Of Indonesia’s 13,000 plus islands, Java is perhaps one of the most happening, and certainly the most populated.
135 million people squeeze onto an island smaller than Britain, and the majority of these are centred around the country’s capital city, Jakarta, a sprawling, messy city that is difficult to like and even more difficult to get around. Despite this there are enough things to do, in the form of museums, harbours and monuments, to keep the traveller entertained for at least a day or two!
It is away from the city however that Java begins to show its real charm. In the west, just a few hours from Jakarta, are the pleasant beach towns of Anyer and Carita. Life is slow here, but the people are friendly, and they are useful bases for the remarkable Krakatao Volcano, home to the world’s largest volcano eruption way back in 1883.
To the south lie some of the world’s best surf beaches, while the cities of Bogor, Bandung and Yogyakarta (pronounced Jogja) are terrific, bohemian cities to visit. In particular, Yogya, which is home to the world-famous Borobudur and Prambanan temples as well as Mount Merapi – erupting violently as recently as late-2010. There is more spectacular scenery further east in the form of Mount Bromo National Park and the bizarre Ijen crater with its mysterious blue flames.
Exploring Java on a time schedule? Check out our one-week itinerary for Java here.
22 Things to Do in Java
1. Start your Indonesian days with sunrise at the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, or at the Borobudur Temple near Yogyakarta.
2. Sail around the islands of Kepulauan Seribu National Park in a fisherman’s boat.
3. Hire a campervan with your travel buddies and explore Java at your own pace.
4. Scuba dive with the fishes surrounding the Karimunjawa islands.
5. Live life on the edge… of a volcano! Clamber into a crater at Tagkuban Perahu, Bandung.
7. Restock your backpack in the vast shopping malls of Jakarta.
8. Go trekking in the rainforests of Mount Halimun Salak National Park and Ujung Kulon National Park.
9. Ride the waves at G-Land which is just a short trip from Banyuwangi, a must for all keen surfers.
10. Check out the Kebun Raya, Bogor’s spectacular botanical gardens. The gardens house many rare species, used by scientists for medical research.
11. Climb 2958m up the sides of Gunung Gede, into its vast crater (April – October). Permits for the six-hour climb can be bought from Perlindungan Hutan and Konservasi Alam for 5,000Rp.
12. Eat fresh fish in the floating fishing village of Jangari, not far from Cianjur in the east.
13. Catch a traditional ‘adu-domba’, a ram-butting fight, on a Sunday morning in Bandung.
14. Relax in the Sari Ater Hot Springs Resort, great for soothing those achy volcano-weary muscles. 10,000Rp admission.
15. Witness ‘Soekarno’s Last Erection’, a 132m high monument in Jakarta’s Freedom Square. From here you’ll get the most impressive panoramic view of the city.
16. Take surfing lessons on the empty white beaches of Pangandaran and Batu Karas.
17. Visit the misty ‘Abode of Gods’, the Dieng Plateau. In a stark contrast to elsewhere in Java, this damp, volcanic landscape is littered with ancient ruins. It should cost you around 12,000Rp to visit the temples.
18. Relax with a traditional Javanese oil massage in Yogyakarta.
19. Take an early morning boat out to the Krakatoa Volcano and witness the site of the world’s largest volcano eruption.
20. Go Canyoning in the Cijulang River, Pangandaran.
21. Visit the many discount outlet stores in Bandung. Keep your eye out for the unique Batik patterns.
22. Just for fun, visit Dufan, Jakarta’s amusement park.
Getting to Java:
By Plane: Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport is Indonesia’s busiest airport, with connections all over the Southeast Asian region and the world. There are also a number of smaller airports, as well as some more international ones, dotted around the island.
By Boat: There are regular boats carrying passengers to the island of Bali in the east from Banyuwangi and in the west to Sumatra from Merak.
Where to go next?
- Bali: Indonesia’s most famous island, Bali is just a short flight from Jakarta and is home to a lively party and surfing scene.
- Sumatra: On the western island of Sumatra the scene is very different, jungle and mountain trekking, quieter beach-life and traditional Indonesian hospitality.
Written by: Oliver Slow has five years’ experience working as a journalist in Myanmar at Frontier Myanmar Magazine. He is Chief-of-Staff at Frontier and his work has appeared in publications including The Guardian, CNN and Nikkei Asian Review.