Sitting on a hill in central Java, surrounded by volcanoes and lush, green fields, lies the magnificent temple of Borobudur. This vast 9th-century structure was buried under a blanket of jungle and volcanic ash before it was unearthed by then British Raja of Indonesia, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, in the early 19th century.
Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple and the most visited tourist site in Indonesia. With its palpable spirituality and striking architectural beauty, the huge stone temple draws pilgrims and tourists from around the globe. It is the kind of place that stays with you long after you return home.
Here are 6 tips to help you to make the most of your visit to Borobudur.
1. Stay at Borobudur
It’s a 90-minute drive from Yogyakarta airport to Borobudur. If you want to avoid a 3am start to see the sunrise, skip the hotels in Yogyakarta and book a room near the temple instead. Guests staying at Manohara, a modest 2-star hotel located within the temple grounds, receive all-day unlimited entry to Borobudur. Amanjiwo, a luxurious 5-star hotel overlooking the historic site, is a good spot for lunch or sunset drinks.
2. Get to the site early
Like any major tourist attraction, Borobudur can get busy, so it is best to enter the site early. Gates open at 6am, giving you the chance to beat the crowds and the heat. Special pre-dawn admission and tours are also available, although these cost extra. If you visit in winter, the regular 6am entry allows just enough time to catch the sunrise.
3. Photograph creatively
Sunrise provides visitors with the opportunity to capture iconic images, the kind of stunning photographs you see on postcards and tourism posters. However, sometimes weather conditions make it difficult to achieve the classic shot of the stupas at sunrise.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other magnificent photographic opportunities for those who know where to look. If the weather is cloudy at sunrise, head to the western side of Borobudur where you can photograph soft, purple-hued valleys covered in early morning mist. Don’t forget to photograph Borobudur from the ground up to capture its sheer size.
4. Take your time
Borobudur temple is almost 30 metres high and decorated with more than 500 Buddha statues, including three central platforms adorned with 72 large Buddhas, each one seated inside a huge, perforated stone stupa. It is an energetic walk to the top, so bring plenty of water, even if you are visiting in the early morning.
Rest on the way up, pausing to enjoy the view and interact with other visitors. Don’t be surprised if locals want to have their photograph taken with you. Non-Indonesian tourists are far less common here than in nearby Bali.
5. Dress comfortably
Adhere to the dress code and wear cool loose clothing that cover up your shoulders and knees. Wear pants as the steps leading to the top of the temple are high and not suited to skirts. Comfortable footwear is also a must. Sunrise at the top of the temple can be cool, especially in winter, so bring a light jacket. A rain jacket is ideal as, if it does rain, there is nowhere to seek shelter on the temple itself.
6. Avoid weekends
Borobudur is a popular destination for local tourists as well as the faithful who climb from one level of the temple to the next, guided by the stories depicted on the almost 3,000 bas-relief carvings which show the wisdom and teachings of Buddha. It’s best to visit midweek when most locals are at work if you would prefer to avoid the weekend crowds.
– TEXT BY TIANA TEMPLEMAN
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.