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Temples & Shrines 

Borobudur Mendut & Pawon Prambanan
Sewu Plaosan Boko

Temples around Yogyakarta
The area in and around Yogya is just packed with religious, historical and cultural relics from the 8th and 9th century that, in many cases, lay hidden for several centuries. The list below is if some of the more prominent landmarks. The information given is only meant to be a very brief overview to whet the appetite as it were (any number of books have been written about Borobudur and Prambanan that provide exhaustive detail about these two man made wonders of the world and no doubt the serious student / visitor will find such books more rewarding).

Athens has the Acropolis, Beijing has The Forbidden City and Great Wall, Cairo has the Pyramids and Yogyakarta has Candi Borobudur! A mere 42 km (25 miles) northwest of Yogyakarta, is perhaps Indonesia's most famous attraction, the Borobudur Temple. It is the largest single Buddhist temple in the world. Rulers of the Sailendra Dynasty are credited with the design and construction the colossal pyramid or Buddhist Stupa, of Borobudur between 750 and 850 AD. Its location is at the geographic center of the island of Java.

However very little else though is known about the site's early history except that a huge workforce must have been harnessed to shift and carve the 60,000 cubic meter (196,800 cu ft) of andestine stone (volcanic rock) used in its construction. As with the Great Pyramids of Egypt no mortar was used to hold the stones in place. The Temple is composed of 9 visible and one hidden tier symbolizing the devout Buddhist transition from reality to Nirvana. There are 5 kilometers of stone relief’s and 504 statues of Buddha.

When the Majaphit (Buddhist) empire Buddhism declined and the power shift to Islam took hold, Borobudur was abandoned and for centuries laid hidden under layers of volcanic ash and dense growth. It was only in 1815 that the site was rediscovered and cleared and the incredible technical skill, art and imagination of the builders revealed. Erosion and neglect required a US$21 million restoration program. The restoration took place between 1973 and 1984 and it returned much of the complex to its former glory. A small museum of carvings and stones unable to be used in the restoration is on the grounds of the temple.

The complex opens at 06:00 AM and there are a surprising number of visitors who want to catch the sunrise from atop the temple The complex closes at sunset about 6:00 PM with the last visitors allowed in at 5:00 pm. Visiting early in the morning and late in the afternoon are, for our money, best. First you beat the stifling heat of the midday sun but perhaps more important is the interesting way the light and shadow play upon the andesite stone changing the colour from dark black to light gray with different hues of brown, yellow and blue right before your eyes. Be advised that (especially for older visitors) it is a good idea to leave the complex before it gets dark. The stairs on the upper levels are high, steep and uneven.
Hours: 6.00 am - 5.30 pm (last admittance 5.00 pm)
Entrance Fee: (foreign visitors) US $15.00
Guides: available for approximately Rp. 75,000.-

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Mendut and Pawon Temples
Nearby Borobudur, and important parts of the Borobudur complex, these two smaller temples are often overlooked by visitors to the main site.

Candi Mendut is a mere 3 km from Borobudur. This temple seems to have been linked to Borobudur by a walkway used by pilgrims on their way to the Borobudur Temple. Candi Mendut was uncovered (discovered) in 1836 some 36 years after Borobudur was first uncovered.

Candi Pawon has the same East to West orientation as Borobudur and it is believed that it was built at the same time as Borobudur. It is dedicated to the God of Fortune.

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This 9th Century Hindu Temple a.k.a. The Temple of the Slender Virgin is a mere 17 km. east from the center of Yogyakarta and visible from the highway that leads to Solo. It is the largest and best preserved Hindu Temple in all of Indonesia. Built during the Canjaya Dynasty, in the mid 9th Century, it actually consists of three courtyards surrounded by a number of small temples.

Briefly, the main temple contains three shrines dedicated to the Hindu Trinity of Shiva Mahadeva (centre) and flanked Vishnu (north) Brahma (south). In addition there facing these temples are 3 smaller shrines depicting the vehicles of these gods. The Nandi Temple represents the bull as the vehicle for Shiva, the destroyer; as well there is a temple for the eagle, the vehicle of Vishnu, the guardian; and a temple for the swan, the vehicle of Brahma, the creator.

As mentioned above, the temple is also known as The Temple of the Slender Virgin. Legend has it that a certain man with great powers named Bandung Bondowoso wanted to marry the beautiful Princess Roro Jonggrang, daughter of King Boko. Inasmuch as the princess didn't love her suitor, she agreed only if Bandung would build 1,000 temples in one night. Having supernatural powers (and spirit friends) he agreed and one night set about the task. Seeing that Bandung would be able to complete the task, the Princess enlisted all her maidens to set fire to the fields and make noise to simulate the dawn. When the cocks began to crow Bandung's supernatural spirits fled thinking it was already dawn. Learning he was tricked, Bandung turned Princess Roro in the statue that now occupies the temple at the north entrance.

Prambanan provides an impressive backdrop for performances of the “Ramayana Dance” each month (May-October) during the full moon.
Hours: 8.00 am - 5.00 pm
Entrance Fee: US$ 13,00

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Sewu Temple
Just a few hundred metres north east of Prambanan is the Hindu Sewu Temple. Consisting of 1 main temple and 4 complimentary temples - one for each direction (north, south, east and west) all surrounded by 240 smaller temples. Of note here is the main temple with one wall having a an unusual curve carved out of it with Middle Eastern ornaments. It is thought that at one time the space held a large bronze statue that was eventually plundered.

Plaosan Temple
Continuing another km northeast from Prambanan you will come upon The Plaosan Temple complex. Plaosan is interesting and important because its cascade style mixes both Hindu and Buddhist architectural elements and there is no other temple like it on Java. It is thought to have been built in the 9th century by King Rakai Pikatan, a Hindu, and his wife Queen Pramodhawardhani who was Buddhist. The complex contains Plaosan Lor to the north and Plaosan Kidul to the south.

King Boko Palace
Another 2 km further south east from Prambanan on a small rise is are the ruins of King Boko's palace. Constructed in the 9th century, it is thought to have been the capital of the Mataram Hindu Kingdom. Whilst there's not much left except the gate (which is a reconstruction) and the general outline, its setting is serene and since not nearly as many people visit it is an interesting spot to sit and imagine how grand the kingdoms of central Java must have been in their day - over a 1,000 years ago.

Other Temples
There are any number of other temples and shrines around Prambanan that would take a day or two to see completely. If you have time and the interest you can also visit

Klasan Temple
- one of the oldest Buddhist Temples that dates back to 775. It was built to commemorate the marriage of King Prancapana of the Sanjaya Dynasty and Princess Dyah Pramudya Wardhani of the Sailendra Dynasty and was believed to have been painted a bright yellow colour using yellow tree sap.

Sari Temple
, near Klasan, this 2 two storey temple is similar in many repects to Plaosan Temple (the second storey being used to house religious relic) and / or Sambisari Temple, a Shiva temple (Hindu) about 2.5 km from Prambanan that was built just before the end of the Mataram Hindu Empire.

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Yogyakarta Hotels - Borobudur temple
Temples & Shrines

Whilst no trip to Yogyakarta is complete without a visit to Borobudur or Prambanan, be advised that like any tourist destination in Indonesia (especially where foreigners are likey to visit in large numbers) visitors should be prepared to be swarmed by vendors selling all manner of souvenirs, postcards, maps, hats, trinkets etc. There is no visible control in place and “running the gauntlet” to buy a entry ticket or approaching the entrance can be an exasperating experience (once inside the temple compound rarely will you be approached).

That said, please remember that it is estimated that nearly 40% of Indonesians (the official number is 20%) are unemployed and that the hawker is only trying to eek out a living. Unfortunately all too often the hawkers are a bit too aggressive and counterproductive. Just smile and say firmly "No Thank you" if you do not want to be bothered. On the other hand enquiring the price of something means you are interested and you will soon be the centre of attention.

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