Itinerary for Java, Indonesia: Cities, temples & rice fields
In November I went to Java on a press trip for a week and a half! Without a doubt, the most amazing destination I have ever had to visit for my blog and I can not wait to share my itinerary with you. This is the exact route I followed, but in terms of the amount of days in one place, it did change a little. For example, you spend less days in Jakarta, but longer in Semarang and Solo, cities that I didn’t really get to see.
Java is truly a beautiful island, the most important island of Indonesia even, because this is where the capital and government are located. In addition, about 60% of the population lives on Java, while it represents only about 7% of Indonesia’s land mass. Java is green, has amazing temples, and beautiful culture, so you shouldn’t miss it when you travel to Indonesia. Also nice: there is no malaria on Java (and Bali) so you don’t have to worry about that! The route for Java that I share with you today is mainly focused on West and Central Java. If you want to see a all of Java, you’ll need at least two to three weeks, but with this Java route you will certainly see all the big highlights!
The best moment for traveling to Java
The best time for traveling to Java is from May through September. During this period there isn’t a lot of rain. I was there during the end of November, in the so-called rainy season, but it really only rained at night, so we didn’t even notice it, really. Because Indonesia is near the equator, the climate is very stable. Depending on where we were on Java, the temperature ranged between 24 and 30 degrees.
Jakarta: 1.5 days
Your trip starts in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. A city that most travelers quickly run away from, but I don’t think that is necessary. There are also a lot of fun things to do and see in Jakarta. The traffic situation can be overwhelming, it is SO busy, and you will undoubtedly feel a little claustrophobic in such a big city, but I found that it was a perfect way to really get used to Java. Everything afterwards is just so serene and green.
Jakarta is also the city where you will see some Dutch colonial history, so if you are interested, you should really go here. I visited a number of monuments, museums, an amusement park and a theme park. I suggest you do some exploring in the old city center and visit some museums after your arrival. End the day with some drinks in the evening accompanied by an amazing view over the city. For the next day I recommend visiting the national monument, and pay a visit to a minitiature park to get an idea of Indonesia, the different building styles and cultures.
Read my article about my trip to Jakarta here.
Semarang: 1.5 days
Then it’s time to go leave and travel further, to the charming Semarang. You can take a very comfortable train, which takes about 6.5 hours. Which is not such a bad thing, because the train has chairs that you can turn so you will be facing the window! This way you can truly enjoy the scenery as you travel. It’s a very impressive view.
Semarang is located on the north coast of Java. It is the capital city of central Java and is one of the larger cities of Indonesia with its 1.5 million inhabitants. Semarang played an important role during Dutch colonization because of its port. The city center is very charming, and the city is working hard to restore the ancient colonial buildings to its former glory. Due to the amount of buildings built by the Dutch, the district of Kota Lama is also known as small Netherlands. Semarang is also (apparently) the birthplace of spring rolls, so you definitely can’t miss it. Do not skip Lawang Sewu either by the way, this is the old Dutch headquarters of the Dutch Indian Railways. Not only is it an amazingly beautiful building to visit, it is also really interesting to learn more about the history of the colonization and how poor Indonesians were exploited by the Dutch rulers.
Hotel tip: Pandanaran Hotel. An affordable and comfortable three star hotel with swimming pool.
Gedong Songo: 0.5 day
About an hour’s drive away from Semarang you will find the temple complex Gedong Songo, my personal favorite of the trip. This Hindu temple complex was built between 730 and 780 AD, this makes the temples even older than both Prambanan and Borobudur (read more about those in a moment). This temple complex is so unfamiliar to foreign tourists that there are less than a dozen of foreign tourists a day, almost only Indonesian tourists. We visited the temple by horse, which something that I will never forget. After your visit to Gedong Songo, drive to Solo, a 2.5 hour ride.
Read my article about my visit to Gedong Songo here.
Solo: 1.5 days
Spend the evening watching a traditional performance in Solo, or enjoy some delicious Nasi Liwet at Bu Wongso Lemu for less than a euro. The next day it’s time to explore Solo. Solo also carries the name Surakarta. This is the city where the current president of Indonesia was born, Joko Widodo. I really liked Solo and I wished I had more time to spend here. It was cooler, quieter and bigger than Jakarta, or even Semarang. Visit one of the waterfalls or temples in the area, or go to the batik museum (or buy fabrics at the Klewer market) or visit the Pura Mangkunegaran palace.
Hotel Tip: Alila Solo, one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve stayed at during my Indonesia trip.
Yogyakarta: 1.5 days
Yogyakarta, or Yogya as the locals call it, is an important city in central Java. Known for its location close to the important temples Prambanan and Borobudur, but it is definitely worth a visit and the city is very much loved by the tourists. For example, visit the royal palace, watch a traditional show, or go shopping for some great souvenirs!
Prambanan & Ratu Boko: 0.5 day
The famous Hindu temples of Prambanan are less than an hour’s drive from Yogyakarta, and I would definitely recommend you to go there at the end of the afternoon. It’s way less crowded and you can walk around the complex at your own pace. At Ratu Boko you can see the most beautiful sunset over Prambanan. Do not forget to watch a beautiful performance of the Ramayana ballet in the evening as well, which is performed with the illuminated Prambanan complex in the background.
Read my article about my visit to Prambanan here.
Borobudur & surroundings: 1 day
The reason most tourists travel to Yogyakarta is to visit the world-renowned Borobudur complex. Watching the sunrise from the top of Borobudur is really a once in a lifetime experience, and so I wrote an extensive article with tips about it. You can spend the morning at Borobudur, take a little nap (you will have to wake up at 4.30 am!), and then spend the afternoon exploring the rice fields around Borobudur.
Read my article about the sunrise at Borobudur here.
After visiting Borobudur, you can take the pane and fly back to Jakarta in the evening or the next morning for your return flight to wherever you’re from. There is also a night train from Yogyakarta to Jakarta, but in the future I would definitely choose to fly there, because after two nights of almost no sleep (Borobudur + night train to Jakarta) combined with a night flight to the Netherlands, I was so dead.
This itinerary is, of course, just one of the many routes you can take. You can also visit Bandung or Bogor, both very popular cities, and you have yet to see East Java! I hope this route has helped with a planning for your trip to Indonesia! Good luck!
Read all of my articles on Indonesia here!