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Under the shadow of temperamental Gunung Merapi, one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes, the ancient Buddhist monument Borobudur emerges majestically from the surrounding jungle and farmland.

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Comparable in importance and magnificence to the temples of Angkor in Cambodia and Machu Picchu in Peru, it’s truly one of the world’s great treasures and is an unmissable stop when you visit Central Java. Two smaller nearby temples, Mendut and Pawon might appear comparably insignificant, however they are both worth checking out when you are in the vicinity.

Serene... except for the crowds that come later. Photo taken in or around Borobudur, Yogyakarta, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Serene... except for the crowds that come later. Photo: Sally Arnold

On first impressions, the rather squat grey mass of volcanic stone that makes up Borobudur may not seem as impressive as other towering structures—the temple has no chambers you can enter. Instead, the massive complex envelops a small hill, which when viewed from above follows the form of a giant mandala.

The lower, almost-square-shaped base stretches approximately 120 metres each side, topped by six concentric square terraces decorated with 2,672 exquisitely carved relief panels and 504 Buddha sculptures, leading to an upper trio of circular-shaped levels topped with 72 bell-like stupas, culminating with a large dome at the centre. By walking the ancient pilgrims’ path, roughly five kilometres clockwise around each level, past the lower galleries with images of “desire” to the levels of the teachings and life of Buddha, and finally to the realm of “nothingness”, you can appreciate the sheer splendour of this antiquity, the world’s largest ... Travelfish members only (Around 2,100 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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How to get there
Borobudur is in Magelang, 40 km northwest of Yogyakarta. The journey takes about one and a half hours by car, slightly longer by public bus.

Public buses (Cemera Tunggal and Ragil Kuning) from Jombor terminal in the north of the city leave regularly to Borobudur between 06:00 and 16:00, and cost 30,000 rupiah (1.5 hours). TransJogja buses will link you to Jombor terminal via routes 2A (sky blue) and 2B (green) (3,600 rupiah), you may have to connect to these routes via another TransJogja route. The last bus back from Borobudur leaves at 16:00. Borobudur terminal is a 10-minute walk from the temple complex, or becaks and taxis will be willing and waiting to transport you.

Alternatively you can catch a Cemera Tunggal bus from Giwangan terminal in the south of the city (2 hours), although these leave less regularly and only operate 08:00 to 15:00. TransJogja links to Giwangan terminal via routes 3A (yellow), 3B (red), 4A (purple) and 4B (orange).

Entry to the bus terminals is 500 rupiah (you wondered what those coins were for).

Travel agents in Yogyakarta offer a door-to-to minibus service leaving at set times (usually 05:00) starting at 75,000 rupiah return. A combo trip with Prambanan is 100,000 rupiah.

If you’d prefer a little more freedom, a car with driver (return) will set you back around 500,000 rupiah or a motorbike taxi around 200,000 rupiah.

40 km from Yogyakarta
Daily 06:00-17:00.
T: (0293) 788 266, (0248) 646 2345

Location map for Borobudur

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Yogyakarta? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Indonesia.

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