Yogyakarta, together with its twin city Surakarta (Solo), is The palace of Yogyakarta. This city was the seat of power that produced the magnificent temples of Borobudurand Prambanan in the 8th and 9th century and the new powerful Mataram kingdom of the 16th and 17th century. Until today this city continues to produce philosophers, thinkers, master painters and master craftsmen.
Whilst steeped in rich tradition and history, Yogyakarta, lovingly known as Yogya, continues to remain young. This is university town, where students from all over Indonesia from different ethnic backgrounds flock to pursue knowledge and wisdom. For this reason, Yogya is both very Javanese and at the same time a melting pot of different Indonesian cultures.
Yogyakarta (or Jogjakarta) is known as Neverending Asia for its endless attractions and appeal. As one of Indonesia’s 32 provinces, this city is one of the foremost cultural centers of Indonesia. From climbing the magnificent Borobudur temple, visiting the Keraton, – the Sultan’s Palace – to watching silversmiths produce amazing jewelry atKota Gede, to shopping up a storm at Maliobororoad, you’ll never be bored in this relatively small yet bustling city.
Yogya is a city of history. In the 18th. and 19th centuries, it was the seat of the re-emerged Mataram kingdom. Today many of the Mataram traditions live on and are a part of the city’s daily life. Yogya is a place to come to connect with the centuries old traditions, culture and the history of Java as well as bask in the friendliness of the local people. It is a place with a unique charm which seldom fails to captivate visitors.
From natural wonders, local art and traditions, examples of Javanese heritage to delicious culinary delights, Yogya is a city with numerous attractions. This is why Yogya is the second most visited destination in Indonesia after Bali.
Overshadowed in the north by the smoldering Mt Merapi volcano and bordered to the south by the pounding Indian Ocean, the graceful old city of Yogya has a mild climate making it easy for visitors to plan activities without worrying about intense heat. The beautiful green landscape of this central part of Java makes merely traveling from one destination to another an experience.
In addition, there are about 70,000 handicraft industries based in Yogya and other facilities like various accommodations and transportations, numerous food services, travel agents, and proper tourism support, and also tour a security team support called the Tourism Police, locally known as Bhayangkara Wisata.
The people of Yogyakarta are known for their hospitality and good manners. If you show proper respect, you will be welcome in any part of the city.
While it’s a bustling cultural hub, Yogya is also slower paced and more relaxed than other cities in Indonesia. Many locals consider Yogya the perfect place to retire because of its air of serenity, tolerance and harmony. There is a reason why people say that time moves slower in Yogya.
Yogya is the center of Javanese arts from the refined court dances to modern arts in painting and performing art.
Yogya is famous as a centre of traditional textile production, particularly batik. The distinctive batik of Yogya uses the basic colors of brown, indigo and white with in geometric designs. Many young artists of Yogya have also embraced the modern art of batik-painting.
Yogya is also known for its leather and wooden puppets crafts used for traditional shadow-puppet performances, as well as wooden puppet performances (wayang golek) that are used to act out ancient epics which contain popular but deep philosophical thoughts and teachings.
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Throughout Java and Indonesia, Yogya is known for it’s authentic but reasonably priced Indonesian cuisine. Food from this region is relatively mild and sweet.
If you wish to dine like royalty, the private home of the Sultan’s brother, Hadinegoro, is open for groups of 30 people and for special occasions. Here you will be served authentic royal food served only to the Sultans (for further information contact Vista Travel at Garuda Hotel). There are also special restaurants catering to international group tours.
While you are here, take the chance to sample many of the regional delicacies that are unique to this area. From bakpia cookies, wingko babat, to enting-enting kacang, visitors will be delighted to find so many delicious options. Make sure you avoid sambal or chili-based dishes unless you like spicy food.
Some of the most popular dishes from Yogya include:
Gudeg – A specialty of Yogya this stew of jackfruits simmered in coconut cream and spices is served with chicken, egg or tofu. Locals will tell you that gudeg tastes best when eaten at sidewalk stalls in the evening.
Ayam goreng – Fried chicken simmered in coconut cream with pepper, onions and coriander.
Wedang uwuh – Although the literal translation of this local drink may be ‘rubbish drink’ it tastes like anything but rubbish and is actually a delicious combination of cloves, nutmeg, ginger and palm sugar.
Restaurants all along Malioboro road serve refreshing shaved ice drinks with every imaginable tropical fruits in season as well as a variety of Indonesian, Chinese and Western dishes.
There are a number of warungs or local food stores close to Prambanan where you can grab a snack or a meal of some local Indonesian cuisine.
Described as a shopper’s paradise, Yogya is the place to come to shop, where you can buy anything from traditional handicrafts to exotic batik prints. From the authentic silver workshops in Kota gede where you can pick up beautiful hand made jewelry, to the Ngasem bird market where you can browse at the exotic animals on sale, shopping options here are endless. Whether you’re in the market for cultural artifacts or some simple souvenirs to bring to your friends and family back home, Yogya has it all.
The most famous of handicrafts in Yogya is its Javanese batik. Many factories produce traditional hand-drawn batik tulis as well as the cheaper stamped batik cap. You can buy material and organise a tailor to create a custom made batik design but there is also no shortage of ready to wear batik clothing on sale. In many factories visitors are welcome to view batik being made in the back of showrooms. Everything from batik shirts, accessories, tablecloths, pillowcases and sarongs are on sale. One of the best known regions for finding batik is of Jl. Tirtodipuran in the South.
The Beringharjo market is Yogya’s central market, with a collection of goods and wares quite unlike anywhere else. Entering into the market off the street and you enter into a different world. This is a place where tropical fruits are piled high, colorful batik is on display and everything from second hand car parts to bamboo baskets are on sale. As you navigate your way down the narrow aisles and hidden corners, beware of pickpockets and ‘guides’ who attach themselves to you. While some stores may have fixed prices, it is customary to haggle so bargaining is the order of the day.
Yogya has a reputation for it’s silver and gold wares. For silver products, try the streets of Kota Gede where silver factories selling jewelry, plates, vases and souvenirs line the streets. A visit to Yogya would not be complete without experiencing Malioboro street. Rows of shops and outlets sell all kinds of souvenirs. If you want to test your bargaining skills you can try haggling with the street vendors. Remember that all’s fair in love and shopping.
There is no shortage of accommodations options in Yogya. From five star luxury hotels to budget losmens, there is accommodation to suit every type of traveler.
Visit the ancient Hindu temple of Prambanan which is 19 km from Yogya. The majestic Buddhist temple Borobudur can be reached by car from Yogya within one hour.
Yogya’s palace or keraton (also known as kraton or karaton) is a splendid example of traditional Javanese architecture, there is simply no other place like it.
With a collection of precious artifacts and relics which could rival museums the world over, the Sonobudoyo Museum is a treasure trove of ancient wonders.
The Taman Sari complex is a remarkable collection of ancient ruins, which were once a grand palace built in the center of a huge, man made lake.
Visit the museum of Affandi, one of Indonesia’s famous modern painters.
From Yoga visit traditional villages like Kasongan, a village of pottery makers that produce traditional as well as modern handicrafts in pottery.
From Yogya have an adventure and can climb up the active volcano Mt. Merapi, or enjoy eco-tours visiting rural villages like Candirejo near Borobudur, or Kembang Arum in Sleman, Yogyakarta.
There are numerous daily flights from Jakarta, Surabaya and Bali to Yogya. Yogyakarta is also served by Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur. There is a regular train service between Yogya and other major cities. Yogya is also easily accessible by road.
Once you arrive, there are a number of ways you can explore Yogya.
Walking is a great way to take in the sights and meet the locals though it can get hot by the middle of the day.
Embrace the local mode of transport and try a becak (pronounced be-chak), a traditional three wheeled pedal powered cart. Remember to negotiate the price before you start on your journey.
Traditional horse drawn carts known as andong can be found in the tourist areas of Yogya. These are a relaxed and romantic way to take in the sights.
You may wish to organise a car and driver for the duration of your stay in Yogya.
If you know how to ride a motorbike you can hire one in the city.
Taxi’s are available and can be arranged through your hotel.
Buses are the major form of public transportation here however their hours of operation can be limited. If you take a bus beware of pickpockets.
Yogyakartans are fond of using compass points when giving directions, so it’s a good idea to remind yourself which direction is North before you get there. If you ask someone for directions they are just as likely to say “Go North or East” than “Go to the left or right.”
To get around Yogya, try the “becak” the three-wheeled cab, or the traditional 4-wheeled horse-drawn carts called “andong”.
While is no formal dress code at Prambanan temple, this is a holy site so it is advised the visitors dress modestly.
If you are visiting in the evening remember to bring some warm clothes as it can get quite cool.