things to do in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

If culture is your middle name, get ready for an outpouring of Indonesia’s traditions and customs in the city of Yogyakarta, where the country’s most active volcano is never far from sight and magic fills the air — naturally.

Witness seas of low-hanging clouds gliding over the sunrise, feeling as if your head is in the heavens with the gods, snap hundreds of IG-worthy uploads around the myriad of viewpoints and photo-ops and hunt down mystical jungle pools or caverns with illuminating sinkholes!

From the highlands to the coast, the beauty in this part of Central Java is immeasurable. Stroll through towering pine forests, zigzag across verdant rice paddies or hike to the top of sleepy volcanoes.

Get your fill of cultural endeavors, leaving the city feeling spiritually rejuvenated at the same time. Visit palaces belonging to the Sultan and water castles, explore ancient temples, and become acquainted with Javanese heritage at museums or with a dance performance.

The night markets, street food sampling and Jogja’s (as it’s also known) old town are unmissable things to do in Yogyakarta to add to your Indonesian bucket list!

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1 – Explore explosive Mount Merapi

Mount Merapi, Indonesia

Fiery and feisty Mount Merapi loves to blow off steam … Indonesia’s most active volcano isn’t shy of an eruption, that’s for sure. Nicknamed the ‘Mountain of Fire,’ its last tumultuous explosion was in 2023!

Prior to this, trekking from its base to its 2,190-meter peak crater was possible, but for now, it’s remained off-bounds for safety measures. It is, after all, not only the most active stratovolcano in the country, but one of the most active around the globe too.

Recorded evidence shows Merapi Volcano has been spewing lava and superheated gasses for around 400,000 years!

Close to Yogyakarta (roughly 30 kilometers), spot her soaring to the heavens from most points around Jogja.

Get further acquainted with the beast at the Merapi Volcano Museum, designed in the same shape as the rupturing mound.

Displays are centered around Mount Merapi from past to present. For example, there’s a small-scale replica model of the volcano, vintage seismometers and even excavated items from previous eruptions.

2 – Marvel over UNESCO-listed Borobudur Temple

Borobudur Temple, Indonesia

There’s a reason why travelers arrive from far and wide to Indo, seeking out a spiritual recharge or new life perspectives — you simply can’t help but feel its magical spirituality in the air.

Of all of Indonesia’s temples, Borobudur isn’t just the most famous of the lot but also the biggest Buddhist temple over anywhere else in the entire world!

Tracing back its roots to the 8th and 9th centuries, the fortress, ahem, we mean, temple compound, is utterly awe-inspiring. If you’ve visited Cambodia’s Angkor Wat before, it’s a similar feeling when arriving at this three-tiered complex.

Constructed purposefully in a mandala pattern, admire its five-story terraced pyramid, conical trunk and swirling stupa at the very top of it all. There are also 504 Buddha reliefs to hunt down.

Forming part of “The Temple Corridors,” down the road in a beeline from Borobudur are two other 9th-century Buddhist temples: Pawon Temple and Mendut Temple. Following a direct route, Pawon is closest.

Travel tip: For an unreal experience, arrive at Candi Borobudur before sunrise — it means waking up super early, but it’s worth every second!

3 – Shop at the Beringharjo Market

Beringharjo Market in Yogyakarta

Treasure seekers, bargain hunters and shopaholics; go gaga for the goods at Beringharjo Market, one of the top five markets in Indonesia to shop ‘til you drop — especially when it comes to authentic goods, whether talking batik or traditional souvenirs (and then some).

One word of advice? Savor the market toward the end of your trip so you have enough space and time to truly experience it all, and bring extra spending money to avoid disappointment.

Established in 1758, the centuries-old thoroughfare has grown in leaps and bounds since its setup within a banyan tree forest, and today comprises two buildings.

Stock up on vintage collectibles, woven goods from baskets to lampshades, patterned clothing, tote bags, themed playing cards, textiles and, and, and.

Vendors entice visitors with their smells of fresh herbs and exotic spices, as well as street food bites and fresh produce. If you see signs for ‘dawet’ (a sweet coconut milk drink) or ‘gudeg’ (a local stew dish made from unripe jackfruit), don’t hesitate to order one pronto!

4 – Stand in awe at Prambanan Temple

Prambanan Temple, Indonesia

From a distance, the 240 protruding stone structures of Prambanan Temple appear like an earthly version of Ha Long Bay’s limestone pillars rising from the waters.

Alas, this 10-century marvel is the most monumental Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva the destroyer, god of fertility, making up part of the larger Prambanan Temple Compounds.

Standing on either side of the 47-meter-tall shrine are two other temples, one honoring Brahma (the creator) and the other Vishnu (the protector).

Intriguing reliefs decorate the ruins, so keep your camera close on hand as you meander through the stone-y rubble and structural remains. The concentric placement of the temples represents the geometric mandala, used for directing spirituality.

Go temple hopping around the complex to its Sewu, Bubrah and Lumbung Temples, or set aside the day for exploring all of the other candis situated close by.

Plaosan Temple is super interesting, a compound with a mix of Buddhist and Hindu shrines; Sambisari Temple remained underground until it was excavated in the 1960s; and Ijo Temple is a radiant sunset spot!

5 – Embark on a jeep tour

jeep tour in Yogyakarta

Forget about the mundane when you can drink in the views of Mount Merapi or Borobudur Temple with the wind caressing your hair and the Indonesian sun beating down on your skin.

Feel like a true adventurer cruising around Yogyakarta’s landscapes during an epic safari jeep tour!

Hear stories of the volcano or the revered temples pointing at Yogyakarta’s earliest civilizations.

Hold onto your seats as you veer across dirt roads leading to viewpoints, tearing up the tracks in the 4×4, enjoying the road less traveled.

The deserted Bunker Kaliadem Merapi, Borobudur Temple, Pawon Temple, Mendut Temple and the Prambanan Temple compounds are examples of sites to visit during these off-road excursions.

6 – Appreciate the views from Kalibiru National Park

Kalibiru National Park, Yogyakarta

Instagram dreams are made of these inside the verdant Kalibiru National Park, overseeing clusters of trees that look like cauliflower florets and a glistening artificial lake in the middle of it all.

Boasting plenty of walking trails and picture-postcard scenery, a standout feature of the park is its special photo-op setups — a popular trend throughout Indonesia.

These unparalleled settings are actually viewing platforms in different shapes and sizes, from wooden squares hanging off the side of a cliff to heart-shaped decks in the treetops. Attached and strapped in for safety, dangle your feet mid-air or stand on the edge for a proper adrenaline rush — and the most incredible selfie!

The tourist attraction is known as Wisata Alam Kalibiru.

But wait, the thrills aren’t over. There are also wonky bridges and flying fox activities where you’ll feel as if you’re in the circus, not on vacation.

7 – Wander around Taman Sari Water Castle

Taman Sari Water Castle, Indonesia

Like a scene out of Bombay a couple of centuries ago, antiquated regality is an apt way to describe the Taman Sari Water Castle.

Combining Javanese and Portuguese architecture, this is rather interesting when you think about it … When Mumbai was Bombay, much of its architecture from the 16th to 18th century was dominated by Portuguese and then English/European influences.

Built in 1765 for the sultan of the kingdom of Yogyakarta (Hamengku Buwono I), he employed an architect fascinated with local and European-Western design to construct the grand grounds (utilized by the sultan for relaxation, and pleasure).

Whether or not realizing, the water gardens remind you much of the historical buildings you see in Mumbai. But hey, if you’ve traveled to India before, you would have already noticed many similarities between the two countries.

Unlike much of the dark stone architectural style you see across Indo, the structure is striking with its light-washed walls and facade. The water gardens, pools and man-made lakes are still intact (and super pretty photo spots). However, its other features, like a mosque and underground tunnels, only hint at what once was.

8 – Eat, shop and play on Malioboro Road

Malioboro Road, Yogyakarta

First-timers in Yogyakarta, Malioboro Road is a fabulous starting point, overflowing with vendors, a mixture of varying architectural styles and lively crowds come nightfall.

Although the one-way street is open to vehicles, it’s similar to the typical walking streets you find across SEA and is an excellent place to stroll around.

Cue the local shops, hotels, buskers and tantalizing smells.

Get your fix of Jogja street food — but, top tip, most open up shop in the evenings. A long-time standing hawker stall (Mbah Satinem) even appeared on an episode of Netflix’s Street Food!

Must-try dishes from Malioboro Road are oseng-oseng mercon (known as firecracker beef stir-fry), sweet wedang ronde (glutinous rice balls in ginger syrup), lumpia (Indonesian spring rolls) and a cup of kopi joss (local coffee brewed with charcoal).

Jalan Malioboro is open 24/7.

9 – Join a bike tour

The Zero Kilometer Point in Yogyakarta

The thing about the road less traveled is the hidden gems to discover along the way. Swap out car drives or walkabouts for bike tours and veer off into the Yogyakarta countryside, exploring quaint fishing villages, rice paddies and local communities.

You won’t only peddle around aimlessly, and the biking excursion is a hands-on experience — we’re not just talking about holding the handlebars.

Get involved in trying everyday activities, for example, how to make tempeh, visit farming fields and see locals harvesting in action, and have the chance to swap stories.

Nanggulan and Sleman are examples of the outlying areas.

There are bike tours that keep things closer to home, navigating the city streets and secret alleyways. Specific expeditions focus on the city’s royal heritage, guiding you around Kota Gede, i.e., Yogyakarta’s old town.

10 – Visit Ganjuran Church

Ganjuran Church, Yogyakarta

Would you believe us if we told you there’s a Roman Catholic Church?

The country’s predominant religion is Muslim, but tracing its past with Dutch and British influences, it makes sense the worship house was constructed. Today, catholicism makes up approximately 3% of the population’s practicing faith.

Constructed by the Schmutzer family in 1924, Ganjuran Church, or the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was built to fulfill the needs of a growing expat commune.

Heavily involved in the local community as well, the family wanted to preserve the integrity of Indonesian culture, so its confluence of Javanese and European design is a testament to this.

West meets the East within the church, evident in reliefs surrounding the main altar. On the same grounds is the Ganjuran Temple, erected on the right-hand side of the main Gereja Ganjuran (as it’s known in Indonesian).

In fact, the church was built as part of a larger church complex, also housing a hospital, school and an abbey (set up by the Schmutzer’s).

11 – Enjoy cultural activities at Yogyakarta Palace

traditional dance at Yogyakarta Palace

Did you know that Yogyakarta still has a royal monarch (although it falls under the non-sovereign monarch category)? Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X has held his position since 1988, and he also happens to be the region’s ruling governor.

For an assemblage of Indonesian culture, flit your way through Yogyakarta Palace, constructed between 1755 and 1756 as a royal residence, yet its design reflects ancient beliefs long before then.

Known as Kraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat in Indonesian, or simply the Kraton, each building or structure’s color was purposefully chosen, and the overall design of the complex is based on the Javanese cosmos.

Stand underneath the courtyard rotunda with its pretty soft stained-glass panels.

Count how many barong masks you can spot.

Deep dive into local traditions and customs as loads of cultural performances and shows, for example, traditional dances, are held here. Plus, just walking around exposes you to plenty of customary exchanges.

12 – Cross islands at Timang Beach and chill at the others

Timang Beach, Yogyakarta

Hunters of unique things to do in Yogyakarta, look no further than Timang Beach; crossing the beachside over crashing waves to a rockery in the middle of the ocean via an open-air steel gondola, or the skinny swaying pirate-style bridge.

It’s become quite the tourist hotspot in latter years because of the aquatic attraction (initially used by fishermen catching lobster).

The bay below is Nglambor Beach, a popular snorkeling hotspot.

For travelers in search of more beaches, there are plenty of options.

Make too much uproar and you may awaken Parangtritis Beach’s Queen of the South (known as Kanjeng Ratu Kidul in Indonesian), ruling over Indo’s ocean. Just kidding, but this beach is popular for buggy rides on the sand or hanging out for the day on its extra soft sands.

Feel like a mermaid floating about the crystal blue rock pools at Wediombo Beach. Located two hours away, it’s totally worth the drive!

Away from the crowds, Sundak Beach’s natural beauty makes this locale what it is. Take caution when entering the bay because of its close shallow reef. Or, head to Kukup Beach for typical Indonesian scenery, from its dramatic cliffs to powdery white shorelines.

13 – See the Yogyakarta Monument

Yogyakarta Monument

Three, two, one and RUN as the coast clears and is devoid of motorcycles around the city’s representative icon.

Don’t be surprised if you spot a couple of students giving the Yogyakarta Monument a smooch. It’s kind of an unspoken ritual amongst foreign learners after graduating as a way of giving thanks to Jogja for its time (and education).

However, its historical value stretches far beyond this.

Erected in 1755 (although it has undergone many changes since then), another legend points at it being an imaginary axis between the Palace of Yogyakarta and Mount Merapi.

The monument is located in the middle of a busy intersection where Jalan Sudirman, Jalan Mangkubumi, Jalan AM Sangaji and Jalan Diponegoro roads meet.

Flickering in glistening lights in the evenings, the white and gold conical structure completely transforms.

14 – Meander through the old town, Kota Gede

Kota Gede, Yogyakarta

Does anyone else have an obsession with taking photographs in front of ornate and decorative doors when traveling? Hey, it’s totally a thing! If you’ve visited Indonesia before, you will know you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to these backdrops, and Kota Gede is the perfect place for photoshoots.

Considered the city’s “old town,” it’s the oldest surviving neighborhood, dating to the 16th century.

Hinting at remnants of what once was, spend hours milling through the narrow alleys, running your fingers across the walls and stonework of abandoned structures and spiritual holds.

Appreciate the archaic architecture of traditional Javanese-style homes, and historical places to visit include the Masjid Gedhe Mataram Kotagede (the Mataram Great Mosque) and its tombs.

Silverware has always been a prominent trade of Kota Gede, and there are still many working silversmiths. Join a silver workshop or pop into one of the local shops for all sorts of silver manufactured goods.

15 – See the animals at Gembira Loka Zoo

Gembira Loka Zoo, Yogyakarta

Awaken your wild side during a trip to the Gembira Loka Zoo where activities such as ATV rides, elephant interactions and even fish therapies are possible.

Enveloped by tall trees and tropical plants, the grounds are divided into six animal zones.

Spot jackass penguins and bondol eagles at the Bird Zone; show the Sumatran Tiger some love at the Claw Zone; see meerkats and tapirs within the Mammal Zone and monkeys and orangutans at the Primate Zone; and keep eyes open for Aldabra tortoises and iguanas within the Reptile Zone.

At its Petting Zoo Zone, feed donkeys, goats, alpacas and ponies and even touch some of the animals here.

Learn about the wildlife that calls the zoo home and Indonesia’s biodiversity with a Mammal or Aves Education Presentation.

16 – Experience river rafting

rafting in Yogyakarta

Blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, with this comes a hoard of exciting outdoor adventures, like river rafting.

The Eli River is where the action kicks off, gliding and swishing down a 12-kilometer route consisting of Class II and Class III rapids.

Thanks to its disposition, it’s suitable even for beginner rafters — so no need to panic if you’ve never tried the water sport before.

Revel in not only the sights, but the sounds, paddling past small waterfalls and singing birds in the treetops.

The journey is three hours, breaking on the riverbanks for a refreshing coconut and snacks — and to give any weary arms a quick rest.

If this ain’t your first rodeo, attempt whitewater rafting down the Progo River, pummelling through extreme Class V rapids instead.

All the necessary equipment, like life jackets, boats, paddles, etc., is provided.

17 – Try crack the myth of Alun-Alun Kidul Square

Alun-Alun Kidul Street, Yogyakarta

There’s something magical in the air down at Alun-Alun Kidul Square; a park green enshrouded in mysticism and an age-old fable — or is it a true tale?

Also known as the ‘Southern Square of the Sultan’s Palace,’ the large grassy area is a popular place to hang out, picnic and for playing chilled outdoor activities, like frisbee or kicking balls.

Now, if you see a bunch of people blindfolded, this is completely normal! According to legend, the two gigantic towering banyan trees in the middle of the park are impossible to walk between.

It’s believed that the trees have protective powers, and if you do make it through, your heart is pure and full of good intentions. It sounds easy, but it’s actually not, and most don’t walk out its center the first, second or even fifth time around!

Come nightfall, vendors set up makeshift stalls in the square, offering street food, snacks and drinks.

Another funky feature is the neon-lit karaoke-singing tuk-tuks that arrive to please the crowds in the evenings!

18 – Be transfixed by the The Lost World Castle

The Lost World Castle, Yogyakarta

Are we in an episode of Takeshi’s Castle or still in Indonesia? Transport yourself to Japan (and around the globe) at The Lost World Castle, a medieval stone fort tourist attraction built from leftover rock that erupted out of the mouth of Mount Merapi.

Constructed in 2017 on the former site of a lost village (sadly engulfed by the volcano years ago), its name is a derivative of this, as well as its shape resembling, well, a castle.

Envisioned as a replica of an ancient Japanese fortress, all around the 1.3-hectare grounds are more unique photo opportunities, drawing inspo from our world’s most recognizable monuments, attractions and fairytales.

Cross “Danang’s Golden Bridge,” jump onboard a pirate ship, don’t forget your glass slippers inside the pumpkin carriage, climb a Jack and the Beanstalk-style treehouse and enter the belly of a dinosaur skeleton.

Frequent flyers and regular travelers to Southeast Asia will know that these types of tourist-y theme parks are very popular, especially in countries like Indonesia and Thailand.

19 – Learn new things at the popular museums

popular museums in Yogyakarta

A trip to any local museum when visiting a new city is kind of mandatory, offering some of the best ways to learn about the destination you’re in.

Conveniently located on busy Malioboro Street, Fort Vredeburg Museum (also called the Yogyakarta Fortress Museum) is an excellent place to start. The museum is inside a former Dutch fortification. Get educated on Yogyakarta’s colonial past, notably when Dutch settlers ruled supreme, with historical displays and dioramas to help do so.

The Fort Vredeburg Museum focuses on a specific time period; however, the Ullen Sentalu Museum highlights the entirety of Javanese civilization and its history. The open-air museum feels more like you’re wandering around sacred temple grounds and is a gorgeously authentic setup.

Appearing like a magician’s lair from a fantasy novel, the Affandi Museum celebrates the life and work of iconic Indonesian artist Affandi. Within the complex are three galleries, two studios and Affandi’s former home, as well as workshops to join.

Founded by local Indonesian sculptor Dunadi, Pendhapa Art Space (PAS) showcases a variety of artwork, from paintings to sculptures, hosting performance art events, rotating expos and art workshops.

20 – Journey on magic sunrise tours

sunrise tour in Yogyakarta

What is your favorite time of day? If it’s dawn, when the first light breaks and the sleepy world around you begins to wake from its slumber, then magical sunrise tours will inspire every part of your being!

Early birds, the excursion starts with a wake-up call just before 4 AM, ensuring you arrive just before the skies transform color and the sun comes out to play.

Marvel at an upside-ocean of clouds floating above the lush hills and Mount Merapi peeking out to welcome the new day from either Setumbu or Barede Hill. Both are renowned sunrise spots.

From here, move on to Borobudur and Prambanan Temples and beat the mass crowds.

Mystical Dieng Plateau is another location favored for its sunrise appeal. It is a 3.5-hour journey from Yogyakarta, but the topography and vistas are mind-blowing!

21 – Breathe in fresh air (and views) when hiking

hiking in Yogyakarta

Fun fact: Indonesia is littered with mountains, with approximately 27,886 listed ranges under its island belt. Most of the prominent mountainous areas are its larger isles, including Java, some soaring as high as nearly 4,000 meters, but most average about 2,000 above sea level.

Lace up them hiking boots and discover the uphill terrains for yourselves, with plenty of options to take your pick.

Whether you’re a beginner climber or an experienced pro, there are numerous hiking trails from the base of Prahu Mountain (also called Mount Prau) suitable for varying levels. The summit to its 2,590-meter-high peak takes between three to four hours.

Enjoy a hike starting at the Nglanggeran Tourism Village for unbeatable scenery, tramping an hour or two upward to Api Purba Volcano (Gunung Api Purba Nglanggeran).

For a less elevated experience, create your own pilgrimage to Selogriyo Temple on a one-hour and 15-minute trek.

When open to the public, there are also hiking excursions to Mount Merapi, or serious hikers opt for a multiple-day hiking expedition.

22 – Have drinks at Sky Deck Rooftop Bar

Sky Deck Rooftop Bar, Yogyakarta

Staring out onto Mount Merapi, bring your sweetheart for drinks at the Sky Deck Rooftop Bar, followed by a refreshing dip in the rooftop pool afterward — much appreciated in the peak of an Indonesian summer.

Boasting panoramic vistas and a comfortable outdoor setting, sip back on signature cocktails or order a spot of (herbal) tea.

Located on the top of the 5-star Meliá Purosani Yogyakarta hotel, when the weekend arrives, the roof gets vibey as live performances entertain guests.

Feeling peckish? Light snacks are available, a mix of both Indonesian and Western bites.

It’s one of the lovely romantic things to do in Yogyakarta.

23 – Dive into new realms at Jomblang Cave

Jomblang Cave, Yogyakarta

Look like you’ve been touched by an angel as light rays pour from a sinkhole in the middle of other-wordly Jomblang Cave.

Marveling over the natural phenomena requires some work; the only way to enter the vertical cavern is via the 50-meter-wide cylindrical hole, veering down 60 meters on a special pulley system.

Formed thousands of years ago from collapsing limestone, something quite magical was left growing within … an ancient mossy forest!

FYI, a maximum of 75 visitors are allowed inside per day only, so as to preserve its integrity. Arrive early in the day to avoid disappointment, but also for the best lighting — strongest in morning hours.

A second den worth exploring is Goa Pindul, layered with karst rock formations and cavern cracks. With its underground river, the only way to navigate the grotto is via cave tubing.

24 – Check out hobbit houses at Seribu Batu Songgo Langit

Seribu Batu Songgo Langit, Yogyakarta

Is this a snapshot out of J.R. Tolkien’s mind, or what? Okay, so you may not uncover any Lord of the Rings’ film sets at Seribu Batu Songgo Langit; however, its hobbit-style houses are super reminiscent of the iconic trilogy!

Set up within a forest of towering pine trees — adding extra whimsical feels — the crowds arrive not just for the trail paths led by the smell of fresh pine leaves, but also for the one-of-a-kind photo opportunities.

Step back in time at the rows of thatched structures representing an ancient village known as the ‘Thousand Wooden Houses’ (Rumah Seribu Kayu); pretend to be Frodo and pose in front of the Rumah Hobbit; and snap candid shots of you skipping along Jembatan Jomblo (Single Bridge).

There is a flying fox activity for little ones, various viewpoints and glamping here is possible.

25 – Gander at Ratu Boko Temple

Ratu Boko Temple, Yogyakarta

A sanctuary? Don’t you mean more like palace?! According to local folklore, Ratu Boko Temple was once a castle of a man-eating giant!

While we’ll never know if it’s fact or fiction, the 8th-century hill site did belong to the Shailendra dynasty, then fell under the Mataram Kingdom. One was Buddhist, the other Hindu, and so the complex grounds are an amalgamation of both religions.

Much of the structural ruins you see today were built under Rakai Panangkaran’s reign (the Mataram Kingdom’s second king).

The dark gray stone staircase leading to the main gate is a major photo hotspot. From Golden Hour until early evening, sunlight glimmers through, the clouds transform behind you and the gate becomes a silhouette.

Other monuments to admire are PemBokoran Temple, the terraced Paseban, the Pendapa stone wall, and the Keputren princess residence.

26 – Adventure around Dieng Plateau

Dieng Plateau, Indonesia

Witness the sun rising above a sea of low-hanging clouds, wander around milky-jade lakes, snap photographs amid terraced rice paddies and witness steaming sulphuric springs when day tripping to dreamy Dieng Plateau.

Feel worlds away in Java’s highlands at 2,000 meters above sea level, or like you’re on top of the world in the misty volcanic area.

In the midst of it all are some of Java’s oldest Hindu temples and two mysterious lakes adjacent to one another — but are two completely different shades of green. The Telaga Warna Lake changes color throughout the day; how crazy?

You can also have an amble around the active Sikidang Crater with its bubbling holes.

Situated in Central Java close to Wonosobo, it takes 3.5 hours to get here, but it’s one of those trips that people really make an effort for because of its floating clouds. Sikunir Hill is the most popular (and best) spot to catch the sunrise.

Travel tip: It’s an early wake-up to get here in time for the spectacle. Check weather conditions before and what time the sun is up. Arrive at least 30 minutes prior, giving yourself enough time to trek to the viewpoint.

27 – Have fun on the rides at Sindu Kusuma Edupark

Sindu Kusuma Edupark, Yogyakarta

Is it the Brighton Wheel? Cape Town’s Cape Wheel? Nope, it’s Sindu Kusuma Edupark’s Spinning Chakra Ferris wheel (Cakra Manggilingan in Indonesian).

This amusement park’s star attraction isn’t the only ride to play on, but it does provide the best views in the house from one of its 28 rotating yellow gondola cabins!

Set up as an ‘educational theme park,’ the playground centers around Javanese culture, incorporating it into all attractions. Discover classics with an Indonesian twist, such as the Kora-Kora swinging boat, the Puter Coffee spinning teacups, Tumbur Motorcycle bumper cars and the haunted House of Terror.

Try something new at the fish therapy pool, watch a film inside the 8D Cinema and become acquainted with local artists and instruments inside the House of Music (Omah Musik).

Learn how to make your very own batik masks and then even more about the various styles of this typical Indonesian technique at Omah Batik.

28 – Go shopping at Plaza Ambarrukmo

Plaza Ambarrukmo, Yogyakarta

Seven floors of over 230 international and local brands to shop among and an awesome dining selection? That would be a yes please, from us when it comes to Plaza Ambarrukmo — one of Yogyakarta’s top three indoor luxury shopping destinations.

But luxury doesn’t always mean expensive, and there’s a wonderful mix of affordable and high-end labels and stores to suit all budget types. It’s luxe in terms of its set-up, a far cry from a local market vibe.

GUESS, Adidas, Pull&Bear, Cotton On, Vans and Polo are a fraction of the stores on the fashion-front; other categories to do your shopping cover health and beauty (including hair and beauty salons), home goods, and fun and entertainment.

Worked up an appetite? There are more than 40 options to help with that one, from Korean to Japanese to Indonesian to Indian to American restaurants, it depends on what tickles your taste buds.

29 – Saunter through fresh Pengger Pine Forest

Pengger Pinne Forest, Indonesia

“If you go into the woods, uh, pine forest, today, you’re in for a big surprise!”

Stand above the world at one of the viewpoints inside Pengger Pine Forest, an ecotourism site known as Penus Pengge.

A hand sculpture made from bamboo perched over the edge of a cliffside sounds riveting, right? This is just one of many art installations placed around the forest … Some look like duck heads, others teepees with cut-outs and then ones you could imagine in Enid Blyton’s Topsy Turvy Land — we all see something different, so let your imaginations run free!

(The name of the giant hand is Panawacar, and a small fee is charged to pose in, alongside or even on top of each installation.)

Stroll through the grove of skinny colossal pines, breaking for a quick chill inside colorful hammocks — also a really cool photo moment — or on the benches.

Hint: Penus Pengger is incredible at night! The installations light up and the starry sky is unbeatable. You camp here but will need to bring all of your own gear.

30 – Arrive in time for sunrise at Mangunan Fruit Garden

Mangunan Fruits Park, Yogyakarta

What’s your favorite fruit to take a nice juicy bite of? Filled with fruit orchards and mystical viewpoints, Mangunan Fruit Garden is alluring.

Early birds arrive between 4 AM and 5 AM in time to catch the sunrise from the garden’s vantage point, 200 meters above sea level.

Pillowy cotton-candy-looking clouds float by, levitating so low you can almost touch them!

Once the misty morning begins to rise and you’re done snapping a bajillion photos of the dream-like scenery, explore the rest of the park, particularly the fruit gardens.

Mangoes, oranges, rambutan, durian (and more) flourish in Dlingo, — where Kebun Buah Mangunan is situated — and this sub-district forms part of the larger Bantul Regency. Become educated on fruit-growing, from learning about ideal growing conditions to harvesting methods.

Then, get to sample the fruits of the locals’ labor.

Naturally, there are plenty of photogenic moments. Staircases, winding paths, observation platforms and creative photo-op installations have been added for an extra postcard-perfect touch.

31 – Trek to Selogriyo Temple

Selogriyo Temple, Indonesia

“The greater the difficulty, the more the glory in surmounting it.” ― Epicurus

The same rings true for the lone Selogriyo Temple, tucked away amid lush green rice terraces. The only way to reach 9th-century Hindu sanctum is by hiking here, although the trek is a relatively chilled one.

Thanks to the gorgeous surroundings, you’ll forget about time — an archetypal setting of the Javanese highlands.

It takes an hour or two to reach the site, passing through verdant paddies, fruit orchards and tropical forests, with local farmers hard at work.

Parts of Candi Selogriyo were destroyed in a 1998 landslide but have been restored since. A manicured garden is well-kept in front, yet the stone 15-meter tall temple is still covered in mossy greens, giving away its age.

Engulfed by the Giyanti, Condong and Malang mountain ranges, the sacred grounds sit in a valley toppling Mount Sumbing — an active stratovolcano — 740 meters above the ground.

It’s located in Windusari district, and is an hour’s drive from Borobudur Temple.

32 – Sit back and enjoy the Ramayana Ballet

Ramayana Ballet performance in Yogyakarta

Combining cultural traditions with performance art and you get the captivating Ramayana Ballet.

Retelling the story of two kings (King Rama and the Sri Lankan King Ravana), dance, music, songs and art are employed throughout the production to help do so.

Watch in awe as performers are dressed in dazzling traditional costumes and masks, with special lighting effects and stage design adding the finishing touches.

Running for more than 40 years, the daily show showcases at the Purawisata Theater.

Looking for fun date night ideas? Before the ballet begins, book dinner at its open-air Gazebo Garden Restaurant. Feast on the tastes of Indonesia with sweet gamelan (classic Javanese music using percussion instruments) melodies filtrating the air.

If you’re so inspired by what you see on stage, learn from the professionals and join a cultural workshop. Music classes teach you how to play a traditional Javanese piece (karawitan), learn the Javanese dance, or try your hand at Batik painting.

33 – Go wild at Parangkusumo Sand Dunes

Parangkusumo Sand Dunes, Yogyakarta

Buggying across the undulating Parangkusumo Sand Dunes, pretend to be Nux or Imperator Furiosa from Mad Max!

It’s time to get your thrill on, partaking in all sorts of fun sand-centric activities, from sandboarding to ATVs to jeep rides across Parangkusumo Beach’s sandbanks.

Its unique landscape isn’t just frequented by outdoor enthusiasts, but by influencers and photographers. Because it’s Indonesia, cute photo-ops have been added, like a flower-covered heart appearing to hang mid-air, swings and viewing platforms.

The beach’s shrubbery and flora add more appeal, random cacti growing here and there and interesting driftwood creating natural artwork.

Plus, researchers, scientists and Arenologists are drawn to the location because the crescent-shaped dunes are pretty rare for this type of topography.

Marked as barchan dunes, these are typically found in arid deserts. It’s a rare sighting for the area as Java is considered tropical, and the region does experience a decent amount of rainfall!

Tours are available around Gumuk Pasir (as it’s locally known), with highly knowledgeable guides explaining more about its particular terrain.

34 – Taste local cuisine on a food tour

food tour in Yogyakarta

Ever tried bakmi (a yellow noodle dish served wet or dry) or bakso (meatball soup) before? These classic Yogyakartaian dishes are just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce) for what’s in store for you to relish during a mouth-watering food tour.

Choose between morning, afternoon or evening expeditions — but side note, a lot of the street food vendors come out to play (and to satiate your food cravings) in the evenings.

Another useful titbit is different meals are eaten at specific times of day in Indonesian, so there might be breakfast dishes you won’t sample during a night food tour.

Whatever the time, indulge in a pleasurable eating experience as you visit local markets and bustling roads acclaimed for their street food servings, for example, Malioboro Road and Beringharjo Market.

Sample local snacks and delicacies, taste foreign ingredients — or crickets if you dare — and become familiar with the cuisine in Yogyakarta with its multicultural influences.

Don’t just live it; create it with authentic cooking classes, learning how to make Javanese cuisine like a professional chef, well, home-cook anyway.

35 – Shop for batik goods at Hamzah Batik

Hamzah Batik, Yogyakarta

If you’ve visited Indonesia before, or another destination such as Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and even Nigeria, you’ve probably been exposed to batik art. However, it’s Indo that really brought the artwork to the forefront of popular public view.

Get your fill of local culture and stockings of all things batik at Hamzah Batik, an indoor shopping destination selling traditional souvenirs and goods displaying the iconic prints.

(If you’ve visited Kuala Lumpur’s Central Market before, it’s got a similar vibe.)

The smell of incense wafting through the air lures shoppers closer, creating a calming atmosphere for you to shop.

Browse rows of clothing, instruments, utensils, wovenware, lanterns, Balinese-style umbrellas and even herbs and spices.

Established in 1979, the multiple-story building also has traditional restaurants and a photo studio (Raminten Photography). Dress up in Javanese costumes, grab a prop and pose!

36 – Swim at Taman Sungai Mudal

Taman Sungai Mudal, Yogyakarta

Do you believe in fairies? If there is one place in Yogyakarta that fays would call home, it would have to be enchanting Taman Sungai Mudal.

Bewitching visitors with its crystal blue natural pool in the midst of a junglescape, the spring phenomenon is dreamlike.

Cascades flow into the pool from a small scenic waterfall; a wooden boardwalk added for easy access — and yes, swimming is allowed! In fact, there are three waterfalls gushing from the banks of the Mudal River and a few more natural baths other than the main one.

Mudal River Park began as a community initiative in 2011. Growing in popularity, other facilities and activities have been added for extra fun, for example, ziplining.

Where is this ecotourism site? It’s situated in Banyunganti Hamlet in Kulon Progo and is roughly one hour from Jogja.

Wake up to the sounds of nature when camping here. There is a designated camp area open on Saturdays and Sundays.

37 – Play a round of golf

golf in Yogyakarta

Kick off your touring shoes for a couple of hours and swap them for golfing ones instead, enjoying your own form of R&R down at the golf course.

Equipped with three tee-off areas at every hole (so all level players can take a shot), Hyatt Regency Yogyakarta Golf Course is an impressive playing field.

Its nine-hole course is spread among tall trees and lakes, with a par 30. The driving range stays open until late, and private lessons are available. Enquire about these, as well as equipment rentals at the Health Club.

Merapi Golf Club is an exquisite course, truly, if simply for the surrounding natural landscapes. However, it doesn’t disappoint on the course either. Designed by Thomson Wolveridge Perrett as an 18-hole play with a par 72, each hole poses a unique challenge.

Grab drinks at the Club House to cheers your win, plus there’s an on-site restaurant, Pro Shop and golf equipment rental facilities.

38 – Try cave tubing

tubing in Yogyakarta

Forget lazy rivers and boat rides. What’s a way to experience one of Jogja’s most famous natural attractions? Go tubing through it, of course! This unreal setting will give you goosebumps when taking behold of its beauty …

Floating along the Oya River in your tube, make your way to the entrance of the magnificent Pindul Cave (Goa Pindul Jogja). Then, prepare to kick your wadding feet in glee once inside.

From light tunnels to pitch-black passageways, drift under dripping stalactites and past creeping stalagmites.

Hear about the various rock formations within from your knowledgeable guide — who also happens to be a tubing expert, especially for these conditions.

Tubing through the grotto is surreal.

39 – Take in the views from Bukit Bintang

Bukit Bintang, Yogyakarta

From a former Sultan’s guesthouse to an incredible viewpoint for lapping up the city and its mountains, Bukit Bintang has become a local hotspot in recent years!

Open 24/7, it’s at nightfall that it’s not only busiest, but the best time to visit.

As the buildings and houses turn on their lights, and the natural ones come out to dance in the sky, the vistas from up here are amazing.

Jogja glistens below you and the stars sparkle above.

Colorful mats and beanbags are scattered across a multi-level observation platform, and there are restaurants, food vendors and coffee shops here, too. Warm up your hands with a cup of kopi and marvel over the Milky Way after midnight (only when the air is super crisp and clear).

Hargo Dumilah Hill (as it also goes by) is easy to reach in Wonosari, set up just off a main road. Look out for the masses of motorbikes parked roadside and you’re in the right place!

40 – Investigate interesting Sukuh Erotic Temple

Sukuh Erotic Temple, Indonesia

On the edge of a hill lies a place where statues sit with legs wide open, private parts are on full stone display and hammered figures are depicted fornicating — it’s no wonder Candi Sukuh is dubbed the Sukuh Erotic Temple.

Get a free class in sex education at the Javanese-Hindu site, erected in the 15th century. During this era, the shift from Indian traditions to welcoming Javanese customs began to happen, and so the temple isn’t exactly one religion or the other.

Pretty much stone remnants are what remains of the holy site, the main feature an Aztec-shaped pyramid. Built on the complex’s third terrace, racy and revealing reliefs and barong statues encircle the temple, bordered by a manicured hedge and bonsai trees.

After a close inspection, you’ll begin to notice a theme here: the temple was founded to express (or teach) and celebrate the beauty of birth.

If you’re into tantric yoga or the Kama Sutra, this will interest you: there used to be a lingam stone topping the pyramid, which is now displayed at the National Museum of Indonesia in Jakarta.

41 – Unwind at SKY LINE rooftop

SKY LINE rooftop, Yogyakarta

Banging DJs? Of course! Bottle service? You bet! SKY LINE rooftop (by The Manohara Hotel Yogyakarta) is where you’ll want to take your hunny or best gal pals for delicious cocktails, light bites to munch on and good vibes only.

Whenever there’s music, there’s ambiance, so the hotel has made sure to make it a highlight.

In the evenings, a dance floor opens up, and after one, two or three of their delicious signature cocktails, you’ll be bopping your feet in no time!

The indoor rooftop bar is stylish, taking inspiration from fashionable 50s design.

Before or after drinks, check out some of the hotel’s other facilities. They do Afternoon Tea in their tea garden, and there’s a sky pool too.

(If you are a guest, floating breakfasts on the second rooftop infinity pool are simply sublime!)

42 – Experience traditional dinners

dinners in Yogyakarta

Forget ordinary; one of the most unique things to do in Yogyakarta is to savor a traditional Indonesian dinner … inside an ancient temple!!

After visiting the iconic Borobudur, stay for a three-course feast of traditional local dishes, coupled with live gamelan music setting the mood.

A typical menu starts with Serabi Kuah (bright green coconut pandan pancakes) served with fresh fruits, followed by Mekuah Dory fish soup and a rice and beef dish, finished with grilled bananas.

Other dinner experiences involve a night out at the (traditional) ballet afterward. Dining outside in a garden, ravage a typical Indonesian buffet and BBQ.

Looking for a fantastic dinner spot serving up authentic dishes? Purposefully designed with a traditional rustic feel, the motto of Gubug Makan Mang Engking is “From the Village for Indonesia.”

You can’t go wrong with a table at KESUMA Restaurant for local food at its best. From the plating to the ingredients to the interiors, it all screams Jogja.

43 – Enjoy the nightlife

nightlife in Yogyakarta

Let your hair and indulge in what holidaying is all about … having a good time! Here are the coolest jaunts in Yogyakarta tearing up the nightlife scene.

Sakapatat Brew House opens daily from 5 PM. Throwing themed parties where DJs appear, the barmen are friendly and the drinks ice cold. They make a mean cocktail, offer craft beer tastings, and you expect a mix of local and tourist crowds.

Taphouse Beer Garden also knows how to party, and the beers and DJ nights always flow.

A bar on the third floor, a lounge on the second and a place to show off your dance moves? Say hello to Platinum Kitchen, Bar & Lounge!

Nothing beats live music. With acts on every day, Lucifer Bar & Resto is your classic pub drinking hole.

Groove the night away — no, really, Liquid Bar and Kitchen closes at 5 … AM! — or simply enjoy a round of drinks or dinner in a lively atmosphere before heading home.

How to get to Yogyakarta?

Flying directly into the city from abroad or elsewhere in Indonesia? Landing at Yogyakarta International Airport (YIA), consider opting for pre-booked airport transfers in Yogyakarta.

Eliminate the stress of worrying about taxis and transport after you’ve already had a long flight, and get straight to your accommodation quickly and conveniently.

Upon arrival, your private driver will be waiting, holding a placard with your name on it. Then hop into a comfortable AC vehicle, and off you go!

Where to stay in Yogyakarta?

Indonesia is renowned for its incredible accommodation. These 5-star stays in Yogyakarta live up to expectations.

Covered by canopies of trees, feel away from the hustle at the luxurious Hyatt Regency Yogyakarta, boasting so many appreciated facilities you could spend days here, from a golf course to four-tiered tropical pools.

With its regal vibes and an intimate boutique-feel, The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta – MGallery Collection is comfort at its finest. Book a room with a private balcony overlooking the pool.

Designed with bright and spacious rooms with natural white filtering through, the all-white color palettes (and beautiful bathrooms) is accentuated by it all at the Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel.

Traveling with the family? The Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta is an excellent family option, equipped with wonderful facilities for all ages, even tiny tots.

So it may not be a 5-star hotel, but if you prefer to rent out an entire pad for the duration of your stay, Siji Gempol Vacation Home offers one, two and three-bedroom options. The interiors are ultra trendy and comfy, with everything you need in a home-away-from-home.

Visiting Yogyakarta on a budget?

Guess what? If you’re keen on exploring the ins and outs of Yogyakarta with a guide leading you through the city streets, there are free walking tours in Yogyakarta.

Navigating your way from Malioboro Street, stop at famed landmarks, monuments and places of interest, such as Vredeburg Fort, the city’s Chinatown (Kampung Ketandan), Beringharjo Market and more!

Lasting 1.5 hours, pitstop at local foodie stalls for snacks like bakpia (sweet pie) and lumpia (spring rolls), tasting traditional herbal drinks (called jamu), charcoal coffee (kopi joss) and a ginger specialty.

Where to go next?

Spend more than just one day milling around Jogja and embark on multi-day trips from Yogyakarta, from two-day to four-day adventures.

Spend two days temple hopping around the region, camp at the top of Mount Merbabu volcano, or dedicate a few days to investigating all the other volcanoes in the surrounding areas of Central Java.

As one of the most popular travel destinations on this planet, there are many other fun things to do in Indonesia.

Often compared to Kuala Lumpur, the country’s capital city is a buzz of metropolitan and cultural confluences. Among the interesting mix of things to do in Jakarta, you can see Dutch-style buildings, meander its old town or bring your kids to a shopping mall with a slide in the middle of it!

With the thought of volcanoes exploding any moment (only kidding), Lombok is special. Easy to reach from Bali, there are other things to do in Lombok than just surfing (but for which it does have epic waves). It has a wild island feel, with plenty of trendy cafes and boutiques.

Then, of course, there’s the Island of the Gods, and if you haven’t traveled to Indonesia before, you simply can’t miss the things to do in Bali. From its beaches to viewpoints to waterfalls to the food, culture, shopping, beach bars, yoga retreats — the list is endless.

Final thoughts

Leave feeling recharged — whether on the spiritual front, outdoor exploring end or for a cultural fix. The things to do in Yogyakarta are captivating, to say the least, and this is an extraordinary part of Central Java.

Have you traveled to Jogja before? What are your most memorable moments during your trip? Share with us in the comments; we love to hear from our readers.

As always, happy travels!

“I live to travel, and travel to live.” With gypsy blood running through her veins, Shannon is a freelance travel writer who has lived on five continents and counting, and is endlessly inspired by new cultures, countries and landscapes. Inscribing words onto paper, since she could talk, she lives and breathes delicious words and stories. Hailing from sunny South Africa, she has an affinity for Southeast Asia and all things spiritual, and is also a qualified Reiki practitioner. When not with her head buried in storytelling (or books) or watching sunrises in new lands, you’ll find her in the kitchen or with a paintbrush in hand. Shannon has written for major travel publications such as TripCanvas.