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.
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.
Sunrise & Sunset Tour by Manohara Hotel
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 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.
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.
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.