Visiting Borobudur Temple
Only 40 km from Yogyakarta, in a hilly plain almost surrounded by mountains, stands one of the most famous and visited Buddhist temples in Indonesia: Borobudur. The temple was built around the 9th century during the reign of the Syailendra dynasty, under the leadership of King Samarotthungga. After its construction, the temple was buried under a layer of earth and ash due to the eruption of Mount Merapi, and slowly, dense vegetation began to grow on this heap of debris.
However, between 1811 and 1816, during the British occupation of Java island, the British Governor Thomas Stamford Raffles (the founder of Singapore) had a great practical and academic interest in the history of this mystical island. During his trip to Semarang in 1814, he was informed of a huge “lost” monument deep in the jungle near Yogyakarta and sent a Dutch explorer to investigate. It took several months to clear the jungle and partially reveal the incredible monument, but only in 1885, the complex was unearthed in its magnificent entirety. In 1973, the Indonesian Government started a restoration project which ended in 1984. After the renovation, the Borobudur Temple was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1991.
The imposing temple of Borobudur consists of 10 terraces, one for each phase of the spiritual journey towards perfection, divided into three levels corresponding to the three Buddhist spheres. The base represents life in the spirals of desire; the five square terraces represent the progressive emancipation from the senses; the three circular terraces represent the spiritual path towards the achievement of Nirvana. Each level has several stupas for 72 stupas, and the main stupa is located in the centre of the structure on the last level. The temple is also finely decorated with more than 2600 bas-reliefs and 504 Buddha statues. If you plan to backpack Indonesia, be sure not to miss Borobudur!
How to reach Borobudur
The closest airport to the temple is Yogyakarta’s Adisucipto International Airport (40 km), the main starting point for visiting the most interesting attractions on the island of Java. The easiest way to reach Borobudur is by taxi (about 1 hour and it cost around 300,000 rupees), or, if you feel like it, by renting a scooter. Always pay attention to the heavy traffic and the rather disorderly driving of the locals. Alternatively, you can arrange the tour through your hotel in a private car (approximately 450,000 rupees). This option is perfect, especially if you want to visit the famous Prambanan temple in Yogyakarta on the same day.
The temple can also be reached by public transport, but this choice will make you waste more time. Go to Jombor Bus Station in downtown Yogyakarta and take a direct bus to Borobudur Bus Station.
Alternatively, book a private tour through Yogyakarta agencies or platforms such as Viator.com and GetYourGuide.com, where local operators themselves advertise their tours and activities in the area.
Depending on your itinerary, you can also sleep in Borobudur, a much more comfortable option if you decide to visit the temple at dawn. We slept at the Hotel Sinom Borobudur, a small welcoming structure a few minutes walk from the temple entrance.
Visiting Borobudur at dawn
Dawn is the most charming moment to visit the temple of Borobudur when the sun slowly rises behind Mount Merapi wrapped in a light mist. Get ready to share this moment with hundreds of other tourists, especially during July and August. The entrance to the temple to see the sunrise is through the Manohara Resort and includes a package with breakfast, a souvenir, a torch and access at 4.30 am before normal opening hours. The ticket can be bought directly on the spot for 35 USD (450,000 rupees).
Opening time and ticket fee
The temple opens from 6 am to 5 pm every day. The cost of the standard ticket is 25 USD (337,500 rupees). There is the option of buying a combined ticket to visit Borobudur (excluding sunrise) and Prambanan at the cost of 45 USD (540,000 rupees).
How to dress: Remember that this temple is a religious complex, and as such, you will need to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. If you visit the temple at dawn, bring a sweater because the early morning air is quite fresh.