Traditional arts such as batik making, puppet shows, and gamelan music, which features a variety of instruments including xylophones, drums, gongs and bamboo flutes, are celebrated here, as is contemporary art. Yogyakarta has a thriving art scene, and it is home to independent film communities, musicians, as well as performance and visual artists. As a result of these efforts, as well as its proximity to the magnificent Borobudur, Yogyakarta has become the premier tourist destination in Java.
Must-see sights and activities include the Buddhist monument of Borobudur; the sumptuous, well-rehearsed Ramayana ballet, held amidst the ruins of the imposing Prambanan temple complex; and the huge, beautifully built palace of Kraton Ngayogyakarta.
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Explore the magnificent 9th-century temples of Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world. Borobudur was nearly reclaimed by the jungle after the people of Java abandoned Buddhism in favor of Islam in the 15th century. In the 19th century, it was uncovered by British and Dutch colonial leaders, and restored to its former glory through a series of excavations and renovations that lasted until 1973. It is the country’s most famous site and a UNESCO World Heritage-protected monument.
Depending on the time of year, go rafting and kayaking on the Elo River; the ideal time to go is before or immediately after the end of the rainy season - when the river's waters are high, but not in danger of flooding.
A Dutch fort dating from the 1760s, Fort Vrederburg was used by both the first sultan of Yogyakarta, as well as Dutch colonial leaders. Located inside the kraton (Sultan's palace), the fort contains dioramas focusing on Indonesia’s struggle for independence over the centuries. Various collections of photographs, paintings, historical objects and other items on the same genre are also to be found.
Visit the kraton, or palace, of Yogyakarta. Built in 1755, this huge palace located at the center of a small walled city became the most powerful Javanese state under the leadership of Prince Mangkubumi, who pronounced himself sultan. The current sultan still resides in the palace, a fine example of Javanese palace architecture, and over 25,000 people live within the walls of the kraton compound.
The Prambanan is an ancient complex of Hindu temples dating to the 9th century, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. While reconstruction is ongoing, visitors can still visit much of this complex, which boasts a series of towering, ornate stone temples.
For four nights a week from May to October, a theater outside the park hosts performances of the Ramayana, the Hindu epic centering around the god Rama, his lover Seeta, and the faithful monkey-deity Hanuman. This performance is particularly noteworthy as it is performed by Javanese dancers, who interpret the source material in a unique, refreshing way.
Visit the Water Castle, also known as Taman Sari. This 18th century complex of palaces surrounded by pools and waterways was built as a retreat for the sultan and his entourage. Hidden pleasure rooms built into the design were so cherished by the sultan, that he supposedly had Taman Sari’s Portuguese architect executed so as to keep these rooms secret.
Visit the Kota Gede, which is the capital of the old Islamic Mataram Kingdom. It features excellent architectural examples of that age. Imogiri is the graveyard of royal families in the area.
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