Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Yogyakarta, Indonesia  

Yogyakarta, affectionately known as Jogja by most Indonesians, is a popular tourist destination on Java, Indonesia. With some of Indonesia’s most impressive temples nearby, plenty of culture to soak up, and a friendly, vibrant vibe, Yogyakarta is the perfect city to visit on your trip to Indonesia. 

With a relatively compact city centre (and rather less overwhelming than Jakarta!) Yogyakarta is a great place to walk around and explore on foot. Alternatively, there’s a really easy public bus system that can take you to where you want to go for only IDR 3,500 per person! 

With so much to see and do in and around Yogyakarta, I’d recommend spending at least three days here although it’s easy to spend much longer! 

Where To Stay In Yogyakarta

The centre of Yogyakarta is laid out in a relatively easy to navigate grid-format.

Liam Brighton - Street Art
A sample of Yogyakarta’s colourful street art! Photo credit: Liam Brighton.

Jalan Malioboro

There are plenty of accommodation options around the main tourist street of Jalan Malioboro but honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of Malioboro street. It felt extremely touristy and was one of the very few places on Java where we felt a bit hassled as tourists. But, there are lots of good accommodation options nearby, and it is a convenient location close to the train station and the Trans Jogya bus route. 

Prawirotaman

Many backpackers head slightly further south to the hipper area around Prawirotaman. This is a small neighbourhood south of the city centre. There is much more of a buzz in this area, with trendy cafes and restaurants. If you like to be where the action is, Prawirotaman is the place for you!

Kraton

Just south of Malioboro, and still very central, Kraton is a bustling backpackers area. For those looking to stay but on a strict budget, the area around the Kraton might be best suited.

Rice paddy scenery in Yogyakarta
Views over the rice paddies.

5 Amazing Yogyakarta Hostels!

1. Yogyakarta BnBFrom $6 Per Night

A fantastic backpacker accommodation a couple of blocks back from Malioboro Street. Both private rooms and dorm beds are available, with a delicious breakfast included in most room rates. Bathrooms are all shared. Note that private rooms do not have air con so this is something to consider in the hotter months. There is a shared kitchen available for use and free water refills.

2. Otu Hostel By Ostic – From $5 Per Night

This is a great hostel located near Prawirotaman, with friendly staff and a shared kitchen where you can cook your own meals if you wish. Alternatively, there are lots of local restaurants around. Bonus – there is a pool too! 

3. Pondok Sare – From $5 Per Night

Rooms here are bright and modern, with spacious common areas (both inside and outside) for getting to know your fellow travellers. A great breakfast is included for all guests, and there is a shared kitchen where you can help yourself to coffee and tea. Private and dorm rooms available, all with shared bathrooms. It is situated near to Prawirotaman.

4. The Patio Yogya – From $10 Per Night

Located in a renovated old Dutch Colonial building in a quiet part of Kraton, this cozy and clean property even features a little plunge pool to cool off after a day of exploring! Prices include breakfast.

5. See You Soon BackpackersFrom $7 Per Night

A really small place in Kraton with only 6 dorm beds. But, each bed has a decent amount of space and a real feeling of privacy with a curtain to close you off from the other guests. It’s almost like having your own mini-room! 

Man at Borobudur Temple.
Yogyakarta is a must visit for backpackers! Photo credit: Sarina Pruschy.

Top 7 Things To Do In Yogyakarta

Most attractions in Yogyakarta itself are centered in the south of the city. However, it is well worth venturing further afield to ensure you take in all this vibrant city has to offer.

Kraton Palace

Home to the reigning Sultan of Yogyakarta and his family, you can easily while away a couple of hours exploring the palace complex. There are Buddhist, Islamic and Hindi elements to much of the decoration in the central part of the palace. As the palace is the active residence of the Sultan, not all areas are accessible to the public. 

Note that the palace is only open to visitors in the morning (8.30am – 12.30pm). Get there early to also enjoy the daily performance in the inner courtyard. A free tour is included in your entrance fee.

Entrance Fee: IDR 15,000 pp 

Additional IDR 1,000 if you want to take photos with your camera

Water Castle (Taman Sari)

Located a short distance from Kraton Palace, Taman Sari was once the garden for the Sultan of Yogyakarta. The complex was no doubt once a sight to behold but was largely ruined due to war and an earthquake. It is partially restored and you can certainly glimpse the splendor that once was this Water Castle. 

Entrance fee: IDR 15,000 pp

Yogyakarta Water Palace Taman Sari
The Water Palace is a cool place to explore.

Make Your Own Batik (Or Just Visit The Museum)

Batik is an ancient Javanese art form where the artist uses molten wax to draw on a piece of cloth. Easier said than done, but a fun activity if you’re artistically inclined. 

The word batik is thought to be derived from the word ‘ambatik’ which means ‘a cloth with little dots’, a very accurate representation of this important traditional art form. The art of decorating cloth in this way, using wax and dye, has been practised for centuries, and you’ll be hard pushed to visit Indonesia without seeing some form of Batik.

Entrance fee: IDR 20,000 pp

Batik Course: IDR 40,000 pp

Prambanan Temple (Candi Prambanan)

Although there are many tours on offer, it is super easy to visit Prambanan Temple on your own! Simply jump on the Trans Jogja bus route 1A and get off at the final stop (this takes about an hour). 

I highly recommend going in the early afternoon, and staying for sunset. The colours are stunning and make the temples at Prambanan glow.

Although Borobudur is arguably more famous, or at least better known, my vote for the most breathtaking temple in Yogyakarta is Prambanan! A large complex of incredible Hindu temples with intricate designs, it is a well-deserving UNESCO world heritage site.

There are many temples within the Prambanan complex which means you can easily spend hours walking around here. The three largest temples are dedicated to the Hindu Gods of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The tallest temple is an impressive 47 metres high!

Entrance fee: IDR 350,000 pp

Bus to temple: IDR 3,500 pp

Yogyakarta Prambanan Temple
Prambanan Temple is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Borobudur Temple (Candi Borobodur)

It’s popular to visit Borobudur Temple for sunrise but honestly, I didn’t think it was worth the extra money. I would happily have spent time simply exploring on my own during the day when visitor numbers are likely lower.

Unlike the Prambanan complex, Borobudur is a single, but absolutely huge, temple. It’s considered to be one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. It is built in three tiers, with 72 openwork stupas (a bell-like structure), each containing a statue of Buddha. 

Entrance fee: IDR 350,000 pp

Traveller Tip! Buy a combo ticket for both Borobudur and Prambanan for IDR 630,000pp if you plan to visit both! The combo ticket is valid for 3 days and I highly recommend visiting the temples on separate days rather than combining them in one day!

Borobudur Temple Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Borobudur Temple dates from the 9th century. Photo credit: Sarina Pruschy.

Mount Merapi (Gunung Merapi)

Mount Merapi (literally translated as “Fire Mountain”!) is a great addition to your day if you visit Borobudur Temple in the morning. It is one of the most active volcanoes in all of Indonesia and erupted violently in late 2010. You’ll often see smoke coming out of the top of the volcano, making for some pretty epic photos on a clear day!

It is possible to hike Mount Merapi when it is not closed or partially closed due to volcanic activity. You can also do an off-road jeep tour as a fun alternative! On offer are short, medium or long tours at different prices. Our short jeep tour took just under 2 hours and cost IDR 350,000 for the jeep. You can fit 4 people in the jeep (plus the driver) although 3 would definitely be more comfortable. 

Take some time to walk through the small museum at base camp. It will open your eyes to the devastation of the 2010 eruption where around 350 people lost their lives.

Mount Merapi Near Yogyakarta
Mount Merapi is one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes.

Pinus Pengger

A quirky outing from Yogyakarta if you’re comfortable on a scooter; Pinus Pengger is up a steep road and provides some pretty spectacular views of the surrounding valleys. Unfortunately, there aren’t really any walks to do in this “pine forest” but you’ll capture some fun shots at the various formations made by local artists. Note that some will charge you a small fee (IDR 2,000) for the pleasure of taking a photo on or with their creation. There is also a small parking (IDR 2,000) and entrance fee (IDR 3,000 pp). 

Pinus Pengger.
Tourists taking photos at the ‘Pine Forest’.

Where To Eat In Yogyakarta

Via Via

This place is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and offers a large selection of vegetarian and vegan meals (meat too if you prefer!) They make their own fresh bread daily in their bakery (yum!), with gluten free options available. Pasta, burgers, Indonesian food, you name it! Via Via has something for everyone.

Bonus! There are guest rooms here too from only IDR 220,000 per night including breakfast.

Bong Kopitown

This unique eatery is styled inside like a prison (complete with bars!) and offers a dining experience you won’t forget in a hurry! Menus are made of paper, the plates are metal and the staff are all dressed in prison attire! The food is reasonably priced and the place is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Bong Kopitown restaurant, Yogyakarta
Bong Kopitown is styled to replicate a prison inside. Photo credit: Roberto Rakovac.

Nanamia Pizzeria

Sometimes you just want a good old thin crust, wood fire pizza. Am I right? If so, Nanamia Pizzeria is the place to go. Not only do they serve decent pizza (for Indonesia at least) as well as other Italian food, the quaint garden setting provides a lovely atmosphere. You write your own order down on the provided order slip, which is then checked and collected by the staff.  

Traveller Tip! Many people recommended the street stalls along Malioboro Street. While these did seem to be frequented by locals (which I always take to be a good sign!) we were definitely not blown away by the food here! Small portions and mediocre taste meant we were left quite disappointed by our experience. 

Mediterranea

Mediterranea is still a vivid memory of mine months after visiting Yogyakarta! Having lived on Nasi Goreng (fried rice – Indonesia’s staple diet) for weeks, we were craving a good steak and boy did Mediterranea deliver!! For around $30 in total, we had the most delicious steaks, deserts and even a complimentary glass of wine each (monthly special). As the name suggests, the menu is focused on Mediterranean cuisine. Also open for breakfast and lunch.

Steak At Meditteranea Restaurant Yogyakarta
The steak at Meditteranea Restaurant is to die for!

How To Get To Yogyakarta

Fly

Frequent flights to Yogyakarta from across Indonesia and surrounding countries make it easy to get to Yogyakarta by plane.

Adisutjipto International Airport (JOG) is the principal airport serving the Yogyakarta area. It is conveniently located about 10km from the city centre making it a short taxi or Grab/GoJek ride to your accommodation. 

However, a new Yogyakarta International Airport (YIA) is slowly set to replace the busy Adisutjipto Airport, with the first flights commencing in May 2019. YIA is located about 45km south west of Yogyakarta city. 

Train

Train is a great way to travel across main centers on Java, and the main Yogyakarta train station, Tugu Station, is located at the top of the touristy Malioboro Street. It is important to book your train travel well in advance though, as seats fill up quickly.

Traveller Tip! There are 2 train stations in Yogyakarta. While Tugu Station is listed as the “main” station, getting to and from Yogyakarta is cheaper if you arrive/depart via Lempuyangan Station, which is actually not far from Tugu at all!

Bus

Yogyakarta’s main intercity bus terminal, Giwangan, is located about six kilometres south of the city centre. Frequent departures connect Yogyakarta with cities all over Java at very reasonable prices. From Giwangan bus terminal, you can catch the Trans Jogja train into central Yogyakarta for only IDR3,500 per person.

Yogyakarta streets. Photo credit: Urvesh Devani.
Yogyakarta streets. Photo credit: Urvesh Devani.

Where To Go Next?

There are lots of great places to visit on Java, and I highly recommend you take some time to visit them after Yogyakarta.

Jakarta

Jakarta gets a bad rap. Yes, it’s a huge, sprawling city with close to 10 million people. It is busy. But, it actually has a friendly vibe and there is a lot to see here if you’re interested in learning a bit about the history of Indonesia. Its mixed background means the culture is an eclectic mix of Malay, Chinese, Arab and European (primarily Dutch, Portuguese and British) influences. The old town, Kota Tua, is like stepping into a colonial era Dutch town. 

From Yogyakarta to Jakarta you can take either the bus or train, taking around 10 hours. Alternatively, it’s a short 1 hour flight.

Pangandaran

Only about 5 hours west from Yogyakarta by bus (or, via Sidareja by train followed by bus for the final hour), Pangandaran is a little off the beaten path. However, this is a great reason to visit this quiet fishing town. While spending some time on the beach could well be part of your Pangandaran itinerary, make sure you take a day out to visit both the Green Valley and the Green Canyon. These beautiful natural spots will honestly blow your mind!

Mt Bromo

Head east from Yogyakarta and watch the sunrise over one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes – Mt Bromo. Part of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Mt Bromo is not the highest peak in the national park, but due to its dome shape, perhaps one of the most iconic in all of Indonesia. Watching the sunrise here was one of the absolute highlights of our time on Java!

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