Yogyakarta, often referred to as Jogja, is a city on the Indonesian island of Java known for its traditional arts and cultural heritage. For those considering things to do in Yogyakarta, exploring the historic Kraton Yogyakarta, the Sultan’s royal palace, and visiting the ancient temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are top activities.
The city’s vibrant Malioboro Street offers a bustling atmosphere with street vendors, traditional batik shops, and local eateries. Nearby, the Taman Sari Water Castle provides a glimpse into the royal family’s past with its unique water features and underground tunnels.
Beyond its historical and cultural attractions, Yogyakarta is also celebrated for its strong Javanese traditions, including batik making, puppetry, and classical Javanese dance. For those seeking the best places to visit in Indonesia, Yogyakarta’s blend of ancient history, cultural richness, and artistic traditions makes it a captivating destination.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
1. Prambanan Temple
Prambanan Temple is a stunning example of Hindu architecture and is considered one of the most beautiful temples in Southeast Asia. This UNESCO World Heritage Site features towering spires and intricate carvings, telling the story of the Ramayana epic.
Travel Tip: Visit during sunset for a breathtaking view as the temple complex takes on a golden hue.
2. Borobudur Temple
Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple and another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Yogyakarta. The temple has a unique pyramid shape and is adorned with thousands of relief panels and hundreds of Buddha statues.
Travel Tip: For a truly magical experience, visit Borobudur for sunrise, when the first light of the day illuminates the temple.
3. Kraton Yogyakarta (Sultan’s Palace)
The Kraton is the Sultan’s Palace and serves as a cultural and political hub of Yogyakarta. Visitors can explore the palace grounds, admire the Javanese architecture, and learn about the history and culture of the region.
Travel Tip: Check the schedule for cultural performances at the palace, such as traditional Javanese dance and music.
4. Taman Sari (Water Castle)
Once a royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, Taman Sari is a complex of pools and fountains that served as a pleasure park for the sultan and his entourage. The site is a fascinating mix of Javanese and Portuguese architectural styles.
Travel Tip: Explore the underground tunnels and hidden rooms, and hire a local guide to learn about the site’s history and secrets.
5. Malioboro Street
Malioboro Street is Yogyakarta’s bustling main street, lined with shops, street food vendors, and performers. It’s the perfect place to pick up souvenirs, try local delicacies, and soak in the city’s vibrant atmosphere.
Travel Tip: Bargain politely with the street vendors, and try the gudeg, a local specialty made from jackfruit.
6. Yogyakarta Batik Art
Yogyakarta is renowned for its batik, a traditional fabric dyeing technique. Visitors can explore numerous batik galleries, watch artisans at work, and even take a batik-making workshop.
Travel Tip: Purchase batik directly from the artisans if possible, ensuring you get high-quality, authentic pieces.
7. Mount Merapi
An active volcano located just outside Yogyakarta, Mount Merapi is both a fascinating geological site and a sacred place in Javanese tradition. Adventurous visitors can join a guided trek to the summit, while others might prefer a jeep tour around the lower slopes.
Travel Tip: For the trek, ensure you are in good physical condition, and start your ascent well before dawn to reach the summit in time for sunrise.
8. Affandi Museum
Dedicated to the work of Affandi, one of Indonesia’s most renowned artists, this museum is housed in a unique building designed by the artist himself and displays a vast collection of his paintings.
Travel Tip: Take a guided tour to learn about Affandi’s life, artistic journey, and the significance of his work.
9. Jalan Malioboro
Jalan Malioboro is one of the major shopping streets in Yogyakarta, offering a variety of goods ranging from traditional handicrafts to modern fashion. It’s a lively area, particularly in the evenings when street vendors set up shop.
Travel Tip: Try the street food, but make sure to check the cleanliness of the stall before eating.
10. Ratu Boko Palace
Ratu Boko Palace is an archaeological site featuring the remnants of a palace complex with a fascinating history. The site is located on a plateau, providing stunning views of the surrounding countryside and Prambanan Temple in the distance.
Travel Tip: Visit during sunset for a mesmerizing view as the site is bathed in golden light.
11. Jalan Prawirotaman
Jalan Prawirotaman is a vibrant area known for its bohemian vibe, with numerous cafes, art galleries, and boutique shops. It’s a great place to experience the contemporary side of Yogyakarta and see how local artists are interpreting Javanese culture today.
Travel Tip: Spend an evening exploring the area’s trendy cafes and bars, and don’t forget to check out the local art galleries.
12. Kota Gede
Kota Gede is an old district in Yogyakarta renowned for its silverwork. Visitors can explore the narrow alleyways, visit silversmith workshops, and purchase finely crafted jewelry and other silver goods.
Travel Tip: Take a guided walking tour to learn about the area’s history and see silversmiths in action.
13. Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan
The Ramayana Ballet is a spectacular Javanese dance performance held in an open-air theater with the illuminated Prambanan Temple as its backdrop. The performance tells the story of the Ramayana epic through traditional dance and music.
Travel Tip: Book your tickets in advance, especially if you want to attend a performance during the full moon, as these nights are particularly popular.
14. Ullen Sentalu Museum
Located in the Kaliurang area on the slopes of Mount Merapi, the Ullen Sentalu Museum is dedicated to Javanese culture and art. The museum features a collection of batik, paintings, artifacts, and photographs, along with stories of the royal families of Yogyakarta and Solo.
Travel Tip: The museum can only be explored as part of a guided tour, which provides valuable context to the exhibits.
15. Yogyakarta Bird Market (Pasar Ngasem)
The Yogyakarta Bird Market is a traditional market that, in addition to birds, sells a variety of other pets and plants. The market offers a glimpse into local customs and beliefs related to birds and pets.
Travel Tip: Be aware that the conditions for the animals can be challenging for some visitors, but the market is working on improving these conditions.
16. Sonobudoyo Museum
Located near the Kraton, the Sonobudoyo Museum houses an extensive collection of Javanese art and artifacts, including masks, puppets, textiles, and weapons. The museum provides insights into the rich cultural heritage of Yogyakarta and Java.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the nightly Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet) performances held at the museum.
17. Timang Beach
Timang Beach is located about two hours from Yogyakarta and offers a dramatic landscape with its rugged cliffs and powerful waves. The main attraction is the gondola ride to a small island, which was traditionally used by lobster fishermen.
Travel Tip: Ensure the weather conditions are safe before taking the gondola ride, as the sea can be unpredictable.
18. Jomblang Cave
Jomblang Cave is an adventure destination near Yogyakarta, famous for its “light from heaven,” a natural phenomenon where sunlight pours into the cave through a large sinkhole. Visitors can rappel down into the cave to explore its ancient forest and unique geology.
Travel Tip: Book your adventure in advance, as the number of visitors per day is limited.
19. Kalibiru National Park
Located in the hills to the west of Yogyakarta, Kalibiru National Park offers stunning views, outdoor activities, and photo spots with panoramic backdrops. It’s a great place to escape the city and enjoy nature.
Travel Tip: Visit on a weekday to avoid the crowds, and ensure your camera is fully charged for the incredible photo opportunities.
FAQ About Things to Do in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
What are must-visit attractions in Yogyakarta?
Key attractions in Yogyakarta include the historical Borobudur Temple, Prambanan Temple, the Sultan’s Palace (Kraton), and Mount Merapi for adventurous trekking.
Can I explore Yogyakarta’s temples on my own?
Yes, you can explore Yogyakarta’s temples like Borobudur and Prambanan on your own. However, hiring a guide can provide valuable historical and cultural insights.
Is there a traditional performance I shouldn’t miss in Yogyakarta?
Don’t miss the Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan, which combines Javanese dance, drama, and music into a spectacular outdoor nighttime performance.
Are there any cultural villages to visit near Yogyakarta?
Yes, the Kasongan village is famous for its pottery, while Kotagede is known for its silversmiths. Both offer unique insights into Javanese craft traditions.
What adventure activities are available in Yogyakarta?
Yogyakarta offers adventure activities such as caving in Jomblang Cave, sandboarding at Gumuk Pasir, and hiking the volcanic landscapes of Mount Merapi.
Where can I find the best street food in Yogyakarta?
The vibrant Malioboro Street is renowned for its street food vendors, offering local delicacies such as Gudeg, Bakpia, and Satay.
Are there any museums in Yogyakarta that I should visit?
Yogyakarta is home to several museums. The Ullen Sentalu Museum offers a look into Javanese culture and art, while the Fort Vredeburg Museum showcases the city’s colonial history.
What are the best markets for shopping in Yogyakarta?
Beringharjo Market is the place for traditional fabrics and clothes, while Malioboro Street offers a range of handicrafts, souvenirs, and batik.