Prambanan temple and Borobudur temple are two of the highlights of Yogyakarta. The temples offer a glimpse into Indonesia’s past and the regions that have influenced the region so much, both culturally and economically.
The two temples located near Yogyakarta tell a tale of East meeting West, but not the traditional story of Europe in Asia. Rather this has more to do with two of the historical centers of the world, India and China. It is a similar tale to that found at Angkor Wat temple.
History of Borobudur and PrambananTemples
Two competing kingdoms built Prambanan and Borobudur temples only a century apart. The temples offer a glimpse of the rise and fall of imperial ambitions and the religions that they followed.
Borobudur temple was build the Sailendra dynasty and is the world’s largest Buddhist temple. Construction of the temple complex started in the early 8th Century and it is estimated to have taken 70 years or more to complete. It’s an enormous structure split over six levels and covered in Buddha statues with intricately carved panels.
Prambanan temple was built by the Sanjaya dynasty, with construction starting around 850 ad (about the time that construction of Borobudur was finishing). Prambanan temple was a clear attempt to counteract the influence of Borobudur. An ancient form of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’
Over the following centuries Chinese Buddhism from the East (Borobodur) battled the influence of Hinduism (Prambanan) from the West. Yet both were eventually replaced by Islam, which was brought to Indonesia by traders from Persia and India.
Prambanan temple is located on the outskirts of Yogyakarta. It’s a short drive from the center of the city to the temple, which can actually be reached by bus. To get there, just head past the airport and continue straight until you find the temple on your left hand side.
The highlight of Prambanan is the six large temples in the center of the complex. These temples, which dominate the skyline, are dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Surrounding the main complex are the ruins of hundreds of smaller shrines.
The best time to visit Prambanan temple is in the early morning or the late afternoon, nearing sunset, when the temperature is cooler. Depending on how much you like temples, it will take 30 minutes to an hour and a half to explore the temple complex.
Borobudur temple is a two-hour drive outside of Yogyakarta. While getting to Borobudur from Yogyakarta is not so difficult, most tourists will join a private tour. There’s a good reason for this, which I’ll cover in a bit more depth shortly.
While much of Prambanan is a complex of hundreds of temples and shrines, Borobudur is just one structure. The temple is designed a bit like a step pyramid spread over six levels. Each floor of Borobudur temple is meant to represent a stage on the path to enlightenment. It would take novice monks a lifetime to climb to the top of the temple (you can now achieve enlightenment in a few minutes, which is handy).
The best time to visit Borobudur is for sunrise, which is part of the reason that a private tour is so popular. There are two main spots where you can watch sunrise at Borobudur. The first, and arguably the best, is from the top of Borobudur temple. The second option is to watch sunrise from Setumbu hill.
Borobudur and Prambanan Tour
If you visit Yogyakarta I’d definitely recommend a trip to Borobudur and Prambanan (even if you’re not a temple person). The temples are incredible to explore and they make for a nice day trip from Yogyakarta. Be warned, it will be a long day.
Most tours of Borobudur and Prambanan follow the same schedule. You get picked up in Yogyakarta very early in the morning (around 4:30am if you hire a private car) and driven straight to Borobudur for sunrise. After watching sunrise at Borobudur you then go directly to Prambanan, before returning to Yogyakarta.
If you want to visit Borobudur and Prambanan there are lots of different tours you can join. The cheapest option is joining an organized tour, which means taking a minibus to the temple. While an organized tour is a great option for budget travellers, I’d personally recommend arranging a private car rental. There’s a very good reason for this…
Most organized tours start very early in the morning. A private car rental saves you the hassle of having to wake up even earlier, like at least an hour, so you can pick up passengers before you leave. Having a private car also gives you the freedom to explore Borobudur and Prambanan at your own pace (I’ve heard a few stories of having to wait around Borobudur for 3-hours or more, because one of the guests wanted to see every part of the temple).
Arrange Your Temple Tour
Borobudur and Prambanan temples are a highlight of any visit to Yogyakarta. The two UNESCO world heritage sites are simply a must see (after all, chances are you won’t be returning any time soon). Of course you want to make sure that your visit to the temples is as relaxing as possible.
I’ve teamed up with a trusted local tour agency to help you have the best holiday experience visiting the temples. It’s a super convenient package that includes a comfortable private car and an experienced local driver.
Included in the Borobudur and Prambanan temple package:
• Experienced English speaking driver and comfortable family car
• Early morning pickup from your hotel
• Entrance ticket to Borobudur and Prambanan (we can get you a joint pass, which is actually cheaper than two separate tickets if you book early)
• Drop off at the end of the day at your hotel
Press the button below to find out more.
Have you visited Borobudur and Prambanan? What did you think about the temples?