Touring Yogyakarta (Jogjakarta or Jogja) would not be complete without checking out its ancient temples that make the city the forefront cultural city of Indonesia. After a quick visit to Prambanan temple, we spent another day in Jogja to see for ourselves the magnificence of the famous Borobudur temple.
Built in the 8th century, Borobudur Temple (locally ‘Candi Borobudur’) is considered as the largest Buddhist temple in the world. The temple is composed of three tiers with nine platforms topped by an enormous central stupa. Inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage Site list the same year as Prambanan in 1991, Borobudur is the singular most visited tourist spot in Indonesia.
Borobudur Sunrise Tour
Borobudur is a spectacular architectural and religious structure that can be appreciated no matter the time of day — or until 5pm as the park complex dictates. However, the temple is probably best viewed early in the morning. How early? Well, as early as the sun rises.
Although it is pricier than the regular tour, we opted for the Borobudur sunrise tour which required us to get up at 3am but gave us exclusive experience of the sunrise ahead of the daily crowd that start to flock after 6am. The Kresna Tour coaster picked us up from the hotel at around 4am. From our hotel in central Yogyakarta, the road trip to the province of Magelang where the temple is located took us about an hour.
The van dropped us off at Manohara Hotel for a quick orientation from park officials. They provided us with a map and flashlights since we had to make our way to Borobudur in the dark. We walked slightly uphill for about 10 minutes until we arrived at the spot where we could finally make out the faint silhouette of the massive temple against the dusk sky.
Reaching the base of Borobudur, we made our way up via the stairs on the sides of the temple. By this time, the crowd thickened with hundreds of other visitors all waiting for the sunrise. We made our way all the way to the topmost tier, just beneath the giant stupa. After that, we didn’t have to wait long — the sun began to rise just a few minutes later.
As the sun rose, it slowly illuminated the vast surrounding plains and Borobudur itself. The sun bathed the 72 bell-shaped stupas enclosing Buddha statues that ring around the giant stupa in light. The distant Mt. Merapi, the foggy plains and the illuminated temple all formed a spectacular sight that made the early wake-up call very much worth it. It was magic hour at its finest.
Indeed, the experience was all worth the price. And true enough, the Borobudur sunrise is truly a “sight that will remind you how incredible earth is” as described by CNN Travel and personally, one of the most magnificent if not the best sunrise we have seen so far. We spent around 3 to 4 hours in Borobudur before making our way back to Yogyakarta.
Borobudur Manohara Sunrise Tour
Tour Operator: Kresna Tour Jogja
Rate: IDR 450,000 / ~ USD 35 per pax
Inclusions: Return transfer, entrance fee & light breakfast at Manohara Hotel
Activities in Borobodur
There is not much to do in Borobudur except to explore and to take pictures. Unlike the Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia, Borobudur is composed of a single massive temple so you do not have to spend the whole day walking. But going around the temple while viewing the intricate design composed of relief panels and even more Buddha statues still takes time. However, it is also possible to combine the sunrise tour with a connecting visit to Prambanan Temple also via Kresna Tour.
By Plane. So far, there are no direct flights emanating from Manila. One has to take a flight either via Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta. In our case, we took a Cebu Pacific flight to Jakarta then onward to Yogyakarta via Air Asia.
By Train. Sleeper trains are available in Jakarta. This is another cheaper but longer option.
From Adisucipto International Airport, there are metered taxis waiting at the arrival area. You can approach the information counter for guidance. The airport is a quick 15-20 minutes drive to the city center. It is also possible to take the commuter bus going to the city proper and directly to Prambanan or Borobudur sites. To go around the city, you can from buses and taxis.
WHERE TO STAY
Being a popular destination, there are a variety of hotels and inns to choose from in Jogja. We managed to book a cheap deal via Agoda.com at Adhisthana Hotel.
Sample Itinerary (Weekend Tour)
DAY 0: Manila-Jakarta (Cebu Pacific or Air Asia evening flight) | Overnight @ Jakarta (Check-In near airport) [Option: Take night flight to Singapore or KL then take morning flight to Yogyakarta]
DAY 1: Take early Jakarta-Yogyakarta flight / Check-In @ Hotel / Take Afternoon Prambanan Tour / Watch performance
DAY 2: Borobudur Sunrise Tour / Yogyakarta City Tour / Souvenir Shopping / Night Tour
DAY 3: Yogyakarta-KL flight / Quick KL Tour / KL-Manila Flight