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The heart of the nation, Java is a complex island of great antiquity: this, after all, is where ancient Java Man stood upright and walked abroad. As such the island, home today to 140 million people and the most populated island on earth, is defined primarily by people.

Human ingenuity has left the island sprinkled with ancient treasures, such as the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. It has also shaped a culture that resonates in modern life, as expressed through the artistic traditions of Yogyakarta and Solo, and contributes to the modern dynamism of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. Java's megacities may be crowded and gridlocked but they have a restless energy that is magnetic.

People have shaped the natural landscape too, giving it an urban texture that runs in slithers through the pea-green paddy fields. Add in nature's splendours – smoking volcanoes, rainforest and polished white beaches – and Java becomes irresistible.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Java.