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  • Writer's pictureAround the World in Vegan Eats


This was my first trip to Java, but Mike had visited once before and was heartbroken to have to miss the incredible temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. So while we were in Indonesia, we knew that we needed to pay them a visit! Though many tourists head to the capital city of Jakarta, we based ourselves in Yogyakarta (as well as briefly heading to Malang and Surabaya too). We absolutely loved Yogyakarta: from the relaxed, arty culture, to the super friendly and welcoming locals, to an absolutely amazing vegan cafe, we really felt like this city had so much to offer us! It was an amazing base for exploring the temples that Mike had been wanting to visit for so long!

What are Borobudur and Prambanan?

Borobudur and Prambanan are two ancient temples located just outside of Yogyakarta: in fact, these are two of the most famous temples in Indonesia. They are very different, but both are spectacular examples of ancient architecture.

Borobudur is a Buddhist Temple, whilst Prambanan is Hindu; they both attract tourists from all different religions and backgrounds, as well as worshippers, en masse, every day. The reason that these temples are so popular? Well, they are super old, dating back to the 9th century. They are also fascinating examples of Hindu and Buddhist sacred religious sites, within an island that has been predominantly Islamic for centuries. Due to its archipelago nature, Indonesia has a diverse religious history and culture; though many islands are Muslim, famous exceptions include the Hindu island of Bali and the largely Christian Papua.

These are truly spectacular temples: Borobudur is actually the largest Buddhist temple in the world, whilst Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia!) They attract so many tourists every year because, not only are they are incredible spiritual sites that are reflective of ancient Javanese architecture, their story is incredible too. But locals visit too, of course: while we were there we met many local people, as well as children on school trips. The temples were largely forgotten about for many years, with the Javanese jungle absorbing them after the island converted to Islam in the 15th century. It was only when they were rediscovered, in the 18th-19th centuries, that their histories gradually became uncovered, ultimately leading to the popularity that they have today.

How did we visit these temples?

If you have your own transport in Java, it is absolutely possible to do a self-guided tour and just drive between the two temple complexes yourself - though be aware that the journey time between the two is significant. It is actually pretty expensive for foreign tourists to visit the temples (though the price is much cheaper for locals!) with a ticket costing Rp630,000 (approx. £34.03, €39.19, or $42.05), for a ticket that covers your entrance to both temples. We ultimately decided to join an organised tour, so that the transport was sorted for us! This also meant that we could chill out (and in my case, have a nap) between the two sites.

We opted for a sunrise tour, which meant a 3am pickup, but also offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of watching the sun rise over the temple-studded skyline, from the popular viewpoint, Barede Hill. Set amid a beautiful jungle landscape, this was a really tranquil and wholesome way to start the day. It was exhausting, but it was so worth it! After the sunrise, we went first to Borobudur, where we had a couple of hours to explore the temple and its massive gardens (though be aware, since covid, tourists are no longer permitted to climb up the temple's iconic steps). After this was a 1.5 hour trip on the minibus back through Yogyakarta and on to Prambanan. This temple complex actually has a little more to see, since it consists of many smaller temple buildings - and there are plenty of things for tourists to do here too, with a museum, transport, and photo opportunities available if you are willing to pay for them.

How was the experience for vegans?

It was actually surprisingly good! Perhaps because of the nature of Buddhist and Hindu culture, I was able to procure a vegan meal from the on-site restaurant at Prambanan. After explaining my dietary requirements to the waiter, I received a nasi goreng that had some chunky tofu on the side in place of the egg. It was a relatively flavoursome meal, despite having the fish sauce and shrimp paste removed (though I didn't eat the crackers because I couldn't be certain that they weren't prawn crackers).

During our time at Borobudur and Prambanan, all animals we encountered were wild and seemed happy too... including a huge spider in a web that Mike almost walked into as we were exiting the market outside Borobudur, much to the amusement of a nearby stall-holder who laughed about it with us! This epitomised many of our experiences in Java: the people that we encountered were, without exception, some of the friendliest we have ever met. From the locals teaching us little bits of Indonesian, to the occasional lady wanting a selfie with Mike because he is so tall, every interaction we had was filled with kindness and genuine hospitality.

What were our lasting impressions of the trip? Would we go back?

There was a lot packed into this experience, so we were exhausted by the end of it! While this itinerary worked for us, if you appreciate a slightly more relaxed experience you may wish to visit the two temples on separate days (some people on our tour were dropped back to Yogyakarta after Borobudur, to be collected for Prambanan the next day). The 3am wake up is certainly an exhausting way to start the day, but we felt that it was well worth it. What we saw here was really unique and beautiful, and - though it was a little expensive - was very much worth a day of our trip and a lot of tiredness. We would totally go back, especially with another one of those tasty nasi gorengs in mind!

Have you been to Borobudur and Prambanan? Do you think it is a good place for vegans to visit? Let us know what you think in the comments below.


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The centre of Vienna with tall, historic buildings all around
The Indonesian islands are stunning!

Where should I stay?

Yogyakarta has so many highly-rated places to stay, at really reasonable prices.For a beautiful and inviting hostel, with a choice of dorm and private rooms, in the heart of the city, Snooze Hostel Yogyakarta is a popular choice. Or for a friendly guesthouse with a swimming pool, a vibrant neighbourhood, and a choice of double or family rooms, check out Nextdoor Yogyakarta!

Tours & Experiences

There's a lot to do and see in Yogyakarta, but top of most people's list is a trip to the incredible temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. But there's much more to visiting the city than that. This Java Nature Tour takes visitors for a trek through the stunning rice terraces, to meet local villagers, and to the Hidden Waterfall at the bottom of Merapi Volcano: a beautiful day out in Java's unique nature. Or, if that's not for you, check out some of the top-rated Viator tours below!

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