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Prambanan, World Heritage in Central Java


The Prambanan complex, just outside Yogyakarta (18km) is one of the wonders of Central Java. Nor surprisingly it is added in UNESCO's World Heritage list. I have visited it twice, the first time 18 years ago, and right now in April 2010. My diary in 1992 reads: "I prefer the Prambanan over Borobudur, it seems more sophisticated". Of course I was wrong. Prambanan and Borobudur are two different monuments with each their own beauty and power.

At the Prambanan, Java Indonesia, left my bike outside though
At the Prambanan, left my bike outside though

The Prambanan complex was build in the 9th century. It's a Hindu temple of extraordinary beauty. The complex is dedicated to Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Sustainer (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva).

Prambanan Central Java Prambanan Central Java
Prambanan Central Java

The main towers are up to 47 meters high and full of amazing art work. The temple was build after the Borobudur was completed and it might have been a Hindu response to the Buddhist Borobudur. The first of the many temples was build around 850AD but the complex was abandoned around 930AD, a mere 80 years later although they would be still used by the local population for worship.

Prambanan, Central Java

Reasons were that the Mataram court shifted to East Java. Other reasons can be the eruption of the volcano of Merapi which is located north of Prambanan, or a power struggle. That marked the beginning of the temple's decline. It was soon abandoned and began to deteriorate.

Prambanan Central Java
Remains of dozens of small temples we have no idea what they have exactly looked like

In the 16th century more damage was created by an earthquake and it took until the 19th century before they rediscovered by British surveyors. The Dutch took some sculptures with them as garden ornaments and native villagers using the foundation stones for construction material.

Details of the Prambanan complex
Details of the Prambanan complex

Proper reconstruction work was only began until the 1930's. The main building was completed around 1953. However, many of the sculptures and stone work has been stolen or re-used. Therefore a 100% restoration is impossible. Around the main temple you can see the remains of dozens of smaller temples of which there is no reconstruction possible.

Details of the Prambanan complex
More details that shows why Prambanan is UNESCO World Heritage

The Prambanan complex, although less famous then the nearby Borobudur, is a massive tourist attraction with millions of tourists, local and international visiting. You have to work yourself through a forest of hawkers, shop owners and souvenir stalls but once inside it's a magnificent place.

Candi Lumbung
Candi Lumbung, not far from the main complex

Don't forget to visit some of the slightly further away temples, more in ruins maybe but still worth to visit and... you will have the ruin for yourself.

Central Java Prambanan temples

Prambanan is the easiest to visit from Yogyakarta which I did in 1992. This time I came from Solo, about 45 km away. It had been a pleasant ride with mostly not too crazy traffic. I cycled all around it before I went into the main complex.

Candi Sewu

Further on the way to Yogya there are a few more temples to visit, but many feel that after the main complex they have enough. You can stay in Prambanan town. There's a few hotels and guesthouses although most people, including me, prefer to stay in Yogyakarta, which is only 18km away.

Entrance gate to the Prambanan temples

The best thing is to be early at Prambanan, before the busloads of tourists come. I was there at 8.30 when it was still quiet and very enjoyable.

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Parangtritis Beach

An interesting day out of Yogya can lead to Parangtritis Beach, about 20 km south of the city. The beach is full of legends of the Queen of the South Sea. It's a nice day out of town.

Parangtritis Beach