Indonesia, as with most of South East Asia, is littered with incredible temples from various religions. Some sit high on mountain tops while others are lost to the jungle, forgotten for centuries. The city of Jogyakarta, Indonesia is no different with many temples both within the city limits and scattered around the countryside.
Thanks to the preservation efforts by a group called PT.Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur, Prambanan & Ratu Boko (its a mouth full!), the 3 main temples surrounding this city have been restored (or in the process of) for the world to see. This National Authority Agency is set with the task of preserving the history and culture surrounding Borobudur, Prambanan and Ratu Boko temples.
With infamous Borobudur Temple and equally impressive Prambanan Temple listed under UNESCO World Culture Heritage & Archaeological Parks, this group has taken it upon themselves to restore and protect these beautiful temples and archaeological sites. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend taking a day to visit all 3.
This temple needs no introduction as it’s Indonesia’s most famous. Cambodia has Angkor Wat, Thailand has the Grand Palace, and Indonesia has Borobudur.
Borobudur was constructed between AD 780 and 840 and was built as a pilgrimage spot for those who wish to embrace the teachings of Buddha and achieve enlightenment. It was lost to the jungle for centuries until British explorer Sir Thomas Sanford Raffles discovered it in 1814. In 1835 the temple was cleared of all vegetation for the world to see.
Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and is adorned with 504 meditating statues of Buddha. Buddha can be seen sitting in 6 distinct poses.
When viewed from above, the temple appears to have been constructed in a Mandala pattern. This design represents the universe in Buddha’s teachings. Made up of 9 lower, square platforms, 6 middle terraces and 3 circular top terraces, it symbolize the 3 zones of consciousness.
Borobudur is a mere 1 hrs drive west of Yogyakarta and is best visited at sunrise. Not only are guests treated with a spectacular sunrise view of the surrounding jungle, it’s also the least busy time.
Prambanan temple is more of a temple complex than one large structure like Borobudur, but incredible none the less. Not to be out done by Borobudur, Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia. Built in the 9th century, under the Mataram Kingdom, the site was used for religious and royal ceremonies.
Although there are many temples there are 3 main ones. The tallest temple standing just under 48 m high was built for Shiva, the destroyer of the universe. The other 2 temples, both standing 33 m high, were built for Vishnu the keeper of the universe and Brahma the creator of the universe.
While many of the temples remain in piles of rock as the complex has succumbed to the effects of earthquakes and the effects of time, it is slowly being restored. Those temples that have been rebuilt are open to the public to enter. Steep stair cases lead you up and inside to a small room, usually housing a statue. Some of the temples have upper walkways allowing you to walk all the way around them.
In the evening after the sun has set you can watch the Ramayana Ballet. There is no speaking in the ballet but rather traditional Javanese dance, music and acting.
Last but not least is Ratu Boko. Located only 3 km from Prambanan, it offers incredible views of the surrounding countryside. Sitting high on a hill top you can see Prambanan Temple complex from its entrance. Smaller and not nearly as reconstructed as the other two, it does have some interesting features to explore.
Ratu Boko is not actually a temple but rather the remains of a palace from the 8th century. 2 entrance gates sit on a small hill and welcome you to the complex.
Much of the palace and grounds are nothing more than rock floors and one story high walls. Foot paths with signs direct you through the complex. At the back of Ratu Boko you’ll find some low lying caves.
Ratu Boko is said to have some of the best sunsets given its lofty perch on the hill top. There is a restaurant with bathrooms are the main entrance where you buy your tickets and is the perfect place to enjoy a cold drink.
All 3 of these temples can be visited in a single day. If time allows, I suggest heading to Borobudur for sunrise, Prambanan next and finish off the day watching the sunset from Ratu Boko. All 3 are incredible structures, and worth a visit if you find yourself exploring Yogyakarta.