Honestly, things to do in Yogyakarta seemed neverending for me. I simply couldn’t leave this Indonesian city. I would claim that it’s the most interesting place in Java, Indonesia. Why? City and the area has a lot of interesting spots to offer. From heritage of the Sultans in the city itself, through the biggest Buddhist temple in the world to the most active volcano in Indonesia and many other places which I am going to mention. All in all, you should surely reserve a couple of days for attractions in Yogya during your next trip. Are you wondering what to do in Yogyakarta? Let me show you!
Things to do in Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta is a city as well as a name of the special administrative region. Don’t mistake it with Jakarta – the capital of Indonesia, which name sounds similar. It’s the only region headed by a monarchy in Indonesia. You will find slightly cheaper prices than in other regions as well as plenty of batik (traditional clothes).
1. City of Yogyakarta
First things first, let’s have a tour around the city. Are you ready? Take a bicycle and roam around Sultan Palace and Water Castle (Taman Sari) – the most known attractions of Yogyakarta. Be sure to try some Indonesian local food on the way, which in Yogyakarta is particulary good and cheap.
Moreover Yogya is a student’s city and considered as city of artists. Street arts graffiti are almost on every corner. Nothing like murals in Penang, Malaysia but still you can find some interesting pieces of art. Getting around, you may also see some painters or musicians performing. Among all the Indonesian cities, Yogyakarta was my favorite, or in other words the only one I liked, since most of them are nothing but traffic and dirt.
If you are looking for a day tour, I propose Eco Tour Yogyakarta– which is my personal invention. A local guide will show you around highlights of the city, heritage and street arts as well as take you to try different types of traditional food – all vegetarian. You will taste what locals eat for breakfast, try local speciality – for lunch and see a factory of famous Yogya cookies. Your taste cubes will be spoiled with dinner as well, when eating another Javanese meal.
All the trip will be done by bicycles but do not worry, the distances are short, it’s more about enjoying. Of course you can make some personal changes, like using the bicycle rickshaw, if you are lazy to pedal by yourself. Just point what you are more interested about: maybe focus on the local street arts or maybe you would like to try local alcohol from the palm tree? If you are interested in Eco Tour Yogyakarta, please drop me a message. I will arrange it for you with my trusted agency, which will surely tell you what to see in Yogyakarta.
2. Sunrise at Borobodur
Borobodur is the biggest Buddhist temple in the world and most popular among the things to do in Yogyakarta. You will see massive blocks of stupas with Buddha inside. There are three most important Buddhist temples in the world: Anghor Wat in Cambodia, Bagan in Myanmar and Borobodur in Indonesia. All of them I visited for sunrise and I can highly recommend to put it on your bucket list. Borobodur sunrise tour I described in a separate article, please have a look at this gorgeous spectable of light.
3. Hiking Merapi volcano
Even though Borobodur is a very important heritage nothing impresses me as much as nature. Therefore, I would put Merapi trekking at the first place from the best things to do in Yogyakarta. Mount Merapi is special, beautiful, poweful. Locals consider it as home for spirits. Please find out more in my article: Hiking Merapi volcano for sunrise. Find stunning photography of the smoky crater and read about my adventure.
4. Prambanan Temple
Prambanan is a complex of Hindu temples from Xth century. Temples are devoted to three the most important gods in Hinduism: Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. You will also find temples devoted to the animals which serve these gods. Even though the temples collapsed due to the earthquake, volcanic eruption and a shift of political power in the early 11th century, they were rediscovered in the 17th century. These compounds have never been displaced or changed. Now under UNESCO protection, still long way to rebuild fallen temples.
5. Jomblang cave
Jombland cave is just one of many limestones caves in Semanu. It’s a 90-minute drive from the center of Yogyakarta and the perfect day trip from the city. Goa Jomblang isn’t really a cave, it’s part of a cave system that covers the whole of Gunung Kidul. Remember to arrive early, around 8 am, since there is limited entry per day. You can go for adventure with the tour agency, which takes you to the cave. Let me tell you more about my first caving experience.
First you are dropped 50 m down the hole on the rope. The hole is easily 25 meters in diameter. It must have been formed hundreds of years ago, because there’s a forest at the bottom of the sinkhole. I felt nervous stepping off the edge into thin air 50 meters above the forest floor. Brrr…
Inside, long cave’s tunnel (around 250m) full of mud will take you to heaven! The hole above creates amazing light rays. Just start posing! The second thing you notice is just how large Grubug cave is. I use the word amazing a lot but trust me, no other can describe it better. I would place Jomblang cave adventure in the top 5 things to do in Yogyakarta, definitely worth it!
6. Gondola on Timang Beach
Things like that are built only in Indonesia… Weird construction with a chair goes over the ocean to the little island on the slide rope. Flying over the big waves is quite impressive, and you can admire the view at the cliffs from the other side. Gondola flight on Timang Beach is popular among locals, however it was included in a day trip together with Jomblang cave experience, so why not?
7. Sunsets and sunrises
Searching about best things to do in Yogyakarta, I had the impression that everything in Jogja is beautiful on sunrise or sunset. So many places to see in Yogya! If you are up for it, I will recommend few spots, which will surely take your breath away.
The most popular for sunrise is Ketep Pass from where you can see sunrise view on Merapi volcano and Merbabu. Closer to Yogya, but smaller hill is called Nglanggeran and it’s also fine for sunrise.
For sunset a popular destination is Parangtritis beach – large, beautiful beach with big waves and cliffs from which you can admire stunning view. Another spot worth recommending is Ijo temple. You can go there just before the sunset to visit the temple and enjoy the great scenery.
8. Pine forest – Hutan Pinus
Another place popular for locals is Hutan Pinus – Pine forest. People go there to take a bunch of selfies with hobbit house, pine trees as this is not something common in the rainforest area. Very peaceful place and truly local experience. If you go there you will be surely asked to take a selfie with locals a lot. Among things to do in Yogyakarta, this is not a popular spot, but isn’t the view at the valley stunning?
9. Imogiri – Royal Graveyard
If you are more into history and culture come to Imogiri to see tombs of the Sultans. There are two Royal graveyards in Yogyakarta, one close to the center, another close to the Hutan Pinus, which I have just mentioned above. Impressive sculptures and mysterious atmosphere guaranteed. Cemeteries are not something I specially like seeing, I often feel sad when I am visiting any. However, some of them are unique like for example the only one happy cementery in the world in Romania.
Wondering what to do in Yogyakarta? Eat! Yogyakarta has the best and the cheapest food in Indonesia so enjoy it to the fullest! Street stands are pretty much everywhere. A typical dish from Yogya is Gudeg – rice with baked jackfruit – something very different but believe me – worth trying. There is also typical dessert in Yogya, but you won’t miss it, since they sell it on every corner. Cookies called Bakpia are usually with mung bean and are super tasty! Try them out for free in the stores and buy the box if you like. Among things to do in Yogyakarta, eating sounds like the best idea, doesn’t it?