LearnIndonesianwith Us!Start Learning!
When it comes to traveling on Java, the most popular tourist destination is far and away Yogyakarta. Or is it Jogjakarta? Or Jogja? We’ll get to the name in just a second. This city is a fascinating place to visit with lots to offer. Ancient temples, a palace, a castle, art, music, food, nightlife, and more. It really checks all the boxes. Let’s learn all about Jogja, starting with the name.
The official name of the city is Yogyakarta. Yogya means “suitable, fit, proper,” and karta means “prosperous, flourishing” – “a city that is fit to prosper.” However, some choose to spell it as Jogjakarta, which led to the shortened version of Jogja. You can use all of the above when talking about the city, but make sure you type in “Yogyakarta” if searching for flights. It’s also a center for education and culture, which explains its nicknames – Kota Pelajar (Student’s City) and Kota Budaya (Cultural City). Now let’s take a look at a few of the things there are to do in this vibrant city.
The main tourist attraction in the city is without a doubt the Kraton (Sultan’s Palace). Although the Sultan doesn’t wield as much power as he did before Indonesian independence, he is still the governor of the region. Visitors are allowed to stroll around part of the complex in the mornings, but it’s still used for official purposes the rest of the day. It’s a beautifully designed place, and well worth a couple of hours. Make sure you stick around for the daily cultural performance which differs from day to day.
Called Taman Sari in Indonesian, this pleasure garden of the Sultan is known to many as the Water Castle. There are a variety of bathing pools here, one of which was specifically for the Sultan’s harem. From his watchtower up above, he could look down and take his pick of the ladies. Here and at many other tourist sites in Java, don’t be surprised if you’re approached by students who need to practice their English by interviewing foreigners. Help the kids out, smile for some photos, and maybe practice a little Indonesian while you’re at it.
Read more about the Sultan’s Palace and the Water Castle in this post.
No visit to Yogyakarta is complete without checking out wayang kulit (leather puppets). This traditional Javanese performance art has been around for hundreds of years, and it remains an important part of the local culture. Workshops are scattered across the city, where you can see how delicate a process it is crafting these stunning puppets. There’s also an evening performance so you can see a puppeteer in action backed by a gamelan orchestra. Although you most likely won’t catch much of the dialogue, it’s still an interesting show.
Base yourself in Yogyakarta for a while, and it’s easy to take day trips out to the Hindu temple of Prambanan and the Buddhist temple of Borobudur. Join a tour, hire a driver and a guide, or do what we did and just rent your own motorbike and cruise out there yourself. Prambanan is a short trip and easily doable in an afternoon. Stick around for dinner and an amazing Ramayana performance before heading back to the city.
As it’s a bit farther away, you might want to go spend a night out at Borobudur. If you stay at the Manohara hotel, you have the option of paying a bit extra to remain on the temple after sunset or go up before sunrise. We went with the former and ended up being the only two people on the biggest Buddhist monument in the world. Not too shabby.
As avid live music fans, we had a great time taking in lots of shows in Jogja. The city is rockin’ every night of the week, with a variety of venues hosting singers and bands. You’ll also find local groups jamming out in the streets on traditional instruments day and night. There was just something about going from a very traditional Javanese dance show in the Kraton to seeing a Rolling Stones cover band in a bar the same night that put a smile on my face. That’s just the kind of place that Yogyakarta is, and I personally loved it.
As you can see, there’s a lot going on in Yogykarta (or Joga if you prefer). You could easily spend a week exploring the city and the temples and not get bored for one second. If you’re thinking about studying Indonesian, this is also a great place to do it. I can highly recommend the Puri Bahasa school based on my own experience. I was able to get around at a basic level of Indonesian after just one week of private classes there. Speaking even just a little bit of Indonesian will make your trip across the country far more rewarding, and of course quite easier. There are few places better than Jogja to get going, so start planning your trip and get enrolled in a class!