As the gateway to some of Indonesia’s most revered Hindu and Buddhist sites, Yogyakarta is the cultural and spiritual heart of Java, and the surrounding countryside is dotted with magnificent temple complexes. Here are a few that you won’t want to miss.
A UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest Buddhist temple on earth, Borobudur tops to-do lists for first-time visitors to Yogyakarta. Take a walking tour of the vast temple complex and marvel at the towering stone stupas, decorated with more than 2,500 relief panels and 500 statues of Buddha, or opt for a Borobudur sunset tour for memorable views.
Though smaller than Borobudur, the Hindu temples of Prambanan are just as impressive. Built by the Mataram Kingdom in Central Java in the 9th century, the complex includes shrines, statues, and temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and other gods. It’s possible to visit both Prambanan and Borobudur on a day tour from Yogyakarta; combine it with a Yogyakarta city tour or a stop at Merapi Volcano.
Pawon and Mendut Temples
Located just east of Borobudur, the Buddhist temples of Pawon and Mendut are often included on a day tour from Yogyakarta. Built during the Sailendra dynasty, the Pawon temple is the older of the two, and it’s known for its beautiful Kalpataru (the Tree of Life) reliefs. The Mendut Temple, meanwhile, contains a remarkably preserved statue of Dhyani Buddha.
Sukuh and Cetho Temples
Two of Central Java’s lesser-known temples are the Hindu temples of Sukuh and Cetho, located in the foothills of the Mount Lawu volcano. You an explore both on a day trip from Yogyakarta—it’s a scenic journey through rice fields and lush countryside. The temples are known for their unique architectural style and terraces, and share similarities to Mayan temples in Mexico.