Located on the island of Java, the magnificent Borobudur temple is the world’s biggest Buddhist monument, an ancient site widely considered to be one of the world’s seven wonders. The temple sits majestically on a hilltop overlooking lush green fields and distant hills. Built in the 9th century during the reign of the Syailendra dynasty, the temple’s design in Gupta architecture reflects India's influence on the region, yet there are enough indigenous scenes and elements incorporated to make Borobudur uniquely Indonesian.
It covers an enormous area, measuring 123 x 123 meters. The monument is a marvel of design, decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The architecture and stonework of this temple has no equal. And it was built without using any kind of cement or mortar! The structure is like a set of massive interlocking Lego blocks held together without any glue.
The temple has remained strong even through ten centuries of neglect. It was rediscovered in 1815, buried under volcanic ash. In the 1970’s the Indonesian Government and UNESCO worked together to restore Borobudur to its former majesty The restoration took eight years to complete and today Borobudur is one of Indonesia and the world’s most valuable treasures.
The temple is decorated with stone carvings in bas-relief representing images from the life of Buddha. Commentators claim that this is the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world, unsurpassed in artistic merit.
The best way to explore this site is on foot. As you climb to the top of this magnificent temple you will marvel at the intricate detailed stone carvings displayed on the temples walls. You will certainly miss a great experience if you visit this enormous temple without learning about its history and importance which are captured on its many reliefs.
Guides are available for around Rp 50,000. This is a wise investment as a guide will be able to walk you around the site and explain the history of the temple, beginning with its construction during the Syailendra dynasty. The stone carvings attached to the temple display legends and stories which have great philosophical significance. For visitors with children, don’t miss the massive green grass area surrounding the Borobudur site.
You may choose to walk through Green Park from the entrance. Many vendors will offer you souvenirs and other knick knacks as you walk through this area, however there are regulations in place to prevent them from disturbing visitors.
Borobudur is only one hour’s drive from Yogyakarta. The easiest way to get there is by joining a tour or renting a car. During your journey to Borobudur, enjoy the fresh cool air of Magelang city with its roads lined with big shady trees. Borobudur itself stands tall against the spectacular backdrop of the Menoreh mountain range that surrounds it.
Entering the temple compound is easy and most visitors choose to wander around on foot. Alternatively, you can chart a cart (pulled by a horse) at a reasonable price. Alternatively, cruise passengers who disembark at Semarang can take a day tour driving through Wonosobo to Borobudur.
Not much remains of the once powerful 13th century East Java kingdom of Singosari. An unfinished temple and two giant statues that once stood guard in front of the palace are the only traces left of this great kingdom.
The kingdom of Singosari was founded in 1222 by a commoner by the name of Ken Arok, who managed to marry the beautiful princess Ken Dedes of Janggala after murdering her husband. Ken Arok later attacked neighbouring Kediri and thus united the two realms that were split by King Airlangga in 1049 as inheritance to his two sons.
Singosari succeeded in developing the rich agricultural hinterland along the Brantas river basin, as well as the lucrative maritime trade along the Java Sea. In 1275 and 1291 king Kartanegara attacked the maritime kingdom of Crivijaya in South Sumatra and gained control over the maritime trade in the Java and Sumatra seas. He was, however, killed by one of his vassals, Jayakatwang in 1293.
In its heyday Singosari was so powerful that the mighty Mongol emperor Kublai Khan deemed it important to send a fleet and a special emissary to the court of Singosari to demand that King Kertanegara personally submit allegiance to the emperor. In reply, Kertanegara cut off one of the ambassador’s ears as a message to Kublai khan that he will do no such thing.
When the Chinese fleet sent by the irate Kublai Khan arrived on Java, unbeknown to them Kartanegara was already dead. Kertanegara’s son in law, Prince Vijaya, at first managed to persuade them to kill Jayakatwang, but then turned around to oust the Chinese fleet from Java.
Hereafter Vijaya founded the powerful Majapahit empire in 1294 whose palace is located to the north of Singosari at Porong. Majapahit’s influence would encompass present day Indonesia and spread even to Malaysia and Thailand.
Much of what we know today about Singosari comes from the 14th century Old Javanese text called the Pararaton (or the book of Kings).
Located south of the city of Surabaya, capital of East Java, Singosari can be reached by car or taxi from Surabaya or Tretes. Taxis and cars can be easily obtained in the city.
The month of May will be an exciting time for travelling to Yogyakarta. You can witness the eminent celebration of Buddhist holiest day, known as Vesak 2561/2562 that falls on May 11th, 2017. The date is set accordingly to the time of the brightest full moon that appears on the month of May or known as the Purnama Sidhi. Here in Indonesia, the procession annually held around the area of magnificent Buddhist temples of Central Java, one of them is the Mendut temple.
The temple was build around the 9th century and known to be the oldest of two other Buddhist temples, the Pawon and Borobudur. The 26.4 meter tall temple not only has become the centre of Buddhism practices and rituals, but also believed by local Javanese Kejawen as the place to meditate. It is shown by a stone carved image of Hariti as the symbol of fertility and motherhood, that are popular among the locals as the praying site for couples who longs to have children.
Vesak is also known as Buddha’s Day, commemorating the Birth of Prince Siddharta, the Enlightenments when the prince became the Buddha and the Passing of Gautama Buddha. These three important events in the life of Buddha are also known as Tri Suci Waisak.
Thousands of people will congregate to repeat mantras and meditate to celebrate this holy day. The prayers will commence at Mendut temple on 9th of May, and will continue with a chanting parade marching towards Pawon and Borobudur temple.
Each year, there is also a significant rituals of blessing with holy water taken from the springs of Jumprit in Temanggung district that symbolize humility. Vesak torch will also be ignited from flames taken from Mrapen, known as the natural eternal flames in the village of Grobogan, Central Java.
Both are kept in the Mendut temple before being carried during the march procession to symbolize enlightments. There will also be a magical pinnacle event on May 11th, where thousands of Puja lanterns are released up to the sky in the end of the pilgrim’s march. The lanterns will be released from Mendut, Pawon and Borobudur temple symbolizing the enlightments for all universe.
Mendut temple is around one hour drive from Yogyakarta. If you took off from Semarang and Solo, the drive will takes about two hours to Mendut. You can easily get a car rental from any of the city. Each path will take you on an awesome journey through lovely views. Public transports are also available from Yogyakarta bus terminal and continue on with the micro bus which serves direct route to Borobudur via Mendut temple.
If you get down in Mendut temple, you can go around by foot, take a horse cart or andong and maybe rent a bicycle.
Where to stay
For a luxurious choice to stay during your holiday within the range of Mendut-Pawon-Borobudur area, The Plataran Borobudur Resort and Spa is a great choice. This resort will pamper you with an exclusive facility enriched with Javanese arts and cultural heritage. A premium private cottages with swimming pools, spa and fine cuisine are cradled by a soothing ambiance. A chance to explore nearby villages and trek the lush green surroundings are added value that you may savour.
Kalasan Temple is believed as the oldest Buddhist temple in Central Java and Yogyakarta, even predating the colossal Borobudur Temple. It is located on the southern main road between the cities of Yogyakarta and Solo, approximately 2 Km from the Prambanan Temple compound. The temple stands on a 45x45 meters rectangular base.
Each of the four main cardinal points has stairs and gates adorned with Kala-Makara and also rooms measuring 3.5 square meters. No statue is found in the smaller room facing north, west, and south; but the lotus pedestals suggest that the rooms once must have contained statues of bodhisattvas. The temple is richly decorated with Buddhist figures such as the Bodhisattva and Gana.
The Kalasan inscription found near the temple indicates that it was completed in the Saka year 700 Saka or 778 AD. Written in Sanskrit using Pranagari script. One notable feature of the temple is its octagon-shaped roof, which features carved images of the Tathagatas/Buddha facing the four cardinal points, each of which is flanked by a pair of bodhisattvas in bas-relief.
Kalasan temple is located in the archaeologically rich Prambanan valley. Just a few hundred meters north east of Kalasan one will find the Sari Temple (or Candi Sari) which was most probably the monastery mentioned in the Kalasan inscription.
Kalasan temple is located roughly about 13 Km east from Yogyakarta, about 100 meters south off the main road of Yogyakarta-Solo in direction to Prambanan Temple Complex. From Yogyakarta the trip will take approximately 25-35 minutes. If you want to take public transportation, you can catch the TransJogja Buses in many shelters in Yogyakarta with the direction to Prambanan for an Rp 3,000.
Imogiri is the sacred held cemetery dedicated exclusively as last resting place for the kings and queens and royal descendants of the Islamic Mataram Kingdom, who until today rule the palaces of Yogyakarta and Surakarta.
Located on a beautiful hill, about 17 kilometers southeast of Yogyakarta, it is easily accessible by car and bus. The name "Imogiri" or often written "Imagiri" is derived from the Sanskrit word "Himagiri" which means "mountain of snow". Although there is no snow here, yet the royal graveyard is reachable only by steep stone sets leading to its summit, so it will feel quite like climbing asnowy mountain to reach the peak. The set of stairs are symbols forimportant milestones. The set of 45 stairs mark the year when Sultan Agung passed away in 1645,the set of 9 symbolize the Walisongo, the nine religious leaders who spread Islam on Java, while the longest sets of 346 symbolize the 346 years of construction of the complex.
There are three main gates that you will pass before entering the complex. They are also symbols of birth, the world of life and of death. The four large containers that hold sacred water, used for cleansing oneself before prayers but here believed to have healing powers, are a rare sight. These receptacles were given by other kingdoms to Sultan Agung. Each are named individually, they were presented by: Nyai Danumurti from the Sriwijaya kingdom in Palembang, Kyai Danumaya from the Samudera Pasai sultanate in Aceh, Kyai Mendhung from Ngerum in Turkey and Nyai Siyem from the kingdom of Siam in Thailand. Everymonth of Sura or Muharram in the Islamic calendar, the receptacles are cleansed in a ceremony called Nguras Enceh.
Imogiri was built in 1632 by Sultan Agung Hanyokrokusumo, the third king of the Islamic Mataram Kingdom, who wanted a separate graveyard for himself and his family. There are three main sections in this complex. The middle part called the Kasultanagungan, is the oldest section of the complex, built by Sultan Agung Hanyokrokusumo, where is his burial site.
Visitors can only enter the tombs of the princes in the smaller courtyards, wearing special Javanese formal court dress that can be rented with a modest fee at the abdi dalem. They are loyal subjects who dedicate their whole life to the Sultanate and act as caretakers of this site.
Gentlemen usually wear bebed or nyamping leaving a bare upper body, or Pranaan Yogya - the costume dress used by officials. While women will need to wear nyamping and kemben, a batik cloth wrapped in such way and that leave your shoulders bare. You also have to walk barefeet to respect the local rules and tradition. There are special schedules to visit here so that you better check before your arrival, so that everything fits well with your itinerary.
There are two other areas in the complex that are used for the royal cemetery of the Sultanate of Surakarta and Yogyakarta. After the Giyanti treaty in 1755, the western wing was designated for the Kings of the Kasunanan Surakarta Hadiningrat of Solo, while the east wing is the resting place of the Kings of Kasultanan Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat of Yogyakarta.
To get to Imogiri, you can take public transport from Terminal Giwangan and ask the conductor to let you off at the cemetery complex. But for ease and comfort, it's best to hire a taxi or rent a car with a skilled guide, who can tell you about the history of the Mataram kingdom and find more attractions around the Imogiri complex afterwards.
Located not far from the Buddhist Borobudur temple, the proximity of the two temples tells us that on Java, Buddhism and Hinduism lived peacefully next to one another. Prambanan is a magnificent spectacle and an icon of Indonesia’s cultural heritage. The temples at Prambanan were built in the 9th century and is known locally as Roro Jonggrang, coming from the legend of the ‘slender virgin’.
The biggest temple is dedicated to Shiva – the destroyer, and the two smaller ones which sit on its right and left are dedicated to Brahma, the creator, and Wisnhu, the sustainer. The tallest temple of Prambanan is a staggering 47 meters high. Its peak visible from far away and rises high above the ruins of the other temples.
After hundreds of years of neglect, the Prambanan temple was rediscovered by CA Lons, a Dutchman, in 1733. Since then, this temple has been revitalized and today is widely regarded as the most beautiful and graceful Hindu temple in Indonesia. The grandeur, complexity, and integrated architectural concept of Prambanan makes this a truly amazing structure. As a unique cultural and architectural marvel, Prambanan was declared a World Heritage site in 1991 by UNESCO.
Visitors to Prambanan wander around the temples on foot. This is the best way to enjoy the lush landscape and take in the detailed architecture and design of the temples up close.
This temple compound covers 39.8 hectares. In the main yard, there are the three main temples, as well as three Wahana temples, two Apit temples, and eight Patok temples surrounded by fences. In the second yard, there are another 224 Perwara temples. Wandering around here and examining the intricate stonework will be enough to keep you busy all day!
Compared to the temples in Angkor Wat, the temples of Prambanan are much easier to navigate and more tourist-friendly. The area surrounding Prambanan is developed, with a landscaped park and stores selling tourist souvenirs. While it’s not a temple set in a remote rustic setting, the splendor of the temple will make you quickly forget your surroundings. You will be transported back to an ancient time where ritual and culture dominated every part of life.
The closest cities to Prambanan, are either Yogyakarta or Semarang. Garuda Indonesia, Mandala, Merpati Nusantara Airlines and a number of domestic airlines fly to these cities from Jakarta and other large cities in Indonesia. AirAsia is the first international airline that flies direct from Kuala Lumpur to Yogyakarta.
From Yogyakarta, you can rent a car to go to Klaten. From there, you can walk to the temple. If have been busy and are really tired of walking, you can always call for a becak. With the cost of about Rp 10,000 the Becak driver will bring you right up to the entrance gate of the Temple, not far from the ticket box.
Muara Jambi Temple is considered one of the richest archaeological sites on the island of Sumatra. The eight temple-like structures appear to be Buddhist, and were probably built around the 14th century.
Archaeologists conclude that the site was the center of Old Jambi, the capital of ancient Malay kingdom which reigned supreme about ten centuries ago. The capital was sieged and destroyed in 1377 by armies from Burma. For centuries, the site had been lost and forgotten deep in the jungle, only to be rediscovered in 1920 by a British military expedition team.
Muara Jambi temple complex covers an area of 12 km2, along the side of Batanghari river. There are eight main temples in the complex. All of them are located in the center area, fortified by walls. Three of them are already renovated.
In 1982, a 32-centimeters tall female bronze statue was found at Koto Kandis, in the Muara Sabak sub district. It is believed to be the goddest Laksmi, holding a lotus bud in her left. In addition to the archaeological sites, many visitors find the riverside an ideal recreation and picnic spot.
Muara Jambi Temple is situated 30 km northeast of Jambi, along the Batanghari River. You can travel to Jambi from Medan or Padang. Medan is an international gateway, so there should be no problem in reaching it. If your departure point is Jakarta, there are both direct and connecting flights scheduled from Jakarta to Padang. It's a popular destination, so travel agents in Jambi usually have packages related to this destination.
At the bottom of a lush river valley running through the little town of Tampaksiring just northeast of Ubud, lies one of Bali's largest ancient temple complexes, the Candi Gunung Kawi. Comprising a collection of ancient 'Candi' or shrine reliefs carved directly into the face of a rock cliff, this is definitely one of the most stunningly unique archeological sites besides being an important sacred place for the Balinese.
Gunung Kawi was also on the 44th US President Obama's itinerary when he and his family holidayed in Bali in late June 2017.
Overlooking the sacred Pakerisan River, which also flows by the Tirta Empul sacred Water Temple a kilometer up north, the main complex consists of 10 shrines – memorials cut out of the rock cliff face in imitation of actual buildings. They stand in awe-inspiring 8m-high sheltered niches cut into the sheer cliff face.They take their general form from the free-standing ancient temples or Candis of East Java, which show very similar architectural forms and decorations. There are four shrines on the west side and another five on the eastern side of the river, while to the south across the valley hides another.Evidences suggest that these Candis were probably once protected between two massive rock-hewn cloisters.
In their shape, the candis resemble small buildings surmounted by massive three-tiered roofs bearing nine stylized lingam-yoni fertility symbols. Each candi actually looks like a doorway, carved in relief, but going nowhere. Instead, there is a small chamber beneath the candi, accessed by a sloping shaft from the front, in which a stone plaque (peripih) with nine holes containing symbolic offerings of food and metal objects, representing the necessities of earthly existence, were placed.
Small stone caves that actually serve as meditation sites complement the shrines, where Buddhist monks used to sit and contemplate. Indeed, Balinese history has shown that the two religions coexisted and sometimes fused in harmony. Across the river and beside the first rock shrine complex is the functional temple courtyard that the locals essentially refer to as Pura Gunung Kawi. Inside are what you would commonly find in any other Balinese temple courtyard, complete with various shrines surrounding the temple's main grand pavilion or 'bale'.
To reach the temple from the main Tampaksiring highway, be prepared to descend hundreds of steps before you reach the temple complex. As with any other temple visit in Bali, and especially to temples held sacred, proper attire consisting of a sarong cloth with a sash around the waist is required for all visitors, while women during their periods are not permitted entry into the Gunung Kawi Temple complex. The sash and sarong are available for rent at the ticket purchase booth before the stairs down to the valley. During the 'piodalan' temple anniversary every year the temple is beautifully decorated following the Purnama Katiga or 'third full moon' on the Balinese calendar, allowing for a most festive and exotic setting for photographs.
Dedicated to the kings from centuries past, the complex radiates a certain mystical atmosphere of ancient legends and long lost tales of forgotten Balinese kings.Legends relate that the whole group of memorials was carved out of the rock face in one hard-working night by the mighty fingernails of KeboIwa, a renowned military commander in ancient Balinese Kingdom who possessed supernatural powers.
The candis of Gunung Kawi are believed to have been constructed in the 11th century (1080 AD) by King Anak Wungsu in honor of his father, the great Balinese ruler Udayana and the Warmadewa Dynasty. According to history, the monuments on the eastern bank are dedicated to King Udayana, Queen Mahendradatta and their sons Airlangga, AnakWungsu and Marakata. When AnakWungsu ruled Bali, Airlangga ruled eastern Java. In history, Airlangga was known as the legendary king of the kingdom of Singosari, whose remnants can still be seen not far from Surabaya.
The four monuments on the western side are, by this theory, are dedicated to Anak Wungsu's chief concubines. Another theory has it that the whole complex is dedicated to Anak Wungsu, his wives and concubines while, in the case of the remote 10thcandi, to a royal minister.
The temple complex is easily accessed, only a few hundred meters east from Jalan Raya Tampaksiring main route, from where you continue down on foot to a paved walkway that is lined with art shops and small local warungs. Along a further 300 steps towards the river, lush paddy terraces and gorgeously green valleys blend to transport you back in time away from modernity. Where the stairs end, proceed through a stone archway with small pillars each holding an earthen vase filled with holy water, which you sprinkle on yourself before entering the complex.
Located some 122 from Pekanbaru, capital of the province of Riau, the Muara Takus temple complex (or Candi Muara Takus) is built by the Kampar Kanan river. Muara Takus has the largest brick buildings on Sumatra found remotely in a jungle clearing. The main Candi Mahligai is a tall stupa flanked by ruins of several other brick sanctuaries. Its tall shape differs from the normally bell-shaped Buddhist stupas found on Java. The temple is constructed of river boulders, sandstone and earthen bricks and was restored in 1980.
Within the walls are found the Candi Tua, Candi Bungsu, the Mahligai stupa and the Palangka. In the complex is also found a mound believed to be the place for cremations. It is, however, known that during the 10th century, the kingdom of Crivijaya located further south near present-day Palembang was a thriving learning center for Buddhism, where even Chinese pilgrims were said to study on Sumatra first before proceeding to India.
It is said that the Muara Takus bricks were made in the village of Ponkai above the temple complex, where inhabitants carried the bricks, handing these over to one another in a long line all the way to the complex. This means that the temples were built jointly with the inhabitants. The Muara Takus complex is the only temple complex found in Riau, evidence that Buddhism had spread here during the early centuries.
Rising majestically on the western slopes of Mount Agung, and referred to as the Mother Temple of Hindu Bali, is Pura Besakih, or the Besakih temple, covering a vast area that offers breathtaking mountain scenery surrounding this beautiful and artistic temple complex.
Facing Mt. Agung’s highest peak, believed to be the abode of the gods, and located at an altitude of 900 meters, Pura Besakih is built in the village of Besakih, in the eastern part of Bali. The name Besakih comes from the word “Basuki”, derived from the word “Wasuki” which means Salvation in the classical Sanskrit language. Whereas, in the Samudramanthana mythology, the same name “Besuki” in fact refers to the Dragon-God “Naga Besukian”, who inhabited Gunung Agung, the main volcano in Bali.
This grand temple complex has been revered as a holy place since ancient times. The first recorded mention of its existence comes from an inscription dating back to 1007 AD. It is known that since the 15th century Besakih was regarded as the central temple of Hinduism in Bali.
Pura Penataran Agung, or the “Great Temple of State” is the center of the temple complex and is is Bali’s main place of worship, a complex comprising twenty-two temples on six rising terraces set on parallel ridges.
This complex expresses the essential belief of the Balinese known as Tri Hita Kirana, meaning that life on earth must be lived and kept in balance and harmony between man and God, man and society and his fellow human beings, and man and his natural environment.
During a full moon, Balinese and pilgrims throng to the temple. During the festival of Odalan, the temple is most elaborately decorated. Odalan is celebrated on every 210th day.
This temple is very easy to find, as most people know it as one of the best tourist destinations in Bali. There are several starting points that you may choose to take:
From Kuta, it takes about 2 hours to get here. Simply head east towards Sanur, then follow the fast coastal route, which is connected to the Kusamba Bypass at Tohpati. Then go north until you find the road sign to Besakih, and after a few kilometers from this point turn north. If you are staying around Klungkung, then Besakih is about 20 kilometers north of the town center. Take the Bemo – the small public buses– that will take you to Besakih from Klungkung. Bemos are most frequent in the morning, and it is recommended to change bemos at Rendang, halfway between Klungkung and Besakih.
If you come from the north of Denpasar, it is about 25 kilometers to reach Besakih by car. However, if you stay in the eastern part of Bali such as at Tirta Gangga, Candidasa, or Amed, you can reach Besakih by taking a smaller inland road from Karangasem. This will lead you to the crossroad between Besakih and Klungkung at Rendang, and then turn right to reach Besakih Temple.During your hour-long drive, you will enjoy beautiful views traveling through forests, villages, and rice fields. If you are willing to make a short stop in one of the villages, you will see how the locals live, and learn a bit about their unique houses.