Borobudur Temple: Why You Should See It at Sunrise

The third stop in our SEA by Train vacation in Indonesia, Borobudur.

As soon as we got to Malioboro Street from Prambanan, we immediately looked for a taxi service that would take us to Borobudur. We were able to haggle for a lower rate of IDR 200,000 from the original 400,000. It’s around a two-hour drive from Yogyakarta to Borobudur.

Most tourists visit Borobudur as part of a day tour. We, however, wanted to experience the Borobudur sunrise. I’ve read a lot of blogs describing how wonderful it is. We wanted to see for ourselves.

The Majestic Borobudur temple in Indonesia

Borobudur is the single largest Buddhist structure in the world. The temple was built on the 8th century and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

Borobudur Temple Complex

Borobudur Temple Complex Schedule:
6 am to 5 pm

Borobudur Temple Complex Admission Rate:
IDR 230,000 / IDR 110,000 for students
These are rates for foreigners. Indonesians pay less, around IDR 30,000.

Visitors are required to wear a sarong while inside the temple, regardless if you are wearing pants or long skirts. Sarongs are available at the reception and is part of the admission ticket.

Please be aware that Borobudur, like Prambanan, is considered a holy place and people still go to these places for pilgrimage. There are a lot of temple staff making sure that everybody acts accordingly.

You may also hire a guide at the reception, rates start at IDR 75,000.

One of the most visited sites in all of Indonesia, Borobudur is never without a throng of people. The best way to see Borobudur, and avoid the crowds, is on a sunrise or sunset tour.

Located inside the Borobudur temple grounds and managed by the temple authorities, Manohara hotel is the only place where these exclusive tours can be booked.

Borobudur Sunrise/Sunset

Borobudur Sunrise/Sunset Schedule:
Sunrise – Guests are allowed to enter the temple complex at 4:30 am
Sunset – Guests are allowed to stay in the temple until 6:30 pm

Borobudur Sunrise/Sunset Rates:
Foreigner – IDR 380,000
Locals – IDR 250,000
Hotel guests – IDR 230,000

A torch is provided for these tours. Also, a light breakfast or afternoon tea is included with the ticket. You may check their website for further details.

If you’re planning to stay at Manohara, make sure to book early. We made inquiries three months before our visit and the hotel is already fully booked.

Just a few meters from the Borobudur temple grounds is Rajasa Hotel. A great option if you’re going on a Borobudur sunrise tour. Just make sure to let the reception know. They lock the gates at night, you’d have to wake them up to open it for you in the morning.

Get the room at the back of the hotel, it has a great view of rice paddies and the surrounding mountains. An air-conditioned room with hot shower, free-flowing Java coffee and free breakfast is IDR 250,000. Fan rooms are also available. Temperatures, even at noon, is not that hot, and gets real cold at night

If you’re able to book a room in Manohara hotel inside Borobudur temple complex or at another hotel, I suggest checking out Rajasa for the food. Prices range from only IDR 15,000 to 25,000. I enjoyed everything we ordered and are some of the best meals I’ve had during the entire trip.

You may send them an email for further inquiries.

We arrived at Manohara Hotel at around 4:15 am. At the front desk, you will be provided with a torch and a sarong. A hotel staff will accompany you to Borobudur’s entrance. From there you can make your way to the top of the temple to watch the sunrise.

Borobudur is hidden by the numerous trees inside the temple grounds with only its top most stupa peeking from above the tree tops. Once you’re past these, you’re guaranteed to be awe-struck by the sheer enormity of the monument.

Despite arriving at Borobudur around 4:15 in the morning, and the tour scheduled at 4:30 am, there were already a good number of people at the top choosing the best spots and setting up their cameras.

Set in a plain, you can see the lights from houses and buildings around Borobudur. I can only imagine how it must have been like for those who re-discovered this ancient monument.

Once the sun starts giving off its faint glow, you begin to see more of the horizon and appreciate just how dramatic the backdrop is. With two twin volcanoes surrounding Borobudur, the Sundoro-Sumbing and Merbabu-Merapi. I absolutely love how the light made the mountains look blue, it was like one of those old paintings.

The already majestic experience was made more special by the sun rising between the volcanoes Merbabu and Merapi. How postcard perfect!

After a few good hours of just staring at the beautiful sunrise, we started exploring the massive Borobudur. Since we’re already at the top most level, we decided to go about the temple from the top going down in a clockwise manner. Opposite how pilgrims do it, ascending from the foot of Borobudur to the very top.

Borobudur’s ten levels are grouped in three divisions symbolizing the three realms of Buddhist cosmology, the world of desires, the world of forms and the formless world.

The three middle levels of Borobudur represent the formless world. Here, the platforms are circular, no reliefs on the walls and has a more open feel. There are a total 72 stupas on these levels, each housing a Buddha.

At the very peak of Borobudur is a large, central stupa. A representation of Nirvana.

There are six levels comprising the Lower levels. These terraces are square in shape and are adorned by intricate reliefs. The closer the levels are to the base of Borobudur, the more intricate the carvings and the higher the walls become. These, I believe, represent the world of forms.

This time we didn’t hire a guide, so there’s no one to explain what the reliefs are about. From what I’ve read, these represent Buddha’s journey to attain Nirvana.

The platform at the base of Borobudur is said to represent the world of desires. A portion of the base have been carved out to show the reliefs hidden there by the addition of the platform.

The following are our major expenses. This does not include purchases like snacks, supplies, souvenirs, etc.

Service to Borobudur IDR 200,000
Accommodations (Rajasa) IDR 250,000
Borobudur Sunrise (Manohara) IDR 380,000
Dinner (Rajasa) IDR 80,000
Service to Yogyakarta IDR 200,000

I will not be exaggerating when I say that Borobudur is truly awe-inspiring. Looking at the temple makes you feel so small and wonder how the people of Java were able to build the behemoth structure centuries past.

Stupas at the Majestic Borobudur temple in Indonesia

So, should you shell out the extra IDR 150,000 and lesser hours of sleep to see the Borobudur sunrise? The answer is an astounding YES! Don’t even bother thinking twice about it. It’s a small price to pay considering the experience you will get.

The amazing view and a few hours of having to explore the majestic Borobudur temple with fewer guests is worth so much more than the additional Rupiahs.

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27 Responses to Borobudur Temple: Why You Should See It at Sunrise

  1. Borobudur sunrise 9 April 2015 at 10:50 am #

    this packed borobudur tour from more days rainbowjournal?

    • rainbowjournal 10 April 2015 at 2:30 am #

      Hello, Thanks for visiting my blog! Did you mean if we took a packaged tour going to Borobudur? We went there ourselves, hired a van and bought tickets for the Borobudur Sunrise Tour at Manohara Hotel. :)

    • Borobudur Sunrise 13 April 2015 at 11:15 am #

      yes. :)

  2. Rainbow Journal 15 June 2014 at 7:50 am #

    Majestic truly is a fitting adjective for Borobudur! Hope you do get to visit the temple one day.

  3. Christian Melanie Lee 15 June 2014 at 5:10 am #

    Majestic temple…whoa! Hope that makapunta ako sa temple na yan one day.

  4. Rainbow Journal 14 June 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    Surrounding Borobudur are expansive rice fields. We were lucky that the hotel we stayed in has a great view. Hope you were able to get some tips from this article when you visit Borobudur. :)

  5. Slick Master 14 June 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Aside from the temple, I love the photos which appeared like a provincial scenario here – I mean the wide-ranging fields. Well, I hope I can visit this place soon!

  6. Rainbow Journal 13 June 2014 at 7:54 am #

    Thanks Alexa! I'm sure you've been to many places too. :)
    I also like the look of your blog. Clean, simple and contemporary.

  7. Alexa Santos 13 June 2014 at 6:45 am #

    You made me envious because of your article! lol but its a nice blog anyway :)

  8. Rainbow Journal 12 June 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    Stephanie Mayo , I suggest bringing your own sarong when you visit Indonesia. Most temples there, especially in Bali, require guests to wear a sarong. It will save you from renting sarongs at each temple. :)

  9. Rainbow Journal 12 June 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    There are a lot of places to see and things to do in Indonesia. When you visit Borobudur, do see it at sunrise or sunset. :)

  10. Stephanie Mayo 12 June 2014 at 7:11 am #

    Rainbow Journal Yes, this was new to me: that visitors are required to wear a sarong while inside the temple. :)

  11. Janice Lim 12 June 2014 at 6:25 am #

    Wow! I've never traveled to Indonesia before but when I do, I'll definitely visit this place.

  12. Rainbow Journal 12 June 2014 at 6:15 am #

    Hope you were able to get some ideas from this article when you visit Borobudur. :)

  13. Stephanie Mayo 12 June 2014 at 4:30 am #

    I hope to visit there someday soon. :)

  14. Rainbow Journal 10 June 2014 at 8:02 am #

    That's good to hear. I hope you'd make/find time to see Borobudur at sunrise. :)

  15. Brian Macasa 10 June 2014 at 5:55 am #

    Awesome!!! We really are planning to go there by December! Good thing you gave me an idea! :)

    http://doktour.blogspot.com

    CHeers!~

  16. Rainbow Journal 10 June 2014 at 5:44 am #

    Borobudur truly is breathtaking. :)

  17. Kaycee Enerva 10 June 2014 at 2:30 am #

    breathtaking!

  18. Rainbow Journal 9 June 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    I think it would be great if you can take your wife with you. It's really romantic. Para break na din from all that Koreanovela. Hahaha! :)

  19. Rainbow Journal 9 June 2014 at 5:16 pm #

    Hopefully you'd get a chance to travel Indonesia soon and see such amazing places as Borobudur! :)

  20. Jerome Lupisan 9 June 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    Man, didn't think about the sunrise when I went there. Now here's an itch to go back there. At Rp 250000 a night, that's quite a good price.

  21. Sherlane Fortunado 9 June 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your travel adventure with us. I have never been to Indonesia and blog like this inspires me to travel and see the place on my own eyes. Adding this in my bucket list.

  22. Rainbow Journal 9 June 2014 at 3:15 am #

    Borobudur is indeed a beautiful place.
    I remember our trip to Thailand. We bought pants at a store in Khao San Road so we don't have to keep on renting sarongs. :)

  23. Rainbow Journal 9 June 2014 at 3:12 am #

    Borobudur still has that feel, especially if you go there on a sunrise/sunset. And there are also monks and common people doing the pilgrimage.

  24. Cla Martinez Badong 9 June 2014 at 1:15 am #

    I wonder if the temple has maintained its holy atmosphere common with places of worship, which is soothing & calming to ones psyche.

  25. Lauren Ashley 9 June 2014 at 12:06 am #

    Cool! The place is beautiful. Just like in Thailand. When you enter the temple you need to wear sarong I f you are wearing shorts or skirts.