Central Java

The stupas of Borobudur with steaming Mount Merapi in the background

Central Java (Jawa Tengah) province covers the central third of the island of Java, Indonesia. For convenience reasons, this guide will also include Yogyakarta, which is actually a province of itself.


Map of Central Java

Other destinations


Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) is the official language of education and business. The majority of Central Java's population also speak Javanese, a related but mutually incomprehensible language, except in Southwest of Central Java near the boundary with West Java, where they speak more Sundanese than Javanese. English and sometimes other European languages are widely understood in the major tourist areas.

Get in

By plane

The main transport hubs for tourists are Yogyakarta and Solo, both well connected with domestic flights (and a few international ones) and within easy striking distance of the main attractions of Borobudur and Prambanan. Provincial capital Semarang also has a major domestic airport.

By train

Purwokerto, Yogyakarta, Solo and Semarang are connected to other cities with intensive railway service , providing various classes of accommodation for all budgets. Central Java cities often have more than one railway station, a legacy of the many private railway lines during the colonial era.

By Boat

Semarang's Tanjung Emas port is the only one of any practical significance to traveler entering Central Java. This port could be a convenient entry point by sea from cities in Kalimantan, such as Banjarmasin, Pontianak, Kumai, Ketapang, and Sampit.

Get around

By bus

Buses are very widespread in this region servicing cities, towns and to a lesser extent, rural areas.

By car

Hiring your own car is the most convenient way to cover some of the large distances between reactions in the region. Even by Indonesian standards though, driving practices in Central Java will scare most visitors. You will enjoy your visit more and certainly be much safer, if you hire a car with driver.

By train

The region is well served by trains with two main lines. The North Line runs along the north coast linking Solo, Semarang and Tegal, with stops in between. The South Line links Solo and Yogyakarta with small towns on the south coast. There is also a north-south cross island line in the west of the region, passing through Purwokerto.

The loop line in the northeast of the region linking Semarang with Jepara and Kudus is long disused despite still being shown on many maps.


Candi Lara Jonggrang, Prambanan

The region is best known for its two A-list UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Borobudur is an ancient Buddhist stupa and temple complex dating from the 9th century, and is the single most visited attraction in the whole of Indonesia. That brings with it some issues and the site can be over-run. Visitors keen to really enjoy the undoubted magnificence of Borobudur should consider staying the night in the area and visiting early the following morning before the hordes of day-trippers arrive.

No less impressive is the Hindu temple complex at Prambanan dating from the same period. The huge, imposing candi rise 40 to 50 metres in height and make for a truly awe-inspiring spectacle. Prambanan was tragically damaged by a major earthquake in May 2006 but the site is open again as restoration work continues. The nearby Queen Boko Palace was an 8th century giant and complete Javanese palace and now stones that once support its structures, still standing in its former glory.

Both Borobudur and Prambanan are easily combined with a visit to the ancient city of Yogyakarta, and these three destinations account for the vast majority of visitor arrivals in the region. Yogyakarta is the undoubted cultural capital of Java with a wonderful palace (kraton) and many historical attractions.

The Dieng Plateau is a little off the beaten path for overseas visitors, and certainly so when compared to the preceding destinations. This volcanic plain in the highlands north of Wonosobo is home to the oldest standing structures in Indonesia (Hindu temples dating from the 8th century). It is though the scenery that draws most visitors here. Spectacular conical volcanoes, steaming sulphurous pools and eerie mountain lakes make for an almost other-worldly landscape.


The active might want to consider a climb of Mount Merapi, the most active volcano in a country of very active volcanoes! Experienced trekkers will make the summit in about 3 hours from the last village on the northern slopes. Sunrise is truly spectacular here as are the molten lava flows. Needless to say, always heed safety advice - this is a very dangerous mountain.


Gudeg with white rice

The food of Central Java is renowned for its sweetness, and the dish of gudeg, a curry made from jackfruit, is a particularly sweet. The city of Yogyakarta is renowned for its ayam goreng (fried chicken) and klepon (green rice-flour balls with palm sugar filling). Surakarta's (Solo) specialities include Nasi liwet (rice with coconut milk, unripe papaya, garlic and shallots, served with chicken or egg) and serabi (coconut milk pancakes topped with chocolate, banana or jackfruit).Some foodies insist that in a country of interesting cuisine, the best of all hails from Central Java. That may or may not be the case, but several wonderful dishes originate from this region. These include:


If you have only one or two days to visit, it is better for you to choose Yogyakarta as your hub, because there is more sightseeing around there. You may sleep in Semarang, if you want explore Semarang. Other areas might not be as interesting for foreign tourists.

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