Visiting Yogyakarta was one of the biggest surprises on our trip so far. I was expecting a big, loud and dirty city with heavy traffic but Jogja is nothing like this. As locals explained to me, for a big, loud and dirty city with heavy traffic I would have to continue to Jakarta. So if you are a fan of big, bustling cities without a soul, skip Jogja and head to Jakarta directly. You can read about my 48 hours trip to Jakarta in another post here. Otherwise, spend as many days as possible in Jogja.
It is cultural, vibrant, energetic and dynamic. It offers beautiful nature sights around, temples of all religions, delicious street food, funny transportation vehicles and also beaches. Plus people in Jogja are eminently kind, helpful and gracious. We experienced so many strange, random, cordial and funny situations that we felt in love with the city right after few hours. Happy Traveler tip – be ready for taking a lot of pictures with locals. They love to collect pictures with tourists, as you can ready here on my facebook page.
How to get to Yogyakarta
Jogja is the most touristic city in Java and it is often visited by locals from whole Indonesia. Non-Indonesian tourists usually visit Jogja for a few days on a way to or from Bali. But actually, there are so many amazing places, that you could spend 2 weeks in Jogja and still not explore all of them.
From Bali, you can fly, go by bus or go by train. While bus and train stops in Jogja city center, from the airport you have to take a train and go to the train stop Tuga (3 stops) to get to the center. For plane ticket, we paid 800k IDR. But as we heard, you can get one even cheaper for 500 k IDR.
From Jakarta, you can pretty much use all the same options, however, it is 512 km from Jakarta to Yogyakarta so, a bus might be really uncomfortable. We continued by train from Yogyakarta to Jakarta, leaving at 7 o’clock from Tuga train station and it took us 8 hours to Pasar Senen train station in Jakarta. The ticket in business class cost 260k IDR. They also offer tickets to executive class (more expensive than business class) and economy class (cheaper than business class). The business class has air con, electricity sockets, and they sell coffee, water and food on a train.
How to get around Yogyakarta
We immediately rent a motorbike, close to the train station for 70k IDR/day. But if you don’t feel like driving, you don’t need a motorbike here, as there are many options how to get around the city. Jogja has bus lines that take you through the city as well as to the sights out of the city. You can also rent a carriage or trishaw everywhere on the street (three-wheeled and pedal powered vehicle cart, known as besak).
Where to stay in Yogyakarta?
In Happy Buddha Hostel. You will probably not find a better deal. The place is new, price includes really good breakfast, the design of every room is original and the outside area is really relaxing. The stuff in a hostel is helpful and friendly. Their motto is – if you wanna see cool places, do not use Lonely planet, ask us. Rooms are clean and well designed and every day you can take a shower in Jungle shower, which is super refreshing. We have always been choosing places for this price and never lived in such a beautiful place.
What to do in Yogyakarta?
I mean seriously. Even though it sounds like a childish attraction, believe me, you gonna enjoy it. First when we entered to the square we just couldn’t get what is going on. There was like hundred of paddle cars, with neon lights and loud music. I felt like being at some bad party. But the atmosphere that is around will get into your veins really fast. The experience of driving a car is actually not that much of a fun as you have to go really slowly and only around the square but on a way, everyone is waving at you and one family even jumped in our car and started to take selfies with us.
2. Take selfie(s) at Borobudur
Talking about selfies, Borobudur is a place where you gonna spend most of the time posing with locals. There are 3 groups of selfie hunters as identified after our visit to Borobudur.
Group 1: Trying to be inconspicuous, (but miserably failing)
As you can guess, those ones are the less risky, they don’t even talk to you before they take the shot. You just happen to be in one of their pictures almost like by accident. On the other hand, quality of the selfie hunting experience is poorer, as they do not have to overcome the language barrier and talk to you in English or casually hug you during a session of taking a picture. When you noticed them, they just smile at you a bit and say “Thank you”. Sometimes they even use Thumb-ups sign to express that the picture is gonna be awesome.
Group 2: Shy, but aware what they are doing
This group quietly follows every step you do with their camera prepared. You can hear them giggling behind you to attract your attention. When you turn at them for the first time, they smile at you and you know that they are just getting ready for the ultimate question of taking a picture with you. But they don’t ask yet. Instead, they continue to follow you. The question comes at the moment when you turning at them for the second time. The question sounds so urgent and important, that you just can’t say no. Not even for the twentieth time this happens.
Group 3: Go-getters
Members of this group just know what they want and they directly go for it. Usually it goes like this: They spot you, they organize others to gather around, choose a volunteer who will take a picture and in the moment you don’t expect it at all they grab you, throw you in the middle of that group, jump next to you, put huge smile on their face, hug you and shout to the photographer loud NOW. Before you can even realize what just happened, they already have a dozen of pictures with you.
Otherwise, Borobudur is beautiful and worth the admission fee that was 250k IDR for an adult. You can also buy combined admission for Borobudur and Prambanan, that will save you a bit money. Don’t get too surprised about the perks of paying price for international tourists. For ten times bigger price, international tourists receive a bottle of branded Borobudur bottle. What a deal!
3. Get a beautiful picture from Wisata Kalibriu outdoor park
Do not get too excited, it is not a real outdoor or adventure park as most of us know it. The most adventurous part of this park is getting there. As the road is really narrow, bumpy and steep. But otherwise, not so much adventure awaits you there. However, the pictures you can take there are stunning. You pay admission fee 5k IDR, but then you pay also 10k -15k IDR to get up on spots and then if you want a picture taken by a professional photographer you pay another 5k IDR for a picture, but you have to take at least 4 pictures. You can also take a picture by yourself.
4. Eat street food in Malioboro street
Malioboro street is the main street in Jogja. On one site of the road, you have a market offering all kinds of Jogja souvenirs, on the other site there are many of authentic street restaurants that you can have a dinner in. None of the restaurants have a menu in English, so we just randomly choose a meal. I have to say that it seems that food in Java offers bigger variety comparing to Bali food.
5. Visit Prambanan
Prambanan is Hindu temple that has been found in the 9th century and rebuilt after the eruption of Merapi volcano. It is largest Hindu temple complex in Indonesia. We got really lucky because we were approached by local students that were doing an English guide training and they offered to give us a tour. Which we appreciated a lot. Finally, we learned about Hindu religion and about their Gods. If you get this chance, use it.
6. Explore the underwater world
Umbul Ponggok is a swimming pool in a village about an hour and a half from Yogyakarta. It is a magical swimming pool, as while snorkeling you can find not only fishes but also other props. Old motorbike, old water scooter, living room, bicycle. Entrance fee is 15k IDR, and snorkeling mask cost 13k IDR. As you will be probably the only tourist there, again taking pictures with locals will be inevitable. Take a shirt and shorts to swim in. Wearing a biking might be uncomfortable and disrespectful as no one else is wearing them.
7. Enjoy beach time
Yogyakarta is famous for temples, but you can also get to the beach after an hour and a half drive. So when the weather gets too warm, head towards south. We found a really nice place with sand dunes called Gumuk Pasir and after that, we headed to Parangtritis beach. Huge beach with many activities for locals such as 4wheelers, horse riding, paragliding and much more. This beach is the closest one to Jogja, but there are much more beaches located about 2 hours ride on a motorbike that you can explore.
Hope you liked this post. What would you add to this list? Let me know via email or comment below. Happy Travels and do not forget to share this post.