Long weekends are the best: They’re great for short getaways, and won’t cost us any of those precious annual leaves. The good news is that there are a couple in the upcoming months, and we have just the itinerary for you.
Yogyakarta (also known as Jogja) is a cultural city which sits on the Southern region of the Indonesian island of Java. It’s renowned for classical Javanese dance, music, and other arts. While the most popular tourist destination in Java (due to its close proximity to two ancient temples Borobudur and Prambanan), the place is less commercialized than expected, and retains a lot of its local charm. We recently spent 3D2N there, and here’s our recommended itinerary:
3D2N in Yogyakarta
DAY 1: Mount Merapi & Malioboro Road
Let’s talk food first. A must-try local dish is Gudeg, a traditional meal comprising of chicken, beef skin, and egg. You can find it almost anywhere, but the most famous chain is Gudeg Yu Djum, which has multiple outlets all over Jogja.
head to Mount Merapi, Indonesia’s most active volcano. It’s best you hire a tour guide as there are some pretty rough terrain that could be hard for individuals to cross. You can choose short, mid, and long routes, depending on how high up you want to hike. We chose the mid route, which included a jeep ride with stops at four stations.
The first station: Mount Merapi Museum. This tragedy-turned-museum site showcases the “melted” homes of villagers who suffered from the 2014 volcano eruption. The second and third stations are scenic stops—make sure your cameras are charged!—while the fourth one is where you get to drive through a wet path. (P.S. You’ll get wet!)
Check into Hotel Tentrem. One step into the health and wellness hub and you will be greeted by wafts of fragrant lemongrass oil. These are their specialty, and can be purchased at the gift shops to recreate the zen ambience at home. Not many people know this, but Tentrem serves complimentary Jamu health drinks! The traditional herbal mixture is typically dissolved in water, making a refreshingly minty beverage. When your tired bones get back after a long day of adventure, simply ask the receptionists for some Jamu.
Spend your night at Malioboro, a lively street with roadside food and souvenir stores that operate 24-7. When grabbing a bite, make sure you order the famous charcoal coffee from Kopi Jos. The detoxifying drink is literally coffee, with a piece of red, smoking charcoal dunked in it. After letting it sit for about two minutes, remove the piece of charcoal, and drink away.
Pair the local beverage with some indo mie noodles, skewered meat, and “cat rice” (Nasi Kuching), which is very similar to Nasi Lemak, except in a portion so small it’s almost as if it were made for cats!
If you can, take a “becak”. Zipping around town in this retro rickshaw-esque ride is not just cheap and efficient, but very fun as well!
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Day 2: Kalibiru National Park & Prambanan Temple
Next up on the local menu: Soto! Traditional Indonesian meat soups are called Soto, and they’re so iconic they’re even sometimes considered the country’s national dish. Have a taste of this savoury delicacy for lunch over at Soto Kadipiro, a famous Soto store.
Next, drive to Kalibiru National Park on Menoreh Hills. It’s about 1.5 hours away from the main city center, but it’s worth the treacherous drive (the roads are bumpy and steep, with holes here and there). Hike up steep steps to reach the specially built ledges at all the best spots. These make great vantage points for enjoying the view of the Sermo reservoir and taking photos. There’s also a flying fox line here, so the adventurous ones can try that. Do note that the entrance fees are from RP5,000, and the use of tree house photo spots is chargeable.
End the day with an evening at the Hindu Prambanan Temple, the second most popular sightseeing spot in Jogja, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The entire complex has 240 temples, which were built in the 8th Century. For the most Instagram-worthy shots, go during sunrise or sunset when the sky is the most colourful.
Day 3: Borobudur Temple
It’s your last day! End your long weekend with a bang by visiting Jogja top attraction, the Buddhist Borobudur Temple, yet anothe UNESCO World Heritage site. The verdict is split on whether dusk or dawn is the best time to enjoy this site, but we visited it at dawn and loved it. The Manohara Hotel at the site conducts guided tours (chargeable) but the entire compound is open to public so feel free to explore at your own leisure. Do note that the entrance fee into the area is different for locals and tourists. Although the local ticket is cheaper, we don’t recommend asking your guide to get it for you as the guards at the gate will be able to tell immediately. They’re known to “test” people if they suspect you are trying to sneak in with a wrong ticket.
RELATED: Mt Batur Volcano Sunrise Trek, Ubud Rice Terraces, Temples and Volcano Tour, and Kintamani Lake & Volcano Full-day Tour.
Tips before you go
- Public transport is an option, but it won’t be as efficient as if you hired a private driver. After all, you’ll be trying to squeeze in as many attractions as you can in one long weekend. You can find recommended drivers on TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, and other travel forums. They typically charge by the day.
- These drivers are usually local guides as well, and can give you tips on where to go too.
- To be safe, change your money before leaving for Indonesia. Money changers are not the easiest to find, and they may not have the best rates.
- Many highlights in Jogja require a lot of walking, so come prepared! Wear comfortable walking shoes, and travel light.
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