This guide includes things to do in Yogyakarta, including full costs and attractions, where to eat, how to get around Yogyakarta, scams to watch out for, what to wear and expect. And more!
This post most likely contains affiliate links to things such as products or services. I may receive a small commission if you use the links which costs you no extra but will help me keep this blog going.
INTRODUCTION TO YOGYAKARTA
Are you planning on visiting Yogyakarta? Also commonly known and pronounced as ‘Jogjakarta’, this city is often considered the cultural heart of Java with a budding expat community (although I was surprised to see very few Westerners here). There are many traditional activities to discover here and the palace here is still home to the royal family – yep, there’s still a monarchy in Indonesia. Anyone else completely oblivious to this?
Although Yogyakarta is arguably missing the charm of places such as Penang (Malaysia), Chiang Mai (Thailand) or Hoi An (Vietnam), Yogyakarta’s most well-known activity – watching the sunrise over the world’s largest Buddhist temple – knocks any single attraction in most Asian cities out of the water. I’m talking about Borobudur, an experience I’ll never forget. But don’t just stop there – Yogyakarta has more to offer than first meets the eye and is an integral stop on any Java itinerary.
ITINERARY SUGGESTIONS / THINGS TO DO IN YOGYAKARTA
THE ‘KRATON’ IN YOGYAKARTA
Once you’re settled into your accommodation, enjoy the sights of Yogyakarta city. It’s a nice introduction to the city and since much is walking distance, it’s a somewhat relaxed way to explore if Yogyakarta is your first stop in Java.
EXPLORE THE ‘KRATON’ AND GRAND PALACE
The main area to explore in Yogyakarta city is called the ‘Kraton’, a group of palaces built for the sultans of Yogya. You could spend a full day exploring here.Walking around the walls is free so no transport costs necessary unless your accommodation isn’t walking distance, in which case grab a local bus or download the go-jek taxi app – like Uber but it’s super cheap, especially for scooter taxis. Plus the app is more reliable in Java than it was in Bali (where taxi drivers would accept and then try to negotiate the cost in half… uh).
Entry to the grand palace costs 12K IDR to enter (around 1.2 AUD, 65p or 0.85 USD). Although it won’t blow you away in the same way other palaces in Asia will, a good reason to visit is that the cost includes daily traditional performances such as gamelan or puppetry.
THE WATER PALACE OR ‘TAMANSARI’
The 18th-century ‘water palace’ – so-called after it’s pleasure pools – is still not fully repaired after being damaged by war and an earthquake.Whilst on its own the sight looked worse for wear (but still worth visiting) thankfully the ticket also included entry to ‘Sumur Gumuling’, an underground mosque. It was fun walking around this area and exploring the tunnels. It reminds me of Escher – anyone else?
Cost: 12K IDR (1.2 AUD, 0.65 GBP, 0.84 USD)
I was advised this was the best museum for tourists in the city due to many artefacts on display and, rather importantly, explanations in both Indonesian and English. Honestly, I mostly visited to escape the heat. Can’t fault a good air con!
Artefacts on display include kulit puppets, batik, costumes and topeng masks. The kulit puppets take 12 days to make before they start colouring them. They are used for traditional shadow puppet theatre; you can see a traditional performances at the museum or all around Yogyakarta.
Museum Cost: 10k IDR, 1 AUD, £0.54, 0.71 USD
BOROBUDUR AND PRAMBANAN
The key reason to visit Yogyakarta is undoubtedly to see Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple. It’s also easy to combine this with Prambanan, a large Hindu temple, in one day. I’m keeping this brief as I’ve linked my full Borobudur sunrise tour below if you want more information!
BOROBUDUR AT SUNRISE
To view Borobudur at sunrise, you can either get picked up from your accommodation in Yogyakarta (via tour or private driver that morning) or stay overnight in Borobudur beforehand. Once you’ve arrived, you will begin the day at Manohara Hotel around 04:40 to pick up the ticket, which is just a few minutes walk to the temple. The sunrise ticket is ONLY available from Manohara Hotel: https://www.manoharaborobudur.com/en-gb
If you are on a tour, they will organise the ticket for you.If you are going at the regular entrance time of 6am or after, you can just by a normal ticket when you arrive.
Prambanan is a huge Hindu temple that can be as a combined day trip with Borobudur. Since Java is now predominantly Muslim now, it’s a huge reminder of how multicultural and diverse Java’s history is.Prambanan was built around the 9th century and unfortunately was damaged by several earthquakes. Despite the piles of cordoned-off rubble, thankfully the main structures are still intact and are very impressive.
COST OF BOROBUDUR SUNRISE TICKET: 475K IDR
Unfortunately, the entrance cost has recently gone up. It is 350K IDR for Indonesian visitors. You can only buy the sunrise ticket from Manohara.For up to date tickets costs including for children and students, please see here: https://www.manoharaborobudur.com/en-gb/new-page
COST OF REGULAR TICKET (after 6am): 325K IDR
COST OF A BOROBUDUR AND PRAMBANAN COMBINED TICKET: 520K IDR
PRAMBANAN ONLY TICKET: 325K
For my FULL guide to visiting Borobudur and Prambanan, you can read my more detailed guide. I’ve included my personal experience, full costs and full information on how to get there and booking tickets:
MORE THINGS TO DO IN YOGYAKARTA
UNIQUE, ECO-FRIENDLY LOCAL TOURS
Join Via Via on a unique street art tour or to take a bicycle ride to a local Javanese village. Their tour programme is both simple and unique at the same time, with an emphasis on tours which benefit the local community.
TAKE A COURSE
Batik courses are found around the Kraton area, a great way to meet locals and get stuck in with an immersive activity. Or head to Kota Gede, a district famous for silver, and see the silver artisans hard at work.
Take advantage of cheap southeast Asia while avoiding the harsh midday heat. The cheapest I could see for a reputable, highly reviewed spa was (example costs) 65k for a one hour massage or 90k for a 90 min massage.
Should you need to pick anything up, Malioboro Mall and the adjacent market Street should handle all your needs. There are lots of long skirts and long pants at the ready if you’ve realised how much you’ll stand out in Muslim city wearing shorts!
SEE A TRADITIONAL JAVANESE PERFORMANCE
There are many options around Yogyakarta to choose from. Museum Sonobudoyo is one option close to the city centre which shows puppet shows (wayang kulit) at 8pm every day. It lasts for 2 hours and you can purchase tickets at the museum.
Want to do something special? Watch a traditional Javanese ballet at the unforgettable setting of Prambanan, a huge Hindu temple just outside the temple. Read more information here: http://visitramayana.com/
DAY TRIPS FROM YOGYAKARTA
This is one of the most popular day trips from Yogyakarta on a tour, sometimes combined with Borobudur, or with a scooter. Be careful to check what tours include before booking them! For example, some tour reviews complained combined trios didn’t include the price of the jeep for Mt MERAPI, and they had to pay extra. You can hike or take a fun jeep ride up the mountain.
DIENG PLATEAU aka the Javanese Highlands
There is so much to do in Java that you might find choosing activities difficult! I saw the photos of Dieng and thought it looked so pretty, but ultimately there were other areas I wanted to explore more (cough cough, I booked an overnight bus to the paradise island Karimunjawa instead!)
Click here for a full list of tours from Yogyakarta with GetYourGuide.
HOW TO GET AROUND YOGYAKARTA
For solo and budget travellers, I highly recommend downloading the go-jek and grab taxi apps. (Like Uber.) They can be used for both motorcycle taxis and normal taxis. The prices are so cheap and they seemed more reliable here than in Bali. I recommend staying somewhere close to the Kraton area so you can mostly get around on foot. When it was too far or too hot, I used go-jek (motorbike taxi), one journey cost me 4K IDR and the other cost me 8K IDR.
Private cars are from around 400K IDR (40 AUD / 22.5 GBP / 28 USD) for sunrise or 500K IDR for a full day if booked in advance, negotiable in person. This is ideal for custom itineraries and groups.
Scooter rental shouldn’t cost more than 50K (5 AUD / 2.83 GBP / 3:53 USD) to 60K IDR per day and can often be rented directly from your accommodation.
GETTING TO / FROM YOGYAKARTA
You can fly into Yogyakarta from various transport hubs in Indonesia (including Jakarta and Bali) and there cheap direct flights from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.Yogyakarta’s Adisucipto International Airport is around a 35-minute taxi ride from the city. You can also get a train from the airport into the city.
The extensive train network around Java is one of the reasons why it’s a great destination for travellers! You can book train tickets online at www.traveloka.com/en or ask your accommodation to help you book. I recommend this as a fairly comfortable but still budget-friendly way to travel.
Ah you have no idea how fondly I look back at my local bus journeys across Java! Crowded, hours long and filled with locals walking down the aisle trying to sell snacks, sometimes while carrying a baby under one arm, the buses are largely a tourist-free zone. But it’s kinda fun its own way and I felt safe as a solo traveller (though I only did this in daylight hours). Tickets are purchased directly at any city’s bus station.
PRIVATE CAR/SCOOTER RENTAL:
As listed above, this is another way to travel cross-country around Java as well as inner-city. Remember Java is huge (much, much bigger than Bali) with less English-speaking citizens, so don’t choose to travel long distances here by scooter unless you have a motorbike license.
Organised tours can take you directly from Yogyakarta to many key attractions in Java, such as Mt Bromo, but can work out expensive. One for people with a higher budget and a time constraint.
BACKPACKER FRIENDLY SHARED CARS:
Unexpectedly, I was able to get a shared car/minibus to my next destination after Yogyakarta – the paradise island of Karimunjawa. For more information about this, I’ve written a separate blog post here:
WHAT TO WEAR
Note that, whilst Indonesia is a beautifully multicultural set of islands, Java is predominantly Muslim. Whilst the folk here are super friendly and the famous temples here are NOT Muslim, and thus there are no rules for clothing, dress respectfully and for the heat.
WHEN TO VISIT
Dry season in Java is April to October and note that temperatures can get very sticky after around 10am – at least that was my experience visiting in April. I highly recommend organising rest/travel days in Java on weekends where possible as it is highly populated so attractions can get densely crowded with local tourists on weekends.
If you need to buy a new sim card or top up an Indonesian sim card, you can do this at the Telkomsel stall at Loop Station. (Search loop station on google maps, it’s conveniently located next to the ‘kraton’ area.)
If you need more reliable WiFi throughout your trip, I advise looking for a portable ‘MiFi’ service. Currently, TepWireless appears to be the leading pocket WiFi for travellers with largely near 5* reviews. Check out TepWireless here.
SCAMS TO WATCH OUT FOR
I encountered the below scams on my first day! I have since googled them and they seem to be common scams.
THE ‘ART SHOW’
A guy will ask where you’re from and seem interested… Then he will start telling you about a nearby art show (he told me about a student art show). I just said no thank you and walked away. He told me ‘oh but it’s the last night!’ and looked very disgruntled when I continued walking off. Apparently, they get a commission if you buy something (usually a batik) and you’re really pressured. This scam has gone on for 30 years and the art show is always open. The next day, he saw me again and ran across the road towards me shouting ‘the art shows still on!’ and pointed in a different direction to the day before… Erm… No.
2. ‘GOVERNMENT TAX’
After you’ve paid entry to an attraction and gone in, some random guy who doesn’t work there will start yelling at you that you have to pay ‘government tax’ because you’re a tourist. Check correct prices beforehand and otherwise move on.
3. THE PUSHY BECAK
Not a scam but the becak drivers are VERY pushy. Don’t make eye contact or they will follow you down the streets like it’s a sport hahaha. Which is a weird sight since a becak basically looks just a bike attached to a giant adult pushchair… Just no.
WHERE TO EAT IN YOGYAKARTA
Warungs: For the cheapest (and best!) food, head to a local warung. They’ll be easy to spot all around the city. I like to find ones which are busy with tourists and locals alike so you know the food is good. While in Yogyakarta, look out for gudeg jogya, a traditional pulled jackfruit stew.
Vegans and vegetarians: Fortunate Coffee was just around the corner from my hostel. Giving them a shout out because the staff were SO FRIENDLY, the fully vegan and extensive menu was great (mostly their take on Asian dishes, but they had Western options too) and they let me sit there for hours on a rainy day with my laptop, sipping on good coffee.
Mediterranea: Treat yourself at cheap prices; this very highly rated restaurant is popular with Western tourists for its ambience and – you guessed it – Mediterranean menu. http://restobykamil.com/
TRAVEL SUSTAINABLY IN JAVA
To avoid using plastic bottles in Southeast Asia, I used to a Water To Go bottle.
The filters used in their BPA free water bottles are created based on technology originally developed for the NASA space programme. These provide safe water from any non-salt water source in the world.
Read more on their website and use the code HAG15 if you like what you see to get 15% off.
COMPLETE JAVA TRAVEL GUIDES