The Borobudur, UNESCO World Heritage
As one of the wonders of the world, the Borobudur is a must visit for everyone visiting and cycling in Java. Many will visit the monument as a day trip from Yogya but I think it's worth to spend a night here too. There is a beautiful, hardly used road by tourist and cyclists alike to Borobudur. This road is much to prefer over the main road from Yogya to Magelang.
The Borobudur is one of the most spectacular and famous sites in Asia. It only rivals beauty with Angkor in Cambodia and Bagan in Myanmar and, of course, is part of UNESCO's World Heritage. Regardless if you are interested in temples, you have to be impressed with this magnificent work of more then 1000 years old.
The best way to visit is either in the early morning or later in the afternoon when the tour groups are gone. You never have the Borobudur (like Prambanan) for yourself but you can enjoy it better when it is quiet.
The building represents a three dimensional mandala, a Buddhist vision of the cosmos which starts with everyday life and leads to Nirvana. It was build in between 750 AD to 850 AD although there is not much known of the origins of who build it though it must have been the Sailendra Dynasty who rules at that time over this part of Java.
Looking at the building, it must have been a huge workforce who build the structure of around 2 million block stones. It is build around a hilltop.
With the decline of Buddhism in Java, the Borobudur was merely forgotten until Sir Thomas Raffles cleared the site in 1815. A century later the Dutch started archeological work and in between 1973 and 1983 a huge restoration project was undertaken to finish the job.
In 1985 bombs explode planted by opponent of Suharto but again the site was restored and became UNESCO World Heritage in 1991.
I visited the Borobudur in 1992 the first time. At the time it was already a major tourist attraction but nothing prepared me for what it is now. At the entrance ticket counter there are hundreds of souvenir-, food and drink stalls. However, once inside there are no more hawkers. Only official guides can be rented, which might be worth if you know nothing about the monument.
The best way to experience the power of Borobudur is to follow the mandala. The idea of the 3 dimensional mandala is to walk inside (clockwise), and complete the gallery before going to the next level. Once on top, you will enter the area of light and, if you want to believe, feel the difference and be a little enlightened.
On the way you will see many sculptures of the Buddha, every day life in 8th and 9th century and episodes of the Buddha's life (further up). For some the size of the monument itself is impressive enough but I was even more impressed by the details of the sculpturing in the corridors.
On top there are stupas with Buddha's inside. Two of these stupas are opened so you can see what it looks like. On top of the monument stands the central stupa, the magnificent final touch on the monument. The Borobudur never fails to impress.
Most visitors to Borobudur come by bus. There are many buses during the day from Yogya but if you are on bicycle, you will want to cycle the back roads. Here's how you can cycle from Yogya avoiding the busy road to Magelang.
If you want to continue to West Java (or coming from there), than there is no need to go back to Yogyakarta. Instead, follow the road to Purworejo. After several km's the nasty but not long climb follows to the junction with Wonosobo. This is not the main road to Wonosobo, that one is much further and closer to Purworejo and is a much better and easier to cycle road then the road at the top of the climb.
Stay in Borobudur
I would recommend to stay in Borobudur for a night. I stayed at the Lotus Guesthouse which has views on the Borobudur. It has a decent restaurant and is cheap. There are several other guesthouses in town too.
Shopping in Borobudur
Yes, you can buy quite a lot of souvenirs just outside the gates of the Borobudur. In fact, it's hard to avoid the stalls and even if you are not interested, the hawkers will try to lure you in a sale. It may take a little persistence to ignore them if you don't want anything. It's all part of the increasing tourism to Borobudur UNESCO World heritage.
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My favorite city in Java, full of culture and plenty to see, and not crazy busy as for example Bandung, Surabaya or Jakarta.
The back road to Borobudur
One of the nicest roads to cycle is not the main road to Magelan but a small back lane, here's more about that lovely little road:
Hotels in Yogyakarta
There's a hotel in every price class in Yogya, check out what we have available:
The Dieng Plateau does not get the visitors the area deserves to see. There are several small temples to visit. This plus the magnificent scenery and lakes make the plateau a well spend day out of Yogyakarta.