>  Advice   >  Tips for visiting Borobudur

Sitting on a hill in central Java, surrounded by volcanoes and lush, green fields, lies the magnificent Borobudur temple. This vast 9th century structure was buried under a blanket of lush jungle and volcanic ash before it was unearthed by then British Raja of Indonesia, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, in the early 19th century. Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple and the most visited tourist site in Indonesia. The Borobudur sunrise has been captured by photographers from around the globe. With its palpable spirituality and striking architectural beauty, the huge stone temple draws pilgrims and tourists from Indonesia and countries near and far. Here are six tips to help you to make the most of your visit to Borobudur in Indonesia.

1. Borobudur hotel tips

It’s a 90 minute drive from Yogyakarta airport to Borobudur. If you want to avoid a 3am start to see the sunrise, skip the Yogyakarta hotels and book a room near the temple instead. Guests staying at Manohara, a two star hotel located in the temple grounds, receive all-day unlimited entry to Borobudur. Amanjiwo, a luxurious 5-star hotel overlooking the historic site, is not as convenient as it’s further away from the site but it’s a nice spot for lunch or sunset drinks if you feel like splashing out. We were glad we had stayed at Manohara instead, despite the fact we usually love luxury hotels.

Borobudur monks
Monks seeking enlightenment

2. Get to the site early

Like any major tourist attraction, Borobudur can get busy, so it is best to enter the site early. Gates open at 6am, giving you the chance to beat the crowds and the heat. Special pre-dawn admission and sunrise tours are also available. If you visit in winter, the regular 6am entry allows just enough time to catch the sunrise. It’s also possible to do a day tour to Borobudur.

Borobudur prayer
Monks at Borobudur

3. Borobudur sunrise tips

Sunrise provides visitors with the opportunity to capture iconic images like those you see on postcards and tourism posters. However, sometimes weather conditions make it difficult to achieve the classic shot of the stupas at sunrise. Fortunately, there are plenty of other magnificent photographic opportunities for those who know where to look. If the weather is cloudy at sunrise, head to the western side of Borobudur where you can photograph soft, purple-hued valleys covered in early morning mist. Don’t forget to photograph Borobudur from the ground up to capture its sheer size.

Borobudur sunrise
Borobudur sunrise

4. Borobudur tour tips

Borobudur temple is almost 30 metres high, and decorated with more than 500 Buddha statues, including three central platforms adorned with 72 large Buddhas, each one seated inside a huge, perforated stone stupa. It is an energetic walk to the top so bring plenty of water, even if you are visiting in the early morning. Rest awhile on the way up, pausing to enjoy the view and interact with other visitors. Don’t be surprised if locals want to have their photograph taken with you. Non-Indonesian tourists are far less common here than in nearby Bali and westerners are still seen as a curiosity.

Borobudur visitors
Locals often ask to have their photo taken with you

5. What to wear at Borobudur

Wear pants as the steps leading to the top of the temple are high and not suited to skirts. Comfortable footwear is also a must. Sunrise at the top of the temple can be cool, especially in winter, so bring a light jacket.  A rain jacket is ideal as, if it does rain, there is nowhere to shelter on the temple itself.

Borobudur prayers
Some visitors wear prayer robes but long pants and a t-shirt are fine

6. When to visit Borobudur

Borobudur is a popular destination for local tourists as well as the faithful who climb from one level of the temple to the next, guided by the stories depicted on the almost 3,000 bas-relief carvings which show the wisdom and teachings of Buddha. It’s best to visit midweek when most locals are at work if you would prefer to avoid the weekend crowds.

Borobudur monks praying
Monks completing the prayer circuit at Borobudur

Disclosure: The writer visited Borobudur at her own expense and missed capturing the sunrise due to heavy cloud cover. Luckily, Trevor Templeman likes getting up early more than she does and captured the spectacular images above on the following morning.

Want to see more while you’re in Yogyakarta? If you are coming to see Borobudur, you should also consider visiting Prambanan.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.