There are many things to do in Yogyakarta, which is located in Java, Indonesia, from nature experiences to cultural heritage. The things to do in Yogyakarta will allow you to transport yourself in time to a world usually only spoken of in mythology.
1. Prambanan Temple
This ancient Hindu temple was originally built in the 9th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is just northeast of Yogyakarta. The temple is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia and has towering pointed architecture. The main temple is 47 metres high and is set amongst a large complex of other towers.
2. Sewu Temple
A short 15 minute walk from Prambanan Temple will lead you to Sewu Temple, a partially restored scene of ruinous temples. The name Sewu means one thousand, and despite the fact that there are only 249 temples, you can be forgiven for thinking there are a lot more. There are numerous carvings and structures that will transplant you to a different time and place.
3. Sambisari Temple
Buried five metres underground for hundreds of years, this temple site was only recently discovered in 1966. Since then the temple has been excavated and reconstructed. The temple is just east of Yogyakarta, near the Adisucipto International Airport.
4. Shop at Pasar Beringharjo
The markets of Yogyakarta have great bargains and are a must to see. Pasar Beringharjo especially has authentic Indonesian wares including rattan products and silver jewelry. There are a number of good places to eat and savour the local cuisine.
5. Eat gudeg
One of the best things to do in Yogyakarta is to eat the local dish gudeg. It is made from young jackfruit, known as nangka and mixed with palm sugar, coconut milk, meat, garlic and spices. The whole mixture is slowly cooked allowing all of the flavours to meld together. You can find gudeg allover Yogyakarta, but one of the best places is at Gudeg Yu Djum.
6. Mount Merapi
This short hike up Mount Merapi will take you past the ruins of houses that were destroyed when the volcano erupted in 2010. It is an important reminder that while nature is beautiful, it is also powerful. The hike will bring you Mbah Maridjan where you can learn about the local mythology of the volcano.
7. Kraton Yogyakarta
The palace once housed the sultans of Yogyakarta and since then has been well preserved. There is a lot of history here, so it’s best to employ a guide to show you around. The myths and legends of the palace grounds are interesting and captivating to learn.
8. Taman Sari Water Castle
This site of a former royal garden is located within the grounds of the royal palace, the Kraton. Taman Sari was built in the mid-18th century as a place to rest, work and meditate. There are four areas within Taman Sari: an artificial lake in the west, a bathing complex in the centre, pavilions and pools in the south, and a smaller lake in the east.
9. Walk between two trees
It made seem odd, but knowing about this local myth will leave you wanting to try it. Just south of the Kraton Yogyakarta is the Southern Park where two banyan trees stand side by side. The local myth is that if you are able to walk between the two trees while being blindfolded, then you will get what you wish for. Once there you can decide if you need any help from the many locals that will offer their assistance, of if you can try all by yourself.
10. Find a café and relax
Amidst all of the hustle and bustle of Yogyakarta, take a moment to sit and relax and have the city wash over you. While the city has no shortage of cafes and restaurants, Jalan Prawirotaman Road has many good ones to choose from. You can find a mixture of both local cuisine and international fare. You can refresh yourself with a coffee, a lassi or a local sweet drink.
11. Borobudur Temple
An hour north of Yogyakara, the temple of Borobudur is not to be missed. While a day trip will suffice, the true beauty of the temple is found in the morning when the sun first rises. The temple was built in the 9th century for Mahayana Buddhists. It is a UNESCO Heritage site and one of the largest Buddhist temples in the world, consisting of over 500 statues of Buddha.
12. Gunung Kidul Beaches
Just to the south of Yogyakarta you can find beautiful white sand beaches to enjoy. Go swimming, relax on the beach, or enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants. Many places offer fresh, local seafood. In particular, visit Timang Beach which features a cable cart that you can traverse along. Not for the faint of heart, the cable cart consists of rope and pulleys and can be an instant adrenaline rush.
13. Gumuk Pasir Parangkusumo
In Indonesia you would expect to find jungles, beaches and volcanoes, but probably not sand dunes. Yet south of Yogyakarta you can find sand that would rival any desert. The calming winds bow beautiful patterns in the sand and you can get lost in time. The sand dunes offer the chance to try sandboarding, rent ATVs and ride horses.
14. Learn with local artisans
Yogyakarta is a cultural haven for anyone wanting to learn about pottery, silver making or batik prints. You can sign up for a variety of classes with local artists and learn about the fine arts of Indonesia. As a bonus you can keep what you made as a great souvenir.
15. Visit a museum
If you need to cool off and want to head inside, try one of the many museums that Yogyakarta has. Learn about the traditions, culture and history of Indonesia.
There are many things to do and see in Yogyakarta because of the rich cultural history of the region. From temples to palaces, Yogyakarta gives you the opportunity to step back in time.