Once the site of the former capital city of the powerful Majapahit between the 13th – 15th century AD, Trowulan archaeological site is a must see for history buffs. The site was first uncovered in 1815 during the Sir Thomas Raffles governance era when the remains of temples, tombs and a bathing place where identified as having belonged to the lost city of Trowulan noted in old manuscripts.
In the years since, archaeologists have uncovered a treasure trove of artifacts such as terracotta pots, ceramics, metal tools and stone statues, reliefs and tablets. Recent excavations have found the remains of industrial, religious activity and extensive water supply and canal systems, all pointing to a heavily populated and thriving city.
According to an account in the 14th century Nagarakretagama poem and 15th century Chinese descriptions, the royal city was surrounded by a thick, 10m high brick wall over looked by fortified guard posts with comings and goings via a substantial double gate. But despite the fortifications, the city was razed during the invasion of Girindrawardhana in 1478. It was subsequently abandoned and the Majapahit court relocated to Kediri.
Today the ruins lie scattered through the rice fields, largely unknown or ignored by tourists. Whilst not as impressive as the island’s better known Hindu temples, the Trowulan buildings are a fine example of ancient brick making and construction, something that you won’t find elsewhere among Java’s stone built Hindu temples. A good collection of the smaller artifacts unearthed during excavations or found lying in the rice fields by local farmers are on display in the Trowulan Museum located on the west side of Segaran pool.
Trowulan is located in Mojokerto Regency about 60km southwest of Surabaya, about 1.5-2hrs by private car. For a cheaper option, catch the Jombang bound bus from Surabaya’s Bungurasih bus terminal. Tell the driver you want to get off at the “Trowulan perempatan, lampu merah” and he’ll let you out at the traffic lights at a 4-way intersection in Trowulan. From there it’s a 1km walk down the road on the left the museum, the best place to begin your tour as they have an information desk, maps of the site and very knowledgeable English speaking guides.
If you like your guide, ask them to accompanying you around the archaeological site. Whilst there is no official charge for this service, you’re guide will expect a tip afterwards which is reasonable. Note the ruins are scattered over a large area (11km x 10km). If you want to visit them all it will take around 3 hours by car or ojek but if you prefer to walk, ask your guide or the museum staff to recommend which ones you should visit.