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Jakarta to Bali: Traveling Across Java Posted by on Aug 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

Many visitors to Indonesia simply fly in and out of Bali and spend their entire trip there. For my first trip to the country a few years ago, we did just that. It was a short holiday, we had a friend studying there, and we just wanted to enjoy a nice vacation – Bali was an easy choice. While the Island of the Gods certainly deserves all the hype it gets as a travel destination, there is so much more to Indonesia than just the beaches of Bali. While sitting on the small island of Nusa Lembongan (still technically a part of Bali) and watching a special Hindu ceremony for the full moon, I made it my mission to return to Indonesia for a much longer trip. Fast forward two years and I’m fresh off a 45-day backpacking adventure through Java, Bali, and the Gili Islands. Traveling by land and sea allowed us to stop in many places and really get a feel for the various islands. It also allowed us to better understand just how diverse and fascinating of a place Indonesia truly is. As we had already been to Bali, we spent nearly half of our time on Java, traversing the world’s most populous island from Jakarta in the west toย Banyuwangi in the east. For those interested in doing a similar trip, I’d highly recommend it. Planning a route can be a bit tricky, so here are some ideas based on our recent trip:

Jakarta

Hanging out in the Old City of Jakarta.

Hanging out in the Old City of Jakarta.

Don’t let the traffic jams and chaos of Jakarta scare you – jump right in and start your trip off with at least one full day in the capital. If you’re backpacking, there’s a great hostel called Six Degrees that makes a great home base for your stay. With a communal living room stocked with couches, computers, a projector, and a pool table, plus a chilled out rooftop garden, you’ll have a nice place to return to after a busy day. For a whirlwind tour of the Indonesian capital, focus on some of the city’s famous landmarks, pig out on street food, wander around the old city, hit at least one mega-mall, and tear up the dance floor if you’ve got any energy left. Places of interest here include: Monas (the National Monument), Kota Tua (the old city), the Istiqlal Mosque, and the Jakarta Cathedral.

Bogor

Stop and smell the flowers.

Stop and smell the flowers.

For a break from the hustle and bustle of the big city, a short trip to Bogor is just what you need. While Bogor itself is just another big, crowded city, it features an impressive botanical garden that will make you forget you’re still in a huge metropolis with millions of people around. The gardens were founded in 1811 by Sir Stamford Raffles, and they’re a great place to stop and smell the flowers.

Bandung

Standing atop Tangkuban Parahu outside of Bandung.

Standing atop Tangkuban Parahu outside of Bandung.

A 3-hour train from Jakarta brings you to the capital of West Java and the country’s third largest city, Bandung. A visit here is all about the surrounding area, not the city itself. If your time is short, focus on one natural attraction for a day trip. We chose to visit Tangkuban Parahu, an active volcano and a popular tourist attraction. Whatever you do in Bandung, make sure you catch a traditional angklung performance at Saung Angklung Udjo.

Yogyakarta

Inside the Kraton of Jogja.

Inside the Kraton of Jogja.

The train from Jakarta/Bandung through Java to Yogyakarta is a highlight in its own right, and watching the stunning landscapes of this island pass you beats flying any day. The city of Yogyakarta (or Jogja as many like to call it) is rich in history and culture, so you can fill up plenty of days by visiting museums, workshops, and important sights such as the Kraton or the Water Palace. This is a great place to stay for a while and pick up some of the language, as it’s home to many language centers such as the excellent Puri Bahasa Indonesia. Jogjya is also a great home base for some of the country’s most famous temples, which can easily be visited as day trips.

Prambanan

The stunning Hindu temples of Prambanan.

The stunning Hindu temples of Prambanan.

One such temple is Prambanan, a 9th century Hindu temple located less than 20 km from Yogyakarta. Explore the temples for a few hours, take a short rest, and then check out the incredible Ramayana Ballet. Based on the Hindu epic of the same name, this performance takes place in an open-air theater and is the perfect way to spend an evening.

Borobudur

The biggest Buddhist temple in the world!

The biggest Buddhist temple in the world!

A stark contrast from Prambanan, Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple. Walking around the temple, you can follow the entire story of Buddha through the intricate carvings. During the holiday of Vesak, a huge ceremony is performed here and thousands of people make a pilgrimage to take part.

Dieng Plateau

Beautiful scenery of the Dieng Plateau.

Beautiful scenery of the Dieng Plateau.

If you feel like a bit of adventure, jump on a motorbike and cruise north to the Dieng Plateau. At an elevation of over 2,000 meters, Dieng is a great place to beat the heat – just make sure you bring some warm clothes. It’s a very scenic area, and you can easily spend a few days exploring the temples, lakes, hot springs, and more.

Mt. Bromo

Staring down into an active volcano.

Staring down into an active volcano.

Perhaps the most famous postcard image in all of Indonesia is sunrise over Mt. Bromo. As you may expect, it’s also one of the most popular places to visit and you don’t have to look hard to find a tour that’s going there. If you prefer to DIY, you can take an interesting journey that will have you staying in a village and flying across the “Sea of Sand” on the back of a motorbike.

Kawah Ijen

Blue fire!

Blue fire!

After doing the sunrise Bromo hike and making another long trip via bus or train, you’ll probably be exhausted. At this point in the trip, though, it’s best to power on and make another difficult trek in the middle of the night into a crater. If it sounds tiring, it is; but it’s worth it to see the blue flames that burn only in wee hours of the morning. Once this madness is finished, you can finally look forward to some R&R on Bali. But how do you get over there from Java?

Banyuwangi

Chillin' poolside, looking at Bali on the other side.

Chillin’ poolside, looking at Bali on the other side.

You’ve reached the easternmost part of Java when you arrive in Banyuwangi. From here, it’s a short and cheap ferry ride over to the west side of Bali. If you’ve just finished the arduous Yogyakarta-Bromo-Kawah Ijen trip, however, you may want to stay and relax for a day. There are quite a few hotels on the coast that have great views of Bali, so it’s not a bad place to recover. The folks at the Watu Dodol hotel were incredibly accommodating and friendly, and I can highly recommend staying here for a night to enjoy the pool and the delicious Chinese food. The ferry over to Bali runs 24 hours a day, so whenever you’re ready it’s time to say goodbye to Java.

For an interactive map that shows this trip across Java, click here. Each of these places will be highlighted on the blog in the months to come, so subscribe to the posts and that way you won’t miss any of them!

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About the Author:sasha

Sasha is a teacher, student, writer, photographer, web designer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently planning a trip through Central/South America.


Comments:

  1. Courtney:

    Love your article as I am planning to do just this trip in December! (Jakarta to Bali and then flying back to Jakarta) However I only have about 2-2 1/2 weeks to spare, do you reckon this is enough? Is the transport in Java as much of a nightmare as I’ve heard?

    • sasha:

      @Courtney Hi Courtney,
      Thanks for the comment! The transport in Jakarta is pretty terrible, it’s true. There’s no subway so you’re stuck dealing with the traffic in the street. I’d recommend taking the train whenever possible. If you only have 2.5 weeks, you probably won’t want to spend much time there anyways. The trip that I took was done in about 3 weeks, so you’d probably have to cut a few places out. If I were you, I’d spend the most time in Yogyakarta and base myself there for visits to Prambanan, Borobudur, and the Dieng Plateau if you’re interested. Mt. Bromo is cool and all, but they raised the entrance fees by 300% just before our visit. I was not aware before getting there, but if I had been I definitely would have just skipped it. It’s such a money grab and it’s a shame… there are more beautiful places to visit in Indonesia where you won’t be seen simply as a walking wallet. Kawah Ijen was better IMHO and much cheaper. Let me know if you have any other questions!
      Cheers,
      Sasha

  2. Bu Cathy:

    I spent 7 months backpacking through Indonesia in 2013 and had an absolute ball. I enjoyed it so much that I plan now to work hard, save my money so I can return to that awesome archipelago and do it all over again however, this time for even longer! There are so many places I want to explore either again in more depth or for the very first time. My blog address is above or you can google Jalan Jalan With Bu Cathy. I loved reading this post -it brought back lots of wonderful memories. Look forward to reading more.

  3. beritabanyuwangi:

    saya dari banyuwangi. trims

  4. Marie eve:

    Hi! I’ll be flying to Indonesia from Singapore around the 26th of November and was wondering where I should book my flight to. Your itinerary looks pretty interesting! I really want to do some trekking though! I have between 10 to 15 days to spend in Indo… What would you suggest me? Thanks! Really appreciated this article!

    • sasha:

      @Marie eve Hey Marie, You’ve got plenty of options from Singapore. It all depends on which islands you want to go to. If you’ve only got 10-15 days I would honestly just pick one island. For trekking your best bet may be Sumatra, although with the forest fires that were burning that might not be the best option… There’s some trekking you can do in Java, Bali, Lombok, Flores… the list goes on and on! Look on travel websites and see what interests you most. I live in Bali and love it here so let me know if you choose that route and I can give you some more tips!

  5. Veb:

    Hi, Im staying in Bali at the moment. 4 more months to spare, and considering doing this adventure threw Java! Is it suitable doing solo and hopefully meet other travellers? Would love to hear back from u!
    BR Veb

    • Veb:

      @Veb EDIT: 20 years old boy ๐Ÿ™‚

    • sasha:

      @Veb Hey Veb,

      You could definitely do this journey solo if you want. The only thing is that it’s nice to split the cost of transport/guides with other people. Something you could consider doing is taking a tour from Bali to Kawah Ijen/Mt. Bromo. Almost everyone there runs those kinds of tours, and in the end the cost would probably be about the same as trying to do it on your own. As I mentioned in the post, I honestly don’t know if Bromo is worth it anymore after they raised the price so much. Up to you, though. Definitely spend some quality time in Jogja – that city is awesome!


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