"Yogya," as its called by the locals (sometimes "Jogja"), is a relatively small town, with very little to see in the city itself, and very little nightlife. The main sight of the city is the Kraton , the sultan's palace in the center of Yogya. It's sort of a city within the city. At its center are the sultan's quarters, which are open to the public for guided tours. The bulk of the palace is actually a museum displaying portraits of the previous sultans, family trees and gifts from foreign dignitaries. Surrounding the palace are several museums that can prove interesting. Not far from the Kraton is the Water Castle (Taman Sari), which is part of the palace, and where the sultans used to escape the heat of the day in artificial lakes and bathing pools.
The old town area of Kota Gede is also worth a visit. Here, there is an interesting old mosque housing the tomb of the first Muslim ruler of Yogya. Around this is a charming old neighborhood that's worth spending a few hours walking around.
At night head down to Jalan Malioboro, the city's main shopping district. It was the annual school holidays when we first visited (early July) so it actually seemed like the whole city was there, shopping and eating at the many stalls along the road. For restaurant fare, try the Legian Garden Restaurant next to the Malioboro Mall.
Yogya's main attraction is as a handy base camp for exploring the ancient temples and natural scenery of the surrounding countryside. Listed here are the real reasons so many people visit Yogyakarta.
- Just about 10 miles outside of Yogyakarta is the temple complex of Prambanan. This huge complex of Hindu temples was constructed in the middle of the ninth century. The remains of 244 temples have been identified in the complex. When visiting the Prambanan, don't miss Candi Sewu , and impressive Buddhist temple a short distance from the main complex. It's often over-looked and most guides won't take you there unless asked.
- Ratu Boko
- A short drive from the Prambana is the hilltop ruins of Ratu Boko, which may have been a palace, or a monastery. Nobody is quite sure yet. The ruins, while extensive, are not as impressive as Prambanan, but the view from the hilltop is quite good.
- The pyramid-like structure of Borobodur is built on and around a natural hill. Construction was started sometime around the beginning of the eighth century. In plan, it resembles a tantric mandala with six square terraces supporting three circular ones. It's been called a three dimensional rendering of the Buddhist conception of the cosmos.
Tucked away in the mountains near Solo in central Java is one of the more interesting Hindu temples in all of Southeast Asia. The temple of Candi Sukuh is unique not only in overall design, but also in decoration. This place isn't exactly off the map. It's in all the guidebooks, but is definitely off the tourist trail. From the guest book kept by the gatekeeper, it appears that it only receives a dozen or so visitors a week. Even if you aren't very interested in the ancient structures of Southeast Asia, you may still want to have a look at Candi Sukuh.
Yogyakarta's founding and importance arises from a land dispute in 1755 between the susuhunan (king) of Surakarta (Solo) and his brother. Prince Mangkubumi left Solo in a huff and returned to Yogyakarta to build the kraton . He took the title of sultan, and his descendants rule Yogyakarta, albeit ceremonially, to this day.
Yogyakarta's prominence in the present day may also be due in part to the role supposedly played by the city and its sultans in the expulsion of the Dutch. In fact, if you visit the kraton, you'll be shown the desk where the plans for the revolution where drawn up. At least, that's their story and they're sticking with it.