Thinking of doing a Borobudur tour from Yogyakarta? Do you like the idea of waiting with hundreds of others to see the first rays of sun, when really you’re just looking at the backs of everyone’s heads? To make it even less appealing, 80% of the time all year round there WILL be clouds during sunrise. It doesn’t matter which month you go there, it’s all about how lucky you are. The standard option is to stay in Yogyakarta and book an early morning tour to the temple but if you really want to attempt a Borobudur sunrise, consider staying at a hotel near Borobudur rather.
Borobudur is indeed famous for sunrise but you might have an even better time exploring it in the late afternoon close to sunset as there will be a LOT fewer people around. As with other major sites around the world, it’s much easier to appreciate a place when it’s not crowded with tourists.
If you're interested to visit Borobudur by yourself and on a budget you have come to the right place!
To get to Borobudur by bus from Yogyakarta, take the Trans Jogja 2B bus to the Jombor Bus Terminal. We paid IDR 2500 per person from the stop closest to where we stayed in the city. Once you arrived at Jombor Terminal, you must transfer to another bus to Candi Borobudur. The terminal is still over an hour away from Borobudur itself and the price of a one-way ticket is IDR 25 000 each way.
To do the sunrise tour buy your ticket from the Manohara Restaurant which will provide you with a special early access pass to enter the monument from around 04:30 - before regular open time. It's possible to just arrive at 04:00 and buy a ticket right there as there is no restriction on the number of tickets issued. The price is IDR 475 000 (USD 33) per person. Don’t expect to have the temple complex to yourselves – there will be hundreds of other people climbing those stairs by torchlight with you. But despite the crowds, this can be a magical time of day.
We arrived at the Borobudur Bus Terminal just afternoon and took our time strolling through the small town. The whole place is small enough to explore by foot but if you choose there are plenty of options to get around from the station. We found the back streets super quiet and we stopped for a quick lunch at a local warung. Nasi-goreng special with ice-tea for IDR 8 500. Not only a bargain but delicious as well!
Borobudur is at the centre of a beautiful assembly of traditional rice-growing villages ringed by volcanic peaks. The locals call it The Garden of Java and the region, with its rural home-stays, scattered temples and farms, demands at least an overnight stay.
We opted to book a nights accommodation just down the road from the temple which would give us the option of visiting the temple grounds either late afternoon or early morning - depending on the weather. Cempaka Borobudur Guest House turned out to be a great choice and was literally 5 minutes walk from the temple entrance. With breakfast included it came to $20 for a double room with air-con and wi-fi.
Finally on to the Temple!
As the weather was looking good and we came to realise that the following day was a Saturday - which would mean a LOT of people visiting the grounds - we decided the best option would be to enjoy the afternoon and get as close as possible to sunset in the park before it closes. We had nothing rushing us as we would be spending the evening in town before heading back to Yogyakarta the following day.
Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple. This incredible monument, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries, consists of nine platforms, all leading up to a monumental stupa, which perches on top. The temple has remained strong through ten centuries of neglect and was only 'rediscovered' in 1815 after being buried under volcanic ash.
Only in the 1970’s did the Indonesian Government and UNESCO start to work together to restore Borobudur to its former majesty. The project took eight years to complete and today Borobudur is one of Indonesia and the world’s most valuable treasures. It has managed to survive volcanic eruptions, terrorist attack and the 2006 earthquake. The earthquake sadly caused considerable damage, but this incredible temple has remained undiminished in scale and beauty.
Surrounding the main stupa are 72 smaller perforated stupas, each containing inside a hidden statue of Buddha. The Borobudur temple walls and balustrades are decorated with 2 672 relief panels and more than 400 further Buddha statues adorn the temple. The sheer scale and intricacy of the temple are staggering!
There's plenty of good reasons to hire a guide from the entrance as they will be able to best explain the history of the temple. The stone carvings attached to the temple display legends and stories which have great philosophical significance and it provides wonderful insight having someone at hand with good knowledge of the site.
As with other major tourist sites in Indonesia, you might have to brace yourself for the onslaught of friendly local tourists wanting to take a picture with you! It can be fun but also a bit exhausting.
Our afternoon turned out to be a great choice and we found parts of the park practically deserted. Most of the tour groups departed in the late afternoon which left the temple and surrounds free to explore in peace. At sunset, the temple grounds closed and we were the last to leave the park.
To read on our experience of Borobudur vs Prambanan see the previous post here.
In the evening we strolled around the outskirts of the temple grounds and through the small village. It was surprisingly quiet and after grabbing some supper we ended the evening with freshly made Martabak Manis from a street vendor.
PART 1 Video of our month-long trip to Indonesia during 2016
This video shows us arriving in Jakarta and travelling via Yogyakarta and Surakarta (Solo) on to Mount Bromo near Probolingo and from there to Kawa Ijen near Banyuwangi. It was made before we started our Youtube channel and was mainly recorded using compact cameras.