This post was last updated on July 8th, 2020 at 01:49 pm
Yogyakarta (also known as Jogja) is one of the most important cities on the island of Java. It is best known as one of the most important cultural centers in Indonesia. The beauty of Yogyakarta is that many old traditions and customs have been preserved. It has so much beauty to offer that it has become a popular tourist destination in recent years. In this article you will learn the following about this special city;
Akisoto’s Experience in Yogyakarta
Our opinion is that Yogyakarta is one of the nicest cities in Indonesia. It is full of restaurants, nice markets, interesting highlights, atmospheric streets, and kind people. This is one of those cities where you plan on staying for one or two days and eventually stay much longer. Tourism is the main source of income for the city.
Many travelers visit Yogyakarta for its impressive monuments, temples, and palaces. In addition, Yogyakarta is a real student city. This is because Indonesia’s largest university is located here. As a result, you have countless options for going out, eating, and drinking in Yogyakarta.
TIP – There is a nice market every night on Jl. Malioboro.
Yogyakarta, the Soul of Java
Yogyakarta is a city where you will find everything. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. Compared to Jakarta or Kuta (super touristy), Yogyakarta is a large, but atmospheric city. It is the most important center for classical Javanese arts such as batik, ballet, drama, music, poetry, and puppetry.
Tourists flock to the kitchen and shopping streets, the different language and cultural courses offered here. In Java, the locals sometimes say; “Jakarta is the engine of Java, Yogyakarta is the soul”. And that’s a great description!
20 Fun Things to Do in Yogyakarta
There is a lot to see in and around Yogyakarta. The most famous sights around the city are the Borobudur and the Prambanan. But there is also a lot to see in the city itself, with Fort Vredenburg, Kraton Yogyakarta, the Jalan Malioboro, and Taman Sari as its main sights.
1. Go to Fort Vredeburg
You can still see the influences of the Dutch in Yogyakarta. In the city, there is a Dutch fort that was built at the end of the 18th century. Fort Vredeburg is a typical fortress with high watchtowers on every corner. The fort is opposite of the palaces of Yogyakarta.
The fort has now been restored and turned into a museum. The museum focuses on the independence of Indonesia and Yogyakarta. Here, you can also see that the Dutch played a less rosy role at that time.
2. Visit Kraton Yogyakarta
The main attraction of the city is the Kraton of Yogyakarta, also known as the Sultan Palace. The Kraton is the sultan’s palace that was built in 1757. The palace is the administrative center of the city and is still in use by the current sultan. The Kraton Yogyakarta is very impressive, especially when you consider that the complex is more than 200 years old. A large part has been set up as a museum and is open to the public.
The ancient Javanese culture and architecture of this grand complex are visible everywhere. You will find special designs for the halls, floors, and gold-painted ceilings. You will also find personal collections of the current Sultan Hamengku Buwono X. The Kraton is located right in the center and is difficult to miss. It is important that you dress appropriately.
Within the palace walls, you will find a museum with photos and cultural performances that are regularly performed. It is one of the main attractions in Yogyakarta and should be part of any travel itinerary. A stone’s throw from the palace you will also find one of the most beautiful places in Yogyakarta: Taman Sari. This is the water palace of Yogyakarta and used to be the bathhouse of the sultan. The water palace is no longer in use, but you can still see how beautiful this place once was.
TIP – Entrance fee is 15,000 IDR p.p. A camera is 1,000 IDR. It is open from Saturday to Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. On Friday it’s open until 1:00 p.m.
3. Explore the Special Taman Sari
Taman Sari is located just southwest of the famous Kraton. This complex once served as a beautiful park of palaces, pools, and waterways for the Sultan and his family. It is said that the Sultan had the Portuguese architect executed for this elaborate retreat, to keep his hidden pleasure areas a secret.
It was built between 1758 and 1765 but was damaged by the Java War and the 1865 earthquake. Although much of what you see today is in ruins, the pools have been remade. In addition, the tunnels and the underground mosque are very special. It is a must-see if you are in Yogyakarta.
TIP – Entrance fee is 15,000 IDR (around US$1) and a camera is 2,000 IDR (around US$0.15) p.p.
4. Walk on Jalan Malioboro
Jalan Malioboro is the largest shopping street in Yogyakarta. The street is located right in the tourist center. In the area you will find many hotels and resorts, but also cheaper hostels and guesthouses. During the day the street is completely full of stalls selling the most diverse products. In the evening you can go to Jalan Malioboro for a snack and a drink. Many of the market stalls have disappeared and have been replaced by tables for delicious food.
Please note that in high season it can sometimes be very busy in this shopping street. In addition to visiting impressive temples and palaces, you can also go shopping or sit at one of the many restaurants or bars. There is something fun for everyone in Yogyakarta.
TIP – In the evening you can go to the end of the most famous street; Jl. Malioboro and get some great street food. Locals show their cooking skills and many well-known dishes are waiting for you.
5. Walk Between the Beringin Trees
The Beringin Trees are one of the most famous places in Yogyakarta. This place has, as the name suggests, two large trees. According to legend, you have to walk through the trees with your eyes closed. If you can, you can make a wish. It may sound simple, but it is amazing how many people fail to walk in a straight line through the two trees.
You can hire a blindfold from a local vendor who will keep you from cheating. You can try it as often as you like. Whether you believe in the legend or not, it’s fun to walk through the trees. It is also one of the most fun places in the city.
6. Go to the beach
What many people do not know is that you can visit many beaches from Yogyakarta. The city is only an hour’s drive from the Indian Ocean and there you will find several beautiful beaches that you can visit. These beaches are, obviously, not comparable to beaches on Sulawesi or Bali, but beautiful enough to visit. These are the best-known beaches:
The beach has golden sand, and it is spotless. You will also find some small Indonesian cafes and seaside stalls, where you can get simple noodle dishes, as well as cool drinks and coconuts. It gets quite busy during the weekend.
Wediombo Beach means Wide Sand Beach. This beach offers everything you expect from a beautiful beach. The soft golden sand stretches for miles along the shoreline and locals flock here to enjoy the sun, sea, and sand.
Looking for more beautiful beaches in Indonesia? We’ve made a top 10 of the most beautiful beaches in Indonesia. Take a look!
7. Go Rafting on the Progo River
If you want to do something active near Yogyakarta, take a trip to the beautiful Progo River and rent a kayak or book a white water rafting tour. It is not a famous activity, but that makes it all the more fun.
The great highlight of the descent of the river is to observe the surroundings from the water as you pump adrenaline through your body. When you reach the Progo River, you can also immediately visit the nearby Elo River.
TIP – It costs about 625,000 IDR (around US$41) p.p. Check out this website for more info.
8. Visit Sono-Budoyo Museum
Yogyakarta is a city with many museums and one of the best to visit is the Sono-Budoyo Museum. Here, you will find a collection of Javanese art. To learn more about art from the region, take a tour of the museum and visit galleries dedicated to Indonesian dolls, masks, weapons, and textiles.
The museum overlooks a courtyard covered with Hindu architecture. One of the highlights of the museum is the puppet shows that take place here, similar to the ones in Ubud.
TIP – Entrance fee is 5,000 IDR (around US$0.35) p.p.
9. Climb Mount Merapi
Mount Merapi is one of the few active volcanoes in Southeast Asia. This impressive volcano towers 2,930 meters high above Yogyakarta. This provides beautiful pictures, but also danger, such as in 2010, when an eruption killed 353 people and evacuated 360,000 people.
They say the Mount Merapi is Indonesia’s bad boy. The volcano is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the country. And that is quite something in a country with no less than 127 volcanoes! You can book tours to this volcano from Yogyakarta. We definitely recommend it!
10. Take a Day Trip to the Dieng Plateau
For many travelers, this is one of the most beautiful places in Java. The Dieng Plateau is a huge plain with spectacular views. In addition, it is home to some of the oldest Hindu architecture in Java. More than 400 temples are spread over the region at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries.
The main reason people come here is the spectacular scenery. The Dieng Plateau is a huge plain that used to be active volcanoes. In the area, you will find mountains and beautiful lakes.
TIP – More information about this volcano can be found on our Dieng Plateau page.
11. Do the Bromo Tour
In our opinion, this is one of the coolest tours in Java. The Bromo volcano is a popular stop on the way to Bali from Yogyakarta. The climb is fairly straightforward, and the morning hike to the viewpoint is spectacular. Okay, you have to get up a bit early, but the views over the landscape and the mighty Bromo Volcano are simply spectacular.
The main reason people come here, besides the spectacular view, is the challenge. It can be a tough climb. But the reward is more than worth it.
12. Tubing Through the Caves at Goa Pindul
With the word “tubing” you may think of Vang Vieng in Laos, but also in the area of Yogyakarta, you have the opportunity to float in a band on a river. And you don’t just float: you sail through a cave, the Pindul Cave. It’s a very cool activity if you are looking for some adventure.
The incoming sunlight, together with the most special stalagmites, stalactites, and the green lagoon water, creates a magical day. It’s almost surreal how beautiful it is there.
Looking for some more excitement? Try jumping off the 7-meter high tree trunk into the water.
Ask the guide if you can sail outside the cave on the river. This way you also get to the areas where hardly any other tourists are. It’s an ideal way to take a cooling dip in peace.
You can find the cave more than 40 kilometers southeast of Yogyakarta center.
If none of this is rough enough for you, there is another option: rafting at the Kalisuci Caves. These caves are about 15 kilometers from Goa Pindul. Rafting at Sungai Elo is also highly recommended. From the Borobudur temple, it is only a 10-minute drive, from the center it takes about 45 minutes.
13. Enjoy the views at the Kalibiru National Park
40 km west of Yogyakarta, about a 1.5-hour drive, lies the relatively unknown Kalibiru National Park. It is not without reason that this place is called a hidden paradise by many people.
What makes this national park so special?
Besides that there are few tourists, there’s also a so-called “adrenaline town” made of rope and wood. If you walk over these ropes one thing is for sure: you’re guaranteed to sweat. But given the spectacular view and the added kick, it’s is all worth it.
There is also the “flying fox”, a cable car that takes you to a platform that is attached to a tree. And not just any: from here you can see the beautiful green landscape and Lake Sermo. The most beautiful moment to witness is when the sun goes down.
14. Take a dip at the Sri Gethuk Waterfall
This beautiful waterfall is surrounded by green rice fields and can be reached in 2 ways from the nearby parking lot. You can walk through the jungle or take a boat on the Oya River.
Once arrived, it is wonderful to take a dip in the purifying water from the rocks. There is also a hidden waterfall where you can completely relax.
A special fact about this place is that it was used to store a traditional instrument, the “kethuk”. That is why this waterfall is called the “Gethuk Waterfall”. It’s called “Gethuk” and not “Kethuk” because this is easier to pronounce for Javanese people.
The Sri Gethuk Waterfall is about a 1.5 hours’ drive (over 35 kilometers) southeast from the center.
15. Trekking at Gunung Api Purba Nglanggeran
The name may be difficult to pronounce, but we still want to ask you to remember it or write it down.
Gunung Api Purba Nglanggeran is one of the older volcanoes in Central Java and it is located in a breathtaking environment.
The hike to the top may take up to 70 minutes, depending on the number of stops you make. Along the way, you will pass all kinds of rock formations and perhaps some local residents. Upstairs you will be rewarded with an unforgettable view over the unspoiled landscape.
Speaking of local residents, the story goes that there are 7 families living in the village of Tlogo Mardidho – which is on the mountain – and that one family more or less, would lead to disaster.
In this special place, you have the idea of being far away from the city, yet the volcano is only 24 kilometers (1 hour drive) east of Yogyakarta center. It’s a small effort to take a look.
16. Discover Kaliadem and Surroundings
The village closest to Mount Merapi is Kaliadem. It’s a special feeling to be here, as the Mount Merapi volcano erupted in both 2006 and 2010. As a result, the entire environment has changed from a wooded whole to a moon landscape that seems to come straight out of a science fiction film.
You can also do the Lava Tour in this region where Kaliadem is the last stop. Along the way, you will visit the Sisa Hartaku Museum, which shows the damage caused by the eruptions to all kinds of objects.
The village is more than 22 kilometers north of Yogyakarta and is less than an hour away if everything goes well.
If you like a volcano then climbing the nearby Mount Merapi volcano is a must-do. The trip takes about 9 hours in total, after 4.5 hours you are at the top and you can witness the sunrise.
17. Be Surprised at Umbul Ponggok
Initially, Umbul Ponggok resembles an oversized swimming pool where there’s not much to do. The great thing is that when you go underwater, there are all kinds of surprises.
In its pure water, you can snorkel between the fish and you also have the opportunity to place various objects on the bottom. Think of chairs, a TV and even a scooter. Can it get any weirder than that?
It is worth taking photos of the experiences you will have here, for example, a GoPro is an absolute must. You can also rent an underwater camera, as well as snorkeling equipment. You are allowed to bring your own objects underwater to create unique photos.
This interesting spot is located more than 40 kilometers northeast of Yogyakarta center and it takes around 1 to 1.5 hours to get there.
18. Descend Into the Jomblang Cave
Descending into the Jomblang Cave, a cave that dates back thousands of years will be an experience you will remember forever. At 45,000 IDR (US$3) this is a relatively cheap activity, and memories are more important than money, right? Exactly!
The descent is about 80 meters and between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., you can see the sunlight shine through the wooded opening. Without exaggerating, it feels like you’ve ended up in a fairy tale.
Good to know is that a limited number of visitors are allowed per day. It is required to make a reservation in advance. We also recommend that you bring clean clothes because you will probably get (slightly) dirty.
To get there we advise you to book a tour, for example through the hostel where you are staying or otherwise at a travel agency. The cave is more than 50 kilometers from Yogyakarta; the ride takes 1 hour and 45 minutes.
19. Relax at Luweng Sampang
At the remote Luweng Sampang, you will find strangely shaped rocks and a small waterfall where you can swim in its refreshing water. There are all sorts of side roads and tunnels, formed by nature, to explore.
You can also choose to sit on one of the boulders on the side and simply enjoy the relaxing environment. As with Jomblang Cave, we can only say that it is super beautiful here.
It is not a place where you will find other tourists; at most you will encounter some locals. This excellent spot is, therefore, a pleasant destination if you want to put your mind at ease.
Luweng Sampang is located 28 kilometers east of Yogyakarta and it takes an hour to get there. If you go by scooter, take the traffic into account. If you are inexperienced, you might be better off hiring a private driver or catching a taxi.
20. “Fly” from Timang Beach to Panjang Island
Beautiful Timang Beach is connected by cable car to Panjang Island which is about 200 meters away. The views from the island are priceless, especially during sunset.
You don’t have to do this, just looking at the rocks from the beach and the clattering water on it is an experience in itself. It is also nice to meet the villagers and eat a local delicacy – lobster – with them.
The beach is located 70 kilometers south of Yogyakarta. You can stop at the nearest village to take a motorcycle taxi there. Keep in mind that you will be on the road for 2 hours, but you will certainly not regret it.
Prambanan and Borobudur
Yogyakarta is a great city with a great atmosphere and lots of cozy places to eat or drink in the evening. This city owes much of its fame to two of the most famous temples in Java; the Borobudur and the Prambanan. Both temples can be visited in the city.
About 20 kilometers east of Yogyakarta stands the Prambanan temple complex. It’s less known than the Borobudur, but Prambanan is just as spectacular. This is the Hindu answer to Borobudur and dates from the same period. The Prambanan consists of several structures and temples, but the three main towers are by far the most impressive. We recommend visiting the temple complex with a guide because they can give you details that make this place so interesting.
It is best to visit the temple in the early morning or at the end of the afternoon. We combine the two temples and visit both temples in one day. Also nice: it is possible to cycle from Yogyakarta to the Prambanan. You then cross a beautiful landscape of rice fields and small villages.
Shuttle buses run daily from the city center to Prambanan. The entrance fee for Prambanan is only a few dollars.
TIP – You can read more information about this temple on our Prambanan page.
Many people who come to Yogyakarta visit the temple complex of Borobudur. In fact, people visit Yogyakarta because this is the gateway to the Borobudur. This temple complex is one of the greatest sights in all of the country.
The Borobudur is not only the largest Buddhist temple in the world, but it also lies in a very special location. The impressive complex is often compared to structures such as the Taj Mahal and Angkor Wat. Traveling to Java and not visiting this temple is not an option.
The immense temple was built in the 8th century. The construction period is estimated to be between 80 and 100 years. In Yogyakarta, tours are offered everywhere to this temple, often in combination with the Prambanan. However, you can also go there on your own by taxi or bus.
The Borobudur is best viewed in the early morning, so always opt for a sunrise tour. You first watch the sunrise from a hill in the area and then visit the temple. The complex is open from 06:00 a.m. and at this time it is still relatively quiet.
TIP – You can read more about this temple on our Borobudur page.
Great Restaurants in Yogyakarta
Not a fan of cooking yourself, but still want to try the Indonesian cuisine? You’ll be right at home in Yogyakarta. It is full of great restaurants that excel in local dishes. In general, you will find many restaurants along Jalan Prawirotaman and Jalan Sosrowijayan, but below are our two personal favorites.
One of our favorite restaurants in Yogyakarta is Milas. A vegetarian restaurant with a beautiful inner garden where the sounds from outside are briefly silenced. It is actually always pleasantly busy, but it is not a punishment to have to wait a few minutes for your table here.
The dishes at Kesuma are slightly more expensive, but the food is amazing. Here, authentic Javanese is cooked and famous Indonesian dishes get a local twist. For example, the Javanese curry, fish with turmeric and lemongrass, or Javanese rendang.
Yogyakarta Cooking Class
Actually we never cook Indonesian food at home, but after having traveled more than 2500 kilometers within the Indonesian archipelago we started to appreciate the nasi goreng and prawn crackers. All those times when we ordered a plate of fried rice at a small stall on the street, and in the atmospheric eateries and at people’s homes. Flavors we would like to put in a box to unpack at home. But because that is not really an option, we decided to take a cooking course in Yogyakarta ourselves. So we could take the recipe home with us.
In our guesthouse in Yogyakarta, we got into a conversation with a Dutch couple who have been living on the leftovers of their cooking course for three days. They made so much fried rice that they packed the leftovers in a newspaper and took them to the guesthouse. They didn’t want to share, but they could tell us where we could make it ourselves.
On their advice, we contacted Via-Via, an organization of international travel cafes. They are located in Belgium, Central America, Africa, and yes you guessed it… in Yogyakarta. We checked our itinerary and made a cooking appointment for later that week.
It’s our very last day in Indonesia and we are already hungry when we arrive at the reception of Via Via. Today, we are going to cook together with a French mother and daughter. However, we start with a visit to the market. A walk through a dusty hall full of tables with merchandise. Beautiful females everywhere, wrapped in beautiful fabrics and among the groceries: Live chickens, fish, and lots of fruit and vegetables.
Here we learned that certain vegetables have Dutch names because they were brought to Indonesia by the Dutch. We also take a look at how they make tempeh on the spot. We buy fresh vegetables, meat, tempeh, and Lemper, and a snack of cooked rice with a pinch of chicken meat in between, tasty!
Cutting, Stirring, Frying, Tasting
After a tour of all the market stalls, we walk back to the kitchen. The menu includes dishes with exotic names such as “Ayam Bumbu Rajak”, “Gulai Nangka” and “Perkedel Kentang”. We start by cutting the ingredients and work in teams on different dishes. While our Indonesian teacher explains everything about the recipes and preparation method, we are put to work. We cut, stir, fry, and are allowed to taste regularly in between.
Although we actually came for the nasi goreng, the rice is not fried today. Instead, we make a dish with purple rice. We grind the chilies, onion, and garlic in a flat stone bowl into a smooth paste. Rolls of vegetarian balls of boiled potatoes. We prepare a curry of jack fruit and make the bumbu for our Javanese chicken. And we haven’t even mentioned the fried tempeh and the homemade prawn crackers.
After an hour our rice dish is finished and when everything is served, the nasi goreng is quickly forgotten. Because if you put so much time and love into it, it is delicious anyway.
Best Time to Visit Yogyakarta
The best time to visit Yogyakarta in Indonesia is from May to October and December, in which you have a warm temperature and low to moderate rainfall. The highest average temperature in Yogyakarta is 29°C (84.2°F) in February and the lowest is 27°C (80.6°F) in July. The weather and climate of Yogyakarta are suitable for a sunny vacation.
Yogyakarta has 2 types of climates, namely the monsoon climate and tropical savanna climate. The average climate of Yogyakarta, the monthly temperature, or when most rain or snow falls can be found below. This way you are well prepared for your next trip or holiday. This average monthly climate data is based on data from the past 30 years.
Yogyakarta Weather by Month
Where to Stay in Yogyakarta
There is plenty of choice in hotels and hostels in Yogyakarta. The famous streets are full of very nice hostels and hotels, one somewhat better than the other. In general, all accommodations are fair to good.
In the high season, it may be necessary to book in advance. Outside the main season, you can book a place on a day to day basis, there are plenty of options.
Our tip for a nice hotel in Yogyakarta? We stayed at Bladok Hotel & Restaurant, a cozy guesthouse in Jalan Sosrowijayan. Neat rooms, a great restaurant, and a swimming pool. In addition, the location is excellent, and you can book tours and excursions in the area at the reception. The price is also very affordable: via booking.com you’ll pay around US$20 for a deluxe room, including breakfast.
Yogyakarta Hotel Recommendations
If you are looking for a nice and affordable hostel then we can recommend Good Karma Yogyakarta. It is clean, cozy and perhaps the most fun is the outdoor shower. A freshly baked pancake with fresh fruit for breakfast is also included.
Another accommodation that we recommend is the Ostic house. In addition to everything being in perfect order, the employees excel in the good service they provide. They help you with everything here.
See You Soon Backpacker is a great hostel to stay in. Besides the atmosphere being great, you can eat for free several times a day and there is always coffee and tea available. In addition, they rent out bikes and cars, useful for exploring the area.
Finally, if you are looking for a bit more peace and quiet for a nice price, then Ndalem Mantrigawen is an absolute must. They have a cozy courtyard, mango trees, a papaya tree, and a star fruit tree.
We slept in the Pandanaran hotel for a few nights. We did so because there was an offer that gave us a super luxurious room for only US$20, including breakfast and a rooftop pool. A dorm costs you around US$ 5 to $7 per night. A private room in a hostel around US$15 per night. A hotel starts at around US$20 per night. The two most famous streets are Jl. Prawirotaman and Jl Malioboro.
TIP – Check Booking.com for more info.
How to Get to Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta is one of the most famous cities in Java and can be reached in many ways. Most people will come here by bus although there’s also an airport and train station here. These are the main options to get there (and leave);
There is an international airport in Jogja, as the city is also called. From here, you can fly to the main airports in Indonesia (Jakarta, Denpasar, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Flores, etc.). Destinations such as Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are also accessible. For domestic flights, you pay 35,000 IDR (around US$2.30) in departure tax, for international flights it is 110,000 IDR (around US$7.25).
The largest bus station is Giwagan, 5 kilometers outside the city. You can take buses here to every corner in Java, even to Bali. You can buy bus tickets at the station or at your accommodation. Tickets are cheaper at the station, but at your accommodation (or tour operators) it is easier and you are often picked up at your accommodation itself. Some destinations;
- Jakarta ➜ 120,000-170,000 IDR – 12 hour travel time
- Bandung ➜ 80,000 – 100,000 IDR – 10 hour travel time
- Denpasar, Bali ➜ 250,000 IDR – 19 hour travel time
The train station is located in the middle of the city and is called Tugu Train Station. From here you can go to any city with a train connection. The train is the most popular mode of transport in Java, and for good reason. It travels pleasantly, quickly, and comfortably.
It is, therefore, recommended that you book your ticket in advance, especially in the high season or around local holidays. A handy website to use is 12GoAsia. You can order and pay for your tickets online without a hassle.
From Jakarta to Yogyakarta
Train: The train journey from Jakarta to Yogyakarta is one of the most beautiful routes in all of Asia. In about 9 hours you cross the most beautiful landscapes and you have fantastic views of the area. However, you have to book on time, because the trains are often sold out in the high season.
Plane: We traveled by plane from Jakarta to Yogyakarta. There are several flights a day and the journey takes just over an hour. Via 12GoAsia you can get a return ticket from Jakarta to Yogyakarta for less than US$50.