Taman Keraton Yogyakarta Photo by Purwanto via the Creative Commons License
The archipelago of Indonesia is made up over around 17,000 islands spread across 3,000 miles of the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean. So how do you even begin to plan your travel there? This south-east Asian nation has spectacular volcanoes, unique wildlife, and vibrant cultures – hundreds of cultures actually as Indonesia is home to many different ethnic groups.
Travel to and within Indonesia is much easier than it once was. There are more direct flights to Jakarta than ever before and the recent EU approval of a number of domestic Indonesian airlines along with a rapidly expanding national flight network means that more islands are now accessible.
The city of Yogyakarta on the island of Java is an essential part of any Indonesia itinerary. It is especially known for its gamelan music and traditional puppetry, keeping it at the heart of Indonesian cultural life.
History and culture
Its magnificent royal palace complex – called the kraton – dates from the 18th century and includes the home of the sultan, as well as numerous other pavilions that make up a living culture museum.
As well as classical dance performances, gamelan music and the Wayung shadow puppetry, this is the place to learn about Javanese culture and fine arts tradition, including the famous batik and silver filigree jewellery. The Beringharjo batik marketplace is a must-visit, as is the silverwork production centre in Kotagede.
Yogyakarta Wayan Puppets Photo by micro.cosmic via the Creative Commons License
Other attractions include museums in former colonial buildings. The Fort Vredeburg Museum is in the old Dutch fort. There are also a number of museums and memorials relating to the struggle for independence, including the Monument to the Recapture of Yogyakarta.
Grab one of the many Yogyakarta hotel deals (such as at Whiz Hotel Yogyakarta) and spend a few days here to explore the historical buildings at your leisure, taking in performances of classical Javanese dance and gamelan music.
Yogyakarta is also a great base for seeing some of Indonesia’s other highlights on the island of Java:
Indonesia has the most active volcanoes in the world, thanks to the 3,000-kilometre Sunda Volcanic Arc. One of the most active, and one that is easily accessible from Yogyakarta is Mt Merapi. The Javanese believe there is a palace of the spirits inside Merapi. This volcano has erupted many times and often has a plume of smoke at the top but it is carefully monitored and the area around the mountain is a beautiful national park.
Mt Merapi Photo by Abdillah Wicaksono via the Creative Commons License
Set amongst the jungly hills near Yogyakarta, the Borobudur Temple is another must see. Indonesia is home to some of the world’s most beautiful and impressive temples, and Borobdur Temple is both beautiful and spiritual. This vast structure from the 8th century that consists of 72 stupas (each containing a figure of the Buddha) surrounding an enormous stepped pyramid temple.
Unsurprisingly, Borobdur is a Unesco World Heritage Site and so is Prambanan Temple, also near Yogyakarta so most visitors use the city as a base to explore.
Enjoy planning your travel to Indonesia!