10 Amazing Places to See in Java, Indonesia
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Indonesia is arguably one of the most unique countries in the world. Before obtaining sovereignty after World War 2, the country was colonized by the Dutch, Portuguese, British, and French and is home to people of the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian religions. A true melting pot of religion and culture, and a landscape that covers 17,000 islands spanning two continents, Indonesia is one of the most diverse countries in the world. With all of this diversity in all three realms of culture, religion, and landscape, it’s a wonder that to the outside world the country has been reduced to just one tiny speck of land, Bali.
Wanting to experience the real Indonesia and knowing that the country is much more than Bali, we carved out two weeks travelling around the island of Java, the most populous island in the country. Reflecting on our time in the country I feel like we barely scratched the surface of all the amazing experiences Indonesia has to offer. Indonesia, we will be back for sure, but for now, check out all the amazing destinations in Java we did have the pleasure of experiencing. Indonesia is so much more than Bali!
1. Prambanan Temple
Located in Yogyakarta, Prambanan Temple is an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to the many Hindi Gods. While the complex is named for the most famous and largest temple of Prambanan, it is actually home to 3 separate temple grounds. It’s worth it to walk around the whole complex and take in these smaller temples as well, as the main site gets extremely crowded with tourists, while the other two lesser known temples see hardly any visitors in comparison. All of the temples here are truly an architectural marvel, and a dream to photograph.
2. Green Canyon
Body rafting down the Green Canyon, located in Cijulang, Pangandaran, was by far the most fun thing we did in Indonesia. This was such a unique and memorable experience and the Green Canyon is a natural wonder like nowhere else we’ve seen in the world. Body rafting generally occurs as a group experience, spending 2 hours on the river floating along with the current, climbing up the rock walls, and jumping off of protruding rocks into the river before getting in a boat which takes you back down the river to your starting point.
The part of the river is that’s a canyon is filled with waterfalls, rock pools, and stalagmites (or stalactites? I can’t remember which is which) that make you feel like you’re in some sort of outdoor cave. This was definitely one for the memory books!
Touted as the largest Buddhist temple in the world, Borobudur is a pretty widely known tourist attraction that is absolutely worth all the hype. Unlike Prambanan, there is only one (granted, it’s ginormous) temple to see here, but with all of the different levels to climb and explore we were easily able to spend a couple hours just walking around the temple. It’s required that visitors cover their knees in order to enter the temple grounds, so either wear long pants/skirt/dress or put on a sarong (sarongs are provided free of charge if you are not wearing appropriate clothing.
As you ascend the levels make sure to pay attention to the detailed carvings on the walls where everything from Buddhas to people, to animals of all types, have been sculpted out of the stone. Perhaps the most stunning area of the temple is the large bells at the top level. If you look closely each bell has a Buddha sitting peacefully inside of it.
4. Telaga Warna
Located on the Dieng Plateau, Telaga Warna is a volcanic lake that emits brilliant, at times multicolored, hues. Its unique color is a result of the high sulfur content in the water. At the time of our visit the lake was a stunning shade of turquoise. The lake is said to change colors depending on how the sun hits the water.
The sulfur in the water reflects the sunlight in different ways depending on the amount and angle thus changing the color of the water. The most stunning views of the lake are from the hilltop next to the lake. After taking in the views from above, be sure to walk down to the shore and follow the path around the lake. At ground level, you can see (and smell) the sulfur bubbles rising to the surface.
5. Kawah Sikidang
Another of Dieng Plateau’s wonders is Kawah Sikidang, or the Sikidang Crater. The Sikidang Crater is a milky white colored boiling sulfur spring. Pictured here is the biggest crater, and Kawah Sikidang’s main attraction, but there are many other smaller boiling craters surrounding the main one as well as little geothermal creeks, for lack of a better description.
The steam rising off of the craters smells potently of sulfur, so be sure to bring a mask or scarf or something to cover your face. The crater and surrounding area form a barren landscape that sits in stark contrast to the lushness of the surrounding plateau. Walking into the crater it truly feels like you are entering another planet.
6. Sri Getuk Waterfall & Rancang Kenoco Cave
Sri Getuk and the Rancang Kenoco Cave are located at the same site, 40km from Yogyakarta. The cave doesn’t go very far back, but its entrance is what makes it worth visiting with an old tree jutting straight out of the top of the cave. The waterfall is 1km down the road from the cave, with a short hike through the forest to get there.
They also have a boat you can pay for which will take you a few hundred meters upriver to the waterfall to give you a wider view of the entire falls. 4 Waterfalls altogether make up Sri Getuk with smaller cascades at the bottom flowing into the river. If you’re adventurous enough you can actually walk on the rocks up underneath the falls, and climb around the corner to see the other two falls out of eyesight.
7. Luweng Sampang Waterfall
The Luweng Sampang Waterfall is by far the most off the beaten path destination on our list, which means it’s also pretty hard to find, especially if you don’t have your own transportation. This unique landform is located 30km outside of Yogyakarta on the other side of the mountain. The waterfall drops down into a narrow canyon with wavy rock walls on either side.
The water directly in front of the waterfall is deep enough that, if you’re careful, you can jump from the side of the rock down into the canyon. There is another small rock pool below the first one pictured here with a small natural rock slide you can use to slide down into the pool. Luweng Sampang is a nice secluded spot to cool off on a hot day and escape the crowded tourist spots around Yogyakarta.
8. Sunrise from Putuk Setembu
Often referred to as the “Nirvana Sunrise” spot, Putuk Setembu is a small mountain about 7km from Borobudur Temple famed for its sunrises. As the sun rises, the shapes of Mt. Merapi and Mt. Merabu appear in the morning light, and if you look closely you can see the bells of Borobudur cutting through the fog.
As we were there in the rainy season we didn’t get to witness a brilliant sunrise, but we were still lucky to see some color on the horizon where there was a break in the clouds. The sunrise starts at around 5:15 in the morning so be sure to get to the parking area by 4:30 am to buy your tickets and give yourself enough time to walk up the will before the sun starts to paint the sky with its brilliant morning hues.
9. Batukaras Beach
There are many beaches in Pangandaran, but Batukaras is the most secluded and least frequented of them all. Located on the far side of Pangandaran away from the town center, Batukaras has one of the cleanest, quietest, and most relaxing beaches we’ve ever come across. Relax in the shade of the palm trees or take a surfing lesson out on the waves. The locals we stayed with told us that the beach in Batukaras is one of the best places in the world to learn how to surf. The waves are big enough to surf on, but not so big as to be dangerous, and the waves all run in the same direction.
10. Tangkuban Parahu Volcano
Located outside of Bandung, the Tangkuban Parahu Volcano is unique in that it is one of the only volcanoes in the world where you can actually drive all the way to the top. We took a bus from the city to the entrance of the park and then walked the 4km up the road to the top of the volcano. The peak has 3 craters, the main Ratu Crater, Upas Crater, a 1.5km walk from the Ratu Crater parking area, and the Baru Crater, a small narrow crater located at the top of the Upas crater. The Baru crater is not open to visitors due to the toxic fumes emitted, but the other two big craters are easily accessible and within short walking distance from one another. Pictured above is the view looking down into the Ratu Crater.
Amazing places in Java we didn’t get to see but would love to come back for.
1. Kawah Ijen
Hike up a volcano to see stunning blue flames burning from the crater, and then watch the sunrise over the mountains.
2. Bromo Tenger National Park
Hiking Mt. Bromo for stunning views of the surrounding volcanoes and countryside.
3. Cave tubing in Goa Pindul
Float in an inner tube through the Pindul Cave, located 30km east of Yogyakarta.
4. Hiking Mt. Merapi
Hiking to the peak of Mt. Merapi, one of the tallest and most active volcanoes in Indonesia located just outside of Yogyakarta.
5. Kalibiru National Park
Amazing hiking with stunning views of the mountains abound at this national park located 40km west of Yogyakarta.
6. Beaches of Yogyakarta
We were told by the locals that the beaches on the eastern shore of Yogyakarta were just as nice as the famed beaches on the island of Bali!
7. Waterfalls and mountains of Garut
Endless hiking opportunities abound in Garut as well as some stunning waterfalls.
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