Travel Itinerary – Yogyakarta in 1 day or 1 week
Being based in Bali, my friend and I decided to travel to Yogyakarta for a long weekend (arriving Yogy at 8am Friday, leaving Sunday at 3pm). This was enough time to come up with and propose two very different itineraries for someone traveling to this area: Either, Yogyakarta in one day or in one week.
At a glance: 1 day/2 nights
Fly into Yogyakarta the afternoon/night before
3.45am: (have breakfast already organised and packed) Wake up and get ready
4am: Leave for Borobudur (either organise a private driver or hire a scooter to take yourself)
5.10am: Drive around 5km beyond Borobudur to Punthuk Setumbu (or Nirwana sunrise)
**Watch till the sun has come up over Mt Merapi**
5.45am: Leave and speed back to Borobudur for 6am (opening time), to beat crowds
6am: Arrive Borobudur – climb to top and watch the rest of sunrise (out of this world!!) – if you have breakfast, now would be a good time to eat it
8am (ish) – 11am: Arrive back to Yogy for a bit of relax time – Jari Menari spa does very good massages
11am – 2pm: Optional but not necessary – visit the Sultan Palace and Taman Sari and have some lunch at one of the restaurants on Prawirotaman street (Via Via is good)
2pm: Leave for Prambanan
3pm: Arrive and explore Prambanan
4pm: leave Prambanan to go to Green Temple (about 15mins drive from Prambanan) for good views and, if it’s clear, stay for sunset
6.30pm: Back to Prambanan for Ramayana Ballet
10pm: Arrive home, enjoy dinner, and some watch some live music
11pm: depending on how tired you are (after your long day), there are a variety of bars to choose from
[Week long itinerary below]
Time of year: May
Weather: Hot and usually rained for hour or two at around 3pm
Flying in, we decided to choose a more adventurous mode of travel, than just jumping in a taxi, and headed to the bus station which was across from the airport exit. It was a good decision as one ticket cost 3500rp which is crazily cheap and it gave a good introduction to the city. We were a little disappointed that the supposed ‘hippy hang out’ was more similar to Denpasar (Bali’s built up and trafficky city).
The bus dropped us off and google maps lead us to Via Via Guesthouse. The ‘hippy’ impression of Yogy was certainly isolated to this small area where there were many guesthouses and hotels surrounding Prawirotaman street, home to Western styled cafes and shops. ViaVia was a pleasant little place which has its own charm as it is part of a worldwide chain of guesthouses which support the local communities. It also had its own restaurant and shop, a short 5 minute walk away. We got a staff member, to arrange us a scooter as we wanted the freedom to go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. In hindsight, maybe this was not the best decision since the traffic is crazier than Bali, however, we did have that desired freedom which was great. The alternative would be to hire a driver for the time you are there or rely on buses/taxis. We asked her where we should go in the afternoon. She recommended us to visit the Sultan palace, Taman Sari and the Malioboro Markets. We loaded the palace up on our google maps, jumped on the bike and headed off. After battling through hellish traffic we accidentally navigated to the very centre of the city instead of the palace. Back on track, we arrived in the correct palace location which we were very underwhelmed by, so decided against entering. Moving on, we reached the Taman Sari, which was slightly more impressive. Inside was an underground Mosque and a water castle.
As we knew we had limited time, we decided to go back to the guesthouse and find a touring company to book onto some tours or find out what we ought to see/do. The Satu Dunia Tour and Travel company gave us a lot of useful tips. The activities we were most interested in were..
Jeep tour of Mount Merapi
Sunrise hike to the summit of Mt Merapi
Sunrise at the infamous Borobudur temple
The Ramayana Ballet and Prambanan temple
Exploring the secret beaches with our bike
Sand boarding (snowboarding on sand)
Since we were there for a short time, we had to rule out surfing, beaches and sandboarding, as it was all too far away. Sunrise trek was also ruled out as we didn’t want one of our two nights to be sleepless - you leave Yogy at 10pm, the day before, to be able to reach the summit of Mt Merapi by sunrise (5.30-6am). And so, the idea of Itinerary 2 came about.
Approximate week-long itinerary
Day 1: (approx. 2 hours) Visit Taman Sari and Sultan palace. Book onto Volcano trek or Jeep tour. Picked up 10pm for sunrise trek.
Day 2: complete trek through the morning and rest throughout afternoon – go for well-deserved massage.
Day 3: move to a new area, like Parangkusumo Beach, 30km South of Yogy, where you will find sandboarding and explore nearby beaches
Day 4/5: discover some of the surf beaches, like Parangtritis. Return to Yogy and organise a driver or hire a scooter to take you to Borobudur the next day at sunrise.
Day 6: 4am wake up and to Borobudur – see itinerary above for this day
Day 7: other tours and things to do (see above options)
Being a long weekend and public Indonesian holiday, all the activities were super busy too – all the jeep tours had sold out. As we had a bike, we decided to improvise and do our own tours. The only thing we booked was the Ramayana Ballet (you can buy tickets at the venue but we didn’t want to risk it).
For the rest of Friday afternoon, we napped at our guesthouse, after our 4am start, ate lots of good food at the cafes along Prawirotaman street and had amazing massages at Jari Menari Spa.
Up nice and early on Saturday morning, we hopped onto the scooter and left for Mt Merapi. It took us about an hour to get there. The whole time we were questioning where the actual mountain we were aiming for was. As it turns out, the clouds were so thick, that we could not see it – this was a real shame. The girl behind the desk at the tour company told us to visit the coffee warung (word used to describe a local Indo restaurant) at the foot of the mountain. We arrived and this warung was pretty much a wooden shed-like structure and the coffee did not particularly stand out as anything special. While we were sitting, loads of the jeeps tours came through. To start with, the road was not too bad so we decided to follow the Jeep tour on our bike. We had a great time exploring the roads around the area, however, it would have been much better if visibility of Merapi had been better.
**Tip: If you want to do the Jeep tour, make sure the visibility is going to be good otherwise I would say it is a waste of money. The passengers seemed to be having fun as the drivers would skid round bends and make the car bump around. Although, it was a bit like a motorway, given the vast quantity of these jeeps flying around the area**
After our little off roading adventure, we headed back in the Yogy direction and navigated to the Prambanan Temple. When we arrived it was about 1pm and so so hot, so we decided to settle into one of the local market warungs. We ate some Nasi Gudeg (a dish Yogyakarta is famous for – curried Jack Fruit), which really is delicious! Sitting at the same warung, just so happened to be the manager, of our ViaVia guesthouse and he was very friendly, giving us some great advice for our afternoon. We joked around that my traveling buddy, Kaili, looks very much like Agnez Mo (a very famous celebrity in Indonesia) – people would whisper to each other as they walked by, speculating as to whether it was her or not. Occasionally they would ask for a photo and since I have that red hair/pale skin combination, alien to all Indonesians, they wanted me in it too. We killed 2 hours at this warung, socialising and getting to know all the cool, fun locals.
At 3pm, we went to buy tickets to enter Prambanan, at which point the heavens opened and we waited a while hoping it would stop – it didn’t!! Umbrellas rented, we entered the temple and it was very beautiful.
After a quick zip around the temple, we jumped back on the scooter to venture off to the ‘Green Temple’ (actual name: Candi Ijo). This was about 15 minutes by scooter and involved a fairly steep climb. It was absolutely stunning and lovely to sit and admire the view for a while. Of course we were asked for photos…
Since there would be no sunset due to cloud cover, we decided to head back down to Prambanan where we were watching the Ramayana Ballet. This was absolutely awesome and an activity I would highly recommend. The open air theatre was huge and had Prambanan temple, lit up, as the backdrop. The dance itself, was no conventional ballet either – they told the story of Ramayana in their own style of dancing, which is different from the Balinese. Their costumes were beautiful with a stunning array of colours! Well worth going to see! By the time we got back from the Ballet, it was already 10pm so we grabbed some food, at a local restaurant, and listened to some live reggae. We went to bed in anticipation of our early start the next day.
The alarm went off at 3.45am (ouch) and we were out of the door by 4am. Whizzing through the, bizarrely empty, streets, we arrived at Borobudur about 1 hour and 10 minutes later. Tip: If you scooter yourself, it will be FREEZING(!!) – do not underestimate the temperature - wrap up very warm!
An invaluable tip, from the lovely ViaVia guesthouse manager, told us to drive beyond Borobudur temple and follow signposts up to the Punthuk Setumbu (Nirwana sunrise) viewing point. Here, we were able to witness the stunning sunrise over Mt Merapi, with Borobudur temple peeking out, above the clouds in the base of the valley.
Tip: watch the sun come up over Mt Merapi and then leave as soon as possible to get back to Borobudur for 6am. Climb to the top of the temple and find a place to sit. If you brought breakfast, eat it now and continue to watch the sun rise. Be quick to take your photos before it gets busy and when you are ready head back to Yogyakarta. This temple was absolutely stunning. The whole morning was definitely a highlight of my quick trip – out of this world!
Back in Yogyakarta, we grabbed a proper breakfast at ViaVia café, packed up our things and jumped into a taxi to the airport. Back to Bali!