Yogyakarta is a city in central Java, Indonesia known for its traditional arts and cultural heritage such as the famous Borobudur complex. It is popular among tourists who want a quick experience of Indonesian traditional culture. If you are wondering if Yogyakarta is worth a visit or what are some of the cool things you can do in this city, then you are at the right place. This guide will include the how-to to both the off-the-beaten-track attractions, and the well-known ones so hold on to your hats as we explore Yogyakarta together.
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Where to Stay in Yogyakarta
Laura's Backpacker is a hostel that will make you feel like you are living with a local. Laura, the owner of the hostel, is extremely friendly and she will go out of her way to help you out with anything you need. The hostel itself is an Asian-style house converted into a hostel so your common area is the porch outside the house and the kitchen is basically Laura's kitchen. The atmosphere is friendly and sociable and you will have no trouble making new friends here. The hostel is also well located, just a few minutes away from the Malioboro tourist street. One issue I had with the hostel is that I would have to pay extra for a blanket.. but Yogyakarta is so humid, sleeping in an air-conditioned room without a blanket was fine.
How to Get to Yogyakarta
The best way to get here is to fly to Jakarta international airport. I would recommend you browse through Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight from where you live to Jakarta so you can pick the best one that fits your itinerary.
From Jakarta, you can take a train from either the central station (for late afternoon trains) or from the Pasar Senen station (for early morning trains). There are 4 trains per day and you can most likely book it through your hostel but you will have to pay for your ticket at the closest convenient store. We paid ours at the Alfa Mart at the Old Town Square. The train took us around 7 hours and we got off at the Lempuyangan train station and from there, it was only 5 minutes walk to our hostel. Yogyakarta has 2 train stations, so make sure you get off at the one nearest to your accommodation.
How to Get Around Yogyakarta
Renting a motorbike is the best way to explore Yogyakarta with flexibility. We found a great motorbike shop on the Malioboro street and we rented it for a day for around 50,000 IDR and explored the city at our own pace. You can also hire a tuk-tuk or a taxi but if you really want to experience Indonesia and its crazy traffic, you will have to be on the road with them.
This place is quite cheap compare to all the other countries in the world. If you are planning a trip here, you can expect to pay around 25 - 45 USD per day per person and that should include accommodation and 3 meals.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
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Top 5 Things to Do in Yogyakarta
Borobudur at Sunrise
You have to go see the Borobudur during sunrise because that is the only time the temple is not too crowded. The complex will be flocked with tourists, locals and foreigners alike during the day and you will find it difficult to enjoy the view in solitude when every few seconds, the locals will ask you to take a photo with them. It was even worst for blonde, white, tall western-looking tourists! The sunrise trip starts at 4 AM so sleep early the day before. For more info, I've written about the sunrise trip here.
If you are riding a motorbike, the way is quite straight forward. Get onto the main road then just drive straight until you see a sign to go left to Borobudur. The trip took around 2 hours one way.
Visit the Chicken Church (Gereja Ayam)
Borobudur at Sunrise
What is the Chicken Church you asked? Well.. it is a church shaped like a chicken duh! We were tipped by Laura to check this place out after we visited Borobudur. With our motorbike, we rode north west from Borobudur and walked up a steep path to the top of a hill where the church was located.
You have to pay to get up to the top and we did not want to pay so we went and hiked the trail behind the church instead and found a nice outlook point with the view of the tropical land of Java and Borobudur from afar. From what we heard, this outlook post used to be a place for people to watch sunrise but they moved it away to some other places for unknown reasons.
The location to the temple is shown above. The path is not very clear so make sure you have this map with you.
Bewildered by rare animals at the Gembira Loka Zoo
If you are short on time and can not visit the Komodo island but still want to see the Komodo dragons, this zoo is your best shot. The zoo had an impressive collection of wild animals such as the Giant tortoise and all kinds of creepy reptiles. The zoo itself is quite peaceful and we were there when it was raining so we had the whole place to ourselves.
This was the ancient Giant turtoise they have at the zoo. I am so eager to photoshop this photo and add lasers shooting out of its mouth.
Walk around the Water Temple
The water temple is, you guessed it, a temple with water around it. The temple itself is pretty unique in terms of architecture but what got me interested was the village around the temple. The small streets criss-crossing up and down hills was fun to explore and allowed me to see how the locals live.
Check out the Prambanan Temple
Prambanan is a 9th-century Hindu temple compound north-east of the city. It is the biggest hindu temple site in South East Asia. If you have not seen the Angkor Wat in Cambodia, this place will give you a taste of what is to come. Even if you have seen the Angkor Wat, the unique temples scattered around Prambanan compound offered a unique look at the variety of hindu art and culture during that period.
Cool down at the Parangtritis Beach
Most people did not know that there is a beach you can go to in Yogyakarta. It is called the Parangtritis beach and it was a 2 hours motorbike-ride south from the city centre. The beach offers a great place to cool down from exploring all the attractions around Yogyakarta but do beware of the tidal currents. The tidal currents is very strong here and it can drag you out to the ocean in seconds. We were there for 5 minutes and there had to rescue a kid from being dragged out in the ocean!
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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