The world’s biggest Buddhist temple, Borobudur, is located on Indonesia’s Island Java, just a one-hour drive away from the popular city Yogjakarta. This fascinating site lets you travel back in time, and enjoy a unique combination of spirituality, history, culture and natural beauty. Borobudur was built in the 9th-century, but it wasn’t until 1815 that it was rediscovered again, only to be buried under volcanic ash a little later. The temple has survived countless man-made and natural disasters, such as earthquakes, terrorist bombs and the many eruptions of the volcano Mount Merapi. Borobudur covers a large area, and is home to more than 2,600 relief panels and more than 500 Buddha statues.
The region is Indonesia’s most important centre for Buddhism, and although much of the temple’s architecture reflects India’s influence, many traditional Indonesian elements have been used. Set in beautiful greenery and surrounded by mountains, a visit to Borobudur is a truly unforgettable experience. Most visitors spend at least a few days in the area, as there is so much here to discover. There are many accommodation options available in the nearby towns of Yogjakarta, Solo or Magelang. But first, here is some great things to see and do in the area.
1. Visit the Chicken Church
Close to the famous Borobudur viewpoint Setumbu Hill, you can find the Chicken Church – or Gereja Ayam in Bahasa. The church was designed in 1992, and the architect meant to create a “dove,” but the locals saw things differently. The name is literal – the church is indeed shaped like a chicken. It is a 10-15 minute walk to get here, and the church is worth a visit.
Although it is no longer used as a church per se, the Chicken Church is still seen as a place of prayer. It is also a great alternative for watching the sunrise and less crowded than the famous view points. From the top of the church you can enjoy nice views of the tropical surroundings and the many volcanoes in the distance.
2. Visit the Selogriyo Temple
This small and often overlooked temple is a great half day trip from Borobudur. Selogriyo Temple, or Candi Selogriyo as the locals call it, is a Hindu temple, and less impressive than its neighbor Borobudur, however, the journey itself makes the temple worth the visit. To get here, you have to climb a narrow road to a traditional Indonesian village, and then walk for approximately 1.5 km (0.9 miles) along a brick path. The walk leads you through the middle of rice paddies, and an overall picturesque rural landscape with beautiful vegetation. Once at the temple, you can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding greenery, and views of Mount Sumbing and other mountain peaks.
3. Spend a relaxing day at Padma Spa
What is better than some relaxation after a few busy days of exploring the Borobudur temples and its surroundings? At Plataran, Borobudur’s Padma Spa, you can enjoy high quality treatments, excellent cuisine and several activities, such a yoga. And all of this comes with a stunning view of the majestic Borobudur temple area. Padma Spa lets you experience a sense of timeless balance, and gives you the potential to unfold – using traditional methods. The place features beautifully decorated treatment rooms where indigenous antiques are combined with contemporary comfort.
4. Explore the Mendut Temple
Located 3.5 km (2.1 miles) east of Borobudur, Mendut Temple is a small, but exquisite temple. It features a 3 meter high (9.8 feet) statue of Buddha, flanked by bodhisattvas: Lokesvara and Vairapana. Unlike other statues, the Buddha is displayed Western style – he is sitting with both feet on the ground. Especially at night, these statues are impressive as they are lit up against the dark sky. Visitors are usually allowed to enter after dark, if they are accompanied by a local guide. Next to the Mendut Temple, you can find a Buddhist monastery where you can join daily group meditations, or take part in meditation retreats that last a few days.
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