One of the temples that make up the Prambanan UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sewu Temple (Candi Sewu) dates back to the 8th century AD. Its name, which means “thousand temples,” refers to the 249 shrines that make up this Buddhist temple complex. Its grand scale makes it second only to Borobudur in religious and historical significance.
To visit Sewu Temple, buy an admission ticket to the Prambanan temple complex—prices for foreigners are in line with historical attractions in the western hemisphere. You don’t need a guide or a tour to visit, but as signs are few and far between and both Prambanan and Candi Sewu are complex sites, many will value the expertise of a local guide. You can hire a guide on-site or book a tour in advance.
Sewu Temple is typically visited as part of a broader Prambanan tour. A few tours visit both Sewu and Borobudur in a single day, but most dedicate a full day to Prambanan.
Things to Know Before You Go
- A must for history buffs, Sewu Temple is one of Prambanan’s most atmospheric ruins.
- Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a lot of walking, as the Prambanan site is large.
- Candi Sewu is a sacred site, so visitors should cover shoulders and knees.
- The train between the Prambanan temple complex and Sewu Temple cannot be accessed with a wheelchair.
How to Get There
Sewu Temple forms part of the Prambanan temple complex, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of Yogyakarta city. TransJogja Route 1A runs from central Yogyakarta to Prambanan. Almost always visited as part of a broader Prambanan trip, Sewu sits around half a mile (800 meters) north of the main complex, accessible by walking, a small train, or by bicycles that are available to rent.
When to Get There
Sewu Temple is one of the less visited areas of Prambanan, so is rarely overly busy. It’s still worth visiting during the week rather than on weekends to beat the crowds, and it’s a good idea to avoid the Lebaran holiday at the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Waisak, Indonesia’s annual celebration of Buddha’s birthday (generally in May or June), is sometimes celebrated here.
Buddhist Java and the Shailendras
There are more Muslims in Indonesia than in any other country in the world, and Java is today an overwhelmingly Muslim island. Yet its most famous religious monuments were built by the Buddhist Shailendra kings and the Hindu Mataram emperors between the 8th and 10th century. It was the Shailendras who built both Sewu Temple and Borobudur.