Borobudur

#25 - Yogyakarta, Indonesia
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Quick Description
Borobudur is a 9th century Buddhist temple complex located in Central Java, Indonesia. It is the single largest Buddhist structure on the planet and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The temple was abandoned in the 14th century with the Javanese conversion to Islam.
Why AbsoluteVisit #25?
The staggering number of buddha statues and bell-shaped stupas create a unique and iconic temple structure unlike any other in the world. The walls of the lower floors are covered in hand engraved stories, with more depth and detail than you will find at Angkor Wat. Additionally there are several unbelievable volcanoes visible from the top of Borobudur.
Slide 1
The Magic From Below
#1 Borobudur Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 2
Colorful History
#2 Borobudur Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 3
Uncaged Protector
#3 Borobudur Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 4
A Borobudur Sunrise
#4 Borobudur Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 5
Borobudur from different angle
#5 Borobudur Photo - Lisa Hendrawan
Slide 6
Ancient Bell Floor
#6 Borobudur Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 7
A Carved Story
#7 Borobudur Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 8
King of Borobudur
#8 Borobudur Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 9
The Darkness of Time
#9 Borobudur Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 10
Borobudur, Indonesia
#10 Borobudur Photo - Zhao Naidoo
 
Overview
Plan a Visit
Maps
Photos
Videos

Brad & Will's Quick Thoughts

We visited Borobudur for the first time in April 2013. We were able to enjoy both a sunset and a sunrise during our visit. Unfortunately, we never really saw the sun set or the sun rise :) The cloud gods had it out for us on our visit, but that's travel for you!

Even with the bad weather, we still managed to fall in love with Borobudur. There is something about the bell-shaped stupas and all of those buddhas that really sucks you into the moment. Perhaps it was the eyes on all of the Buddha statues that made the whole scene feel more alive than other temples we have visited.

Borobudur is one of our favorite AbsoluteVisits to photograph. You can spend hours walking around in circles, trying to find the perfect alignment of the magical bell-shaped stupas!

Here are a few pictures of us from our visit.
 

Quick Facts & History

  • Borobudur is a famous Buddhist temple in Indonesia made up of 6 square platforms beneath 3 circular ones, adorned with 504 Buddhist statues and 2,672 relief panels.
  • The location of Borobudur is unique because it sits right between two volcanoes (one of which is one of Indonesias most active volcanoes) and two rivers.
  • There are a total of three Buddhist temples in the region in Indonesia, and in the early 1900s it was discovered that all three (Borobudur, Mendut, and Pawon) are all lined up perfectly in a single straight line across the area.
  • While there are 504 original Buddhist statues at Borobudur, over 300 are damaged and 43 are missing.
 

Where is Borobudur?

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Photos from Borobudur

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Photos

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The Magic From Below
Ranked #1 by Brad Harbach
Colorful History
Ranked #2 by Brad Harbach
Uncaged Protector
Ranked #3 by Brad Harbach
 
A Borobudur Sunrise
Ranked #4 by Brad Harbach
Borobudur from different angle
Ranked #5 by Lisa Hendrawan
Ancient Bell Floor
Ranked #6 by Brad Harbach
 
A Carved Story
Ranked #7 by Brad Harbach
King of Borobudur
Ranked #8 by Brad Harbach
The Darkness of Time
Ranked #9 by Brad Harbach
 
Borobudur, Indonesia
Ranked #10 by Zhao Naidoo
Detailed Wall Engravings
Ranked #11 by Brad Harbach
 
 

Videos

AbsoluteVisit 2013 Visit - Original Video
UNESCO/NHK Informational Video
Guided Tour
 
Tips On How To Visit
Brief Visit Introduction
Borobudur is a large Buddhist temple located in Central Java, Indonesia. It is one of the more remote AbsoluteVisits to reach, but once you arrive it is very self contained and easy to explore and enjoy. Your visit consists of walking around a single temple, including climbing to the top of the temple and exploring the various architectural details and numerous reliefs.
Get There
Borobudur is located 40km outside of the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta (there are many variations and spellings of this city name). Most people visiting Borobudur will start their journey by flying into the major international city of Jakarta, Indonesia. From Jakarta you have the option of flying, taking a train or riding a bus to Yogyakarta. The train offers great views of the countryside and is how we recommend you travel. You can find great information about the train on Seat 61.

Once you arrive in Yogyakarta, you still have about a 90 minute drive to reach Borobudur. We'll discuss the details of the last leg of your journey below.
Two Ways to Visit - Budget & No Budget
When you distill down the various ways you can enjoy Borobudur, you come to the conclusion that there are really two ways to visit - Budget & No Budget. There are three reasons for this.
Sunrise & Sunset Require Special Tickets
Visiting Borobudur for sunrise and sunset requires special tickets. These tickets cost ~$40 USD each for foreign visitors. Without these special tickets you can only visit Borobudur during the normal hours - from 6am to 5pm.
Transit to Borobudur
The most convenient way to reach Borobudur from Yogyakarta is by taxi, however it is an expensive journey for a backpacker - ~$25 USD each way. Those on a budget would be better to take the public bus from Yogyakarta or to book in on a packaged tour to visit Borobudur from Yogyakarta.
Hotels Near Borobudur Are Expensive
The hotels near Borobudur charge a premium price for their location. While not expensive by international hotel standards, the prices are high for those traveling around Indonesia on a budget. Budget travelers will find more options and better prices by staying in Yogyakarta.

We go into the details of both options below.
The AbsoluteVisit Way (No Budget)
If you're lucky enough to not be working with a tight budget, you will be able to stay at the base of Borobudur and enjoy both the sunrise and sunset from the top of the temple. This option offers the best possible experience and is how we recommend visiting Borobudur. Just keep in mind that Borobudur is more expensive than most tourist attractions.
Get There
After arriving in Yogyakarta, hire a private taxi (~$25 USD each way) to take you to the base of the temple. If you are traveling alone and looking to save money, try to find other people coming off of your train/bus/plane to share a taxi ride with you.
Stay and Sleep
There are several hotels that are located near the base of Borobudur, but one of them has the unique advantage of being located physically in the park - the Manohara Hotel. Staying at the Manohara Hotel allows you to walk in and out of Borobudur at your convenience throughout the day. In fact you can visit as many times as you want during your stay. Best of all the entrance fee is included in the cost of your hotel room.

The other advantage of staying at the Manohara Hotel is they are the sole operator of sunrise and sunset tours to Borobudur. The standard operating hours for Borobudur are from 6am to 5pm, which means you are not able to see the sunrise or sunset without a special ticket.
Visiting Borobudur
Your best bet is to arrive to the Manohara hotel in the early afternoon on Day 1. Check into your room and settle in before heading up to the temple for sunset. You'll want to leave the hotel by 4pm that evening to ensure you have plenty of time to get to the top of the temple to enjoy the sunset. Make sure that you talk to the hotel and acquire special tickets for sunset. You will need to take these with you as security on the temple will definitely ask you for them when the normal hours end at 5pm.

Wake up early on your second morning and join the sunrise tour that leaves from the hotel at 4:30am. The hotel provides you with a flashlight, but feel free to bring your own torch if you are carrying one. Once you get to the top, find a comfortable place to sit and enjoy the sun rising over the volcanoes in the distance.

Once you are done watching the sunrise, slowly walk around each floor of the temple. Don't forget that there is more to look at than just the obvious bell-shaped stupas on the top three floors. Be sure to notice the insane number of buddha statues as you walk around each floor. Also, take note of the extreme detail in the stories etched into the walls.

Finally, take a walk around the outside of the temple and be sure to snap a few pictures!
Visit on a Budget
Budget involves staying in the city of Yogyakarta (40km away from the temple), getting to the temple on a minibus tour, and viewing the temple during normal daytime hours (not sunrise or sunset). While this doesn't offer you the best experience at Borobudur, there is quite a difference in cost between this budget option and the more expensive no-budget option. Of course it is far better to see Borobudur this way than to not see it at all!
Stay and Sleep
Book a place to stay in the city of Yogyakarta (40km away from the temple). There are plenty of hostels available, so you just need to use Hostel World to find one that suits you.
Get There
Your hostel should be able to book you in on an all day tour that takes you to Borobudur and back. This is by far the most convenient option for you and it shouldn't blow the budget either. Expect to pay around 75,000 (~$8 USD). Keep in mind you will still need to pay the Borobudur entrance fee of 190,000 (~$20 USD).

There is a way to reach Borobudur by public bus, but it requires connecting and it hardly saves you any money off of the minibus tour described above. For that reason, we do not recommend it. Feel free to check out the details on WikiTravel if you are feeling adventurous.
Visiting Borobudur
There are really three main things you need to focus on during your visit. Most people enjoy walking around the top three levels of the temple and admiring the incredible bell-shaped stupas that circle each level. Once you have snapped off all of your pictures of the beautiful bells, take a look out in the distance and search for the volcanoes. If you struggle to find them, ask one of the many security guys to help you locate them. Lastly, take your time to walk around all of the lower levels of the complex. Walk slowly and enjoy the detailed stories that line the walls of each floor.
 

Top Blog Posts

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Sunrise over Borobudur, Indonesia is without doubt one of the travel world’s most spectacular experiences. But, how do you get prime-time sunrise viewing, without being surrounded by swarms of other tourists? Damn tourists getting in the way of all your Nat-Geo styled money-shots! There is more than one way to avoid the unwashed masses. Located on the Indonesian island of Java, the UNESCO protected Buddhist monument was constructed in the 9th century, and then abandoned in the 14th century after the bulk of the Javanese population got a taste of Islam....  read more
Submitted By: Brad Harbach
Submitted On: Apr 14, 2013
1
 
Been there twice in a year. On my recent trip to Central Java, I visited Borobudur Temple in the early hours to catch the sunrise. Without many tourists around in the morning, the whole atmosphere was calm and surreal. I could count with my fingers how many times I really got up very early for sunrise photography. Such trips like this is worth sacrificing some sleep to catch the magical sunrise....  read more
Submitted By: Brad Harbach
Submitted On: Apr 14, 2013
0
 

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Detailed Maps of Borobudur

 
 
AbsoluteVisit 2013 Visit - Original Video
UNESCO/NHK Informational Video
Guided Tour
# 1

The Magic From Below

2
# 2

Colorful History

2
# 3

Uncaged Protector

1
# 4

A Borobudur Sunrise

1
# 5

Borobudur from different angle

1
# 6

Ancient Bell Floor

1
# 7

A Carved Story

0
# 8

King of Borobudur

0
# 9

The Darkness of Time

0
# 10

Borobudur, Indonesia

0
# 11

Detailed Wall Engravings

0

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best picture spot?
There are two buddhas on the top level that do not have the the top half of the bell covering them. We find the best pictures of Borobudur often include these buddha statues in them. Try to find interesting angles you that allow you to bring the buddhas to life!
 
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