How to spend 4 days in and around Yogyakarta
Ohh nooo, so many options! Yogyakarta has many amazing places to explore within the city, but it is also a great place to use as a base for tours and daytrips a bit further out. You could easily spend a month here and do something new every day! However since most of us don’t have that time, we made an example of a 4 day Yogyakarta itinerary. If there is anything on this list that you prefer not to do you can always get some extra inspiration here.
Day 1 (morning):
Kraton & Water Palace: A journey through Javanese history
Welcome to Yogyakarta!! Usually the day of arrival is all about settling in and exploring the surroundings. Therefore, for the first day, we only chose things that are in the city. Depending on what time you arrive you can do any one of these.
When you are new to a city understanding the history of the place allows you to see everything that follows with more context. Yogyakarta has a really interesting history, it is one of the only cities in Indonesia who still has a Sultan. The royal palace of the Sultan is called the Kraton.
This tour to the Kraton & water palace is designed to give you a condensed and digestible journey through this Javanese history. The guide Yulia is a keen history writer, having done extensive research on Javanese history for a book she wrote, thus she is well equipped, literally, with visual aids and underground stories of kings and queens that have been kept secret from mainstream history.
*The Kraton holds a weekly dance performance and practice session of the royal dancers every Sunday from 11 am – 1 pm. So if you can, go on a sunday! .
In the Kraton you can see a lot people wearing traditional Batik clothes. Batik is a big part of the Indonesian culture. Each island, city or even family has their own batik pattern. There are some designs that were reserved for royalties and were officially banned to be worn by commoners. If you have a bit more time in Yogyakarta I suggest to take a day to create your own handmade batik pattern. It is a really soothing experience and will make you really appreciate this traditional art form. Because making batik is an intricate process that takes a lot of time and patience you will have to arrange it on a separate day.
Day 1 (afternoon):
Javanese Archery: A cultural heritage that is sure to fascinate
Next on the Yogyakarta Itinerary (close to the Kraton) is the traditional Javanese artform of Javanese archery called Jemparingan.
Jemparingan, (jemparing literally meaning ‘arrow’) is unlike any archery you might have come across. What defines Jemparingan most is that it is a uniquely passive form of the sport. People who practice Jemparingan think of it as being a meditative activity where the process of sitting cross legged, taking aim and releasing the bow with the slightest flick of the finger helps one to be calm and focused. And so it is in life that this principle can be applied as Mr Wintoro, the president of the Lagenastro Jemparingan community puts it, “Life’s goals cannot merely be reached with physical abilities, it takes a clean and focused heart to live”.
This is the perfect afternoon activity before going to taste some of the delicious foods that Yogyakarta has to offer!
Day 1 (evening):
Evening street food tour
Evening: This street food tour is the perfect way to end your first day in Yogyakarta. It is close to the Archery and the water palace so logistically it also totally works out.
This walking food tour provides a look into the street food scene in Yogyakarta. It’s a huge part of people’s lives here that you must experience it! Your guide is a master home chef and a all round foodie. From stewed unripe jackfruit to charcoal coffee, you will see and eat at the best local spots and stalls the city has to offer! Check out this vivid video of all the salivating food you can try on this tour!
Additionally, the tour also happens to pass by historical attractions so you get to learn even more about the history of the city. You even go passed Malioboro street, where you can buy souvenirs. Although it is officially not part of the tour, if you want to buy some, your guide might even help you negotiate.
This day is sure to make you go to bed feeling fulfilled! Not only because of the delicious food but also because you really got to experience the authentic Yogyakarta.
Day 2 (morning):
Borobodur Temple: the complete experience
This will be a day you will always remember. The sunrise at the Borobudur Temple is simply magical.
For a lot of travelers this famous temple is the reason to come to Yogyakarta. It is the largest Buddhist temple of the world and houses over 500 Buddha statues. It is hard to imagine that a temple this big was once lost for centuries before being rediscovered in the 19th century. The magic of the sunrise and the tranquility of the temple brings a feeling of calm but also fresh energy to enjoy the rest of the day. The Borobudur Temple: the complete experience is definitely a must do!
Day 2 (afternoon):
Have breakfast/lunch at a local warung before you use your new found calm to enjoy a bicycle tour of surrounding villages. Let the feeling of that morning resonate while riding through nature and small local villages. See how people live outside of the big cities, the friendliness in their smiles and the beauty in its simplicity.
Day 2 (evening):
Alun Alun Kidul
We have two options to spend your night. The first, keep it simple. Have a simple meal, write in your journal, read a book and have an early night. Let the tranquility of the day take you into the night and into a good night’s sleep.
However if you feel like you are afraid of missing out, we suggest you to make a wish, take a blindfold with you and go to Alun Alun Kidul. At this square (behind the Kraton) there are two big trees. It is said that if you can walk in between the trees with your eyes closed (hence the blindfold) your wish will come true. Don’t worry if you don’t make it in one go! It is just like life; if at first you don’t succeed, then dust yourself off and try again ;).
We do have to warn you, the scenery is a big contrast with that of the first part of your day! Instead of quiet nature you are now surrounded by Beatle and Volkswagen shaped pushbikes decorated with neon lights in all different colours. On top of that, they all carry their own soundsystem. It gives the square a very surreal atmosphere.
Day 3 (morning & afternoon):
Fishing in the South Sea with local fishermen
The itinerary for day three is probably not what you had in mind when you first thought about visiting Yogyakarta! It is not common for travelers to actually go fishing here. But that makes it all the better! This way you really get to experience Indonesia like a local!
This fishing trip starts in one of the fishing communities in the south coast of Yogya. You will join Mr Tino and his crew and fish like they do. While the fresh baits attract your catch for the day, you can enjoy a dip in the Indian Ocean. You can learn about how your host, Mr Tino and his community live their lives, their deep respect for the South Sea and their strong belief in the legend of the Queen of the South Sea.
After the fishing you will go to a local warung where you get to eat your delicious catches. Get more information on fishing in the South Sea with local fishermen here.
Day 3 (afternoon):
Sand Boarding at Parangtritis Sand Dunes
For the late afternoon, add Sand boarding to your itinerary! It is only a 10 minute drive from the place you go fishing, so it feels like too good of an opportunity to pass on.
Another surprise on the itinerary list; Sand Boarding at Parangtritis Sand Dunes.
The sand at Parangtritis is very different from most other places, the texture feels different and the color is almost black. It makes for a beautiful scenery. Sliding down the sand dunes is a little scary but a lot of fun! Climbing back up the hill is trying but totally worth it!
Late afternoon is the perfect time to do this because the temperature is nicer for such an active experience.
Day 3 (evening):
Since you had to get up really early to go fishing we suggest to take an early night and either drive back and have a bite to eat in the city or go to one of the resorts close to the Parangtritis beach. (Extra tip: Queen of the South Resort has an infinity pool that feels really good to take a dip in after a long day).
Day 4 (morning):
Musical Instrument (Gamelan) with a Maestro
What better way to start the day than with music? Since it is your fourth day in Yogyakarta you have probably already noticed the traditional Gamelan music. Although we really love listening to it, it is even nicer to actually learn how to play it yourself!
During this musical experience, Gamelan Maestro Mr. Pardiman welcomes you into his house, where you are treated like family. Mr. Pardiman will tell you all about gamelan music and teaches you how to play the instruments. In between he will take plenty of time to make jokes.
At the end of the session you get to perform your newly found skill in the backyard (ricefields) of his home, he even gives you some traditional clothes to wear. So not only will it be an unforgettable experience it will also provide you with some terrific pictures!
Day 4 (afternoon):
Prambanan temple: A different approach
Prambanan, just like Borobudur, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple is characterized by its tall and pointed buildings, typical of Hindu architecture. The gorgeous detail of the enormous amounts of stones is simply incredible.
You don’t have to understand the meaning behind these buildings and carvings to find them impressive and mesmerizing. However it does feel even more special when you do! During this tour you get to see where the Ramayana story is engraved in the bas relief of the temple, which is even more impressive if you combine it with the Ramayana Ballet (which you totally should!).
Day 4 (evening):
Ramayana Ballet: A Visiualization of Hindu Epic
Ramayana ballet Yogyakarta will bring you a magical night that you won’t forget. You’re going to watch a beautiful story told by a hundred dancers in an elaborate theatrical performance that will surely leave you in awe! From May to October, the Ramayana ballet takes place in an open-air theater with the magnificent Prambanan temple as the backdrop (instead of inside), which makes this experience even more magical. It will be the ultimate ending to a wonderful Yogyakarta experience.