Borobudur is the largest Buddhist Temple in the world and it’s hard to think of a more impressive religious monument anywhere on the whole planet. The sensational 9th century site, pre dates Cambodia’s Angkor Wat by 300 years and took over 75 years of human labor to construct. Situated on the Indonesian Island of Java, the UNESCO World Heritage site is comprised of thousands of volcanic stone blocks, beautifully decorated with the most intricate carvings imaginable. From now until September is the best time of the year to visit as there is plenty of warm sunshine and hardly a raincloud in sight, so we thought it would be ideal timing to give some Backyard Travel insider tips on how to make the most out of a trip to this remarkable temple.
When is the best time to visit?
The beautiful site is a wonderful place for peaceful reflection but it does get pretty crowded as the day goes on, so we suggest visiting at the crack of dawn so that you can have that memorable quiet moment to yourself. Visiting at sunrise also gives you the chance to see the stones and magnificent carvings up close, as the pink early morning sun reflects off the unique structure. Most visitors travel to the site from Yogyakarta, which takes about 90 minutes by car, so you would have to leave incredibly early to make sunrise (not much later than 4am at most times of the year). So instead we recommend to stay the night before your visit at a nearby hotel, like the stunning Amanjiwo, so that the early rise is a bit more bearable.
Indonesians are possibly the friendliest people in Asia (tough competition!) and whilst an early visit is highly recommended to avoid the crowds, do visit later on as well when it is busier, as it is great fun to be at the temple when it is full of friendly, inquisitive locals, who will be so keen to practice their English on you!
View from different vantage points
It is possible to start your day by seeing the site from a vantage point up in the hills so that you can see the spectacular scene of the sun rising above the site, but we suggest starting the day in the actual site for sunrise (as mentioned above) and then later on view the temple from different vantage points. A great idea is to head up to Dagi Hill for sunset and this could be combined with a early evening picnic. From the top of the hill, which is on the western side of the temple, the views are magnificent, as the incredible site sits in the middle of verdant green rice fields, with swaying palms in view every which way you look.
There are also great view points from both the exquisite Amanjiwo and Plataran hotels, which would offer a more relaxing and cooler experience. Both hotels are a great idea for a bit of treat, whether that be a tasty bite to eat or a well-deserved drink, with Borobudur and the surrounding volcanoes providing the backdrop.
Make use of a guide
The terraces that make up the stupa of Borobudur are covered with narrative scenes from Buddha’s life from over 1,000 years ago. The site lay hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and jungle and it is unsurprising that there are many extraordinary stories to be told and much history to learn about. By using the services of a of a local Backyard Travel Guide you will be able to learn so much more and take on board some really great insider knowledge on this truly impressive temple. They will be able to explain the history of the construction, including the significance of the different sized bell-shaped stupas. The guide will also be able to take you to other nearby temples such as ‘Panon’, famous for its perfect symmetry and the pyramid temple “Mendut’, which pre-dates Borobudur.
Time your visit a performance of the ‘Mahakarya’
The Mahakarya is a truly spectacular light and dance show that takes you back in time to life in 8th Century Java. Over 200 Javanese dancers, many from Solo’s Art school, accompanied by a traditional gamelan orchestra, perform in front of the stunning backdrop of Borobudur, which is beautifully lit up against the night sky. The incredible spectacle outlines the story of the unique temple from its first construction and the dancers wear brightly colored traditional Javanese costumes, dressed as different soldiers, nobles, kings and queens. The performance only happens once or twice a year though (usually between June to October) so tickets do book up quickly. Our Indonesia based local experts will be able to advise you on when the next performance is and can also book your tickets.
If you have further questions about Borobudur or any other historical sites in Indonesia, contact our expert local specialists based in Bali, who can assist you be creating an original itinerary that matches all your needs. Simply get in touch or send us an inquiry today and we’ll help you plan your dream Indonesian vacation.