With three days in Yogyakarta, you can experience the region’s UNESCO World Heritage Site temples, discover the city’s heritage, and explore natural attractions, whether that’s hiking the active volcano Mt. Merapi, tubing an underground river, or descending into Jomblang Cave. You might even be able to visit Semarang or Solo. Here’s how.
Day 1: Tour the Temples
Spend your first day in Yogyakarta ticking off the region’s signature temples: 8th-century Buddhist Borobudur and 10th-century Hindu Prambanan. Start by watching the sun rise over the serene spires of Borobudur as the mist clears from the jungle, then discover some nearby villages or the smaller temples of Pawon and Mendut. Backtrack toward Yogyakarta to experience the wonders of Prambanan, Indonesia’s answer to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. If you’re hoping to explore beyond Yogyakarta later, spend this afternoon discovering the city’s historic center. If your pace is more leisurely, enjoy dinner as you watch the Hindu epic Ramayana re-created as a classical ballet among the Prambanan temples.
Day 2: To the Bowels of the Earth
Start the day with a trip to Mt. Merapi, the almost perfectly conical active volcano that overshadows the plains around Yogyakarta. Choose between a classic sunrise hike, a 4WD adventure, or a lava tour. Continue to one of the region’s signature caves: Jomblang, which begins with a vertiginous descent to a hidden forest, or Pindul, where you can tube an underground river. If time permits, discover some of the golden beaches in the Gunung Kidul area. Spend the evening exploring Yogyakarta’s vibrant street-food scene, feasting from the stalls on Jalan Malioboro or joining a foodie tour of the city by night.
Day 3: To the City—or Beyond
With a heritage dating back to the eighth century, you could easily spend a day exploring Yogyakarta’s historic districts: the palace, the water gardens, the royal tombs, and the silversmithing district of Kota Gede (Old Town). Some, however, may want to spend their third day in Yogyakarta discovering other nearby cities, such as bustling Semarang or Solo (Surakarta), which is often coupled with a visit to Sukuh Temple and its erotic carvings. Whichever option you choose, wrap up the night mingling with Yogyakarta’s artists and students at a live music venue or café-bar.