As home to the great world-class monuments of Borobudur and Prambanan, this is the must-see region of Java. Jakarta may be the nation’s capital, but the Javan identity is at its strongest here, in the island’s historic heartland. This is where Java’s first major Indian-inspired civilisation originated and it served as the stronghold of the great Islamic sultanates centred on the kraton (walled city palaces) of Yogyakarta and Solo. Today, Central Java (Jawa Tengah) remains the province where the island’s cultural traditions are most readily observable.
Although Central Java has a reputation for a short fuse when contending with religious and political sentiments, it’s a relaxed, easy-going province for visitors. Yogyakarta (at the centre of its own quasi-independent ‘special region’ stretching from the south coast to Gunung Merapi) and Solo, just 65km to the northeast, are Java’s most interesting cities. But even Semarang, the province’s busy, maritime capital, has some charm.