Set in Central Java, the majestic Borobudur Temple is one of Indonesia’s most valuable gems and most appealing tourist destinations for locals and foreign tourists. Apart from the historical-cultural marvel of this stunning temple, Borobudur also holds other captivating qualities; let’s explore nine of them.
The beauty of Borobudur and all its glory is not only intriguing for its visitors in the daytime, but there is also a growing interest to relish the temple’s grandiose at sunrise.
While the temple entrance officially opens at 6 am, sunrise hunters could be in the vicinity of the temple around 5 am to catch the stunning temple from the pitch black of dawn to the break of morning light. As the lights slowly uncover each part of the temple from the platform, the statues, stupas, and the carvings, it all turns into a breathtaking view.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located approximately 40 kilometers northwest of Yogyakarta, about a one-hour drive from Yogya. Constructed around the 8th and 9th centuries in the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty, Borobudur’s charm lies in its unique architectural design. It covers an enormous area, measuring 123 x 123 meters. Around the platforms are 72 stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha.
The walls display highly detailed carved reliefs of over 2.672 relief panels featuring various stories. When you’ve reached the top, you will find a monumental stupa and the view from the top is amazing, overlooking the multiple stupas both large and small guarding over 504 varieties of Buddha statues. In 1970, the Indonesian Government and UNESCO worked together in the restoration of the monument.
There are three museums around Borobudur to explore: Borobudur Museum, Samudraraksa Ship Museum (Museum Kapal Samudraraksa) and Museum MURI. All these museums are open until 5 pm daily.
The Borobudur Museum holds a number of archeological artifacts as well as some of the rummage of the temple such as the unfinished giant Buddha statue. Rumor has it, the statue was supposedly the inner statue of the largest stupa located at the top of the temple.
Right next to the Borobudur Museum lays Samudraraksa Ship Museum. Samudraraksa in Bahasa means ’Protector of the Sea’, and you will find the remains of the Samudraraksa Ship who was said to have sailed across Africa to Indonesia. Visitors could also enter the ship by paying the entrance fee around IDR 100.000.
On the backside of Borobudur, you will come across the MURI Museum also known as the Unique and Arts Gallery of Borobudur. MURI is Indonesia’s version of Guinness Book of Records where you would find rare interesting things on display.
If you’re a foodie then “Mangut Beong” (Red Tail Catfish) is a must-try. This local dish is commonly known in Borobudur District. Beong is a local fish generally found in Progo River (Magelang). Beong is shaped like a catfish only a bit larger and has a soft and gentle meat texture.
The dish is quite spicy as the fried beong is enriched with a mixture of red hot chilli, seasoned coconut milk, and turmeric broth. It’s a favorite amongst visitors of the Borobudur district and one of the best places to taste this dish is Warung Sehati Selera Pedas in Kembanglimus Village, around 4 km west from the temple.
Yogyakarta is home to several other spectacular temples, which would be perfect to complete your temple tour. Some nearby temples around Borobudur one can explore are Mendut Temple, Ngawen Temple, and Pawon Temple.
Mendut Temple is located around three kilometers from Borobudur. This Buddhist temple was built around the same era as Borobudur in the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty. The temple has three Buddha Statues facing each other and the walls are graced with neatly carved reliefs. Around 5 km before Mendut Temple if you are traveling from Yogyakarta you will find Ngawen Temple. Same as Borobudur and Mendut Temple, Ngawen is a Buddhist Temple and built in the same era.
To the east around 1750 meters from Borobudur Temple, lays Pawon Temple. It is actually situated between Borobudur and Mendut Temple in Brojonalan Village, Borobudur District. The temple is recognized to be the storage of the King Indra’s weapon known as Vajranala shaped like lightning.
What’s traveling without bringing home some monumental local souvenirs right? Along the Borobudur entrance area, there are plenty of local souvenirs stalls to choose from. Common souvenirs include an artsy carving of the Borobudur Temple on bamboo, the temple’s replica in the form of mini statuettes made from fiberglass, key chains and accessories, wooden batik handicrafts, batik clothing, and many more varieties of little goodies.
Some tourists also fancy unique handmade household souvenirs. Around four kilometers from the temple, in Kipoh Village you will find many household souvenirs made from clay. This household handicraft is also known as Gerabah Handicraft.
Another great spot to view the beauty of Borobudur is from Punthuk Setumbu. It’s a hill located in the village of Karangrejo in the Borobudur district. The best time to visit Punthuk Setumbu is during sunrise as early as 5 am to catch the exotic view of the magnificent Borobudur Temple during the first morning light. The hills of Punthuk Setumbu open daily from 4 am – 5 pm.
Make sure you came here with your sneakers or comfortable shoes because there are about 15 minutes of trekking to the top of the hill.
Situated in Klangon, Kulon Progo, this new gate landmark boasts a grand statue of an ocean ship with Javanese script of aksara jawa highlighted in gold. It has become a popular tourist site, especially for those hunting for instagrammable spots around Borobudur. Since Klangon Gate is located just at the border of Kulon Progo, it’s quite near the New Yogyakarta International Airport (NYIA).
Perched on a hill forest, around a 20-minute drive from Borobudur, you will come across this extraordinary landmark known as the Chicken Church or as locals call it “Gereja Ayam”. This giant chicken-like shaped church was built in 1990 by a local man named Daniel Alamsjah.
He built the church as a prayer house for any religion to pray there. He originally meant for the church in the shape of a dove in accordance to the epiphany he had. However the structure is dubbed by locals to look more like a hen than a dove, hence the name chicken church. The construction was halted in 2000 due to financial issues and has been an abandoned structure since then. However, due to the unique and massive structure of this deteriorating landmark, locals and foreign tourists often visit this site as one of their tourism destinations thanks to the power of social media.
The local villages around Borobudur have also become a favorite amongst the tourists to visit. Some villages even have basic accommodations for tourist who wishes to stay longer and learn more about the culture.
The most popular village is Wanurejo Village due to its close proximity to Borobudur. Wanurejo provides nine hamlets that have been transformed into unofficial resorts, namely: Barepan, Bajen,Brojolan,Ngentak, Jowahan, Soropan, Tingal Kulon, Tingak Wetan and Gedongan.
To see some traditional Javanese Gamelan music and dances you could visit the village of Karangrejo. Here, you can also spend your vacation in their homestay, do various activities and enjoy the comfortable surroundings.
Other villages to explore around the Borobudur district are Tanjungsari Village, Giritengah Village, Majaksini Village, and Candirejo Village.
As one of the World’s largest Buddhist temples as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Borobudur will remain one of the most sought out tourist destination for both locals and foreigners. Be sure you have those nine “to-do list” items checked for your next visit to Borobudur!
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