Must see attractions in Java

  • Top ChoiceSights in Prambanan

    Prambanan Temple

    Comprising the remains of some 244 temples, World Heritage–listed Prambanan is Indonesia's largest Hindu site and one of Southeast Asia's major attractions. The highlight is the central compound, where eight main and eight minor temples are assembled on a raised platform – an architectural crescendo of carved masonry and staircases, the high note of which is Candi Shiva Mahadeva. Prambanan sits within a large park dotted with lesser temples – a day is needed to do the site justice.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Borobudur

    Borobudur Temple

    Dating from the 8th and 9th centuries, and built from two million blocks of stone, Borobudur is the world's largest Buddhist temple and one of Indonesia's most important cultural sites. The temple takes the form of a symmetrical stone stupa, wrapped around a hill and nestled in a compound of trimmed lawns fringed with tropical hardwoods. Remarkable for the detail of the stone carving, this beautiful monument looks particularly enigmatic at dawn and dusk – a sight worth the extra entry fee.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Ijen Plateau

    Kawah Ijen

    The Ijen plateau's most extraordinary sight is the magnificent turquoise sulphur lake of Kawah Ijen. A night hike to the crater in which the lake boils will introduce you to blue fire, spectacular scenery and a group of men with what must be one of the world's most unusual jobs. Pay entry fees at the PHKA post.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Yogyakarta

    Kraton

    Beside the southern alun-alun (main square), Yogya's enormous kraton (palace) is the cultural and political heart of this fascinating city. Effectively a walled city, this complex of pavilions and residences is home to around 25,000 people and encompasses a market, shops, cottage industries, schools and mosques. Around 1000 of the inhabitants are employed by the resident sultan. Although it's technically part of the kraton, there's a separate entrance (and ticket) for the Pagelaran Pavilion, overlooking the northern alun-alun.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Gunung Lawu

    Candi Sukuh

    In a magnificent position 900m above the Solo plain with fine views of Gunung Lawu, Candi Sukuh is one of Java’s most enigmatic and striking temples. It’s not a large site, but it's beautifully proportioned with a truncated pyramid of rough-hewn stone. Fascinating reliefs and Barong statues decorate the facade. It’s clear that a fertility cult was practised here: several explicit carvings have led to Sukuh being dubbed the ‘erotic’ temple. It’s a quiet, isolated place with a potent atmosphere.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Merdeka Square & Central Jakarta

    Museum Nasional

    The National Museum is the best of its kind in Indonesia and an essential visit. The enormous collection begins around an open courtyard of the 1862 building, which is stacked with magnificent millennia-old statuary including a colossal 4.5m stone image of a Bhairawa king from Rambahan in Sumatra, who is shown trampling on human skulls. The ethnology section is superb, with Dayak puppets and wooden statues from Nias sporting beards (a sign of wisdom) plus some fascinating textiles.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Merdeka Square & Central Jakarta

    Merdeka Square

    It is here that Jakartans come to take a breather from the traffic. The figurative centre of Jakarta, Merdeka Square ( merdeka means independence) is actually a trapezoid measuring almost 1 sq km. In the 19th century, the Dutch called it Koningsplein (Kings Square) and it became a focal point for the city after they moved the government here from old Batavia (Kota). It's always had an important role in local life. The main entrance is on the south side.

  • Top ChoiceSights in West Java

    Ujung Kulon National Park

    On the remote southwestern tip of Java, this Unesco World Heritage–listed national park has remained an outpost of prime rainforest and untouched wilderness, virgin beaches and healthy coral reefs. Relatively inaccessible, few people visit Indonesia’s first national park, but it is one of the most rewarding in all Java.

  • Sights in South Jakarta

    RUCI Art Space & Cafe

    RUCI Art Space has become a favourite on the city's burgeoning art scene. Occupying an industrial space in the hip neighbourhood of Senopati, the gallery hosts regular solo and group exhibitions from local contemporary artists. Work ranges from painting and photography to installation art. A large cafe is attached, decorated with designer furniture and selling drinks (coffee from 30,000Rp), mains (noodle and rice dishes from 55,000Rp, tacos from 35,000Rp) and desserts (milk fritters, panna cotta, cinnamon banana fritters from 35,000Rp).

  • Sights in Yogyakarta

    Sono-Budoyo Museum

    This treasure chest is one of the best museums in Yogya. It is only small but is home to a first-class collection of Javanese art, including wayang kulit puppets, topeng (masks), kris and batik. The courtyard houses some Hindu statuary and artefacts from further afield, including superb Balinese carvings. Wayang kulit performances are held here.

  • Sights in Surabaya

    House of Sampoerna

    Undoubtedly the city’s best-presented attraction, the House of Sampoerna is home to one of Indonesia’s most famous kretek cigarette manufacturers (now owned by US giant Altria, formerly Philip Morris). Whatever you think about the tobacco industry, this factory and museum make a fascinating place to visit. The building itself is a wonderful 19th-century Dutch structure, originally an orphanage but later converted into a theatre (indeed, Charlie Chaplin once dropped by).

  • Sights in West Java

    Gunung Halimun National Park

    This mixed-use national park is home to small swatches of primary rainforest, but also includes plantations such as the Nirmala Tea Estate. The park's best feature is the rich montane forest in the highland regions around Gunung Halimun (1929m), its tallest peak. The scenery is ravishing and there's a lot of wildlife (though most of it is hard to see), including langurs and gibbons as well as profuse bird life. Several happy days could be spent hiking here.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Semarang

    Old City

    Semarang’s atmospheric old quarter, often referred to by its Dutch name, the Outstadt, is well worth investigating. Until recently, most of the area’s colonial buildings were abandoned as city authorities focused on new-builds rather than shoring up past legacies. Today, however, a revived interest in the area with its obvious potential for tourism has led to a new investment, and coffee shops, stylish restaurants and other attractions now occupy the tastefully renovated townhouses.

  • Sights in Gunung Lawu

    Candi Cetho

    Candi Cetho (pronounced 'Cheto') is spread over terraces rising up the misty hillside, on the northern face of Gunung Lawu at around 1400m. Thought to date from around 1350, the candi (temple) closely resembles a Balinese temple in appearance, though it combines elements of Shivaism and fertility worship. The entrance is marked by temple guardians and there's a striking platform with a turtle head and a large lingam on the upper terrace.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Solo

    Sangiran Museum of Ancient Man

    With the largest collection of Homo erectus fossils in the world (the bones of 70 individuals), Sangiran is an important archaeological excavation site. This was where ‘Java Man’ (Pithecanthropus erectus) was unearthed by a Dutch professor in 1936 – a discovery celebrated in this excellent museum, Krikilan's only attraction. On display are skulls (one of Homo erectus), various pig and hippopotamus teeth, and fossil exhibits, including mammoth bones and tusks. Large dioramas suggest the fossils' prehistoric context.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Yogyakarta

    Taman Sari

    This once-splendid pleasure park of palaces, pools and waterways, built between 1758 and 1765, functioned as the playground of the sultan and his entourage. It's said that the sultan had the Portuguese architect of this elaborate retreat executed, to keep his hidden pleasure rooms secret. Today the complex is in ruins, damaged by Diponegoro’s Java War and an earthquake in 1865, but enough has been restored to recapture its former glory.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Borobudur

    Mendut Temple & Monastery

    This exquisite temple, around 3.5km east of Borobudur, may look insignificant compared with its mighty neighbour, but it houses the most outstanding statue in its original setting of any temple in Java. The magnificent 3m-high figure of the Buddha is flanked by Bodhisattvas: Lokesvara on the left and Vairapana on the right. The Buddha is also notable for his posture: he sits Western-style with both feet on the ground. Admission includes entry to Candi Pawon, a Buddhist temple, 2km west.

  • Sights in Ambarawa

    Ambarawa Train Station Museum

    Fans of vintage railways will love this museum, located in the premises of the old Koening Willem I station, a couple of kilometres outside of town on the road to Magelang. The station opened in 1873 and still sports a tiled passenger terminal, old clocks, conductor offices filled with vintage typewriters and ticket windows stocked with telegraph machines. The stars of the show, however, are the 22 turn-of-the-century steam engines.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Dieng Plateau

    Telaga Warna

    Ringed by highland forest and steep-sided vegetable terraces, this lake is renowned for its exquisite colour. Ranging from a delicate turquoise to a rich cobalt blue, the hue of the water is determined by the sulphur deposits that bubble up from the depths. A trail circumnavigates both Telaga Warna and neighbouring Telaga Pengilon, paved in concrete for most of the way. The lakeside offers lots of secluded spots for a picnic and opportunities to hike along paths through neighbouring terraces.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kota & Glodok

    Taman Fatahillah

    Kota’s central cobblestone square, surrounded by imposing Dutch colonial buildings, is Jakarta's most attractive location and a popular gathering spot for tourists and locals. The stately bell-towered former town hall (1627) now houses the excellent Jakarta History Museum, while the former Palace of Justice (1866) building has been transformed into the Museum Seni Rupa Dan Keramik, showcasing traditional and contemporary Indonesian artists. Also here is Museum Wayang, featuring the best wayang (flat wooden puppets) collection in Java.