Central Java Travel Guide
Central Java covers roughly a third of the island of Java and lies between West Java and East Java. It includes beaches and islands in the north to volcanoes and lakes in the center and large cities and temple ruins in the south.
Semarang is the provincial capital and lies on the north coast. It’s an okay town to spend some time, with its Dutch colonial architecture and Chinatown, although it isn’t worth more than a day or two.
North of here is Jepara, a far more interesting town, while Karimunjawa Marine Park consists of 27 beautiful islands and is just offshore. Also nearby are the Thousand Islands (Pulau Seribu) with the best diving in Central Java and dozens of gorgeous white sand beaches and clear water.
The other major city in Central Java is the southern city of Yogyakarta, which presides over its semi-autonomous sultanate. Both of these cities have small airports with links with Jakarta and other Southeast Asian cities.
Central Java’s main attractions are pretty well distributed so it’s worth planning your time here. The main sight in the province is Borobudur Temple. It is a gigantic, world famous temple complex not far northwest of Yogyakarta, standing on a small hill and featuring seven terraces, incredible scale, detail and views. The Great Stupa stands atop the lofty structure and there are stunning bas-reliefs all around.
Kaliurang is another popular hangout in Central Java, known for the massive Mount Merapi volcano. It is Indonesia’s most active volcano that is especially good for hiking. The mountain presides over a small resort town. Mount Lawu in eastern Central Java is another popular volcano climb; this 3,200-meter-plus extinct volcano on the Central Java/East Java border is three peaks in one and provides fabulous hiking.
Also worth a look in Central Java is the small market town of Ambarawa, gateway to the large Pening Lake, and Bandungan, with its famous hilltop Gedong Songo temples. Other interesting destinations in Central Java include Candi, Magelang, and the volcanic Dieng Plateau, a huge, ancient caldera in the center of the province, remotely located amid stunning scenery and featuring several Hindu temples.
The best time to visit the province is from April through October but if you arrive in June don’t miss the Yogyakarta Arts Festival, possibly the most vibrant festival in Central Java featuring live music and traditional dance.
Yogyakarta, Solo, and Semarang are the main transport hubs in Central Java, and all receive flights from Jakarta and the region. Yogyakarta is less than an hour’s flight from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport. Trains also serve the main cities in Central Java with many classes of carriage available.