Yogyakarta is known as the cultural capital of Indonesia and the home of Javanese culture. Home to many artists, academics and writers this city has a colourful creative scene. The balance of old and new culture is upheld in traditional areas such as Silver Alley while the hustle of modern business is evident as with any busy city. It’s said that every week there’s a new exhibition or performance to check out here. We also ventured to the lush rural outskirts on a thrilling volcano tour. Our whirlwind trip over 3 days covered archaeological sites, Javanese art practices and plenty of exploring. 

Pentingsari Village

In this small village on the edge of a volcano I learned about traditional rice farming techniques in the paddies. The area is incredibly lush and fertile, no doubt thanks to its proximity to Merapi volcano. Walking barefoot in the rice paddies and watching little fish and frogs swim was so refreshing right after the flight.

For lunch we had a huge spread of tasty local dishes that I had never seen before. I had so much fun trying everything the villagers made for us!

Merapi Volcano Tour

This 4wd adventure is for adrenaline lovers. You’ll be traversing rocky roads, rivers and huge puddles all whilst venturing closer to the active volcano, which last erupted in 2010. The 4wds are no joke – these machines are barebone vehicles built for scrambling over rocks and plunging through knee high waters. It takes a lot of skill to handle them and Willys Jeep drivers made sure we had plenty of fun along the way. If you enjoy the thrill of rollercoasters you will have a great time.

We visited Museum Sisa Hartaku to see first hand the effects of the hot ash eruption. Melted motorcycles, glasses and furniture serve as a chilling reminder of the volcanos power. Living near a volcano brings fertile lands but there’s always the risk of disaster. We also visited the reinforced underground bunkers near the base of the volcano. Unfortunately the summit was shrouded by clouds but Willy’s Jeep made up for it by taking us through a scenic river surrounded by rainforest.

Borobudur Temple

Set in the ‘Garden of Java’ this colossal Buddhist temple is one of the most important temples in South East Asia. It has survived 1200 years of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and is a treasured site for Buddhism in Indonesia. There are many monks in the area and you can observe their rituals at prayer time. At the top of the temple the foggy sunrise was well worth the 3am bus trip.

Kota Gede

Back in the bustle of Yogyakarta we explored the first capital of the Mataram Kingdom. A huge tree marks the founding of the Kingdom by Panembahan Senopati in 1582. The two is also known as ‘silver alley’, after the silver industry that started in the 1930s. I spent a few hours exploring the narrow alley ways and seeing how the locals lived in their traditional style homes. The architecture here represents different time periods of Indonesian history from the Mataram Kingdom to Dutch influenced designs. To the south of the central market is a mosque where the sacred tomb of Senopati lies – on the day we visited it was closed but there was a celebration nearby where we saw some traditional dance.

Pasar Legi

In the central district of the town is an indoor market. The way light filters through the building is unexpectedly stunning, lighting up the fascinating ingredients and wares for sale. The workers were friendly and accommodating even though I was clearly a tourist struggling with the Bahasa language. My Indonesian friends helped translate and apparently the locals thought I was a famous Indonesian actor! 

Art in Indonesia

There are many opportunities to take part in traditional art practices Yogyakarta. In Kota Gede there were a few families who specialised in claymaking. Using an open fire pit with coal and palm fronds the clay pots were fired and set. Along with trying our own clay shapes we got to try Batik nearby – one of the most famous Indonesian art forms. It involves wax dripped onto fabric, which is then dyed, leaving the outline where the wax was undyed. Multiple steps with different layers of redying can create complex shapes on the fabric.

Papermoon Puppet

The puppets that Maria Tri Sulistyani builds are incredibly expressive and cute, however the stories they tell are dark and rooted in the mass jailings and executions of 1965 Indonesia. The company has toured the world and even visited the Sydney Opera house. Puppeteers manipulate the puppets onstage to act out stories without words. It draws on historic art forms like Wayang kulit but it is an entirely new idea in the world of contemporary Indonesian art. We visited Maria’s art house and learned to make our own puppets too.

Getting around Yogyakarta

Fun ways to get around include the Becak rickshaw, Andong horse carriage and at nighttime the glowing Tuk tuks. Taxis and ubers are easy ways to get around.

GreenHost Hotel

This boutique hotel was the most modern and ecofriendly hotel I’ve stayed at. The artist designed rooms utilise recycled and eco friendly materials and the balconies are lined with ‘green walls’ of herbs and tropical plants. The food is farm-to-table modern Indonesian – it’s really good. Befitting of its ‘green’ nature there’s also an indoor farm where vegetables are grown for the kitchen. The main atrium, tea spa, gallery space and pool are perfect places to relax after an exciting day exploring in Yogkyakarta. You can check it out by clicking here.

Thank you for reading! I had the honour of experiencing Yogyakarta on the Trip of Wonders held by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism. It was an eye opening experience into the blogging world and I made dozens of talented friends in Indonesia as well as around the world.