If you’ve heard of Yogyakarta (also known as Jogja), you should also know 2 things.
1. It’s super laidback…
2. …And it’s considered the cultural hub of Indonesia!
Jogja is located near Indonesia’s historical and cultural landmarks such as Borobodur, Prambanan Temple, the famous Sultan Palace, and Water Castle (Taman Sari). There are also gorgeous white sand beaches if you’re one of those who can’t get enough of beautiful beaches too – not forgetting the numerous natural attractions dotting the city.
Most travellers usually opt to stay at least 2 nights in Jogja in order to explore these places in the vicinity – along with catching cultural shows like the Ramayana Ballet.
Attractions aside, the local Jogja cuisine is pretty amazing and not to be missed. (And prices of everything from food to accommodation tend to be pretty affordable too!)
So if you’re looking for an inspiring travel experience on a shoestring budget – you’ll be happy to know that Yogyakarta and its numerous wonders await. 😉
Before we go into the fun things to do around Jogja, the first things to know are when and how to get here!
What’s the best time to travel?
While Jogja’s temperature remains approximately the same all year long, you might want to avoid peak rainy season between December and March. This way, you’ll be able to perfectly enjoy visiting all the cultural sites and natural attractions. (The best time to travel would be during the dry season between July and September!)
Do note that the month of Suro (first month of the Lunar Calendar) is when places of worship perform annual rituals – something you might not want miss when coming to Jogja!
How do I get to Yogyakarta?
Wondering what fun things await in Jogja? We’ve compiled some of the best things to do around this beautiful city, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
From wandering through a water palace filled with secret passageways to floating on a natural lazy river through an underground cave – we say, yes please!
1-1. Take in incredibly lush green views – Bukit Panguk Kediwung, Bukit Watu Lumbung
There’s something to be said of vast verdant natural views and how spectacular they are. Bukit Panguk Kediwung delivers that in spades and more.
Make your way to the viewing platform that will give you ample photos to fill your Instagram feed with. To get there, you’ll have to make your way through a winding path and similarly great views.
Photos via khalpong_, kondisikan
Once there, you’ll find that the winding stroll is more than worth it thanks to the unforgettable sight Bukit Panguk Kediwung provides!
Another great option if you’re looking for lush green views (and more!) would be Bukit Watu Lumbung. Originally a teak plantation, Bukit Watu Lumbung was slowly changed into an alternative travel site providing programmes like planting a tree, or reading a book from the library on-site.
Photos via amanhassan, mikengamelubun
One interesting thing about Bukit Watu Lumbung? If you participate in any of these programmes, you might actually be rewarded with free food, drinks or merchandise!1-2. Fresh seafood and unique coral formations – Ngrenehan Beach, Watu Lumbung Beach
There are many exotic secret beaches hidden around Jogja, and Ngrenehan Beach is one of them. It may be small but its uniqueness lies in the formation of rocks that extend on both sides of the beach.
Photo via kompasmania yswitopr
Not just beautiful to look at, these rocks also act as breakwaters that shield the beach from violent waves. Make your way up these rocky hills and find yourself at the best spot to adore the view.
Observe the simple lives of the village fishermen setting out to sea and sorting out their catch of the day. Every seafood lover knows that the fresher the fish, the better the taste. Their catch is brought directly to the nearby markets!
Another great beach to check out is Watu Lumbung Beach and its interesting rock and coral formations. Duck through a huge stone with a hole in the middle creating an arch and carefully pick your way over the rocks, this beach is surrounded by small green hills too!
Photo via jagadhj
There’s plenty of exploration to be had – just be sure to be really careful when adventuring through Watu Lumbung Beach.
Photo via simontoong
1-3. Underground cave tubing on nature’s lazy river – Goa Pindul
Bored of floating on the usual waterparks? You should try the lazy river at the Goa Pindul.
Feast your eyes on the beauty of the stalactites and stalagmite rock formations carved on the walls over hundreds of years ago, some with special attributes such as the 4th largest stalactite in the world, or stalactite rock formation believed to enhance ‘manliness’.
Notice how the blue river water comes in contrast with the brown limestone that acts as walls, with splashes of green moss and ferns as decorations illuminated by sunlight beaming through cracks and holes from above.
To put a cherry on top, visitors looking for a jolt of adrenaline are welcome to take a leap of faith off a six-metre tree trunk into a lagoon!
1-4. You don’t need to visit Africa to see sand dunes – Gumuk Pasir Parangkusumo
Stare into the sunset as you recline on sand dunes with your toes in the sand, as calming winds carve patterns as far as the eye can see. Here, time stands still and you forget that you are in Central Java.
Photos via Dune StefanusAjie, Dwisaktisetiawan
Ever wanted to try sandboarding? Save yourself from planning an expensive trip to Africa or the Middle East. Simply travel to Jogja for a more accessible alternative. You can also rent ATVs, and instead of camels, there are horse rentals too – so it’s time to unleash your inner Indiana Jones!
To end the day, you can head over to the nearby infinity pool of the Queen of the South resort and enjoy the sunset.
Photos via jessinovia, tintinpic
1-5. Visit the famous Prambanan Temple and catch a ballet! – Prambanan Temple, Ramayana Ballet
When in Paris, you visit the Eiffel Tower, and when in Jogja, you visit the Prambanan Temple – a UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of 240 temples!
Photo via courtneysolinger
This 9th century Hindu temple was built and dedicated to 3 Hindu deities, Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Preserver) and Shiva (Destroyer), and towers at 47 metres high!
Photos via capt_rekha, monsurjaya
Not convinced yet? Well, mix up your visit to Prambanan Temple with a must-watch performance in Jogja, the Ramayana Ballet.
Catch the spectacular ballet during the evening where over 200 dancers and musicians perform on an open air stage – with the Prambanan Temples rising majestically in the background.
Photo via yourye
It’s a truly majestic sight, and an absolutely unforgettable cultural experience.
The ballet itself is based on the story of King Rama. While it originated from India, the current story has since been adapted to the Javanese style, culture and music.
Photos via daraninggarla, quicchote, nadiapita_11
For those who love a good cultural experience, the Ramayana Ballet is one that’s not to be missed.
PS: It comes with a delicious dinner too!
1-6. Wander into the Secrets of a Water Fortress – Taman Sari Water Palace
Europe isn’t the only place to indulge in 18th Century architecture. This garden chateau with its elaborate series of swimming pools in the middle courtyard, was built by the Portuguese in their short period of residing in Java as a gift for the wives of Sultan Hamengku Buwono I.
Photos via Farachvio, AdiConx, hotelrengganisyogya
Meander along corridors to the castle tower with its magnificent view, take a few steps down past the Gapura Agung (Grand Entrance), and descend into the Tajug. You’ll find a system of mysterious underground catacombs that once served as bunkers during war, and a tunnel connecting the Taman Sari, the Keraton, and Pulo Kenongo.
Explore your way through passageways past hidden chambers and vaults that used to store the Sultan’s arsenal. And as you wander further into the catacombs, you’ll find yourself in Sumur Gumuling, an underground mosque!
1-7. Learn the art of Batik – Museum Batik
Want to learn something new? Head on over to Museum Batik where you’ll learn the art of creating your own batik cloth.
Traditionally, batik cloth has been used to make clothes, bags and even baby slings! One interesting thing is that the designs on the batik cloth are symbolic. Some are believed to bring the wearer luck, and some patterns are even reserved for royalty only.
Photos via citradweasley, vanessavk11, Iarasarume, gabiiii_r
At Museum Batik, you’ll be guided through the process of wax-resist dyeing, using a special tool called a canting. Create your own series of dots and lines to design your very own batik pattern! How cool is that?
Wondering just where to stay at Jogja? Look no further than the popular Malioboro Street. Depending on your needs, there are different accommodation options ranging from homestays and guesthouses to hotels!
2-a. For an eclectic experience! – Boutique hotels and unique themed hotels
2-a-1. A Little Vintage Parisian Dollhouse – Rumah Paris Bed & Breakfast (From USD $30)
Having just recently established its service back in April 2014, Rumah Paris B&B has shot to be quite an overnight success. Despite using only one marketing tool (Instagram), this quaint B&B has been flooded ever since with visitors hoping to get a peek of it.
Rumah Paris B&B is especially famed for their unique interiors and vintage furnishing that transports anyone who sets foot in it to old Paris. It is also quite easy to locate due to its close vicinity to the Parangtritis beach. En route to the popular beach, simply take a right turn and there it stands: the little Parisian dollhouse.
The part about being little does mean it only has around 4 guest rooms to offer, but lucky guests will get to enjoy attentive care by their staff.
Not to mention, spending a night in the most unique and complete collection of European property will surely be an enchanting experience in Yogya.
2-a-2. Absolute Wonder of Greeneries – Prawirotaman (From USD $35)
Well, the grass is definitely greener on this side of hotel.
Boasting an eco design and environment-friendly landscape, expect nothing less than being surrounded by lush hydroponic plants on the rooftop garden, and endless rows of hanging vines with cooling fresh air everywhere you go.
Taking the eco idea to heart, the hotel adopts the green concept to meticulous details.
Photos via nibrasay_, adhyatama
Rooms are spacious and flow easily with wood materials and white bricks as the minimalistic interior. Eco toiletries such as rice or lemongrass soap for guests are also prepared, providing a nice finishing touch.
The 3 main elements of wood, plants, and concrete is nicely accentuated with the swimming pool facility. With high reviews from occupants, we certainly foresee a lot of “growing” business for this one outstanding hotel.
2-b. Perfect for the family – Family hotels
2-b-1. Great for families, there’s much to do here! – Grand Tjokro Yogyakarta Hotel (From USD $29)
One of the best finds in this list, Grand Tjokro provides an amazing slew of facilities for such an affordable price.
Whether it’s a romantic vacation, or a family one, couples, or families with kids will be delighted with Grand Tjokro and its offerings.
First, let’s talk about the décor, and the rooms. Boasting grand décor, and elegantly appointed rooms, you’ll be delighted with how cosy and comfortable this hotel is.
Next up, the facilities. This hotel is almost like a resort with the long list of things you can do here. If you’re thinking of bringing the kids along, the family can indulge in a spot of karoke, table tennis, swimming (there’s a kids’ pool!), cycling (bicycle rental is available), and even a family BBQ.
For the adults, there’s also a bar for those well-deserved drinks (and babysitting services should you need it), and a convenience store and gift shop just in case you need anything.
Feel free to head down to the sauna or the spa for a relaxing massage anytime too. A holiday at Grand Tjokro will pretty much be relaxing and unforgettable.
2-b-2. Direct pool access rooms for the family! – 101 Yogyakarta Tugu
Whether it’s a room facing out to the mountains, or better yet, every family’s favourite – a direct pool access room – 101 Yogyakarta Tugu is a great choice for families!
Photos via dareldanish
It’s situated merely 3-minutes walk from Tugu Monumen, and a 10 minute drive to both Yogyakarta Palace and Taman Sari Water Palace! Apart from its proximity to cultural sites, the hotel itself provides a range of enticing amenities for the family.
Photo via rakasiwiharaz
From the swimming pool where the kids can splash to their hearts’ content, to the fitness center and massages available upon request – head to the restaurant where a feast of International and Indonesian food is served!
2-c. A little romance for the couples – Romantic hotels
2-c-1. Have an intimate sweet escape – Astuti Gallery Homestay
If you love the idea of timeless romance, Astuti Gallery is a great representative of this. Originally an art gallery established in 1975, it has since morphed into an intimate, romantic abode.
Located 30 minutes away from Malioboro, this romantic stay is situated slightly out of the way, providing a quieter, and more private experience.
There’s a lovely swimming pool, their own restaurant, and free WiFi too. If you’re looking for private spots to chill at around the property, feel free to head to the joglo with its inviting views!
3-1. Dine in a castle – Mang Engking
Don’t miss the opportunity to be the King of the castle at the amazing Mang Engking restaurant. The unique fairytale castle isn’t something you see everyday and the surprises just keep coming.
The specialty is fish and shrimp that live in the serene ponds surrounding the castle. Relax in your own traditional bamboo gubuk, a type of hut, at the waters edge. If you would rather dine inside then the castle dining hall is both exciting and very cool on a hot afternoon.
Everyone talks about the honey-grilled shrimp, slightly charred and sweet, fresh juicy prawns – delicious. If you prefer fish then the Ikan Gurame Pesmol is exceptional and is served whole so you certainly won’t be hungry.
If you aren’t bored after so much fish, then dip your toes into the waters edge and let the little fish nibble them. Your own personal pedicure.
Photos via ullydzakycake, septiarubeyantii, makankeliling
Mang Engking restaurants are popping up across Indonesia but we are certain that this is the only one with a castle!
3-2. Witness the weird and wonderful – The House of Raminten
The House of Raminten really is a house of wonders. This traditional Javenese restaurant certainly has a wild side.
The restaurant is named after Hamzah Salaiman, the owner, who played the popular character of Raminten in an Indonesian soap opera. The House of Raminten embraces diversity, encourages different religions to unite and promotes the transgender community. Love the food, the atmosphere and each other.
Waiters wear traditional kraton jarit and you can expect a relaxed dining pace. Food is served, and enjoyed slowly as per Javanese custom. Even the manager says ‘ If you’re in a hurry, we cannot serve you’.
Photos via millashahab, azizpw, Adecheers
The koteka is highly recommended, a delicious mix of shredded chicken and egg all baked in a bamboo splinter.
When it comes to the décor, you are in for a shock. Dotted between the many photos of Raminten are some unusual decorations including full sized horse carriages and breast shaped mugs.
You need to have a look around yourself, because when it comes to the House of Raminten you have to see it to believe it!
3-3. A sight (or two) to behold! – Abhayagiri
You get two for the price of one at Abhaygiri, two spectacular sights that is! The panoramic views from the restaurant include both the Prambanan temple and Mount Merapi.
Perched up on the side of a hill, the restaurant affords breathtaking views across Prambanan. Grab a table outside to watch the sunset and enjoy dinner as the rest of the city goes to sleep.
Everyone knows that food tastes better with a great view, trust us the food is already amazing. The banqueting experience means you can sample as many delicious dishes as you want.
Photos via floristaedellweiss, sigitlicious, pangeran_kuliner
Inside Abhayigiri is just as spectacular with luxurious décor and an impressive sparkling chandelier.
To make your meal extra special why not request a pendopo, a private pavilion to dine in. You can even request the signature dance of Abhayigiri, the Jonggrang cultural dance be performed.
You have to visit this restaurant for a taste of luxury and unforgettable views.
3-4. Looking for a quality cuppa? – No 27 Coffee
One for the coffee enthusiasts, No 27 Coffee lives up to its name indeed.
Serving up quality coffee (especially the cappuccino and special coffee brew of the day!) – No 27 Coffee serves up not just good coffee, but a stylish ambience, great service, and good food all at the same time.
From a platter of delectable escargot dipped in garlic butter, to crispy mushrooms, all you need to do now is to set an afternoon aside for brunch at No 27 Coffee.
Enjoy some coffee on us!
3-5. Dig into yummy local cuisine! – Bale Raos
When in Jogja, one thing you definitely can’t miss out on is all the yummy local food! Thankfully, Bale Raos is a great place to check out local cuisine.
There are interesting dishes on the menu ranging from Bestik Tongue (thick beef tongue cooked with herbs and served with potatoes and vegetables) to Baked Goat (baked mutton served with vegetable curry and sauces).
Photos via abiananthra, a2photography_indra, andi_n_s, pingkolie
Of course, if you’d like to try something less eye-popping, you might want to dig into the Traditional Rice Set! It comes complete with brown rice and dishes like Gecok Ganem (meatballs), Oseng Papaya Leaf (stirfried papaya), Tempe & Tofu Bacem, Lombok Kethok (sweet and spicy meat stew).
If that doesn’t taste appetising, we don’t know what does!
4-1. Public transport
Public transport like Trans Jogja, the bus rapid transit (BRT) system is available in Yogyakarta, operating from 5.30am to 9.30pm. A single trip ticket costs Rp3,500 (USD $0.20) and can be used to ride Trans Jogja to any destination.
Do note that while the arrival time of the bus does not always match the displayed schedule, Trans Jogja is comfortable and safe. (However, the bus routes might not extend to some places you might want to visit. If so, consider arranging for alternative transportation such as car or motorcycle rentals!)
PS: Uber, Grab and Gojek are also available here.
4-2. Rent a car with a driver/tour guide
Packages usually include fuel, toll fees, parking, and the driver’s meal throughout the day (make sure these things are made clear before making a booking). Most operators will offer similar prices ranged below Rp.500,000/day (USD $37) for 4-6 passengers.
Mr. Ukhi has built an excellent reputation over the years on the interwebs, and has now launched his own website. He speaks English fluently and can arrange the trip according to your requirement. Best of all, he knows all the best spots around town, and his vehicle of choice is usually the Toyota Avanza. (However, he can definitely make arrangements for larger groups as well!)
4-3. Rent a car without a driver
If you are feeling a little more adventurous, Yogyakarta is not too difficult to navigate. (Do note that it would most definitely be a good idea to preload your GPS maps, or get a physical map. Mobile service can be unreliable in many parts of the Gunungkidul area).
Most rental services offer a Toyota Avanza (7-seater) at around Rp.350,000/day (USD $26). However, we’ve found that Cahaya Transport, the cheapest and one of the most equipped operators offers them at Rp.250,000/day (USD $19).
4-4. Rent a motorcycle
Have the most fun (and biggest bang for your buck) getting around on two wheels. Not only are they cheap to rent, they are also cheaper to run on gasoline as well as parking fees.
Bening transport offers delivery services for their motorcycles anywhere in Yogyakarta. All you have to do is provide three forms of identification, and you will be given the keys and a pair of helmets.
If you’re travelling with a friend, your 3D2N trip to Jogja (excluding flight tickets) will cost approximately USD $167 per person!
Cost breakdown (excluding flight tickets!):
Fleet cost: USD $5 x 3 days = USD $15 (If you opt to explore the city via a shared motorbike)
Petrol cost: USD $3 X 3 days = USD $9 (assuming travel distance of 100km per day)
Sub-total: USD $24
USD $35 x 2 = USD $70 (accommodation averages at USD $35 per night!)
USD $20 x 3 = USD $60 (budgeting approximately USD $10 per day for food per person)
4. Other expenses – such as entrance fees to attractions, etc
USD $60 x 3 = USD $180 (budgeting approximately USD $30 per day per person)
TOTAL (per person) = USD $334/2 = USD $167
6-1. What’s the best prepaid local sim card to get?
Telkomsel offers one of the best coverage around Yogyakarta. Get the SimPATI card as it provides one of the best value for money at Rp.35,000 (USD $2.60) for 3.5Gb for 30 days!
6-2. What are some useful recommended apps for my trip to Jogja?
Hi Jogja, Jogja Guide, and GoJek are some of the apps you might like to prepare for your trip!
6-3. I’m interested in travelling from Jogja to Bali, is it far?
Flights from Joga to Bali will take approximately 1 hour 10 minutes, and can cost from USD $74!
Now you know all there is to know about how to have the most incredible time in Jogja! Will you be making your way down anytime soon? Let us know in the comments below!