the highlands of Tengger and IjenFor most travellers is the gateway to Bromo and Ijen.

I stayed in Bondowoso a couple of days, just relaxing away from all the other places that are packed with tourists. The nearest largest city is Surabaya, approximately five hours away. Bondowoso is a nice, peaceful and clean town with considerably less traffic than other cities in Java.

I’ve found here super interesting markets, great food and nice people. The common dialects are Madurese and Javanese, although Madurese is the majority.

The food in Bondowoso is delicious and cheap, and they have food stalls everywhere in town at all times. They also have delicious coffee.

Bondowoso is known for its dessert, tape, that is made from slightly fermented cassava. Tape from Bondowoso has a special sweet taste that locals say can’t be imitated by other towns.

The traditional markets are a must, you can wander for hours just exploring. Locals were quite curious when they saw us, they were commenting, saying hi, and smiling a lot.

Bondowoso is a small provincial town easily walkable, but you can also get into a becak (bicycle rickshaw) if you want a break from the heat.

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Bondowoso has a park in the city centre, called Alun-Alun, with a magnificent view of the mountains.

The biggest adventure we had here was to try to rent a motorbike. Apparently, people here find it hard to say they don’t know or there is no such thing here in Bondowoso. Instead, we had people giving us all sorts of tips and directions that led to nowhere. We got rides in motorbikes from strangers without helmets that said: “we can deliver” 😅

That day we “talked” with dozens and dozens of people, that didn’t speak any English neither we could speak their language, so google translator was our saviour.

By the end of the day, we were no close to finding a place to rent a motorbike, but we were well known around town.

We also went to a hotel to swim at their pool and refresh from the heat of the day.

To get to and from Bondowoso they have frequent buses.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Mount Bromo’s Sea of Sand, without crowds

To visit Mount Bromo, the active volcano in East Java, Indonesia, you will encounter the Tengger Sand Sea. Mount Bromo has a caldera of 10 kilometres surrounded by a vast plain.

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If you end up deciding, visiting it for free and without a tour, you will have the time of your life walking through it. To get to Bromo’s crater edge you must cross this landscape of fine volcanic sand.

As a vegan, I strong campagn for responsible animal tourism and I disencourage anyone from taking a ride from one of the horses there. Walking is healthier, kinder and so much fun. I can’t count how many pictures and videos I did of my feet, touching the mixture of sand and ashes. It was definitely an experience I will cherish till the end of my days.

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When you put your foot on the ground you will see fine sand rising up around your foot, creating a translucent blanket of dust. Its also really cool to feel hollow spaces underground, that were created by lava.

To have the place to yourself and avoid the crowds, climb the volcano late morning or in the afternoon because all the organized trips go early in the morning.

Make sure you take all the time you need to cross the sea of sand, enjoy the moon like landscanpe, and climb to to top of the volcano.

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photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Borobudur temple, Java

The World’s Largest Buddist Temple

Borobudur is located high on a mountain in Central Java. Although it is the largest Buddist temple in the world, Borobudur Temple was lost for centuries until it was found again in 1814. Today is a World Heritage Site, part of the UNESCO.

I found Borobudur one of the most impressive temples I’ve ever seen. Comparable in a way to the temples of Angkor in Cambodia.

Borobudur temple detail

The Borobudur Temple

The Borobudur temple is made up of five large square terraces, with three circular platforms on top of them, ringed by 72 stupas, representing the spiritual journey from the life of desire, through meditation to Nirvana. All platforms are covered with intricate carvings.

When you reach the very top there is a magnificent stupa.

The views from the top are absolutely stunning, surrounded by green and volcanic peaks.

Visiting Borobudur Temple

Because it’s a popular attraction the site gets absolutely packed during the day. The Borobudur Temple is the single most visited site in Indonesia. So make sure you arrive as early as you can.

If you plan visiting the Borobudur temple and the Prambanan temple is worth it to buy the combo ticket for $40, instead of buying the tickets separately.

At the entrance, after buying the tickets they have an area with complimentary drinks where you can have a cup of coffee, tea or water, and where they give you a sarong to use inside.

They also have wifi, so you can download the free app ‘cultural places‘ and use it as an audio-guide.

Is possible to before the official opening hours to get see the sunrise, although you pay a higher admission fee, and there is no public bus that can get you there on time. The first bus leaves at 06:00 making it impossible to arrive before the sunrise.

How to get to Borobudur

Borobudur is in Magelang, 40 km northwest of Yogyakarta and is not difficult to get there using public transports.

So to get the public bus go to the Jombor terminal in the north of Yogyakarta (takes roughly 1hour and a half to 2 hours) and cost Rp30,000 ($2.10). The journey is quite straight forward and the buses leave regularly to Borobudur between 06:00 and 16:00.

The Borobudur terminal is a 10-minute walk from the temple complex. The last bus back from Borobudur leaves at 16:00.

Alternatively, you can rent a scooter, find a travel agency offering tours, or hire a driver/guide to take you.

Most of the visitors are Indonesian and there aren’t many tourists on the bus either, so be prepared to pose and take some pictures with the Indonesian tourists.

The next most significant is another Unesco World Heritage Site, the 9th and 10th century Hindu complex of Prambanan, that can also be visited, located on the island of Java.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Ijen’s Blue Flames, it is worthy?

The Ijen volcano is famous for its Blue Flames that light up in the darkness of the volcano crater. Located in the Banyuwangi Regency on the East Java, Indonesia.

For many, hiking the Ijen is the highlight of their Indonesia trip and an extraordinary experience.  Find here how to hike to the heart of the Ijen Crater and chase the blue flames, without a tour.

After doing my trip to Ijen I really have mixed feelings about this place. I can’t really understand why people love it so much, for me it is a very controversial tourist attraction with serious problems.

Why I don’t recommend the blue flames

Trekking down the crater during the night can be extremely dangerous, there’s no paths or railings, the terrain is boulders and rubbles and there are so much more people than you can imagine doing the same as you at the same time.

When you get to the centre of the crater, and you look up, it’s just horrifying, to see thousands of tiny dots from the torches coming down, in a flow that never stops.

The rocky path down to the crater is breaking up because of the number of people walking on it daily.

Wind, as you know, is unpredictable so that means that sometimes is nearly impossible to breathe or see, and you’re trapped in a sulphur mine. During my visit I had to sit on the floor, several times close my eyes and try to breathe as slowly and calmly as I could, till the wind was blowing the fumes in a different direction.

Despite having a gas mask you can barely breathe and the gas stings your eyes.

You see impressive photographs from the blue flames on the internet but if you’re lucky to see them at all is just a small defuse light far in the distance.

The Sulfur Miners in Ijen

Miners do an arduous and inhumane work in conditions that can only be described as hell. In the middle of toxic fumes and heat, without equipment.

They trek up Ijen’s 9,000-foot slopes during the night and descending another 3,000 feet into the crater, where they extract the sulfur, they then carry 150 to 200-pound of the so-called “devil’s gold” back up the crater twice a day, earning an average of five dollars per trip.

While miners are working thousands of tourist invade the space, making their work even harder, asking them to pose for photographs, and blocking the path ways.

Can’t really get my head around it, it seems to me that this is the commodification of human suffering and the objectification of people living in terrible conditions.

For me, visiting the ijen during the nighh was an intoxicating, scary and not memorable experience, that I wouldn’t repeat.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Yogyakarta top things to do

Yogyakarta often known as Yogya, Yoja or even Jogja, is located in the island of Java, Indonesia. For me Jogja is a special, buzzing picturesque place, full of art, history, and culture, and a must visit in the island of Java.

Jogja has so many things to offer that you can easily spend a week there. Don’t assume that the only good thing about it is the proximity to the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Borobodur & Prambanan.

Kraton

Walking around the Kraton neighbourhood is quite pleasant, with its narrow and colourful streets.

To visit the Kraton Palace is Rp.15,000 ($1) + Rp.1,000 ($0.10) for the camera.

Included in the ticket price they have different performances everyday in the inner pavilion from 9 to noon. Depending on the day, they have gamelan (music), wayang golek (puppetry), classical dance, Javanese poetry , leather puppetry and Javanese dance.

Just make sure you enter through the correct entrance – north-west side,  and be careful with scammers here.

Water Palace (Taman Sari)

The Taman Sari is located just southwest of the Kraton, and is a complex with pools and waterways, once used by the sultan. To get there you will need to cross the tunnels and underground mosque. The entrance fee is Rp.7000 ($0.50).

Jalan Malioboro

The Maliboro is a massive street that goes as far as the eye can see, packed with shops and stalls selling a bit everything. If you are not into busy places and shopping, maybe avoid this street.

During the evening the north end of JI Malioboro gets full of street food vendors selling inexpensive and delicious vegan food.

During the day, visit the Maliboro street at the same time as the Beringharjo Market.

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Markets

Yogyakarta is well know in Java for its huge markets, give yourself a morning or two to go around different neighbourhoods and explore the best of what they have to offer.

Sono-Budoyo Museum

This museums has a mixture of really interesting Javanese arts from puppets to batiks, and also pieces from the Balinese culture.

If you keep an eye, they host performances here regularly during the evenings.

The entrance fee is Rp.5,000 ($0.40). Yogyakarta has other museums but this one was for me the most interesting one.

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Street art

The street art in Jogjia is incredible rich and really interesting. It’s great to have a walk around and see some of the greatest murals in Yogyakarta.

Vegan Street Food

The street food scene in Yogyakarta is great, and there are lots of vegan and vegetarian options.

Yogyakarta Tourist Traps to avoid
  • Silver and Batik
  • Price Hike, don’t be afraid to haggle,
  • Long Taxi Rides.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Sunrise at Bromo, for Free and Without a Tour

Visiting the Mount Bromo, contemplate the sunrise or sunset, can be done easily for free and without a tour.

First, you need to reach the small town of Cemoro Lawang, find a room and overnight there. If you arrive during the day, I recommend visiting the Bromo crater that day, after the tours left.

I woke up at 3.20am and left to the hike to the top of Mount Penanjakan, by myself, and could be easier. The trek uphill is about 5km long so you need some good 2 hours.
It’s important to have a good torch, proper shoes and warm clothes, its frizzing cold during the night, remember that you are at 2,217 meters above sea level.

Hiking to the top of Mount Penanjakan during the night

First, you walk on the concrete road for half of the journey and then you go into a rocky mountain trail, The hike is not difficult but you need to have a reasonable level of fitness. Its deep dark but using the offline map app maps-me makes the tasks pretty easy, as long as you have a light source with you.

It’s amazing to stop occasionally to look at the starts here, the visibility is just superb.

On the day I did my hike, I only pass through a couple of small moving light points from other travellers. This is not the same route taken by the jeeps (tours) and there are not many people climbing up this way.

After a while, I reached a viewing point that I liked (you will find many) and waited there for the sunrise. Slowly started to get brighter and brighter… It was magical, such a stunning and magnificent view over the caldera with Semeru volcano in the background.

I contemplated the sunrise wrapped in a blanket and stayed a bit longer having breakfast (that I carried in my backpack) looking at the views.

The weather was getting warmer and I went down to town, sat for a coffee, rest and finish an amazing morning.

The journey was tiring but completely worth it.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Batik in Yogyakarta, what to do and where to go on a budget

One of the best things about travelling is learning new things, and it would be impossible to visit or live in Indonesia and not to notice one of the country’s most highly developed art forms, the batik.

The Indonesian Batik is part of the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Batik is a method originally used in Java of producing coloured designs on textiles by applying wax and them dyeing them.

 

Felling the Batik smell, admire its patterns and learn about its processes needs to be part of any visit to Yogyakarta because is such an important part of the Indonesian culture and heritage.

Where to learn about the  batik process

If you want to see and learn about the batik process the Batik Winotosatro in Yogyakarta, shows it for free.

The manual process uses fabric, hot wax, tjanting and colours. Tjanting is a bell metal tool used in outlining the design of the batik art.

 

The Batik can also be made by stamp.

 

Where to try the batik process

Mirota Batik is a fixed-priced store, located in the Malioboro, that sell batik fabric and clothing, but also has a small space where you can try this technique (Rp.30,000~$2)

 

Batik scams

Batik is very popular in Yogyakarta among tourists, making it a great opportunity for scammers.

Everywhere you go,  someone will be trying to sell you batik, or they have a friend that does it, or they know the most authentic place to buy it, or they are a teacher in the University of Batik… well… the stories are many and I assure you; you will hear them all. The important thing is to decline all offers politely and choose wisely where you want to go.

If you want to buy some batik my advice is for you to go to a shop with fixed prices.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Yogyakarta a special place

The special region of Yogyakarta often known as Yogya, Yoja or even Jogja, is located in the island of Java, Indonesia. Unlike Bali, Jogya is more traditionally Muslimwith a minority identifying as Christian and Hindu. 

Yogyakarta is a busy sprawling city with lots of narrow picturesque side streets in a maze-like formation, that makes navigation confusing at times but also exciting.

Many people will say that Yogya is not a city to fall in love with, but I did… I truly fell in love with this city to the point I have returned again. If you have been reading my posts about Indonesia I was quite disappointed with most of the places.

For the first time on my adventure around Indonesia, I didn’t feel like everyone had an agenda, I liked the vibe of the city, its people, and authenticity.

Location

Yogyakarta also has an excellent location whatever direction you go. The Merapi mount at the North, isolated beaches at the South, The Heritage site of Prambanan at the East and the ancient Buddhist temple – Borobudur at the west to where you can go using public buses.

The Arts

Jogya is the centre of many art forms including traditional dances, batik, ballet, drama, music, poetry, puppet shows, and cuisine.

Yogyakarta is the beating heart of the Javanese culture. The city pulsates with creative energy, where artists from all over Indonesia come to join the community, making this city a feast for the eyes.

Street Art

Street art is just another way of expression, and finding the best street art is just one of the things you can do in Yogyakarta.  Jogya is a colourful, creative city full of surprises. There always seems to be something going on.

Local Markets

There are few better places to visit than the local markets in order to gain a sense of a country, its customs and culture than amongst the stalls and the people.

Most markets you will encounter are packed with people, are hot and sticky, have colourful foods and gods on offer, some are located in narrow alleyways full of the sounds and smells of a country waiting to be explored.

Whichever you choose, make sure you’re there early as most stalls close after 11 am.

Food

There are food stalls in every corner, and vegan and vegetarian food is abundant in Yogyakarta. Tofu and tempeh are super common and dairy, on the other hand, is rarely used in cooking.

The busiest area is on the north end of JI Malioboro where you will find dozens of street food vendors during the evening.

Look for nasi goreng (fried rice), gado gado (vegetable salad with peanut sauce), lotek (similar to gado gado), gudgeon (jackfruit curry), nasi Langgi (coconut rice with temple),  tahu and tempe sate (tofu and tempeh on skewers) and pecel (mixed veg salad with bean sprouts and peanut sauce).

Becaks

Becaks (cycle rickshaws) are used for public transportation in Yogyakarta. Around the Palace Quarter after the sun has set the streets are filled with a selection of illuminated vehicles decorated with everything from Hello Kitty to Pokemons.

Batik

Batik is an ancient waxing and dying process, very popular in Indonesia. In fact, it is here, on the island of Java that the finest batik in the world is produced.

Jogja being the Javanese cultural hub, is a great place to witness the process of batik first-hand.

Some batik workshops give free tours of the batik process. But please do some research and be aware of all the scams directed at tourists.

I’ve visited Yogyakarta twice and spent some considerable time there, and I can’t recommend it enough, I really loved it..

Have you been to Java or Yogyakarta? Let me know your thoughts..

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha