Why Yogyakarta is our favourite city in Java
Commonly known as Jogja, Yogyakarta is the most unique city in Java. It’s the undisputed hub of traditional Javanese art and culture.
Many visitors to Indonesia only come for Bali, but Yogyakarta should be enough to convince you to visit Java too!
It’s a bustling metropolis of around 3 million people, with a youthful social scene. It boasts an array of top-notch bars and cafes.
A bustling city with access to ancient temples and volcanoes
The cultural capital of Java is the common basecamp for visitors to explore the famous nearby ancient temples of Borobudur and Prambanan.
If you’re up for some adventure, it’s also a great place to visit the active volcano, Mount Merapi, from.
Just strolling around the city will already make you happy you visited Yogyakarta. Alongside its exciting offering of hipster cafes and unique restaurants, it’s also a city steeped in history.
Yogya is the only place in the country still ruled by a Sultan. This proves how proudly it values its age-old traditions and royal heritage. At its heart is the royal ‘Kraton’, a city palace.
The Kraton is a slice of living history, featuring a series of expansive courtyards and pavilions, still guarded by elders in traditional Javanese costumes. It features two museums, a market, artisan workshops, schools and mosques. It’s effectively a self-contained walled city.
How long should you spend in Yogyakarta?
How many days you should spend in Yogya depends on what you want to do. If you’re on a tight time frame, 3 days should be enough.
This gives you enough time to explore the city, visit both Borobudur and Prambanan, and visit one or more of Yogya’s royal places like the Water palace. If you plan it well, you can include a bicycle tour around the rural areas of Yogja or go on an exciting jeep tour to Mount Merapi.
If you have a bit more time on your hands, this is a city where you can easily spend 5 days. Enjoy your morning coffee in one of Yogya’s many cafes, join a craft workshop or go on a day trip to one of the nearby beaches.
Where to stay in Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta is a large and vibrant city. The majority of accommodation options are centred around just three main downtown districts.
Below we will summarize what you can expect in each district.
Malioboro – at the centre with everything you need
Malioboro is a neighbourhood right in the centre of Yogyakarta. It’s the main district for shopping, nightlife and a host of cultural attractions such as museums.
It’s also a great area for eating out and sampling the city’s exciting café culture. There’s something for every palate and budget.
Malioboro is where you’ll find the city’s largest choice of guesthouses and mid-range to upscale hotels.
Travelling on a budget? Close to Malioboro street, you will find Gang 1, 2 and 3, packed with cheap hostels and guesthouses popular with backpackers.
Kraton – great for people on a budget
Just a short ride to the south of Malioboro you’ll find Kraton. Accommodations in this district are priced more favourable than the ones located in Yogya’s main centre.
The low prices tend to attract a lot of backpackers travelling on a budget. This gives the area a lively and buzzing vibe. Kraton’s streets are full of stalls offering delicious street food at a low price.
Here you’ll find a more comprehensive choice of budget options compared to Malioboro. There’s also a variety of homely guest houses and hip boutique hotels.
Prawirotaman – a small neighbourhood with a young, hipster vibe
Prawirotaman is a small neighbourhood in the south of Yogyakarta that has an array of cool coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques and bars. This has inevitably attracted a young, hipster crowd to the area.
If you prefer to stay in the heart of the action and go bar-hopping without the hassle of finding a taxi to get home, this is your best choice.
It’s also an eclectic district with vibrant street art on every corner, artist’s workshops and arty boutique hotels.
How to get around In Yogyakarta
First impressions can be a little deceiving. Yogyakarta feels like a large city, but most central attractions are fairly central.
This means that you won’t be too far away from nearly all the places you’ll likely want to visit.
There are several ways to get around safely and relatively quickly. Though this does depend on the traffic situation.
Yogyakarta is a pretty big city, but once you’re at the centre of it, a lot of your exploring can be done by foot.
Walking between the different tourist attractions also allows you to see more of the city, find hidden gems and absorb the city’s atmosphere.
Besides that, walking is free and a form of exercise!
Renting a motorbike is an easy and cheap way to get around within the city centre.
Renting a bike will give you the most freedom. You can head out of the city for a day at the beach or visit the famed temples of Prambanan (30m) or even Borobudur (1hr 30m).
In Yogyakarta, you’ll find plenty of places to rent a motorbike. Prices are reasonable at about 70,000 IDR ($4.50) a day.
Buses are the main mode of public transport within the downtown area of Yogya. There are two types of bus services: Regular and Patas.
Regular buses operate on most local routes with numerous stops, which makes them time-consuming. Most routes operate daily between 05:00 – 17:00.
Patas (Trans Jogja), on the other hand, offers speedier, more direct services in and around the city centre. The main reason why most travellers use their service instead of the regular buses.
Patas buses are comfortable express vehicles with air conditioning. Their service covers all the main routes within the downtown area, including Adisucipto Airport, the main bus terminal and the train station.
Fares are 4,000 IDR ($0.30) for a single journey.
You’ll find metered taxis hanging around all the main shopping and entertainment areas, as well as near tourist attractions.
The starting rate begins at 6,000 IDR ($0.40). Most short trips around the centre shouldn’t cost more than [30,000 IDR].
Even better, ride-hailing apps Grab and Go-Jek can be used for trips around Yogyakarta and beyond for both motorbikes and car rides. On average these work out about 10-20% cheaper than metered taxis.
Also known as a becak, these bicycle rickshaws are a fun way to get around on a short journey. Though not if you’re in a hurry!
They are more for sightseeing rather than a mode of transport. They are also available to hire for a few hours if you want to squeeze in a number of tourist sights on a city tour.
Expect to pay about 250,000 IDR ($16) for a tour of about 3-4 hours, but be prepared to bargain hard.
Best beaches near Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta isn’t a beach city, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have some beach days during your stay in the city. You just have to travel a little further to reach these beaches.
Top-pick #1: Parangtritis
Situated about 1-hour drive or 30 km south of Yogyakarta, Parangtritis is the top beach getaway for city dwellers.
It is thronged by families at weekends but has a much more relaxed vibe during the week.
The vast expanse of sand offers a range of activities. Visitors can rent ATVs to ride along the beach, or go horse riding. Or most travellers’ favourite, simply lay out your towel and do some sunbathing.
Unfortunately, Parangtritis isn’t ideal for swimming due to the waves. On the other hand, it’s a great place for beginners who would like to learn how to surf.
Set behind the beach is a hill which is a popular viewpoint at sunset and also serves as a lift-off base for paragliding over the ocean. Why not also test your fear of heights?
Frequent buses leave from Yogyakarta’s Giwangan Bus Station daily and cost 20,000 IDR ($1.30) which includes the beach entrance ticket. Do note the last bus leaves from Parangtritis at 5:00pm.
Top-pick #2: Indrayanti
Compared to Parangtritis, Indrayanti is a thin arc of sand, but much softer and more photogenic.
Situated between two rocky outcrops, it is a quintessential tropical beach hideaway. It has a handful of beachfront eateries perched on the sand for drinks, snacks or just to take refuge from the sun.
The romantic scenery is a big hit for young local couples who fill the beachfront cafes on weekends during sunset.
Getting here will take some extra time, though. It’s about a 2-hour drive, which is double the amount of time it takes to get here from Yogya to Parangtritis. The only way to make this journey is by car as there’s no public transport.
Top-pick #3: Nglambor Beach
A little further east along the southern Java coastline is Nglambor Beach. It’s a little over two hours away, offering the only accessible place for snorkelling close to Yogyakarta.
Just 10 metres from the sheltered beach are two adjacent reefs filled with vibrant-coloured reef fish.
The golden sand beach and reef are protected from crashing waves by two ‘turtle’ rocks. The water here is safe, reasonably shallow and crystal clear.
There is no public transport from the city, so going there by motorbike or taxi is your best way to get there.
How to get to Yogyakarta from Jakarta
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Travelling to Bali? Check out our Yogyakarta to Bali article.
Jogja Village - Budget Friendly
If you crave a tropical haven in the heart of the city with a stunning outdoor pool, Jogja Village is an ideal option.
It’s a 10-minute drive from Kraton Palace and is surrounded by a host of cool coffee shops and boutiques.
Choose from a range of colourfully decorated rooms, some with romantic four-poster beds and Bali-style open-air bathrooms. There is an excellent restaurant with seating by the pool as well as a fully equipped spa.
It’s one of Yogyakarta’s best family-friendly hotels in its price range and features an indoor play area.
- Swimming pool
- Delicious on-site restaurant
Double rooms start from $27 per night
Rumah Mertua Heritage - Budget Friendly
Situated on the northern outskirts of Yogyakarta, you’ll enjoy a quiet Bali-style tropical haven with an inviting outdoor pool. Each room is tastefully decorated and includes TV, air-conditioning and modern ensuite bathrooms. The standout feature has to be the evocative garden restaurant with traditional Javanese décor.
- Outdoor swimming pool
- Stunning garden
- On-site restaurant
Double rooms start from $20 per night
Snooze - Budget Friendly
This adult-only cosy guest house is situated in the heart of the Kraton palace district, and is like nowhere else in town.
Rooms are set around a central courtyard filled with tropical plants. In fact, even in the rooms it feels like you have stepped into the rainforest. There are plants, natural bamboo fixtures and colourful jungle murals painted on the walls.
Dotted throughout the guesthouse are several areas to socialise. It features a shared kitchen and coffee shop and airport pickup is available for an additional charge.
- Social and fun atmosphere
- Convenient location
- Garden and terrace
- On-site cafe
Double rooms start from $10 per night
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Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.