Most travellers have a bucket list – a list of places they want to visit and experiences they want to try before they die.
I am no different, and I was lucky to tick off an item high on my bucket list during our recent trip to Indonesia: I joined the Borobudur Sunrise tour, to watch the sun come up from the amazing Borobudur Temple Indonesia.
What is Borobudur?
Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple. This incredible monument, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries, consists of nine platforms, all leading up to a monumental stupa, which perches on top.
Surrounding the main stupa are 72 smaller perforated stupas, each containing a hidden statue of the Buddha.
The Borobudur temple walls and balustrades are decorated with 2,672 relief panels and more than 400 further Buddha statues adorn the temple.
The sheer scale and intricacy of the temple is staggering and I felt immensely privileged to be here.
Borobudur Temple History
Amazingly this enormous temple was abandoned and forgotten in the 14th Century, with the decline of the Hindu kingdoms in Java and the conversion of the Javanese to Islam.
It was rediscovered by the outside world in 1814 by Sir Stamford Raffles, and has since undergone several restorations – most recently by the Indonesian government and UNESCO in 1975 and 1982, following which it became named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
Borobudur Temple Tour
The most spectacular time to visit Borobudur is at sunrise, when you can watch the sky changing colour as the sun emerges between the distant volcanoes.
The Borobudur opening hours are 6am – 5pm, so if you want to be at the temple to watch sunrise, you need to buy a Borobudur sunrise ticket.
The Borobudur Sunrise tour has traditionally been organized by the Manohara Hotel Borobudur. Note that the hotel no longer operates as a hotel, as it is now being transformed into a meditation center.
However, you can still join the Manohara hotel sunrise tour by getting your ticket at the ticket counter here. Better yet, organize it ahead online. Click here to check ticket availability.
You need to arrive at the temple between around 4.30am – 5am for the sunrise tour of Borobudur. It will obviously still be dark but you will be given a torch to help lead the way.
It is just a 5-minute walk from Manohara to Borobudur temple. Don’t expect to have the temple complex to yourselves – there were hundreds of other people climbing those stairs by torchlight with us!
Despite the crowds, this is a magical time of day, with a sense of calm and serenity, as you all sit and watch the stupas emerge from the darkness around you.
It really is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that will stay with you forever.
Visiting Borobudur with Kids
Despite the size of the temple, visiting Borobudur with kids is easily manageable. I was worried climbing up all those steps would be too much, but my 5 year old managed it easily.
I’m going to be honest here though – getting up at 4am to go and sit in a temple complex to watch sunrise did not go down well with my kids.
My 3-year old had to be carried and luckily fell asleep on my husband’s shoulder for the duration. My 5-year old, however, whinged and moaned the whole time – which kind of ruined the magic of the moment.
If you are also planning to visit Borobodur with small kids, I would suggest arriving slightly later instead.
We noticed a real lull in the crowds between 6.30 and 7am, when the early risers had headed down for breakfast, but before the coach tours arrived.
At this time of day, you can still benefit from the magical morning light, but hopefully your kids will be in a better mood with an extra hour’s sleep under their belts.
Borobudur Temple FAQs
How much is the Borobudur Entrance Fee?
If you choose not to do the Borobudur Temple sunrise, the Borobudur ticket price is $25 USD per person. For kids aged 3-10 the Borobudur temple entrance fee is $15.
Tickets can be paid for with IDR cash or card. Bring your passport for registration.
Can you visit Borobudur and Prambanan in one day?
Yes you can. A lot of people to choose to combine the Borobudur Sunrise and Prambanan tour for later in the afternoon.
The Prambanan temple ticket price is also $25 USD. If you are planning to visit both Borobudur and Prambanan in one day, you can buy a combo ticket for $40 USD.
The easiest way to visit both temples in one day is to join a tour. You can read more about the Borobudur and Prambanan tour here.
Where is Borobudur?
Borobudur is located around 40km from Yogyakarta in Central Java, Indonesia.
How to get to Borobudur?
It takes around a one hour and fifteen minute drive to get from Yogyakarta to Borobudur. This means if you are planning to get to the temple for sunrise, you need to leave Yogyakarta around 3.30am!
You can ask your hotel to organize you a shuttle car to get there, but most people choose to join a Borobudur tour from Yogyakarta. Click here to learn more.
What is the best time to visit Yogyakarta?
The best time to visit Borobudur is during the dry season, which is April to October. The rainy season in Yogyakarta is November to March and best avoided due to higher chance of rain and mosquitos.
Hotels near Borobudur
Many people choose to stay in Yogyakarta when they visit Borobudur, particularly if they are also planning to visit Prambanan, which is closer to Yogyakarta. There are also several options of hotels that are closer to Borobodur temple – staying in these hotels mean you don’t have to get up so early if you are planning to do the Borobudur sunrise tour.
For our visit to Borobudur, we stayed at the luxurious private retreat Villa Borobudur. The six individually designed villas here all boast stunning views over the surrounding valley, including Borobudur Temple and Mount Merapi volcano.
Each hand-carved teak wooden ‘joglo’ (traditional Javanese house) at this hotel near Borobudur temple is decorated with locally produced furniture and artwork, but still caters for the modern traveller within us all, featuring mod-cons such as WiFi and ipod docks.
Guests at Villa Borobudur are extremely well looked after, with each villa overseen by its own team of staff, who are on hands at all times to cater to your every need – home cooked meals, excursions to the surrounding area
If money is no object, check yourself into the Aman resort at Borobudur, where you are guaranteed fabulous views of Borobudur temple.
The 36 suites here all boast sunken bathtubs and private gardens with thatched roof bale pavilions. There are two restaurants, serving Indonesian and Western cuisine, and other facilities include a large swimming pool, spa and tennis court.
Kids are also well catered for with a dedicated playroom and babysitting services.
Plataran Borobudur Resort & Spa
This hotel near Borobudur temple offers a selection of private pool villas, available as contemporary or traditional Javanese joglo style.
Whichever you choose you will be rewarded with spacious bathrooms, outdoor terraces and magnificent views of Borobudur temple or the Menoreh hills.
For meals you can choose to dine in colonial splendor on the Patio, or alfresco at Stupa for Indonesian specialties. Other facilities include a swimming pool, gym and spa.
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