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Borobudur Feature

Yogyakarta – Should You Purchase A Borobudur Tour?

When planning my trip to Yogyakarta, one of my first questions was whether to do a Borobudur tour, a Prambanan tour or try and see these temples independently. I knew I definitely wanted to visit them, but I wasn't sure how hard it would be to see them on my own.

If you're anything like me, when you fly into Jakarta, Indonesia you're already counting the hours before you can leave again. Luckily this visit was only a stopover, before continuing east on the island of Java. My first stop Yogyakarta was arguably the cultural heart of this island with many temples to explore.

After some research and speaking with the hostel staff at Ostic House, I decided that I didn't need to purchase a Borobudur tour package, rather, I could save some money and experience these temples on my own terms. I like the idea of having as long or as little time available to view significant sites and not have to be rushed by a busy tour group.

By opting to not join a Borobudur tour it allowed me to save some money, travel slower and experience the beauty of these sites. If however you like schedules and meeting other travelers, a tour may be right for you.

I have outlined below the details I needed to complete an independent tour of both Borobudur and Prambanan.

OUR HAPPIEST MOMENTS AS TOURISTS ALWAYS SEEM TO COME WHEN WE STUMBLE UPON ONE THING WHILE IN PURSUIT OF SOMETHING ELSE. — LAWRENCE BLOCK

Borobudur

Borobudur is the single largest Buddhist structure anywhere on earth, a magnificent temple complex with great attention to detail. I was taken back by the sheer size of this temple, which was much larger than expected, and the story etched into the stone of the temple is fascinating.

Borobudur Tour

Borobudur Temple

Costs

Entry
  • 280,000RP ($21 USD) for foreigners
  • 30,000 ($2.25 USD) for locals

The combined ticket for both Borobudur and Prambanan is 432,000RP ($32 USD) which saves roughly $9USD compared to purchasing the entry tickets separately.

Scooter Hire
  • Prices vary, 60,000Rp ($5 USD) for the day
  • Petrol will cost you anywhere up to 15,000Rp ($1.25 USD) per litre
Parking
  • Available onsite for cars 10,000RP ($0.80 USD)
  • Available across the road for motorbikes 5,000RP ($0.40 USD).
Optional
  • A Borobudur tour guide will cost you 100,000Rp ($8 USD) per hour.
Total Cost
  • Around $25 if purchasing the combined ticket, accounting for additional petrol. Excluding food and souvenirs

Opening Hours

6:00AM - 5:00PM. Although there is a special sunrise package available for 400,000RP ($30 USD) which lets you explore the complex from 4:30AM.

Getting There

If you are staying around the Yogyakarta city then Borobudur temple complex or Barede Hill are located about 1.5 hours ride or about 50KM away. There are guest houses closer to Borobudur if you prefer to stay closer and have more of a sleep in.

I set off from my hostel at 3:30AM to make it in time to view sunrise over Borobudur. Initially I was riding through city roads, but eventually there was some significant highway riding. I was able to reach the Barede Hill overlooking Borobudur 95% of the way using Google maps and once I was within a 5 minute ride to parking I was approached by a local offering to guide me the last part of the trip. I initially declined the offer, though after being rerouted a couple of times and the sun rising quickly, I took up the second offer for assistance, and at 10,000RP ($.075 USD) including parking it was well worth it.

Barede Hill overlooking Borobudur Tour

Barede Hill overlooking Borobudur

I arrived to the top of the hill as the last darkness escaped the rising sun. The valley below me was blanketed with a thick fog, so it was hard to see the Borobudur temple. Though the view was still fantastic and I stayed there to take it all in while the sun was rising. There were about a dozen other people viewing the sunrise, but there was plenty of room for good photos.

Exploring Borobudur

It took about 10 minutes to get from Barede Hill to Borobudur temple complex. I entered just after 6:00AM and found that it was nice and quiet. I made my way down to the temple and started ascending the stairs. 

I was blown away by the detail etched into the side of the temple! I continued to make my way around the temple and up the stairs to each level and finally to the top.

Borobudur Tour - So much detail

Borobudur - There is so much detail

In hindsight, I should have made my way directly to the top as it was busier by the time I reached it. There are great photo opportunities at the top of Borobudur of the stupas.

Borobudur Tour -  Stupas

Borobudur Stupas are fascinating

It is a large site and you can easily spend a couple of hours exploring it, though keep in mind that there are often school groups arriving at around 8:30 am. It's best to be finished prior to this time if you like a bit more space whilst exploring. I saw a number of tourists arriving just after 8:00AM when I was leaving, by this time it was definitely busier, so I'd highly recommend getting up early.

Borobudur Temple - This place is crazy

Borobudur Temple - This place is crazy

I made my way from Borobudur back towards Prambanan with a stop at a Mendut Buddhist Monastery. This was a great addition to the day. It was free, very serene, had some nice sculptures and was just a really cool place to visit. In my opinion, you won't miss much if you skip the Candi Pawon Temple next to the monastery, especially if you have just visited Borobudur.

Mendut Buddhist Monastery

Find your Zen at Mendut Buddhist Monastery

Prambanan

A collection of massive Hindu temples rise into the sky. Many different structures to see with great detail etched into stone.

Costs

Entry
  • 252,000RP ($19 USD) for foreigners
  • 54,000 ($4 USD) for locals

The combined ticket for both Borobudur and Prambanan is 432,000RP ($32 USD) which saves roughly $9USD compared to purchasing the entry tickets separately.

Scooter Hire
  • Prices vary, 60,000Rp ($5 USD) for the day
  • Petrol will cost you anywhere up to 15,000Rp ($1.25 USD) per litre
Parking
  • Available onsite for cars 15,000RP ($1.25 USD)
  • Available onsite for motorbikes 3,000RP ($0.22 USD).
Optional
  • A Prambanan tour guide will cost you 100,000Rp ($8 USD) per hour.
Total Cost
  • Around $25 if purchasing the combined ticket, accounting for additional petrol. Excluding food and souvenirs

Opening Hours

6:00AM - 6:00PM. The ticket counter closes at 5:15PM

Getting There

The ride from Borobudur towards Prambanan will take about 1 hour, but you do get to experience some beautiful countryside on your way.

Enjoy the Countryside

Enjoy the Countryside

If you are coming from Yogyakarta city area the distance is about 30 minutes or 20KM.

Exploring Prambanan

I arrived at Prambanan in the late afternoon, it was busier than Borobudur and a large tour bus had just arrived, if you are splitting this over two days, I would suggest visiting Prambanan first thing in the morning.

I appreciated the temples for how amazing they were, though after visiting Angkor Wat and Borobudur, I felt a little uninspired. The temples were very busy and it was hard to take a photo without capturing a person taking a selfie which I think took away from the historical beauty of the site.

Prambanan Temple Complex

Prambanan Temple Complex

Make sure to visit the Sewu Temple which I found to be empty of tourists and just as good as the main temple. It is a decent walk from the main complex, though you might be able to hitch a ride with a worker on a forklift like I did.

Don't forget Sewu Temple

Don't forget Sewu Temple

If you have visited a number of other temples in South East Asia, I would probably suggest just visiting Borobudur (including Mendut Buddhist Monastery). However, if you are starting your journey in Yogyakarta or you are especially fond of temples visit both. For me Borobudur was by far the more amazing temple experience!

STAY: Ostic House Hostel - This hostel is in a good location, close to restaurants and within a medium walk to most tourist attractions around Yogyakarta city centre. If a hostel is not your thing, be sure to check out the other Yogyakarta accommodation options available.

EAT: Breakfast - before you go or take snacks with you to enjoy while you're taking in the sunrise.

PLAY: Hire a bicycle - Ride around the city and take in a number of free tourist attractions

TIPS: Allow yourself a minimum of 2 hours for Borobudur and another 2 hours for Prambanan.