One of the world’s greatest megalopolises, Jakarta is a dynamic and vibrant city. Its chaotic charm and juxtapositions can be found on every street. City of Contrasts From the steamy, potent streets of Chinatown and Glodok to Kota’s vestiges of a colonial past, the old city is the prequel to Jakarta's development.
East Java (Jawa Timur) is a wild, rolling region of dizzying peaks, smoking volcanoes and unspoilt panoramas. Dotted across this landscape you'll discover ancient temples being swallowed by a riot of vegetation, national parks where growls, barks, and squawks echo from the undergrowth, and stunning beaches with world-class surfing.
Many tourists only experience the lush, volcanic panoramas of West Java (Jawa Barat) through the murky window of a lumbering bus or train, but this dramatic, diverse region has plenty to detain the inquisitive traveller who enjoys breaking away from the standard Java traveller circuit. Historically, it's known as Sunda, and its people and language are Sundanese.
If Jakarta is Java’s financial and industrial powerhouse, Yogyakarta is its soul. Central to the island’s artistic and intellectual heritage, Yogyakarta (pronounced ‘Jogjakarta’ and called Yogya, 'Jogja', for short) is where the Javanese language is at its purest, the arts at their brightest and its traditions at their most visible.
Central Java’s north coast doesn't feature on many travellers' itineraries, except as a gateway to the Karimunjawa Islands, but this steamy strip of land is not without charm. For many centuries the coast was a major trading post for merchants from Arabia, India and China and multiculturalism continues to flourish today in the cuisine and architecture of the region.
A city of punks and prayer, serious religion and serious coffee. Here are teeming markets and good shopping, thriving cafes in reclaimed Dutch relics, palpable warmth and camaraderie on street corners and traffic everywhere you look. Almost everything great and terrible about Indonesia can be found in Bandung.
Surabaya is like a bottle of wine: it gets better the more you get to know it. Give it time and you'll discover that Surabaya has many quixotic corners of interest. Its historic Arab Quarter is a fascinating labyrinth of lanes, and the city has one of Indonesia’s biggest Chinatowns and some impressive, though disintegrating, Dutch buildings.
Steamy Semarang, with its giant port, rapidly developing city centre and affluent outskirts, is home to a large Chinese population whose influence on local life is evident in the city's culture and cuisine. The inner core of the city dates back to the Dutch colonial period and many of the fine old buildings from this era are being renovated.
With leafy, colonial-era boulevards and a breezy climate, Malang moves at a far more leisurely pace than the regional capital, Surabaya. It’s a cultured city with several important universities, and is home to a large student population. The central area is not too large and is quite walkable.
Situated on a narrow isthmus, with a broad stretch of sand on either side and a thickly forested national park on the nearby headland, Pangandaran is west Java’s premier beach resort. It's built-up, especially toward the south end where a jumble of concrete block towers stand shoulder to shoulder across the channel from the national park.
‘A romantic little village’ is how Sir Stamford Raffles described Bogor when he made it his country home during the British interregnum. As an oasis of unpredictable weather – it is credited with 322 thunderstorms a year – cool, quiet Bogor was the chosen retreat of colonials escaping the stifling, crowded capital.
Together with Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Bagan in Myanmar, Borobudur ranks as one of the great cultural icons of Southeast Asia. Looming above a patchwork of bottle-green paddy fields and slivers of tropical forest, this colossal Buddhist monument has survived volcanic eruptions, terrorist attack and the 2006 earthquake.