Tag Archive for: Java

As an island nation, Indonesia offers access to a large number of beach paradises and spectacular natural landscapes. It is by far one of the most impressive travel destinations in the world. But apart from its natural wonders, history and culture are the other two aspects that make it worth visiting.


The city of Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta is one of Indonesia’s biggest and most diverse cities, offering access to a reach number of experiences.

We chose a colorful hostel for the 6 days that we spent there, in a more touristy neighborhood, where we could enjoy the variety of delicious local coffee and food. It’s been one of the best coffee experiences in Asia… did we mention that we love coffee very much?

But apart from the good coffee and the chill atmosphere of the place, what we enjoyed most here was the chance to meet again with our friends from Sumatra, whose travel route matched a few times with ours, giving us the chance to meet again and again.

The city offers also a cultural experience. Try visiting the Sultan’s castle (The Kraton), the Taman Sari Water Castle or the Sonobudoyo Museum for an insider look into the local traditions. See the work of skilled artists handcrafting leather puppets, jewelry and batik.


Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple

Even if the country’s main religion is Islam, the two main attractions in Joghyakarta are the largest Buddhist temple in the world, Borobudur, and the biggest Hindu temple in Indonesia, Prambanan.

We found the tour organized by our hostel to be the most convenient and cheapest option and it included the visit of both temples in one day. Other travelers prefer to ride a scooter and have the freedom to move around and enjoy more time at the sights.

The tour started early, at 4 o’clock in the morning, so we could climb the stairs of the Borobudur temple before the sunrise. The funny thing about Indonesia is that most of the touristic experiences start at sunrise and nobody would advise otherwise.

The morning light and the mist surrounding the temple create kind of a magical atmosphere when you walk up the stairs to the top of it. Unfortunately, the crowd of tourists armed with selfie sticks, climbing everywhere for a more spectacular picture, ruins the magic fast. But even so, for us it has been a beautiful experience.


The history of the temple remains uncertain until recent times. Abandoned for years, it was discovered and renovated by the British ruler of Java in 1814, being today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Decorated with 504 Buddha statues and more than 2000 relief panels, it is an important place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The pilgrimage journey starts at the base of the monument and follows a path around it, ascending to the top through three symbolic levels of Buddhist cosmology.


The Prambanan Temple

While the sun started to move up the sky, so did we towards the Prambanan Temple. The mystical air was not part of the atmosphere anymore, but large crowds of people were. Luckily the area is large enough to accommodate a high number of visitors and give everyone a chance to enjoy exploring the site. Actually, while moving away from the central buildings of the complex of temples, we found smaller ones and almost completely ignored by the tourists, but equally beautiful. There is the option to rent a bike and move around the complex. Also, you can end the tour with a refreshing drink and a tasty snack at the food stalls inside the area.



The Prambanan Temple is one of the largest in Southeast Asia, dating back to the 9th century. Damaged by the earthquake in the 16th century, the ruins of the temples have been abandoned and rediscovered in 1811, but the reconstruction of the temple started only one decade later. The project required a lot of effort, due to the advanced level of damage. Most of the smaller shrines are now visible only in their foundations.


Mangunan Fruit Garden in Yogyakarta

If sunrises are your thing, you should know that Yogyakarta has plenty of spots where you can admire a perfect landscape under the morning light. The Mangunan Fruit Garden is one of those spots and, even if there aren’t many fruits around, despite the name, there are many viewpoints and platforms for picture lovers. After the full day tour at the two temples, we found it difficult to wake up for another sunrise, so we went there in the afternoon. The walk around was nice, although the afternoon felt very hot. It is a popular spot among locals for spending the free time, so be ready to share the place with many people and to be invited to take pictures with them.


At the end of the six days in Yogyakarta, we moved towards Jakarta, the capital of the country, which didn’t impress us as much as the other places we already visited in Indonesia. Probably, if we had a bit more time, we could have discovered more beautiful things, even in a big and crowded city like Jakarta. But at the end of our journey in Indonesia, we were already excited about discovering our future destinations, Sri Lanka and India.

For more pictures from Yogyakarta click here.

Experiencing the sunrise over Mount Bromo has been indeed one of the highlights of our journey in Indonesia, but our trip in east Java would not end with it. A five hours train ride distance from Probbolingo is Mount Ijen, just another volcano of the many on the island, but offering a particular experience compared to the others. Its crater serves as a sulfur mine for the locals, but it got the attention of travelers from all around the world for a somehow magical phenomenon that happens here. When the toxic smoke rises up from the crater and gets in contact with the air, it resembles a fire of blue color. It is known as one of the only two places on earth where this phenomenon can be witnessed, so we decided to put it on our bucket list.

How to get there

For tourists that have a bit more money to spend, a private tour is an easy way to organize your visit. Many tour operators include Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen together in a single itinerary and, with Banyuwangi being a popular overland access gate from Java to Bali, many travelers coming from Jakarta or Yogyakarta consider stopping as well for a hike on Mount Ijen.

For others that decide to travel independently, the train is probably the most convenient way of transportation. We found tickets at a higher rate than expected. Due to local celebrations during the time when we were there, many seats have been booked in advance but we were still happy to find some last minute. For booking train tickets in Indonesia, we used either Traveloka or Ticket.com that both have convenient and easy to use mobile apps.

The Banjar Krajan village

The best stop on the route to Mount Ijen is Banyuwangi. Most travelers stop here because of the easy access from the train station to the city, but also because of the ease of finding local agents that can organize a trip to the volcano. We opted for accommodation in Banjar Krajan, one of the villages surrounding the mountain area, where we witnessed some of the most impressive landscapes of our trip. We stayed with a local family that organized the tour for us and offered us the chance to discover the neighborhood, during a walk through rice fields, coffee plantations and the beautiful vegetation that made the village feel like a perfect place to chill, to enjoy watching people’s lifestyle and to taste the local cuisine.



One particular thing that got our attention were the many giant spiders hanging around. While they can look quite scary, we’ve been assured that they live in perfect harmony with the people.

The Ijen Volcano

We left our accommodation in the middle of the night. It takes around one hour to reach the base of the volcano. Be aware that temperatures can drop drastically, so make sure you carry warm clothes with you.  The access gates open at 1 am and tourists and miners start climbing towards the crater. There are many guides offering to lead the way for you and who will ask for a pricey reward in return. We declined their offers and hiked by ourselves as the path was clear and easy to follow. The moon happened to be very bright that night and lightened up the valley enough for us to be able to see and admire the surroundings.



Torchlight can be a very useful tool to make sure you see where you walk. It is also advisable to wear good hiking shoes, especially if the air is humid. Climbing down the slippery rocks inside the crater of the volcano might be dangerous and signs at the top of the crater advise tourists not to descend to the sulfur mine. So, keep in mind that, in case of an accident, your travel insurance most likely won’t cover for it.

A must-have is a gas mask to protect you from the toxic smoke. Most tour operators will include the mask in the tour’s price, but make sure it is part of your gear.

Inside the crater

You will be told that climbing down into the crater is illegal if not accompanied by a guide, which, of course, demands a high price for his service. Still, most people choose to do it without. We were some of the first people to enter the crater, followed by another couple. At the base of it we found two miners filling their baskets with heavy stones of sulfurous, which they typically carry on their shoulders. It is impressive to watch those men carrying up to 70 kg of minerals to the top of the crater and after down the mountain. Many of them decided to give up the heavy work and earn an income by guiding tourists that come to visit the area.


The “blue flames” are an impressive spectacle to watch and when more and more people started to climb down, the crater turned into the scene of a real light show. But with more people came also more noise and suddenly the silence of the night felt less pleasant in the presence of people flashing their phones for a perfect selfie, so we decided to climb back up before it got too crowded.



The blue flames were not the only beautiful thing to witness. As the light of the first morning hours started to lighten up the valley, the shapes of the nearby volcanoes uncovered and the green vegetation revealed a truly incredible landscape. Walking back to the base of the mountain proved to be a beautiful walk that made the whole Ijen experience one of the best we ever had.



Our driver was waiting for us in the parking lot, where many bars and restaurants offer breakfast and a hot coffee that felt very rewarding after the cold hours on the mountain. On the way back we had a short stop at one of the waterfalls near the village, before arriving at the accommodation where we quickly fell into a deep and necessary sleep.


We reserved the last afternoon for exploring the village and cycling along the rice fields, with a stop next to the coffee plantation for a good afternoon meal and a refreshing coffee.

After discovering so many of the natural wonders of Indonesia, our trip continued towards more historical and cultural destinations, ending in the beautiful city Yogyakarta. Read more about it here.

For pictures from Mount Ijen click here.

Sumatra is the second-largest island of Indonesia and just one of the 17000 that form this nation, which makes it hard to decide which one to visit and which one to give up on.

Our previous planned itinerary included also the island of Bali, but after the time in North Sumatra we decided to spend more time in Java and make Bali a destination for future travels.

We returned to Medan for a flight to Malang, in East Java, and continued with the train till Probolinggo. While in Sumatra the transportation options are poor and limited, Java is well connected by a well-maintained network of buses and trains.

Moving around

Booking tickets in Java was easy. We used the mobile apps Ticket.com and Traveloka which are both great for booking almost anything, from transportation tickets to attractions, accommodation and food. After the payment, you will receive an electronic ticket with a bar-code that needs to be scanned once you arrive at the station. The process is made quite simple. You will find a bar-code scanner that will automatically print out a ticket, without needing to queue in front of a counter, which saves a lot of time and stress.

Arriving in Probolinggo

It took us approximately 4 hours by train from Malang to Probolinggo, where we rented a room for 3 nights. We decided to do so as visiting Mount Bromo is made easier from here. Of course you can travel further to Cemoro Lawang and spend the night there if you don’t wish to wake up too early.

We joined a tour organized by our hostel, together with other 4 people, and left early in the morning in order to arrive in time for the sunrise. It took us 40 minutes from the parking place to the viewpoint. It was still very dark outside and the path was narrow. We used the torch of our mobile phones to light the way. Other people used headlamps. The landscape from the viewpoint was really beautiful, but so believed also the more than a hundred people that came to see the sunrise in the same place. We recommend climbing a few meters higher and getting a place just for yourself. There are spots also on the way to the official viewpoints where you can stop for a more private experience, but climbing till the top will guarantee you a much better view… even if you’ll have to share it with more people.



Seeing Mount Bromo has been an amazing experience and although we could have continued the day by crossing the “sea of sand” that surrounds the volcano and climbing up to the crater, we felt happy just with seeing the sun rising over it.



Mount Bromo was the only attraction that brought us to East Java, but meeting other travelers on the way inspired us to use the chance and visit another one of the many volcanoes on the island. We used the last day in Probolinggo to recover our energy and to get a good sleep before our trip to Banyuwangi, the access point to Mount Ijen.

More pictures from Mount Ijen and Indonesia you will find here.