Yogyakarta, exploring the cultural capital of Indonesia in 36 hours

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Yogyakarta is probably one of the most well-known tourist destinations in Indonesia (aside from Bali of course). Sometimes spelled as Jogjakarta, this special region is located in central Java, the most populated and busiest island in Indonesia. This is also where the heart of Javanese culture, culinary, history, legends and nature can be found.

I did a 2-day trip in June 2016 because I was bored at home in Jakarta LOL but really, there are so many exciting things to do both in and out of town that you won’t be bored even if you stay here for a week!

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One of the many hidden secrets in Taman Sari Water Castle

The idea is to spend the 1st day within the town plus a few places which are located just on the outskirt of Yogyakarta and reachable by public bus. For the 2nd day, we rented a car (including the driver too) as we were heading out of town.

Note: Do stay around Malioboro Street for convenience thanks to wide variety of accommodation, attractions, food, and access to public transport.

So here we go, Yogyakarta in 36 hours! (a bit less actually hehe)


Day 1

Kraton Yogyakarta

10 minutes rickshaw or 20 minutes walk from Malioboro Street

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Let’s head straight to the most important place in the town: The Palace of Yogyakarta, or also known as the Kraton/Keraton. The Kraton is the main seat of the Sultan of Yogyakarta (ruler/governor) and was built in 1755.

Taman Sari Water Castle

15 minutes walk from Kraton Yogyakarta

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Just a short distance away from the Palace is Taman Sari Water Castle, the former royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta. Make sure to visit this royal garden because I personally think this is the most beautiful complex in the entire town 🙂

 …

Lunch!

When it’s time for lunch, nothing can be a better choice than nasi gudeg! If you are around Kraton area, head to Wijilan Street 10 minutes walk away, which is said to have the best choices in town. Otherwise, anywhere will do! I have tried a few nameless stalls, and they all tasted amazing 😀

 …

Prambanan Temple

1.5 hours bus ride (Trans Jogja) from Malioboro

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Next, we head off to Prambanan Temple. Technically it lies out of town, but public bus Trans Jogja will bring you there for a mere Rp 3,500. As the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia, Prambanan was built in the 9th century and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Two hours at least is recommended to enjoy the site, and don’t forget to visit Candi Sewu, an older Buddhist temple located in the same complex, but a bit far from the main temple.

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Candi Sewu, the older temple located within Prambanan complex

 …

Ratu Boko Palace

10 minutes by rickshaw or 30 minutes walk from Prambanan

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The ancient ruins of Ratu Boko Palace is located around 3km South of Prambanan Temple. You can buy a package ticket at Prambanan to be entitled for a free shuttle at the official website. Otherwise, you can always take the local becak (rickshaw) or walk there.

This place is famous for its gorgeous sunset, so try to arrive before the crowd to get your favourite spot to enjoy the end of this tiring but exciting day 🙂

Malioboro Street

1 hour bus ride from Prambanan Bus Terminal

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Of course no visit to Yogyakarta is complete without strolling around Malioboro Street. Visit this famous street for shopping, food, local performances or just to feel the lively atmosphere of Yogyakarta at night.


Day 2

Punthuk Setumbu (Hill)

1 hour drive from Malioboro Street

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Wake up early morning (read: 3.30 AM!) to witness the sunrise at Setumbu Hill. The view is breathtaking, with the sun rising behind two mountains and mist shrouding Borobudur temple that now appears like a miniature toy 🙂

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If you are up for a morning trekking, you can walk for 20-30 minutes to Chicken Church (Gereja Ayam) which is actually neither a church nor chicken-shaped. It is supposed to be a prayer house open to any religions, and resembles a dove. Just ask around for the direction, Indonesians are a bunch of very nice and helpful people 😛

Borobudur Temple

15 minutes drive from Punthuk Setumbu

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So finally we reach the mythical Borobudur Temple. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world’s largest Buddhist monument. It is indeed massive, and unlike Prambanan that consists of many small temples scattered around the complex, Borobudur only has one gigantic temple.

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Note: It is possible to enjoy the sunrise inside the Borobudur complex. However, the ticket is more expensive and can be bought exclusively from Manohara Hotel (non-visitors are welcome too).

Parangkusumo Sand Dunes

2 hours drive from Borobudur Temple

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So far you’ve seen mountains, temples (lots of them!), palaces and food – so let’s go to Parangtritis beach area! To be honest I wasn’t too excited to go to the beach. The beaches around Yogyakarta are not as great as those in Bali or Nusa Tenggara Islands, but Yogyakarta has something special: sand dunes.

Yes, you heard that right. Sand dunes! Welcome to Gumuk Pasir Parangkusumo, where you will feel like you’re at the desert. The shops nearby rent out sandboarding equipment, if you want to try it. Oh, it is said that a lot of movies were filmed here because, yes you guess it, flying to real desert would be too expensive.

Back to Yogyakarta

2 hours drive from Parangkusumo

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Kraton Yogyakarta. Too bad I didn’t have time to go back here 😦

After a long day full of adventure, it’s time to go back home. Drive straight to airport or train station, and make sure to factor in some buffer time for heavy traffic within the town itself.


Feeling lost?

A good travel article always has a map (at least I need a map to make sense of everything I just wrote earlier on LOL). So here it is! The different colours correspond to:

  • Blue – Important places (train station, airport, accommodation)
  • Orange – Day 1 Itinerary
  • Green – Day 2 Itinerary


How to get here?

Most people will come to Yogyakarta by airplane or train.

Airplane

The airport is located just outside of the town, and is very accessible by taxi or public transport Trans Jogja. This airport is well connected and flight from/to Jakarta could cost around Rp 400,000.

Train

There are 2 train stations located just around 1.5 km away from each other: Lempuyangan Station and Jogja (Tugu) Station. Tugu Station is the main and biggest station in town. Either stations are accessible and within walking distance from Malioboro Street.

The journey to/from Jakarta takes 6-8 hours, and prices range from Rp 100,000 to Rp 300,000 for economy and executive/business class respectively. I always use the official Kereta Api website to look for the train schedule and pricing.


 How to get around?

Within the town itself, public bus Trans Jogja is the cheapest and most convenient way to get around the airport, Malioboro Street, Tugu Jogja, train station and even Prambanan temple. Otherwise, take a becak (rickshaw) to fetch you to places not accessible by the bus.

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Trans Jogja, a convenient (and cheap!) way of getting around the town

To get out of town (Borobudur, Setumbu Hill, Parangkusumo), renting a motorbike or a car is recommended. Motorbike should cost around Rp 100,000 to Rp 150,000 a day, while a car with driver and fuel inclusive should be from Rp 300,000 onwards depending on the type of car. Most rental agencies would offer a 6-hr, 12-hr, 18-hr package and so on. You can do an online booking too! I got mine from Sabila Transport and I would definitely recommend them 🙂


 Where to stay?

Yogyakarta, being a top tourist destination, offers a wide range of accommodation – from backpacker hostels to 5-star hotel. However, the preferred location to get the best deals is around Malioboro Street.

The two most famous streets along Malioboro are: Sosrokusuman Street and Sosrowijayan Street. Both offer numerous hotels and hostels lining up side by side. Just try to look it up online, but basically, anywhere around Malioboro Street would be a good choice!


Doing Yogyakarta in 36 hours is definitely feasible, but if you have more time to spend, please allocate at least 3 days to really feel the soul of this beautiful town. You can even travel further to Mount Bromo or Dieng Plateau from Yogyakarta!

Feel free to ask me for suggestions or comments!

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