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Written by Beverley Lennon

All other photos taken by Febry Hadinata

Have you ever dreamt of taking an epic road trip? Some people travel from Singapore to Europe by land, some people have taken epic train rides across Asia!

Of course, those require a lot of time and planning, but what if we were to tell you, you can take a road trip on a smaller scale in Central Java in just one week, where you can journey across some of Indonesia’s most scenic landscapes? In April, we did exactly just that!

From the well-known cultural city of Yogyakarta, we ventured north and explored various regions of Central Java – from the famous Borobudur and Prambanan temples (iconic UNESCO Heritage sites), majestic mountains in Magelang (where we hiked up at 3am to catch sunrises and seas of clouds), to the centre of batik in Solo, to scenic (and chilly) highlands in Bandungan and Ungaran and the city of beauty in Semarang (where you can find established and affordable facial clinics!).

Along the way, we crossed mystical bridges, strolled through rice paddy fields, explored secret beaches, indulged in legendary local food and immersed in their culture… Sounds like an adventure, no?

So if you have a heart for thrill and adventure, and want to take a non-mainstream road trip in Indonesia, come on now and follow us on our exciting trail across Central Java!

How to roadtrip Yogyakarta and Central Java?

1. Recommended duration of road trip:

Although we stayed for 20 days altogether in Yogyakarta and Central Java to immerse in the atmosphere and culture, for the road trip itself across Central Java and back to Yogyakarta, we only took 7 days.

It was a comfortable pace, so we would recommend a minimum of 7 days if you wish to take this journey! If you have more time, you may even choose to be on the roads for weeks. It really is up to you as the main cities are easily reachable, it just depends on the number of places you want to check out!

2. Best time to visit

Most recommended time to visit:

– The best time to visit Yogyakarta and Central Java is between late March and April, as it is right after the rainy season (not too hot).
(Note: We visited in April for 20 days and though it was hot, it was bearable and we only had two rainy days!)

– The peak season is during June to mid-August, and December to early February, so you can expect crowds!
– September to November is the hot season, which you can consider too if you don’t mind the heat! (Note that some waterfalls might be dry when it’s too hot.)

Least recommended time to visit:

– The rainy season is from early March to mid-March.
– Avoid the month of May as lots of students come to the city for college applications!


3. Getting around

Of course your road trip will require a car rental (be it with a driver or self-drive). While there are several car rental companies, we looked for one that was reliable, professional and convenient, especially because we were driving by ourselves!

As there were 5 of us, we opted for a family car from TRAC and never regretted it! We felt comfortable and secure the whole way and even challenged our car to drive up Mount Telomoyo (difficult but it was successful!). All of our luggage fitted in perfectly too!

Car rental rates start from Rp. 550,000 per day for a Toyota Avanza (Approximately USD$40), not including fuel cost.

TRAC – Astra Rent a Car

Contact: +62 218 778 7787 (24/7 reservation call center available)
Rental Price: Rp. 550,000 /day for a Toyota Avanza (Approximately USD$40), exclude fuel cost

NOTE: We recommend making a call for a faster reply and better reservation experience.

Website
TRIPCANVAS TIP

It is important to apply for an international driving license (in the country where your driving license was issued) prior to your road trip in Indonesia. Procedures are usually simple and just require some paperwork and a few processing days (depending on your country).

Solo

(Recommended for 1-2 days)

From Yogyakarta, we travelled to Solo (also known as Surakarta). Known for its ancient kingdom and the art of batik, Solo is rich in traditional culture and history, so don’t miss its museums and traditional local food!

We dropped by for a day and had a relaxing time!

Must-go Attractions We Visited

1. Learn the history and culture of batik – Museum Batik Danar Hadi

Have you ever wondered how batik is made?

Before we visited Danar Hadi, we never imagined that a single batik piece could require years of hard work, dedication, passion and creativity.

Every visiting group will get a guide, who will bring you through the exhibits and explain to you the entire batik-making process, from applying the wax, to the dyeing process – you have to trace your design, apply the dye to areas untouched by the wax, then remove the waxed areas and apply wax to the dyed areas. After which, you can apply the dye to the areas where the wax is removed, and the previously dyed areas would not be affected as they would be covered by the dye.

A complicated piece can take up to months or even years to complete! Hats off to these dedicated batik-makers. The tour lasted for more than an hour, so make sure you schedule enough time!

Showcasing batik from different regions (especially in Yogyakarta and Solo) and era that are significant to local Indonesian culture and history, the museum aims at preserving local batik culture. The museum also features their own batik-making compound which you can visit to learn about batik-making with the locals!

Don’t miss the on-site shop too – there’s an extensive collection of batik pieces and we were surprised to find affordable pieces! Danar Hadi also has branch stores in Yogyakarta, Bali, Jakarta and other major cities in Indonesia.

*Note: You are not allowed to take photographs in the museum. We had a media permit so if you are visiting for media purposes, you can request for one.

Museum Batik Danar Hadi

Address: Jl. Brigjend Slamet Riyadi No.261, Sriwedari, Laweyan, Kota Surakarta, Jawa Tengah 57141 (Coordinates here)
Contact: +62271 722042
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 9am-4pm
Entrance Fee: Rp.35,000 (inclusive of an English or Bahasa Indonesia guide)

Website

Local Eats We Love:

2. Turn your plate into a rainbow – Pecel Solo

Indulge in traditional local food at Pecel Solo. The restaurant offers both buffet and à la carte options and the focus is on old-style food – that is, no twist or fusion, just grandma’s recipes!

Of course, we opted to go for the buffet so we could try a bit of everything and the variety of food options was amazing, with fish, chicken and different vegetables – from spicy to sweet!

Doesn’t this look like a table for 10? But guess what, there were only 5 of us – maybe we were hungry, but we couldn’t resist ordering a bit of everything nice! The food was served fresh on banana leaves and super delicious.

So if you too suffer from the fleeting moment of apprehension when you walk into a restaurant in a foreign country and realise that you have no idea what’s going on, with no clue how this thing works – no knowledge of where to sit, how to order, what to order, or even what food is available – follow our recommendation: try their Ayam Goreng (fried twice and super crunchy!) as well as the Garang Asem (chicken cooked in banana leaf with coconut milk, lemongrass and starfruit). We loved them!

Pecel Solo

Address: Turisari, Jl. Dr. Soepomo No.55, Mangkubumen, Banjarsari, Kota Surakarta, Jawa Tengah 57139, Indonesia (Coordinates here)
Contact: +62 271 737379
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 7.30-10pm
Price Range: Rp.15,000-80,000 (Approximately USD$1-5.70)

3. Join locals for delicacies at the market – Pasar Gede (Es Dawet Telasih Bu Dermi, Lenjongan, Timlo Sastro)

What better way to immerse in traditional lifestyle than visiting the morning market like the locals?

Unlike many traditional wet markets (surprisingly it was not wet and it was clean), Pasar Gede is also a culinary galore!

So we went on a walking food tour by ourselves, and since we were keen for a sugar rush for breakfast, went down to the most recommended dessert stalls. Take note that in Java, the use of sugar is similar to the amount of oxygen we take in so everything they call “sweet” is overly sweet!

Sit down for a refreshing bowl of Es Dawet Telasih Bu Dermi – a dessert that makes the world a little more habitable! The woman at the stall throws in ice cubes with different sweet concoctions along with black sticky rice, chia seeds and other glutionuous items. They refer to it as a drink option but it pretty much looks like a dessert!

We also tried the oh-so-raved Lenjongan – a dessert dating back to the colonial era. It is served on a banana leaf with different kinds of sticky rice and other sweet items derived from cassava; all this topped with a generous amount of grated coconut.

Lastly, we settled for a non-sweet dish at Timlo Sastro – a bowl of comfort! Ask anyone about what to eat at Pasar Gede and this is where they will direct you to!

The savoury noodle-based dish is complemented with traditional Sosi Solo (which means “Solo Sausage”, made up of meat wrapped with omelette), chicken pieces and soy-infused boiled eggs! It tasted very homey, something like what mothers make when you are feeling ill – indeed very comforting!

Es Dawet Telasih Bu Dermi

Address: Pasar Gede Hardjonagoro, Jl. Jend. Urip Sumoharjo, Sudiroprajan, Jebres, Kota Surakarta, Jawa Tengah 57129 (Coordinates here)
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 7am-3pm
Price: Rp. 8,000 (Approximately USD$0.57)

Lenjongan

Address: Pasar Gede Pasar Kliwon, JL. Jenderal Sudirman, Sudiroprajan, Solo Kota, Kota Surakarta, Jawa Tengah 57121 (Coordinates here)
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 7am-2pm
Price: Rp. 4,000 (Approximately USD$0.29)

Timlo Sastro:

Address:Jalan Kapten Mulyadi No.8, Sudiroprajan, Jebres, Sudiroprajan, Jebres, Kota Surakarta, Jawa Tengah 57121 (Coordinates here)
Contact: +62 271 654 820
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 6am-3.30pm
Price: Rp.25,000 (Approximately USD$1.80)

4. Bring home some sweet traditional pancakes – Serabi Notosuman

If you’re looking for a unique food souvenir to bring home, this has to be it. We had heard that a stop at Serabi Notosuman was compulsory while visiting Solo.

The legendary shop sells traditional pancakes filled with either coconut or chocolate. Since it comes in a box of 10 pancakes, we opted for half of both flavours and secretly wished we ordered more! These little pancakes are pure goodness – they are moist on the inside and were served warm!

Photo by idananda, TripCanvas

They also have a branch in Yogyakarta, so if you are departing from there, we recommend you to buy from the Yogyakarta branch instead to ensure freshness! We managed to order a few boxes right before leaving.

Tip: Do drop by the shop one day prior to your departure to place your order, because it can be sold out very quickly!

Serabi Notosuman

Address 1: Jalan Muhammad Yamin No.28, Jayengan, Serengan, Jayengan, Serengan, Kota Surakarta, Jawa Tengah 57152 (Coordinates here) (Solo)
Address 2: Jl. Bhayangkara No.62, Ngampilan, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55261 (Coordinates here) (Yogyakarta)
Contact: +62 271 651 852 (Solo) / +62 8510 1440 484 (Yogyakarta)
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 6am-4pm
Price: Rp. 25,000 per box of 10 pancakes (Approximately USD$1.80)

Recommended Stay in Salatiga (enroute from Solo to Ambarawa):

As you drive out from Solo towards Ambarawa, we recommend you to rest for the night in Salatiga, a town near Ambarawa. This hotel is super value-for-money, and you can even try an affordable spa if you have the time!

An oasis in the middle of nowhere – Laras Asri Resort & Spa

From Rp. 252,893 (Approximately USD$18)

Check rate on Booking.com 

Ambarawa

(Recommended for 1 day)

From Salatiga, we drove up to Mount Telomoyo, before heading to Ambarawa, a lovely quiet lakeside town.

Must-go Attractions We Visited

1. Drive up the mountain for sunrise – Mount Telomoyo

You don’t need to hike up the mountain to catch this awe-inspiring sunrise view from above. We experienced the beauty of Central Java in half-light by driving up Mount Telomoyo.

Photo via TripCanvas, dimas.hy_

It was a magical moment as there was no one else but us as we watched the sky turn into an eruption of bloody red and firebomb orange, staining the horizon before fading to muted colours, brushed by a sea of clouds…

But we have to confess – the drive up to this view was challenging due to the road conditions.  We had to get down from the car a few times, but we made it right in time for sunrise. It takes around an hour to get to the summit, depending on your driving capabilities.

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Make sure you choose the right type of car if you are planning to drive up Mount Telomoyo (roads can be pretty bad) and remember to pack sweaters as it gets quite cold on the peak!

Mount Telomoyo

Address: Karangbawang, Nogosaren, Getasan, Semarang, Central Java (Coordinates here)

2. A voyage through old locomotive time – Indonesia Railway Museum

Do you love trains? Surely, as a kid you must have dreamt of a trip on a steam train.

This popular family-friendly activity takes you on a train tour through the countryside and the rice paddy fields of Ambarawa – an amazing time to share with your kids.

The museum also features a collection of old locomotives that date back to the Dutch colony and are extremely well maintained. It’s an exciting interactive exhibit to spend time at (spare at least half a day to enjoy every corner of the museum and the train tour!).

Photo via darmawantisyafaah, tri_bayu_priangga, Narendro-Anindito

Although we did not manage to visit this place, we highly recommend you to drop by if you’re a train-lover!

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Come in by 8am to secure your train tickets as they get sold out very early!

Indonesia Railway Museum

Address:Jl. Stasiun No. 1, Panjang, Ambarawa, Panjang, Ambarawa, Semarang, Jawa Tengah 50614 (Coordinates here)
Contact:+62 298 6052115
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 8am-4pm
Entrance Fee: Rp.10,000 (Approximately USD$0.70)
Train Tour Fee: Rp. 50,000 (Approximately USD$3.57)

Website

Other must-go attractions we have visited:

Explore an old “haunted” fort – Benteng Pendem
Pluck fresh cacao from the trees – Kampoeng Kopi Banaran Coffee Tour

Recommended Stays We Love

3. Wake up by the mountains – Hotel Griya Katarina

One of the greatest things about road trips is getting the chance to take in breathtaking scenery that you usually can’t find at home. If you want to really savour that experience, stay in a hotel that offers spectacular views right from your room.

Photo via wawan_pompakng

Hotel Griya Katarina is far from being your luxury hotel stay but the view it offers is pure luxury itself!

The hotel is popular among Catholic pilgrims who visit the surroundings as it’s near the Maria Kerep Cave, so we recommend you to book early!

Grita Katarina offers various room options and welcomes families with their villa room too. Nearby, you’ll be able to find local food stalls and other attractions like the train museum.

Hotel Griya Katarina

Rates: Contact the hotel directly to check.
Address: Jln. Tentara Pelajar, Kerep, Ambarawa, Jawa Tengah 50614
Contact: +62 298 591940/ +62 821 3458 8882/ +62 877 3181 5049
Email: [email protected]

Website

4. Basic yet comfortable stay – Hotel Griya Wijaya

We wished we stayed at Hotel Griya Katarina instead, due to its better views, but we only chanced upon Griya Katarina when we reached Hotel Griya Wijaya, which we had booked prior to our trip.

Just next door, this humble hotel is pretty comfortable for a basic stay, and you can get lovely views in the morning too!

Hotel Griya Wijaya

Rates: From Rp. 208,334 (Approximately USD$15)
Address: Jalan Tentara Pelajar No.90, Panjang, Ambarawa, Panjang, Ambarawa, Semarang, Jawa Tengah 50614, Indonesia
Contact: +62 298 591974

Check rate on Agoda

Bandungan & Ungaran

(Recommended for 1 day)

After Ambarawa, get ready for cooler temperatures as you head up the highlands in Bandungan and Ungaran. This is by far one of our personal favourites – chilly air, mountain views and very peaceful vibes. We wish we could have stayed here longer!

Recommended Stays We Love

1. A hidden romantic stay in the highlands – Susan Spa & Resort

If you’re looking for a quiet romantic retreat in the highlands, you will love Susan Spa & Resort.

Although located in a tranquil setting, this beautiful resort is shamelessly seductive, and with the misty clouds and chilly weather in the highlands, you’ll almost forget you are in tropical Indonesia!

Checking-in to our huge Prince and Princess Suites was like a dream come true – a treat for all our our days on the road. Travelling with 10 luggages? No problem, there’s room for all of them! The staff were all very warm and hospitable, that we felt very much comfortable during our stay.

The suite interiors feel and look like a royal mansion – the type of room you’ve dreamt about when you were a little girl and thought you would grow up to be a princess! If you’re lucky, you might even see the mountains in the distance at sunrise (you have to be really lucky as it is so misty).

The resort is a popular choice among couples, especially for weddings as it features a glass chapel (La Kana Chapel) within its compounds. If you’re here for your special day, be ready for a big one and consider staying at their Grand Suite for the night – it is their most luxurious room, with a heart-shaped jacuzzi inside the bathroom!

Don’t miss their Spa in the Sky too. We enjoyed their Signature Susan Massage and Tropical Nut Scrub – very refreshing!

After your relaxing spa, enjoy some splashy time in their semi-outdoor swimming pool (heated on weekends and public holidays). What a way to spend your day!

This rare find in the highlands also offers different dining options, with our favourite being their Sky Garden Cafe & Resto – an eccentric cafe with hipster vibes, vibrant tropical walls and everything exotic! You’ll almost think you’re in Bali! 😉

Susan Spa & Resort

Rates: From Rp.693,000 for Superior room (Approximately USD$49)
Address: Jalan Gintungan Utara, Dusun Piyoto, Bandungan, Deso, Jetis, Bandungan, Semarang, Jawa Tengah 50614
Contact: +62 298 711 766 / +62 24 845 4060 / +62 24 845 3030
Email: [email protected]
Do contact the resort directly for booking enquiries.

Website

Local Eats We Love

2. Coffee with a view in the mountains – Pondok Kopi

Indonesians love their coffee. They love it so much that they are ready to go off-the-beaten track to enjoy it.

At Pondok Kopi, you can enjoy your long black in the highlands – way above sea level, with panoramic views of the village and afar mountain ranges. We also spotted a waterfall!

Did we mention they do snack and other local dishes too? That way, you’ll have a reason to stay longer 😉

P.S. We recommend coming here earlier for breakfast to enjoy the lovely morning mist!

Pondok Kopi

Address: Desa Sidomukti, Jl. Goa Jepang, Jimbaran, Bandungan, Manggung, Jimbaran, Bandungan, Semarang, Jawa Tengah 50661 (Coordinates here)
Contact: +62298 7137009-10/ +6282892031261-62(call only)
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 8am-12pm
Price Range: Rp.15,000-40,000 (Approximately USD$1-2.86)

Website

Must-go Attractions We Visited

3. Feel the fresh air and scent of tea plantations – Kebun Teh Medini

While on the road, drop by Kebun Teh Medini – these tea plantations are remarkable; their green, endless beauty can make your mind soar, and your heart sing. We had wanted to drop by, but it could not fit into our schedule when we were in the highlands – if only we had more time!

Photo via nuglisyaa, idzomqdjab

The location is still unknown to many so you won’t find a big crowd there – perfect for pictures! Those stopping by are mainly hikers who are on their way to trek the nearby mountain ranges. The way to the tea plantations can be challenging, but if you have a proper car, it should not be a problem.

The tea plantations also lead to a secret cave (Goa Jepang)! Let us know if you manage to explore it!

P.S. Don’t hesitate to ask the local villagers for directions, they will be more than happy to help!

Kebun Teh Medini

Address: Limbangan, Jatirejo, Ngampel, Hutan, Ngesrepbalong, Limbangan, Kabupaten Kendal, Jawa Tengah 51357 (Coordinates here)
Entrance Fee: Rp.2,500 (Approximately USD$0.18)

Semarang

(Recommended for 1 day)

We didn’t want to leave the highlands, but yet was excited for our next adventure – towards the city of Semarang! According to our Indonesian friend, Semarang is well-known as a centre of beauty – apparently his Mom and sister travel from their home in West Java to Semarang once every couple of months, regularly, to the beauty clinics, where you can consult dermatologists and get quality facial treatments done.

And they are not the only ones who travel there – this is a normal phenomenon among Indonesian women who see maintaining good skin health as an important factor in their lives. Semarang is said to house the best beauty clinics and dermatologists, so ladies, you can’t miss this city!

Must-go Attractions We Visited

1. Take the wild route to an ancient mining site – Brown Canyon

Walk through the dramatic remnants of an old mining site that has earned the status of “Indonesia’s Brown Canyon”.

It may look banal to many, but most visitors embrace its natural beauty that tells of years of destruction by mining explosives. Although we didn’t manage to visit this, we highly recommend it Plataran Borobudur Resort when you are in Semarang (skip the Old Town and the city, we regretted spending too much time there!).

Photo via dhef.eb, adi_mrizal

The location has turned into an illustration of Arizona’s Grand Canyon due to its high rock formations.

Note: The Brown Canyon is not an official tourist attraction, so there are no proper road signages to this location. Do remember to pack a mask due to the dust as some trucks still roam around.

Brown Canyon

Address: Rowosari, Tembalang, Semarang City, Central Java 50279 (Coordinates here)
Getting there: From Semarang, head east on Jl. Fatmawati towards RSUD Kota Semarang (Ketileng). Turn left towards Klipang, past Klipang Golf. Continue forward, passing by three bridges. Continue straight at the junction, and you will reach in approximately 2 kilometres.

Spa and Massages (our little indulgence!)

2. Beauty and spa treatments for princesses of all ages – House of Susan

We were very amazed when we arrived at the well-known (locally) House of Susan, managed by the wife of the owner of Susan Spa and Resort in Bandungan. Not only is it a beauty clinic, but it houses the latest technologies and machines for facial and beauty treatments (all your oxygen facial machines and slimming capsule machines, yes!).

What’s more – all these come at very affordable prices. A one to two-hour facial treatment using some of their latest machines cost up to a maximum of only Rp. 500,000 (approximately USD 36), which is less than half the price of what you would find in Singapore or Malaysia using similar technology!

Some of treatment creams used are homemade, concocted by the owner herself, and are said to be suitable for even sensitive skin. They also use Germaine de Capuccini products, a French brand used by many salons in Europe, America and Asia.

Besides these luxurious facials, you can find slimming body treatments, massages, and even hair treatments. So prepare to be pampered from head to toe, like a princess!

Adults, teenagers and baby treatments are available (yes, there’s even a baby spa!); teenage girls even have their own dedicated salon – decorated in flowery pink while Mommy enjoys a detoxifying facial or massage. There’s even a gym where daily zumba classes are offered.

Preparing for your wedding? House of Susan also specialises in bridal services such as gown tailoring, rental and make-up (managed by the owner’s daughter herself!).

They even have an on-site cafe with a vast variety of food options, because, who doesn’t feel hungry after all that pampering? The corn fritters were so good! Try their salted egg fish and sate too!

House of Susan

Address: Jl. KH Achmad Dahlan 49, Semarang, Jawa Tengah 50136
Contact:+62 24 845 3030
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 8am-7pm
Sun 10am-5pm
Cafe Price Range: Rp.15,000-35,000 (Approximately USD$1-2.50)
Spa Price Range:Rp. 200,000-500,000 (Approximately USD$14.28-35.70)

Local Eats We Love

3. Legendary Semarang spring rolls – Lumpia Semarang Gang Lombok

Don’t even say you’ve tried lumpia (spring rolls) if you haven’t tried the legendary ones from Lumpia Semarang Gang Lombok.

These local spring rolls are pure goodness – they are made fresh in front of you. Rich in flavour, they are deliciously stuffed with various vegetables and bamboo sprouts, served with pickled cucumbers and a sweet sauce that looks and tastes like honey. You get to choose between the traditional lumpia or the deep fried crispy ones! (We tried both!)

But be ready to queue up for them as the stall is always packed to the brim with people ordering in bulk (literally boxes of them!). We waited for one hour for ours, but it was totally worth it!

And we are not even joking, people actually review this place as a “small joint that serves the best lumpia on Earth!”

Lumpia Semarang Gang Lombok

Address: Jalan Gang Lombok No. 11, Purwodinatan, Semarang Tengah, Purwodinatan, Semarang Tengah, Kota Semarang, Jawa Tengah 50137 (Coordinates here)
Contact:+62 816 4881 194
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 8am-5pm
Price: Rp.15,000 (Approximately USD$1)

Magelang

(Recommended for 2-3 days)

If you love majestic natural scenery, this will be your favourite leg of the road trip. Our videographer and photographer loved Magelang – this is where we captured magical sunrises with seas of clouds, vast beautiful green landscapes from viewpoints up high, and crossed some of the most scenic bridges and roads! You’ll keep your eyes wide open even when on the road!

Must-go Attractions We Visited

1. Float among the clouds with views of mountain ranges and paddy fields – Mount Andong

Do you love to hike for the view or do you simply love the journey itself? Mount Andong is suitable for both types of hikers.

The hike was a little tough for us (or perhaps we are a group of unfit wanderers!), with rocky terrains and you might have to climb on your hands and feet at some point, so be sure everyone from your group is fit enough to do so!

Although there are three rest areas before reaching the peak, we were exhausted when we reached the summit, but the climb was completely worth it – we were greeted with spectacular views of sea of clouds, vast rice paddy fields, and at least 5 nearby mountain ranges!

We took more than one-hour to reach the top, which was packed with campers who had come to spend the night and catch the sunrise the next day. If you wish to catch the sunrise at the summit, we recommend an overnight stay too, as it’s too dangerous to climb in the dark.

And what can be more comforting than a cup of hot coffee as you enjoy the views at the chilly summit after a tiring hike? Yes, there’s a little warung right at the top  – don’t ask us how they got there! ;))

Gunung Andong

Address: Kudusan, Tirto, Grabag, Magelang, Central Java 56196 (Coordinates here)
Entrance Fee: Rp. 5,000 (Approximately USD$0.36)

2. Experience the Nirwana sunrise – Punthuk Setumbu

A ball of fire; this is what we enjoyed at Punthuk Setumbu and it does not require any hiking! Go up a few flights of stairs and you’ll reach the viewpoint.

The sky turned from pitch dark to a purple glow, followed by a burst of orange; it was simply magical!

As the sun rose, the morning rays hit the surrounding forest, streaming through the trees with the majestic mountains in the backdrop and a sight of Borobudur Temple, among a sea of clouds. Isn’t this just magnificent?

P.S. Be prepared to fight your way (and your camera) through the crowd as this is a very popular sunrise spot!

Punthuk Setumbu

Address: Jl.Borobudur Ngadiharjo KM3, Kurahan, Karangrejo, Borobudur, Kurahan, Karangrejo, Borobudur, Magelang, Jawa Tengah 56553 (Coordinates here)
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 4am-5.30pm
Entrance Fee: Rp.15,000 (Approximately USD$1)

3. Catch the sunrise at the top of an unusual worship place – Chicken Church

If you’re at Punthuk Setumbu, do drop by the nearby Chicken Church.

No it’s not a church for chickens but one built in the shape of a chicken (it was actually originally meant to be a dove!).

Built in the 90s, this church still attracts thousands of curious travellers like us up till today.

The whole history is exhibited inside the church, and rumour has it that beneath the church, there are 12 unfinished chambers which have been used as secluded rooms to rehabilitate children and drug addicts.

Don’t forget to drop by the little cafe near the rooftop, where you can settle in for breakfast after catching the sunrise. The view up here is a heart-winner, so why not hang out?

If Punthuk Setumbu is too touristy for you, why not catch the sunrise at the rooftop of the Chicken Church instead?

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Wear sport shoes if you are following the track from Punthuk Setumbu as it can get very slippery. You will need to walk for around 15 to 20 minutes along a mud path through the jungle.

Chicken Church

Address: Dusun Gombong, Kembanglimus, Kurahan, Karangrejo, Borobudur, Magelang, Jawa Tengah 56553 (Coordinates here)
Opening hours: 4.40am-5.30pm
Entrance Fee: Rp.30,000 (Approximately USD$2.14) (Includes 2 free plates of tapioca fritters)

4. Learn all about this world-famous heritage temple at sunrise – Borobudur Temple

You must have heard that Borobudur Temple, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-go if you are in Yogyakarta. We second this, and don’t forget to choose the sunrise tour!

You will be brought up up a flight of stone steps before the first rays of light hit the skies, so you can get the best seats for the magical sunrise show.

As the sky starts to lighten, the stupas turn into different hues with the sun rays reflecting and piercing through. Slowly, the sky turns to perfect blue with a cool breeze. The only downside is the overwhelming crowd at sunrise (it gets better after 7am), we had to fight to get proper shots without photobombers.

After sunrise, as we strolled through the temple with our knowledgeable guide, we were impressed by how much passion and dedication he had in explaining the history and meaning of Buddhism to us.

Our tour by KLOOK originally did not include a guide, but as we drove and did not require a hotel pick-up (which is included in the package), we were given a guide in exchange. And we highly recommend you to request for a guide so as to truly immerse in the cultural experience and learn about the history of Borobudur Temple – the largest Buddhist monument in the world.

(Note: Local guides are also available at the temple itself.)

If you book the original package with the pick-up, do note that you need to wake up early, as you will be picked up at your hotel at 3.30am, so that you can reach the top of the temple by 5am, but it’s completely worth it. You will also be given a torch to help you climb the stairs, but remember to return it after the tour.

Your tour ends with coffee or tea and snacks served at the nearby Manohara hotel and we also received a souvenir – a tie-dyed Borobudur scarf!

Please note that as at June 2018, Manohara Resort accommodation is closed with plans to revitalize the property into a meditation centre, but their restaurant is still operating.

Borobudur Temple

Tour Rates: From Rp.616,000 per person (Approximately USD$44.10)
Address: Jl. Badrawati, Kw. Candi Borobudur, Borobudur, Magelang, Jawa Tengah (Coordinates here)

Check rate on Klook

Local Eats We Love:

5. Cleanse your body with fresh organic food – Joglo Ndeso Restaurant & Hydroponics Garden

Craving for some healthy dishes after all the Indonesian delicacies? Head to this hydroponic garden with a restaurant!

All vegetables and fruits are picked straight from their garden and turned into pure delicious goodness.

We tried their fresh fruit juices and salads, topped with a creamy sesame dressing – they were incredibly refreshing!

So if you clamour for local produce, this place is a definite must!

Joglo Ndeso Restaurant & Hydroponics Garden

Address: Jl. Dukun, Dusun Kuthan, Desa Sedayu, Kecamatan Muntilan, Kadirojo, Muntilan, Magelang, Jawa Tengah 56412 (Coordinates here
Contact: +62 877 3421 7771
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 9am-8pm
Price Range: Rp. 25,000-50,000 (Approximately USD$1.80-3.57)

Recommended Stays We Love

6. Enjoy breakfast with a view of Borobudur Temple – Plataran Borobudur

Borobudur Temple is a must-go for all first-timers to Yogyakarta, but once you’ve visited it, you’ll want have it in sight wherever you go, even from your hotel!

At Plataran Borobudur, you are definitely in for a luxury treat. The resort depicts traditional Javanese culture in every corner of its property, from villa rooms to the spa and restaurants.

All of the resort’s villas feature their own private pool – and regardless of whether you’re here with friends, family or as a couple, the resort has a villa to fit your needs and group size.

Our crush? Their Grand Spa Pool Villa that features a private spa room for complete privacy. What a time to be alive, you merely have to leave your villa to indulge in a relaxing spa treatment!

And here’s the dealmaker: Settle in at their Stupa Restaurant for breakfast – it is served with Borobudur views from afar! (We didn’t stay here but dropped by for a visit – and we recommend heading here for a memorable breakfast even if you don’t want to splurge on the stay!)

Plataran Borobudur Resort & Spa

Rates: From USD$257 (Approximately Rp. 3,599,233)
Address: Dusun Tanjungan, Borobudur, Magelang Central Java 56553, Indonesia
Contact: +62 293 788 888
Website

Check Rate on Agoda

Yogyakarta/Jogja

(Recommended for 3-4 days)

And now welcome back to the city of Yogyakarta. We actually stayed here for one and a half weeks after our road trip to try out everything adventurous (yes we took the cable cart at Timang Beach and went up mountains and down the caves!), and to slowly take in the sights, sounds and local tastes of the city.

We were amazed at how rich in culture Yogyakarta was, and though tourism is slowly growing, the city is still very much kept local and authentic. So you can be sure to still discover those hidden gems – a delicious breakfast of catfish tucked away in an old shop in a back alley, a local market where you can find everything you need (from clothes to shoes to batik bags to wedding favours and kitchenware), or a treasure trove of artists’ batik painting when you turn round an unlikely corner.

So what are you waiting for? Your last stop is gonna be the best!

Must-go Attractions We Visited

1. Take in majestic views of Mount Merapi – Bukit Klangon

If you want to enjoy spectacular views of Mount Merapi without actually climbing it, you can do so at Bukit Klangon!

Platforms built on stilts offer up-close views of the majestic mountain, but be there early to get a clear panoramic view (preferably right after sunrise around 6am). We couldn’t see anything after 8.30am, as the clouds almost completely obscured the view.

We visited on a weekday and enjoyed the serene atmosphere and cool breeze while the sun rose gently and Mount Merapi appeared to greet ‘’good morning”.

TRIPCANVAS TIP

Avoid visiting during the weekend or on public holidays – the spot gets overly crowded as locals come to use the camping site.

Please remember to keep the area free from trash and pollution and pick up your rubbish before leaving!

Bukit Klangon

Address: Kalitengah Lor, Glagaharjo, Cangkringan, Sleman Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta 55583 (Coordinates here)
Opening hours: 5am-6pm
Entrance fee: Free
Parking fee: Rp.5,000 per car (Approximately USD$0.36)

2. Challenge yourself and cross over the rough seas – Pantai Timang

Yes, this is the famous Timang Beach, where you can sit in a cable cart and be pulled across the sea, with the fierce crashing waves beneath you. Once a hidden spot, it’s now popularised after being featured on Korean variety show ‘Running Man’.

This cable cart was originally used as a means of transport to cross over to the neighbouring Pulau Timang, where fishermen caught fresh lobsters. Now, it’s been transformed into a tourist experience.

We crossed the suspension bridge too, and honestly, it felt scarier than the cable cart, as you have to keep your balance on the bridge. Definitely not for the faint-hearted!

Don’t miss out on the viewpoint platform with endless views of the ocean too!

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Before you reach, you might come across several road signs pointing you to Timang Beach along the way, but do avoid following them as they lead you to scammers trying to convince you to take the jeep to the beach (they will tell you that the road conditions are too bad for cars), though it is physically possible for cars to drive in. Use this unmarked road entrance instead, and you will be able to drive down a proper road all the way to the beach. Following the road signs will lead you to a rocky road that your car would be unable to drive through.

We went via the wrong route and our car got stuck due to the terrible road condition of that road, so we walked down to the beach instead, and it took approximately 1 hour. So if you have tried driving down the better road that we have given above, please share with us your experience! We would really appreciate it 🙂

Pantai Timang

Address: 55881 Jl. Pantai Sel. Jawa, Purwodadi, Tepus, Kabupaten Gunung Kidul, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55881 (Coordinates here)
Getting there: From Wonosari, head South on Jl. Baron – turn left onto Jl. Tepus – turn left onto Jl. Pantai Selatan Jawa. Timang Beach is a 3-hour drive from Yogyakarta city.
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 9am-5pm (for activities)
Gondola Fee: Rp.200,000 (Approximately USD$14.30)
Suspension Bridge Fee: Rp.150,000 (Approximately USD$10.70)

3. Watch a dramatic sunset behind a world-famous temple – Prambanan Temple Sunset Tour & Ramayana Balle 

When in Yogyakarta, it’s often highly recommended to watch the sunrise at Borobudur Temple and catch the sunset at Prambanan Temple, Indonesia’s largest Hindu temple.

Like Borobudur Temple, Prambanan Temple is also recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; but unlike Borobudur, Prambanan has many individual temples surrounding one large towering central building and it is set on an expansive ground. We spent quite a bit of time exploring, and there’s even a deer enclosure and a souvenir market in the grounds!

We strongly recommend you to opt for a guide while visiting so as to get the real essence of the history and culture of this legendary Hindu temple.

And of course, no tour to Prambanan Temple is complete without catching the Ramayana Ballet – a traditional performance with dance and music, illustrating the well-known Sanskrit story of Prince Rama’s quest to rescue his wife Sita from the clutches of a rival king.

Imagine watching this epic performance with over 200 professional dancers and musicians performing on an open-air stage, with the majestic Prambanan Temple and the golden setting sun as the backdrop!

Photo via yourye, bocah_angon, ullulaz
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Prambanan Temple is located at the border of Yogyakarta and Solo, so for convenience, we highly recommend you to drop by when you are on the way to Solo.

Prambanan Temple Sunset Tour & Ramayana Ballet

Address: Kranggan, Bokoharjo, Prambanan, Sleman Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta (Coordinates here)
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 6am-6pm
Ramayana Ballet Schedule: Mon-Sun 7.30pm-9.30pm
Temple Entrance Fee: Rp. 234,000 for foreigners (Approximately USD$16.70); Rp. 40,000 for locals (Approximately USD$2.90)
Ramayana Ballet Fee: From Rp.125,000 (Approximately USD$9)

Website

Check out other must-go attractions:

Test your adrenaline level – Kalisuci Cave Tubing
A sea of clouds for breakfast – Kebun Buah Mangunan
Run away from the waves – Wedi Ombo
Light of heaven in a mystical natural cave – Jomblang Cave

Recommended Stays We Love

4. Stay like a prince and princess – Lafayette Boutique Hotel

Waking up for sunrise has never felt so worth it (and we woke up for many – with no regrets!). Begin your day early to catch a view of Mount Merapi and Mount Merbabu from the rooftop pool, or book either the Merapi Room or the luxurious Penthouse Suite where you can see the mountains from your room!

As the sun gently rises up, clear skies open to a magical dreamy view of Mount Merapi, majestically sitting and guarding its surroundings.

Every corner of the hotel will transport you to regions of France – from the moment you step into the majestic brightly lit lobby and to your lovely room. Rooms are cosy, spacious, airy and comfortable.

Every evening, once back from our outdoor adventures, we were surprised with plates of cakes in our room and simply loved the special attention paid to guests!

The breakfast buffet is served at Martinique Sky Lounge. Unlimited options are available – whether you are in for Asian breakfast or American – they’ve got it all! A big selection of bakeries and fruits are also on display – we’ve never tasted such perfectly-ripe pineapples (no shame, we must have taken at least 10 slices per person!).

For lunch or dinner, experience their Le Petit Restaurant – a semi-luxurious dining option with a classical modern touch. The portions are generous and taste is not compromised. Their carbonara pasta is creamy and cheesy, while the mushroom soup is rich and comforting! The portions are generous too – we nearly couldn’t finish our food!

Lafayette Boutique Hotel is modelled as a romantic accommodation and we approve to it – it’s all about the decor, ambience and feels; even the music at the lobby gets you dreaming of a French kiss!

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If you want to see a clear unobstructed view of Mount Merapi and Merbabu, we recommend waking up early, right after sunrise, because the clouds tend to cover the mountains after 9am!

Lafayette Boutique Hotel

Rates: From USD $71 (approximately Rp. 944,939)
Day-Pass: From Rp. 150,000 per person (with pool access) (Approximately USD$10)
Address: Jl Ring Road Utara, No 409 – Desa Manggung, Catur Tunggal, 55281 Yogyakarta
Contact: +62 274 292 4777

Website

Shopping Places We Went Crazy At:

5. The Chatuchak of Yogyakarta – Beringharjo market

We went a little crazy at this market- although we dropped by with hopes of finding souvenirs for friends and relatives, we ended up buying more bags for ourselves than to gift to others – no shame, they were amazingly cheap, Rp.80,000 (Approximately USD$5) for a handmade bag; where else can you find that!?

Besides our purchases, the market is packed full of other shops featuring batik products as well as affordable shoes and even artisanal perfumes (they have the craziest scents, from chocolate to kiwi!)

Rest assured, men are not left behind- you’ll surely find gifts for the men of your life there – shirts and trendy T-shirts make better souvenirs than cliché keychains and fridge magnets (just saying!).

Beringharjo Market

Address: Pasar Beringharjo, Jl. Margo Mulyo No.16, Ngupasan, Gondomanan, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55122 (Coordinates here)
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 8.30am-9pm
Price Range: Rp.50,000-100,000 (Approximately USD$3-7)
*Note: The souvenir market is on the left of the wet market (Pasar Beringharjo)

6. Buy handmade batik paintings – Batik Seno

Besides Solo, Yogyakarta is the centre of batik, so you will be sure to get some authentic batik art pieces here.

While Danar Hadi is great for handmade batik fashion pieces, from dresses to scarfs to bags, we personally loved Batik Seno for its batik artwork and paintings! They have an incredible collection of batik paintings in different different sizes, from abstract to scenery paintings, all hand-painted by local artists.

We actually spent more than an hour here looking for hidden gems! No two are the same so you are sure to go back with something unique!

Batik Seno

Address: JL. Mantrijeron, MJ. III/800, Jl. Mantrijeron, Mantrijeron, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55143 (Coordinates here)
Contact: +62 274 374654 / +62 856 4335 7141
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 8am-7pm
Price Range: Rp.50,000-500,000 (Approximately USD$3.57-35.70)

Website

Don’t miss these other shopping spots:

The paradise of batik products and souvenirs – Hamzah Batik
Handmade homeware – Kasongan (Centre of Ceramic and Pottery)

Spa and Massage (our little indulgence!)

7. Reward your tired body with affordable luxury massage: Saarah Day Spa/ Tea Spa by Saarah 

The facial treatment we had here is one that we aren’t ready to forget! Soothing, refreshing, relaxing and affordable!

We shared a semi-outdoor massage room and got treated with scrubs, masks and face massage after a long tiring day on the road!

Hygiene and professionalism are at their utmost and of course they also offer a wide range of body treatments for different skin types! We left feeling rejuvenated!

P.S. Saarah Day Spa is the main (and bigger) branch, but we went for the nearby Tea Spa by Saarah.

Saarah Day Spa/ Tea Spa by Saarah

Address (Saarah Day Spa): Jl. Sidomulyo No. 6 Tiyasan, Condongcatur Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Address (Tea Spa by Saarah): Jl. Prawirotaman 2 No.#629, Brontokusuman, Mergangsan, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55153 (Coordinates here) (Greenhost Boutique Hotel)
Contact: +62-274-887-151 (Saarah Day Spa)/ +62-819-4482-9999 (WhatsApp – Saarah Day Spa)/ +62-274-389-777 (ext. 14) (Tea Spa by Saarah)/ +62 878 3996 4999 (WhatsApp – Tea Spa by Saarah)
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 8am-10pm
Price Range: Rp.75,000-300,000 (Approximately USD$5.36-21.42

Website

Local Eats We Love

8. Immerse in a live culinary experience – Gudeg Pawon

Just like you must try Nasi Lemak when you are in Malaysia, you must taste the legendary Gudeg in Yogyakarta.

Jackfruit is the star of this dish – it is stewed for hours with other spices like garlic and coriander, served on a banana leaf or plate most of the time. Tempeh and delicious coconut-flavoured chicken are also part of this devoting meal!

When we reached Gudeg Pawon at 10.30pm (they open at 10pm), we were surprised to find that it’s a local’s house, and there was already a queue outside! A few steps later, we were right inside the kitchen, and it was burning hot, but the flavourful smell of the broth boiling and rice cooking kept us going!

Here, Gudeg is made the traditional way – no electric stove or modern technologies but simply wood and charcoal, and these happen to give a special taste and touch to the whole experience.

Be there early (by 10pm) or you risk to be the last one in the queue and possibly miss on a few items. There was no more chicken when we reached, and everything was nearly sold out by 11pm.

Your plate served, you’ll find yourself sharing seat with locals on the bench outside. Expect an explosion of flavours, the sauce is creamy and the jackfruit brings in a sweet kick, along with the chewy cow skin soaked with sauce (krupuk)…

We were not used to it at first – it was a little too sweet, but I must say, Gudeg has an acquired taste on the tongue, so after a few meals, we grew to enjoy it! But if you have a sweet tooth and love Indonesian spices, you would fall in love with it. We’ve tried many Gudeg stalls but this one is a hard-to-beat, probably because it is served straight from the kitchen!

Gudeg Pawon

Address: Jl. Janturan UH/IV No. 36, Warungboto, Umbulharjo, Warungboto, Umbulharjo, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55164 (Coordinates here)
Contact: +62 857 4328 1104 / +62 822 3315 5497
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 10pm-1am (Or until sold out)
Price Range: Rp.15,000-30,000 per portion (Approximately USD$1-2.14)

Check out other yummy local eats we love:

Visit the oldest Gudeg seller in Jogja Gudeg Mbah Lindu Sosrowijayan
Here’s a worthy local addiction – Mie Ayam Bu Tumini
Sea of clouds or city lights – The Manglung
Gulp down sizzling coffee with charcoal – Angkringan Kopi Jos Lek Man
One of the best local buffets – Waroeng Kopi Klotok
A century-old legendary catfish – Mangut Lele Mbah Marto Nggeneng

Local Dessert We Love

9. Shaved ice with fresh avocado and fruit – Es Buah PK

We can’t thank enough the person who invented this creative dessert – which dates back to the early 70s!

This roadside stall specialises in shaved ice dessert, but not the traditional kind, as they serve it with generous amount of freshly sliced fruits like avocado, coconut and pineapple, along with secret syrup concoctions (apparently chocolate condensed milk) and grass jelly cubes. This is something for your sweet tooth.

It was one of the best dessert we ever came across – I mean, where else can we find street dessert with avocados!? One won’t be enough, especially in this scorching hot weather! Another bowl please!

The stall also sells noodles and meatballs (bakso); so if you’re here for lunch, you also got your dessert sorted!

Es Buak PK

Address: Jalan Pakuningratan Nomor 76 A, Cokrodiningratan, Jetis, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta (Coordinates here)
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 9am-6pm
Price: Rp.5,000-8,000 (Approximately USD$0.36-0.57)

Check out other yummy local dessert we love:

Refreshing ice-cream with spices and fruits – Rujak Es Krim Pak Nardi
Number 1 gelato in Jogja – Tempo Del Gelato
Homemade pies with a view – D’Padukan Pie & Resto

Ready to take the less-travelled roads to places with magnificent scenery and natural beauty? Pack your bags, friends and family to discover diverse, majestic landscapes, fascinating historical sites, exotic local cuisine and numerous small towns and cities, each with their own unique flavour and characteristics!

Know someone who would love to go on this adventure? Tag them below!

PLEASE NOTE: All the above information is correct at the date of publication. If you come across any changes or updates, please let us know and we will update the information accordingly. Thank you!
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