The Main Attractions: Prambanan and Borobudur

The two main attractions in Yogyakarta are on such a massive scale of grandeur that neither one should be missed. Both the Buddhist Borobudur temple and Prambanan, the Hindu temple, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and are recognized as being the oldest and highest levels of art within South East Asia.

Luckily, you can easily explore them both while in Yogyakarta.

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Sunrise at Borobudur
Many tour companies offer sunrise treks to Borobudur, leaving after breakfast from a nearby hotel at around 4am. This allows visitors enough time to climb the stairs to the first level of the temple, where you are encouraged to walk around that level clockwise before ascending to the next level, and then the next. Though I didn’t have time to visit at sunrise, I did follow the instructions on my afternoon visit there and can’t imagine that the world’s largest Buddhist temple was any more majestic at dawn.

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Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple. It consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The main dome on the top platform is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside perforated stupas. I admired the relief walls and tried to find as many Buddha statues as I could, but the crowds kept me from getting too close.

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Prambanan at Sunset

The most popular time to visit Candi Prambanan, the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, is at sunset. I did manage to do that, and was awed by the site.

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Prambanan consists of tall, pointed temple structures that make it taller than Borobudur. You can walk up the stairs of most of the temples to peek inside at the statues of gods. One area requires visitors to wear hardhats since the structure is not considered completely stable following the earthquake of 2006. I did. It was worth it.

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What I loved about Prambanan, too, was the walk around the grounds afterward, as melodic chanting was piped through loudspeakers (much like I heard while I was sleeping in my Joglo).
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Things to Know If You Go:
Just a couple of tips if you plan a visit to either temple:
–Both close at dusk, around 5:30pm.
–Both require visitors to wear saris, which they hand out for free as you enter and collect again as you exit.
–Foreigners pay about 10x what local residents pay for entry. Admission was roughly $19 at each place.

Temples don’t usually top of my lists of things to see when I travel, but I highly recommend both of these UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They’re absolutely stunning.

Are there other temples not to be missed?

26 responses to “The Main Attractions: Prambanan and Borobudur

  1. It looks like it is well worth the day trip to visit. Your sunset pictures look fantastic too, I can see it being a perfect picture for framing.

    • Yes, definitely worth the visit. I was glad to be there at sunset, especially after such a pretty day. It rained the day I went to Borobudur, but that didn’t diminish the experience at all.

    • There are a lot of stairs at each one, and lots of rubble at Prambanan. But there’s also a small playground on the grounds there. You’re right about possible temple fatigue, but I think you can easily stop at rest at each one. Maybe take a snack and don’t rush.

    • The colors were interesting. Very subtle. I was even more taken with the delicateness that seemed to make up Prambanan. It doesn’t seem like it would stand the test of time– which many parts of it didn’t.

  2. Nice article. I thought Borobudur is one of the highlights of all Asia, certainly was a highlight for me anyway. I did Prambanan afterwards, which is probably why I thought it was slightly bemusing. I think a proper understanding of the Hindu Ramayana and Gods will help people when they visit Prambanan, whereas anyone can marvel at Buddhist Borobudur, what an incredible design in the middle of the Javan jungle. http://backpackerlee.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/buddhism-at-borobudur/

    • Having some understanding of the Ramayana would definitely help. I forgot to mention that the Ramayana ballet is performed near there some evenings. I didn’t get to see it, but would have loved to.

  3. I’ve been to quite a number of temples in Asia, although none in South East Asia and definitely none that look remotely like these. I do think temples are fascinating places to look at a place’s culture and history. Speaking of temples, have you been to the Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto? That one is always one I tell people about since it made such an impression on me (can’t remember if I mentioned it to you before or not).

  4. visit your blog, read an interesting article. thank you friends for sharing and greetings compassion 🙂

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