Of all the 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia, Java is king. It may not have the beaches of Bali, the jungles of Kalimantan, or the remoteness of Papua, but it’s the heart of the country, a heart with more drive and energy than any other island in this vast archipelago. With 120 million people crammed into an area half the size of Great Britain, Java is one populated place. And with such unfathomable human resources, it’s no wonder that the nation’s political and economic past, present and future are decided within its shores. For many, Indonesia quite simply begins and ends with Java.
Jakarta, the capital, is a colossal metropolis with all the problems of a city vastly overstretched; it won’t grab your attention for long unless you’re a mad shopper or über-urbanite. But the rest of the island has offerings that shouldn’t be ignored. A string of volcanoes lace the island like fiery rubies. Some are docile giants, while others blow their top at the drop of a Javanese fez; Gunung Bromo is a must for any visitor. Pounding the southern coast is the Indian Ocean; a magical sight, but it can be dangerous for swimming. There are, however, some fine beach enclaves, such as Pangandaran, Java’s premier beach resort, and world-class surf breaks at Ujung Kulon and Alas Purwo National Parks. Java’s calmer northern side hides less-developed tropical islands. Inspired by such natural beauty, and influenced by Hindu-Buddhist, Muslim and Western invaders, the Javanese have over the centuries created temples and kraton (palaces) of unique splendour. The Buddhist temple Borobudur is an architectural wonder and some of the oldest Hindu temples in Java can be found in the lofty Dieng Plateau. Cultural Yogyakarta and Solo are perfect places to sample Javanese art.
Best places to stay in Java
Indonesia - Java (Chapter)
Boasting a dazzling array of bewitching landscapes – iridescent rice paddies, smoking volcanoes, rainforest and savannah – as well as megacities and profound traditions in art, spiritualism and learning, Java is the most complex and culturally compelling island in Indonesia.
Travels to Hell: inside Indonesia's Ijen volcano
Nobody in Europe had heard of the Ijen volcanic crater during the European Middle Ages, when painters were busy decorating churches and chapels with paintings depicting the gates of Hell. If they had, those artists would have needed no further inspiration: here is a real life Hell and it smells of sulphur.
Java destination guides
Indonesia's sprawling capital of steamy streets and thumping nightlife.
Where to go in July
Have some free time this July but don't know what to do with it? Check out these top destinations from the Lonely Planet Magazine: Indonesia The wet season long gone, July is the best time to explore Indonesia.
Jakarta to Ubud
Don’t be fooled into thinking Indonesia is ‘just another island getaway’, because the scale of experiences you’ll have in this magical country are truly epic. Miles of empty beaches, steamy verdant rainforests, volcano studded valleys, culture rich cities, ancient temples - and that’s just the places they tell you about.
Bangkok to Bali on a Shoestring
Slurp down rice noodles under the streetlights of Bangkok and wander the paddies and temples of Java—this epic adventure covers the best of Southeast Asia. Party in chaotic Bangkok, bliss out on stunning beaches and gaze out across the ‘sea of sand’ from Mt Bromo’s summit at sunrise.
Indonesia’s mountains of fire
While Indonesia’s volcanoes are often noted for the beauty of their spectacular peaks, steaming craters and view of the earth’s bubbling core, Mount Merapi, the country’s most active, took centre stage in October this year as a clear reminder of their deadly activity.