Yogyakarta is a huge part of Indonesia’s soul. This is where you’ll experience the Javanese language at its purest, the brightest Java art and clearly observe its traditions. The heart of the city is the palace of the sultans of Yogya, the Keraton. It is a beautiful walled city with its own markets, shops, schools, museum and mosques. It is a great example of Javanese palace architecture with luxurious halls, spacious courtyards and pavilions. There are also performances in its inner pavilion, from poetry readings, puppetry, dance and music. Within the Keraton is the Taman Sari, the Water Castle. It is a beautiful maze of underground water holes, secret chambers, gardens and pools. It once was a royal garden for the sultan and his entourage.
The city’s main markets, Pasar Beringharjo and Jalan Malioboro, are great places to find cheap things to buy, like clothes, bags, silver jewelleries, a huge variety of fresh produce and cheap local food. The best Indonesia food to try is Gudeg, which is a stew made from young jackfruit with palm sugar, coconut milk, meat, garlic and spices. The best local restaurant is Tojoyo 3, where the deep-fried dishes are incredibly cheap and always packed with locals. Kedai Kebun is is a fun, bohemian café/gallery where Yogya’s artistic community tends to hang out. The food is both Indonesia and international, and where vegans and vegetarians are welcome.
For some outdoor fun, try the short hike towards Mount Merapi to find yourself amidst the ruins after the recent volcano eruption in 2010. You will feel humbled by the destruction caused by the eruption and the people’s brave response. Experience the myth of the Twin Beringin Trees. Some say that if you can pass between the two trees with you eyes closed or blindfolded, whatever you ask for will come true. What you cannot miss on your trip in Yogyakarta are the Prambanan and Borobudur temples, that are each about an hour away from the city centre. Prambanan, a great place to watch a traditional Ramayana ballet, was built to honour the principle Hindu gods. Borobudur is one of the world’s largest Buddhist temples. These UNESCO World Heritage Site temples are extremely unique and beautiful places to see the sunset. Yogyakarta is filled with many more intriguing ruins and cultural centres to explore and experience, so be sure to consciously take it all in while you’re there.