I’ve been on my fair share of press trips for the blog, but it’s not often that I get to go on one that has something so amazing on the schedule as seeing the sunrise at Borobudur. A true bucket list experience. Ok, so you do have to get up really early, but this is a once in a lifetime experience that you will never ever forget, right? I experienced the sunrise at Borobudur, and now I am here to give you tips for your own trip. Is it really worth it?
What is Borobudur?
Borobudur is perhaps the most famous temple complex in all of Indonesia. It is therefore one of Java’s most popular attractions. Borobudur is a Buddhist temple complex dating back to 750 – 850 AD. It has nine floors: six are square, and the three at the top are round. Located on the top there are 72 stoepa’s, all of them are built around the large central stoepa, which symbolizes the nirwana. If you put your hand in the stoepa and are able to touch the Buddha image in the center, it means that you will have eternal happiness, according to the local believes (I sure hope so, because I did it!). Pilgrims walk around every floor seven times, clockwise. The floors are decorated with carvings embodying the life story of Buddha.
Borobudur disappeared for a long time under the vegetation of Java. Only in 1814 the temple was rediscovered. There were some restorations and excavations that took place in the nineteenth century, but the first real restoration dates from 1907-1911. The second major restoration took place between 1973 and 1984, and was funded by UNESCO. Borobudur was placed on the World Heritage List in 1991, along with Prambanan.
Visit Borobudur + Borobudur sunrise
Borobudur is situated about an hour outside of Yogyakarta. You can either stay in Yogyakarta and take a tour to the temple, or you can stay near Borobudur (which is what we did). If you want to see the sunrise, then it is recommended to stay at the Manohara hotel (see down below), as all sunrise tours leave from here. Otherwise you would have to get up extremely early, as you have to gather at Manohara before 4.30am to join in on the sunrise tour.
Keep in mind, you have to be lucky to see an actual beautiful sunrise. About 80% of the time it is very cloudy, so when we were there it was cloudy as well. The sunrise was a bit disappointing when I was there, because of the weather and also because of the giant groups of tourists. Nevertheless, I think this was a once in a lifetime experience: how often do see the sunrise? It was amazing when I went to another corner of the temple, where there were no tourists, and enjoyed the scenery and the sounds of the call to prayer in silence.
One last tip: make sure to bring some mosquito spray or DEET, because mosquitoes are usually active during sunrise and sunset. I was bitten by a tiger mosquito (I spotted him too late), which in some cases can carry diseases like dengue. So be careful! (thankfully I was fine, other than being covered in itchy bites!)
Entrance fee Borobudur 2017:
From 6 am to 5 am (no sunrise): IDR 325K = $25.
Sunrise (from 4.30): IDR 450K = $35
Students receive a 10 USD discount on display of a valid student card. However, the discount is not valid with the Sunrise ticket.
Andhong Village Tour
Instead of returning to Borobudur in the afternoon, we decided to do another tour (which was arranged by the Manohara hotel). This was the Andhong Village Tour where we rode through the area and local villages with horse and carriage to discover more about life in the countryside and (of course) to buy some souvenirs. Though I found it quite difficult from an responsible travel type point of view to walk through a very poor village while taking pictures with my expensive camera, I found the tour very special. And it was pointed out to me that these tours actually support the locals and allow the environment to be kept as authentic as possible, as the locals benefit from the tours. Due to these kind of tours, they do not have to take dirty money from big international chains that want to build restaurants and hotels all over the place.
The tour is spectacular: it takes you through a magical landscape by carriage: you drive along the greenest rice fields, see children play on fields, admire local villages, see about 429,000 chickens, and really get an idea how local life goes around here. We ate at a local restaurant in one of the villages.
Short Trip: IDR. 175,000 ($7.50 per person)
Long Trip: IDR. 200,000 ($15 per person)
You can book this tour at Manohara, guide not included. There is space for up to three people in one carriage.
Where to stay for Borobudur
Photo source: Manohara Resort
Usually, I provide a number of options for your stay, but in this case I can only recommend one hotel for the best experience in Borobudur. We stayed at Manohara, a hotel that is actually located on top of the Borobudur complex itself. This makes it easy for you to visit the temple whenever you want.
The price includes access to Borobudur (between 06:00 and 17:00) and breakfast. Check the most recent prices here. If you stay at Manohara, you will only pay IDR 275K ($20) extra for a sunrise package. This has to be purchased separately at the hotel.