Yogyakarta is highly regarded as the epicentre of Javanese culture, where one can witness time-honoured artforms, customs, and traditions woven seamlessly into everyday life. But this is not to say that the region is stuck in the past. Being the city of education with more than 20 universities calling it home, Yogyakarta is very much progressive and alive with vibrant energy. Expect to see hip pop-up events lining up every month, thriving café culture, and exciting art scenes.
So, if you haven’t been to Yogyakarta yet, here is a list of local experiences that you can consider adding into your travel itinerary to get better acquainted with the city.
There is no better way of getting the sense of a place other than learning its history. In Yogyakarta, one of the best places to do so is at the Sonobudoyo Museum.
For over 80 years, this museum has been dedicated to the rich Javanese culture and history, and even deemed as the top museum during the Dutch colonial period. It boasts the second most complete collection of Javanese antiques in Indonesia after the National Museum in Jakarta, ranging from ancient sculptures, traditional masks, and textiles to weaponry.
Do drop by in the evenings too, when shadow puppet performances are showcased for a small fee, every night except Mondays.
Take a glimpse at the former playground of Hamengkubuwono I, the first Sultan of Yogyakarta, at this large complex complete with beautiful pools, a courtyard, underground tunnels, and remnants of the once-glorious subterranean masjid called Sumur Gumuling.
In the past, the spaces brimmed with lush fragrant flowers, hence, its name meaning ‘perfumed garden.’ Some even believed this was the place where the Sultan would eye on his potential royal consorts. While most parts of the complex were damaged by the Java War instigated by Prince Diponegoro as well as natural calamities, the bathhouses have been carefully restored to match their original charm.
Make sure your phone battery is full because the place teems with beautiful spots for picture-taking.
Kotabaru Heritage Walk
Kotabaru was once the dwelling place for the Dutch in Yogyakarta. So, if you love colonial architecture, then stroll around this charming neighbourhood as traces of the past are still visible through the Indies-style houses that remain intact today.
Roam further and you can find Masjid Syuhada, built in 1950 by Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwobo IX in honour of the fallen warriors who fought during the Indonesian National Revolution. It deviates from the typical multi-tiered roofs often found in Java and instead features striking Mughal-style domes, said to be a first in Yogyakarta.
There is a free guided tour available should you are interested to understand the rich history and architectural influences in Kotabaru. Held every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
Register at Jogja Good Guide or Contact www.instagram.com/joggoodguide
If you seek some adrenaline rush, look no further than Purwomartani in Kalasan, Sleman. This area, also known for verdant paddy fields, is only a short drive away from downtown Yogyakarta and is home to a campsite that offers an off-roading experience on rugged landscapes.
Be prepared to get wet because some parts of the thrilling route require the jeep to cross a raging river. At the end of the ride, you get to feed your cultural curiosity with a quick stop at the 9th-century Hindu temple called Candi Kedulan.
Contact: +62 822 4297 9999 or send direct message to www.instagram.com/dhanang_closedhouse
Eco-printing is a natural dyeing technique that transfers the colours and shapes of plants like flowers and leaves onto paper or fabric. It can result in exclusive products since each design is unique and cannot be replicated.
If this enticed you, look out for Lemospires when in Yogyakarta, a local brand that makes gorgeous eco-printed batik perfect for personal use or as a gift. Besides, all of their products are consciously-made with sustainability in mind. They use only natural and biodegradable fabrics and buttons, limit water consumption during production, and even plant the flowers to be used in the designing process themselves.
The company also empowers women in the surrounding communities by providing them work and training opportunities. Now this is a brand that we love to support!
Wayang Jogja Night Carnival
If you were travelling to Yogyakarta in October, be sure to coincide your visit with Wayang Jogja Night Carnival, which is an annual parade held to commemorate the anniversary of the city. The streets (particularly Jenderal Sudirman and Margoutomo) leading to the Yogyakarta Monument come alive with puppet performances, music, and dance, making the festival one of the most glorious celebrations on the island of Java.
In 2022, as the city celebrates its 266th anniversary, the carnival honours the enchanting rhythms of gamelan, an Indonesian musical form listed as the twelfth intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.
The parade also features well-known characters in the world of wayang (puppetry) such as Arjuna, Baladewa, Erawati, and Sembadra.
A significant Javanese delicacy, gudeg is believed to have originated from Yogyakarta. It is made from young unripe jackfruit simmered in coconut milk and spices for hours, giving the dish its distinctive sweet flavour. We suggest pairing it with the spicy sambal krecek (a side dish made of cattle skins) for a more balanced taste should you find the sweetness too overwhelming.
Chicken Garang Asem
Another comfort food familiar to the tongues of people in Yogyakarta and Central Java, garang asem is a dish made from chicken, slices of starfruit, tomatoes, chili, bay leaves, and galangal, all wrapped in banana leaves and left cooked until the meat is tender. However, you can find the version in Yogyakarta slightly creamier and silkier in texture due to the usage of coconut milk.
THE 101 Yogyakarta Tugu Hotel
A stay in this property is bound to be memorable and meaningful since it spoils guests with the utmost comfort and unique cultural experiences. The spaces are charmingly furnished with Javanese influences, while its restaurant proudly features authentic local grub. Guests could also enjoy a mini performance of traditional music at its lobby from time to time. Moreover, the hotel’s strategic location gives guests easy access to a plethora of popular attractions.
From Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia at KLIA2 flies non-stop four times weekly to Yogyakarta International Airport (Kulon Progo Regency), while Malaysia Airlines at KLIA flies twice weekly. Upon arrival, travellers can make use of the Yogyakarta International Airport Rail Link service to reach the city. The trip takes around 40 minutes and costs IDR20,000 per person.
The Gaya Travel Magazine team extends our sincerest gratitude to Yogyakarta City Government Tourism Office for making the writer’s trip to the city possible and smooth sailing.
Filed in: Indonesia / Wayang Jogja / Yogyakarta