Home to the single largest Buddhist structure on Earth, Borobudur is a mystical region in central Java that is almost impossibly beautiful with its emerald green rice paddies stretching on for miles, swaying palm trees and soaring volcanic peaks. Quaint monasteries are scattered across the countryside and are almost untouched by tourism. You’ll also find some lovely small villages that, despite the annual influx of people to the region, have stayed true to their traditional ways of life.
It is the mesmerising temple of Borobudur itself that continues to amaze and draw visitors to the region. Dating back to the 8th and 9th centuries AD, the 2,500 square metre complex was built by the rulers of the Sailendra dynasty. While much if the early history is yet to be uncovered, it is known that massive numbers of people were commissioned to transport and carve over 2 million stone blocks to form this grand, symmetrical and detailed structure. It was eventually abandoned due to the declining numbers of the Buddhist faith and growth of East Java, and wasn’t uncovered again until 1815 when the site was excavated. You can now wander up the six tiers of stone platforms, admiring the 432 Buddha images, amongst which 72 sit inside the iconic openwork stupas. It is best visited at sunrise as the rays shine majestically through two volcanic peaks towering over the east horizon. Keep in mind that it is the single most visited attraction in Indonesia, so it does get quite congested!
While this spectacular structure is Borobudur’s principal attraction, you’ll find there are many other experiences waiting to be had in the region itself. Head to the museum just east of the complex where you will find thousands of original carvings, along with the tools and chemicals used to restore the site. Two other temples are found in the area, Medut and Pawon, and while they are significantly smaller, beautiful detail is found in the sculpture work up close. The nearby villages sit in a valley on fertile, luscious land, where you can experience how locals make ceramics or tofu (of which each kitchen produces masses per day), or go on treks through the mountainous, volcanic terrain. At the Javanese village of Candirejo, traditional culture is still very much prevalent here and is displayed through traditional houses, plantation resources, art, farming and the local food.