Yogya (pronounced Jogja) is steeped in historical significance - it was once the home of the mighty Hindu empire of Mataram, back in the 12th/13th century. Over the years, Mataram was split into 2 cities, Yogyakarta and Surakarta, now known as Solo. They lie 30 mins of each other. Its sights promise history & culture for the 1st time traveller.
For first time visitors, go to the following places (must-see):
- Borobudur - approx 1 hour's drive from Yogya & located between 2 mighty volcanoes (Merapi & another one), it is a sight to behold. It takes about 45 mins from the carpark grounds to walk uphill to the temple but once you see it sitting grandly, it is absolutely magnificent. Hire a guide who will be able to articulate what the tale is behind each step, piece of stone and stupa. You may be hassled by peddlers on the way up and down - ignore them. Borobudur is the oldest Buddhist temple in South-east Asia, built in 850 A.D., even older than the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.
- Prambanan - on the fringes of Yogya city, it is breathtaking, incredible and awe-inspiring, all at the same time. It is a Hindu temple with statues of Hindu deities, Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma & Durga. If you have been to Angkor Wat, this temple is ditto. It was supposedly commissioned by the same ruler (not sure which one) who commissioned Angkor Wat, who wanted a similar monument in Mataram. Again, hire a guide who will be able to articulate what the tale is behind each step, piece of stone and deity. However, Prambanan tells a tale of the Mahabharata at each level & along each stone & tile. An experienced & knowledgeable guide will be able to articulate this tale.
- Kraton palace - the residence of the current & past Sultans of Yogya, it is a must-see for an inside look into palace life and how it has remained unchanged over the centuries.
- Sultan's Water Palace - not many guides know this palace but it is about 30 mins hike from the Kraton palace & is located up on a little hill. From here, you can see the entire Yogya city, spread far & wide.