Without doubt one of the marvels of the ancient world, the magnificent Borobudur temple is not to be missed. Built in the 9th century as a shrine to Lord Buddha and a place of pilgrimage, Borobudur is the world’s biggest Buddhist monument, and a stunning example of human endeavour.
Situated on a small hill in the Kedu Plain in central Java, the massive stone complex has a surface area of over 2,500 square metres comprising of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms and a crowing monumental stupa. It’s decorated with 2,672 relief panels, 504 life-size Buddha statues, 72 stupas and countless decorative balustrades, all beautifully and intricately sculptured.
It’s almost unimaginable that it was abandoned in the 14th century following the decline of the Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms and the Javanese conversion to Islam. For centuries it lay hidden beneath layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth until 1814 when rumours of its existence reached Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, then the British ruler of Java. He sent one of his engineers, HC Cornelius, to investigate and promptly assigned 200 men to begin clearing away soil and vegetation to reveal the temple.
In the years since, the monument has undergone several renovations, the latest to repair extensive damage after the eruption of nearby Mount Merapi in 2010. In 1982 it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is now Indonesia’s most popular tourist attraction.
Viewing the sunrise from the top of Borobudur has become almost a rite of passage for many tourists who are rewarded for the early start with breathtaking views across the Kedu Plains to a line of distant volcanoes – Sumbing and Sundoro to the west, Merbabu and Merapi to the east.
Borobudur is open from 6:00am – 5:00pm and is best visited in the early morning or late afternoon. By around 9:00AM bus loads of day trippers from Yogyakarta start arriving in a fairly steady stream that lasts until around 3:00PM. If you want to see the sunrise from the temple, you need to purchase a “sunrise ticket” from the Manohara Hotel adjacent to Borobudur. 380.000Rp gets you earlier access, a sarong, a torch and a plenty of time to beat the hordes.
Borobudur is located Magelang, a 1-1.5hr drive north of Yogyakarta. Public buses run this route all day every day and there are countless tour companies offering Borobudur tours from Yogyakarta, often combining other attractions into the tour including Prambanan, Java’s famous Hindu monument. You’ll find them online or you can book at any tour desk in Yogya.