Yogyakarta – Cultural Capital Of Indonesia
When thinking about a location for a getaway, what do we look for? A city with sights our eyes have never seen and a destination so unique it’ll leave us with memories that’ll last forever. It also helps that it doesn’t burn a huge hole in our pocket.
Presenting to you the beautiful city of Yogyakarta, also known endearingly as “Jogja” to the locals. People regard this city as the cultural capital of Indonesia, while I call it adventure capital of South East Asia. Grab the edge of your seat, hold tight and be ready for an adrenaline pumping time filled with adventure, incredible eats and stunning sights!
Yogyakarta has won my heart as a destination jammed packed with culture and adventure. In this one trip, I have gotten up close and personal with the most active volcano in Indonesia, visited not one but two UNESCO World Heritage sites and abseiled down into an underground cave for the most breathtaking view I have ever seen in my life. There’s so much Yogyakarta has in store for you so take a look at our travel video below!
Here are 11 reasons you’re in for the ultimate adventure at Yogyakarta.
1. Have your very own Temple Run at Prambanan Temple
I was transported into one of my favourite apps – TEMPLE RUN.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 10th century is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia. Built in the 850c to honour Lord Shiva, it originally had 240 temples till time and earthquakes got the better of it. It was actually forgotten for hundreds of years till its formal rediscovery in 1811 but the good news is it has been restored.
The intricate pointed architecture of the temples will leave you standing in awe as your body tries to deal with how incredible it is. I remember being captivated in front of the massive structure wondering how such a place could be so meticulously built and how long it took.
Surrounding the temple were debris and fragments of it’s building blocks that added a rustic and mystical touch to its magical lure. We missed catching the sunset at the temple but be sure to if you are taking a trip down during the evening. Watching the light slowly inch past the edges of the structure would leave you with a beautiful memory.
Entrance Fee: SGD $23
Location: Prambanan, Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia
2. Watch the Sunrise at the Borobudur Temple
It’s interesting how the largest Hindu temple in South East Asia, Prambanan, and largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur, are both located in the same city. That’s why Jogja is referred to as the cultural capital of Indonesia. Like Prambanan, Borobodur was forgotten for hundreds of years, and lay buried under jungle foliage and volcanic ash. The cause of its abandonment is still a mystery to historians but it may be due to the religious shift to islam in the 15th century.
The rediscovery of this monument is largely credit to Sir Stamford Raffles, who was then the ruler of Java. Looks like finding things and telling the world is a hobby of his, we SIngaporeans would know!
I’ve read how Borobudur is the largest Buddhist monument in the world and it is the single most visited attraction in Indonesia. But I could not phantom the magnitude of this UNESCO World Heritage sight until I saw it with my own eyes. Nor could I believe it was built over 1,000 years ago in 750 AD.
The best time to experience Borobodur is at daybreak where you’ll get to watch the sunrise in the distance surrounded by over 500 Buddha statues. Don’t forget to capture your iconic Temple Run / Tomb Raider pictures along the alleys before you head off to your next destination.
Entrance Fee: SGD $26
3. Visit the Most active Volcano in Asia
Mount Merapi is termed the most active volcano in Asia with its track record of eruptions averaging 5-10 years apart since 1548. It literally means “Fire Mountain” in Javanese. It last erupted in 2010 and the activeness of the volcano makes it dangerous and mesmerising at the same time.
Getting to the lookout point is fairly easy with the help of a guide and a chartered jeep. Zip through the gravel filled paths against the cool breezy winds. I felt like I was on a set for the next action movie actually, it was that surreal. What’s an adventure without a little thrill to it right? This would be one thing to ticked off my bucket list that I would never forget.
Price: SGD $21
Address: Mt Merapi, Suroteleng, Selo, Boyolali Regency 57363, Indonesia
4. Abseil 6 stories down into the Earth
This cave looks straight out of in an Indiana Jones flick. Abseiling down 6 stories might seem daunting but it’s a thrilling adventure you wouldn’t want to miss. Take the leap of faith and step into a another world in this collapsed forest turned cave. A short trek through darkness would take you face to face with one of the most spectacular views ever.
This was the most memorable activity we conquered during this trip to Yogyakarta. We almost missed out on the chance to head into the cave as only less than 50 were allowed in per day.
Tip: Arrive before 10am if you want to secure a chance to head down into Jomplang Cave.
Known for the light leaks at exactly 12 noon through the little opening at the top of the cave, to produce one of those scenes you only thought existed in movies. Jomplang cave is one to tick off your bucket list and I will remember this experience for life.
Price: SGD $52
Address: Semanu, Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. You’ll need at least 2 hours to get here from the centre of Yogyakarta.
5. Peddle in the most colorful bicycle car
In Javanese, Alun-Alun means a large central open lawn square that’s common to cities in Indonesia. This is where you’ll usually see a palace, marketplace, mosque and city square.
Jogja has two Alun-Aluns, Alun-Alun Selatan (South) and Alun-Alun Utara(North) – located behind and infront of the King’s palace. It’s a must to take a spin on one of these bright coloured vehicles. For just SGD $5 you get to peddle your way around the huge roundabout with cars by your side and the latest hip-hop beats blasting from the stereos. The experience and atmosphere here is off the charts. Most importantly, you do not need a license to do this!
Within the Alun-Alun complex are stores after stores of lights, food and games. It reminded me of a carnival but one that was very localised and simple. You can find games like a lighted catapult stick and blindfolds sold for less than a dollar. Take a peek at how the locals were playing the games and you would get the hang of it in no time!
In the video you can see us playing one such game based where we tried to walk pass twin banyan trees planted on the city square blindfolded. The game is known as masangin and it is believed only those with pure hearts could walk pass the banyan trees. I had the time of my life there and hours went by in a flash.
Price: SGD $5
Address: Jl. Alun-Alun Kidul, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta, Indonesia
6. Watch the sunset from black beach
With black sand spanning miles and miles, taking a slow stroll along the most popular beach in Jogja was as therapeutic as it gets. Come sunset, watching the skies fade into a multitude of colors while the sound of the crashing waves serenade you will make you wish that nightfall would take a little longer to come.
The beach is filled mostly with locals and not crowded at all. It made us feel like we were the only ones there. So for those of you who like to stray away from crowds, this might be one of your favourite beach destinations ever.
Address: Jl. Parangtritis km 28, Yogyakarta 55188, Indonesia
7. Go Cave Tubing with the locals and take a 10m leap of faith
For just $7.50, head on a 3 hour adventure on an inflatable tube through a river that runs through the Goa Pindul caves. The locals call it cave tubing, which is really just floating through a cave. You’ll flow through an underground river full of locals as you marvel at the moonmilk, stalagmite and sleeping bats hanging above. There are also dedicated swimming areas.
Then hop onto the back of a jeep which takes you to one of the gorgeous canyons in Jogja where you are tasked with taking a leap of faith off a 10m platform. Well, my fear of heights got the better of me and I opted for the 4m one. Watch Joal jump off the 10m platform in our travel video!
Price: SGD $7.50
Address: Desa Gelaran 1, Kel. Bejiharjo, Kec. Karangmojo, Gunungkidul, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55891, Indonesia
8. Eat a crazy mix of more than 20 dishes in your meal
Imagine, your favourite Nasi Padang dishes and multiply that by 10. That’s the amount of dishes you would be presented with while having Masakan Padang. This local delight consists of dishes ranging from vegetables, tofu, seafood to meat prepared in various ways with many indonesian spices.
I was shocked when I learnt that we did not have to select the dishes as you would have ALL of them dished out in front of you. Talk about being spoilt for choice! And best of all, this meal would only cost you SGD $9.
Price: SGD $9
9. Eat AMAZING street food on the streets for less than SGD $1
Trust me when I say ANY street food store serves up the best food ever here in Jogja. My favourite has got to be Mee Bakso which translate to noodles and meatballs. Palm-sized bowls of piping hot soup, glass noodles and meatballs would be the most comforting dish you are going to have on your trip.
With the blurring horns of the vehicles passing by and chuckling of the motorbikes along the street stores, the atmosphere when eating along the street is one that is so authentic an Indonesian experience.
10. Capture the most EPIC pictures of the stars
Okay, letting you in on a secret here but setting your camera shutter speed at its lowest would enable you to capture gorgeous shots in the dark of the sky above you.
Not to worry if you are not the sort who can stay up late just to capture these pictures, 7pm at Mount Merapi is good enough to capture the glittering specks of light in the night sky with the village lights and volcano as your backdrop.
11. Visit the most INSTAGRAMMABLE cafe in Jogja
Yes, cafes are here to stay, even in Jogja. At Roaster and Bear, you’ll step into the most instagrammable two-story cafe with a patio that boasts a stunning view of the sunset beyond the buildings around it.
The first level of the cafe is lined with glass windows enabling natural light to seep in. The second level of the cafe resembled that of a glass house with an extension leading out to the patio. Ps, the food and drinks at the cafe got us wishing that we made another trip back before we left too.
Address: Jl. Mangkubumi 52 | Hotel HARPER Mangkubumi Yogyakarta by ASTON, Yogyakarta 55232, Indonesia
Getting to Jogja
Some travellers talk about adventure, and then they check into a beach resort with their biggest thrill being their taxi-ride from the airport. Not judging but perhaps it’s because they just didn’t know where to go. But now you do.
With Jogja, an epic adventure awaits just 2 hours away from Singapore. And it’ll leave you with memories and pictures that will last a lifetime. The ones you can hang proudly on your wall that’ll make you smile remembering you did all that.
The good news? AirAsia flies daily direct to Yogyakarta from just $150 SGD all-in. And if you want to be the first to know the latest amazing travel deals to discover Indonesia, the world next door – visit the special page below set up by Changi Airport.
The beautiful photography in this article was courtesy of Alvin Ng (@alvinnzh). This post was brought to you by Changi Airport.