Photo: Big city with a village feel.


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Central Java’s royal city of Solo (Surakarta) has long cultivated its reputation as the heartland of refined Javanese culture, home to princes and poets, sacred and mystical dances performed by elegant beauties, and shadowy tales of the wayan kulit reflecting the heavens and more terrestrial affairs.

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Born of epic power struggles, this quintessential Javanese town is often eclipsed by its more prominent rival, Yogyakarta, but the charms of this unhurried traditional centre prevail. A wander in any backstreet kampung is as fascinating and revealing of the essence of Solo as stepping into the courtly royal palaces, or indeed the glitzy malls. Tradition and culture hold fast in conservative Solo in some extent to the extremes, leading rise to a bad (and not undeserved) reputation for propagating zealots and radicals. Despite all this, Solo remains safe for visitors and the overwhelming majority of locals are very welcoming towards foreigners.

You should expect plenty of this in and around Solo. Photo taken in or around Solo, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

You should expect plenty of this in and around Solo. Photo: Sally Arnold

Geographically Solo is close to the heartland of Java (although the true geographical centre is closer to the Dieng Plateau), residing on the western bank of the Bengawan Solo, Java’s longest river made famous by a popular Indonesia song, shadowed by Gunung Lawu to the east and Gunung Merbabu and Gunung Merapi to the west. Yogyakarta is 65 kilometres to Solo’s southwest, about one hour by train, and Semerang lies 100 kilometres to the north.

Until the early 1740s, Solo was merely a small insignificant village until it was chosen by the king of the then waning Islamic Mataram kingdom, as a more auspicious place for his court, which was packed up and literally lugged in a procession from nearby Kartasura which had been badly ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,500 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Solo.
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 Read up on where to eat on Solo.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Solo.
 Read up on how to get to Solo.
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