At the heart of Bogor are the fabulous botanical gardens, known as the Kebun Raya, the city’s green lung of around 87 hectares. Governor General Raffles first developed a garden here, but the spacious grounds of the Istana Bogor (Presidential Palace) were expanded by Dutch botanist Professor Reinwardt, with assistance from London’s Kew Gardens, and officially opened in 1817. Colonial cash crops, such as tea, cassava, tobacco and cinchona, were first developed here by Dutch botanists.
Allow yourself at least half a day to enjoy Kebun Raya; keen gardeners could spend a week here and not be bored. It’s tricky to pick out highlights in such a verdant wonderland – there are more than 15,000 species of trees and plants – but the gardens are said to contain 400 types of palms, including the footstool palm native to Indonesia, which tops 40m. There’s a good stock of graceful pandan trees (look out for their unusual aerial roots) and some huge agave (used to make tequila) and cacti in the Mexican section. Drop by the Orchid House and take in the lovely, muddy ponds, which have dozens of giant water lilies over a metre across, and look out for monitor lizards, exotic bird life and deer. The one nitpick is that signage isn't the garden's strong suit.
Near the main entrance of the gardens is a small memorial, erected in memory of Olivia Raffles, who died in 1814 and was buried in Batavia. There is also a cemetery near the palace with Dutch headstones including the tomb of DJ de Eerens, a former governor general.
Crowds flock here on Sunday, but the gardens are quiet at most other times. The southern gate is the main entrance; other gates are only open on Sunday and holidays. Don't miss the delightful Grand Garden Café, the perfect spot for lunch.