Indonesia is a country of exotic charm and rich contrasts, all of which can be seen during a holiday on the island of Java. The island is home to 60% of the Indonesian population and one of the most densely populated places in the world. Here are five recommendations for while you’re there.
This ancient Buddhist temple complex in central Java dates from the 8th and 9th centuries. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Borobudur is richly decorated with statues of the Buddha and reliefs carved into the stones. Despite being Indonesia’s most visited tourist attraction, the site remains a holy place: pilgrims flock here once a year to celebrate the festival of Vesak – commemorating the birth, life and death of the Buddha. Stay at the luxurious Amanjiwo resort nearby for easy access to the site at sunrise and stunning sunset views.
The gently smoking volcanoes of Java are an aspect of the landscape that stays long in the memory. Mount Bromo is one of these active volcanoes and despite not being the highest, is the most famous. Assuming it’s not bubbling too much at the time of your trip, you can walk or take a jeep tour to the volcano from the mountain village of Cemoro Lawang. The views from the caldera down to the surrounding Sand Sea and other volcanoes of the Tengger Caldera National Park is most arresting at sunrise, so be prepared to get up early! Most tours take people to the base of Mount Bromo the previous night, and then you wake up at around 3am to start walking to the summit before the sun comes up.
A Javanese massage
A holiday here can be as active or as relaxed as you like. Maybe after your hike up Mount Bromo, you’ll be ready for a traditional Javanese massage. This oil-based massage originated as a system of healing the body and goes back over three centuries into Indonesian history. You’ll find that the massage is dominated by pushing and stroking techniques with the hands and thumbs, designed to ease muscle and joint pain – making it perfect for tired limbs! The method focuses on the body’s meridians and energy lines to break down tense muscles and knots, and to stimulate the lymphatic system to release white blood cells and the veins to improve blood circulation. The experience is reinvigorating and relaxing all at the same time.
Not as visited as Borobudur, this 9th Century Hindu temple complex is just as impressive. It is dedicated to the Trimurti – the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Preserver (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). Located in central Java, it’s the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia and one of the biggest in the whole of South East Asia. The towering central tower makes this spot easily recognisable.
Yogyakarta and Solo
These two ‘twin’ cities are not yet Westernised and there is plenty to see and do here. In Solo, take an old train ride through the city; buy beautiful batik silks; check out the museums and the palaces of the Pakubuwono Kings and the Mangkunegara Princes. In Yogyakarta – a bustling town regularly shaken by earthquakes – take a tour on a traditional horse-pulled cart, known as an andong or a dokar. Given the town’s history, there are lots of ancient monuments to see, such as Kota Gede – the capital of ancient Islamic Mataram kingdom. There are also lots of museums, art galleries and markets to explore. Popular purchases include batik, traditional wayang puppets, sculpture, ceramics and silverware.
Alison Crabb is a Director at Exsus.