The largest Hindu temple in Indonesia
Our next move while in our Yogyakarta base would be for spending the entire day visiting multiple temple complexes located just few kilometres to the east of the city; among them, of course, the must-see world renown masterpiece of Candi Prambanan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique history and grandeur, and great state of conservation due to the many ongoing restoration projects that kicked off already during the Dutch colonial times.
If you are planning on visiting only this temple, then you will end up with plenty of free time to…coming back to Yogyakarta? Well, if you don’t really have much time then it’s fine, but otherwise don’t fall in the mistake most of the tourist do in “forgetting” this area is filled with many other temples as impressive and shocking as Prambanan itself and literally few hundred of meters away from each other! Most of them are inside the Prambanan archaeological park itself. I must admit that I personally did not know about the existence of that many other places around that near until I received an Indonesia guide I ordered online to read through about all the places we were planning to visit and prepare our trip to include as much as possible while around.
On a good side, if you have an entire day for sightseeing outside Yogyakarta then let me tell you it is perfectly possible to visit not only 1 but another 3 or 4 archaeological sites on top! And all without any rush and giving you plenty of time.
For more information about Prambanan check the Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Indonesia’s currency is the Rupiah (IRD). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
How to get there
The cheapest way to get to Prambanam is by bus. Either the most convenient TransJogja buses that leave from Malioboro Street right in the heart of Yogyakarta and run at a frequency of around every 20 minutes with a ride time of approximately 30 minutes and costs IDR 3600 per way. Or from the Umbulharjo bus station where you can also catch a frequent service covering the same route. This option will only work better for you if your accommodation is around this southeastern area of the city.
The most comfortable option, however, is by getting a car with a driver to take you everywhere, previous negotiation of the fare. That’s what we did, and thanks to this we were able to visit absolutely everything I had planned (see in the list below) and even more, stopping along the way where we asked him to get nice pictures of the landscapes around and even the great sunset we got overlooking the volcanoes in the distance.
Entrance costs and opening hours
The only official entrance fee is that for the Prambanan archaeological park, while for the other temples there is no fee to enter yet expect to record your name and few details in the registry book they have as a record for how many people comes to these places and from where. Donations at those are at own’s discretion and not mandatory, and should any guard argue on this, do not pay attention.
As of October 2015, the entrance fee to Prambanan archaeological park is IDR 225000 (half the price if student or senior), but if you are planning to visit both Prambanan and Borobudur sites in the same day then you can get a ticket for both even if this is not clearly announced at the entrance gates. But remember, the ticket is only valid for the same day. For the most up-to-date information on times and prices, check the official website here.
The sites are open from 06.00am until 17.00pm. The best time to reach the main temple is at opening time, since around 9.00am the hordes of tourists arrive on mass, but around 15.00pm the site becomes quite empty again when the majority of people on tours are leaving the site. In any case and in order to see as many places as possible, do not plan to come here later than 10.00am. From own experience, all the sites listed below are absolutely possible to see if starting your day at 10.00am.
What to see and how to plan your visit
- Prambanan Archaeological Park
-Candi Prambanan Is one of the two masterpiece highlights you will find not only near Yogyakarta but across the entire country. One of the most visited places among locals and tourists. The largest Hindu temple site in the country dating from the 9th century built by the Mataram Kingdom which were the rulers of central Java and defeaters of the Sailendra Dynasty. It is hard to believe such impressive and large construction lasted only for a few decades before its abandonment by the Mataram dynasty as they moved their court base to East Java. Ever since, it had periods of occupation until remaining mostly forgotten and under a thick layer of vegetation and volcanic ash, and severely damaged after the 16th century earthquake.
-Candi Lumbung Few meters to the north of Prambanan is this small and crumbling remains of this 9th century temple. It will be anyway on your way when walking heading north towards the Candi Sewu.
-Candi Bubrah Bigger than the previous Lumbung, not of special importance but once again, you will step onto it when making your way to Candi Sewu.
-Candi Sewu The last temple on the archaeological park. The 2nd largest Buddhist temple in Indonesia after Borobudur, lies around 1000 meters to the north of Candi Pranbanam. It is the next in importance after Borobudur and Pranbanam for history itself, beauty and size.
- Outside of the archaeological park and next to Prambanan complex
-Candi Plaosan If continuing northeast from Candi Sewu, barely 2 kilometres farther than Candi Pranbanam is this beautiful temple dating from the 9th century.
-Kraton Ratu Boko This ancient stone palace although included in the archaeological park and as such there is a free shuttle bus between Prambanan and here, there is a separate entrance. As of October 2015 this is Rs 175000 (or 87000 if student or senior). Only few remains are in place, among them the main staircase and front panes, but the site is huge and offers many great views of the volcanoes and landscapes nearby as it sits on a higher hill.
- Outside of the archaeological park on the west and near Yogyakarta
-Candi Sari This 8th century Buddhist temple is located to the west, much nearer to Yogyakarta than Prambanan, and because it is right on the way back to the city after visiting the main archaeological park it is really easy to visit, especially if you negotiated a driver taking you around all those places. Rs 2000 entrance fee.
-Candi Kalasan This 8th century Buddhist temple is the nearest to Yogyakarta at just 13 kilometres to the east, and basically next door from Candi Sari hence why it is possible to combine it with the visit of all the temples mentioned above and end your day in here. Rs 2000 entrance fee.
Since the largest city near all those temples is Yogyakarta, the chances that this will be your city base are almost 100%. Therefore and on the same note I described this for that travel guide, I leave the same information here below:
Searching for a good deal was, in the other hand, not that easy. Most of the usual hotel search engines retrieved results for night without breakfast, while the very few showing included breakfast were setting the total cost per night quite high. Still, after a longer search and effort, we managed to find a great deal at one of the top hotels in the city! A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We stayed at the Meliá Purosani, in Jalan Suryotomo no. 31. Literally a very short walk from the old Dutch Fort, 10 minutes to the Sultan’s Palace north gate, and barely 20 minutes away from the Tugu train station along Malioboro Street, where buses to Prambanan and Borobudur also depart. It is really almost impossible to beat this central location, not to mention the property itself. Huge, large and beautifully landscaped outdoor heated pool, huge included breakfast and every possible facility you can imagine as sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and gym also free of use to anyone staying in. The staff was extremely polite and professional at any time since we stepped inside until we checked out, and cannot think of any reason why to say something negative. The room was truly generous spacious, with nice view to the garden and pool, extra large comfortable bed and really nice decor everywhere. It will be without any hesitation my first choice should I return to this city.