Borobudur Travel Guide

Borobudur is the most fascinating of all of Indonesia’s temples. It is located in Central Java and is akin to a large Aztec pyramid in the scale of its construction.

Borobudur was hidden for hundreds of years by the jungle and rediscovered by Sir Stamford Raffles (the then ruler of Java) in 1814. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been excavated extensively.

Borobudur is comparable to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, only 300 years older. The structure was 75 years in the making, way back in the 8th and 9th centuries and took something like 1.6 million volcanic blocks to build. These blocks were dragged up from a nearby riverbed and were put into place by hand, as with the pyramids.

There are nine terraces in all on the Borobudur Temple that are topped by a large stupa, rising to a height of around 40m in all; an incredible feat back in the day. It has an asymmetric design, with the tiers made to look like steps for the Buddha’s ease of passage to Nirvana. More than 1,500 intricately carved bas-reliefs and statues adorn the structure.

Once you are in the Borobudur Temple complex, the easiest way to get around is on foot. There is a small train for transport surrounding the temple and to and from the museum and the entrance gate, although it is more hassle than it’s worth. The museum itself is not really worth the effort, although the Karmawiharga relief’s exhibition is okay.

Be sure to take in the views of Gunung Merapi (Merapi Mountain) from the northern part of the temple. It is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia and can often be seen giving off steam on a clear day.

When you are done with the temple, be sure to leave through the main exit as the other exit irritatingly leads visitors through a maze of market vendors. You need to bargain heavily if you do buy anything from the market as prices are heavily marked up.

One of the best times to visit Borobudur is during Waisak or Buddha’s birthday. It takes place on the full moon in May and features a candle-lit procession from Candi Mendut (three kilometers away) to Borobudur. This colorful festival starts a few days before at the temple.

It doesn’t take long to get to Borobudur from Yogyakarta, although staying in the area is a good idea for those who prefer to get into the temple before the tour buses arrive. There are a few hotel choices, with the Manohara Hotel being the best and the closest. The Manohara Restaurant is also worth eating at.

The temples in nearby Prambanan are also good for exploring for those with a car. They lie about an hour away from Borobudur and typically don’t have the tourist crowds of Borobudur.

Getting There & Away

Yogyakarta is the main point of entry for Borobudur if you are already in Indonesia. Flights come in from major airports all over Indonesia, including from Jakarta and Denpasar in Bali. Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Jakarta is less than a 1 hour flight away from Yogyakarta Airport. You can also get to Yogyakarta by train or bus from Jakarta.

Once in Yogyakarta, it is possible to take a pubic bus to Borobudur. They take around 1 hour, 30 minutes. Minibuses are quicker and more convenient, while taxis are the best bet, taking just 40 minutes. Those traveling to Borobudur from Yogyakarta by car have a 40-minute drive northwest of the city. A fairly well-maintained, four-lane highway goes for much of the way.