Java Holiday Planning Guide
Home to over half of Indonesia's population, the island of Java contains the national capital Jakarta, as well as soaring volcanoes, fertile rice paddies, and tiny villages virtually untouched by the modern world. A trip to Java takes you to one of the most densely populated places on the planet, where over 130 million people inhabit an area roughly the size of Greece. The political and economic heart of Indonesia, this island is home to giant cities with lively restaurant and art scenes. Do spend part of your Java vacation exploring the countryside as well: here you can discover sprawling national parks, ancient Buddhist temples, unspoiled rainforests, sandy beaches, and small communities living according to their centuries-old traditions.
Places to Visit in Java
Destinations in JavaJakarta
: Featuring a blend of historic districts, modern skyscrapers, and towering minarets of the city's mosques, the capital of Indonesia promises a Java vacation full of stimulating experiences.Bandung
: Nicknamed the "Paris of the East," this thriving city is best known for its colonial architecture, established golf courses, entertainment parks, and shopping districts.Surabaya
: The "City of Heroes" houses many major Java tourist attractions, including examples of colonial Dutch architecture, places of worship, contemporary theme parks, and vast shopping malls.Yogyakarta
: Located next to some of the world's most famous religious sites, this epicenter of Javanese culture proudly displays its rich heritage and many examples of traditional Javanese art.Borobudur
: Nestled on a lush plain between two active volcanoes, this sacred area composed of impressive Buddhist temples features at the top of many Java itineraries.Banyuwangi
: This bustling port town immersed in the traditions of the Osing ethnic sub-group boasts a prime location for catching the sun as it rises over Bali.
Popular Java Tourist AttractionsTaman Safari Indonesia Cisarua
: One of the world's finest examples of Hindu art and architecture, this ancient complex of shrines ranks among the most popular attractions in Java.Borobudur Temple
: Featuring over 2,600 relief panels and more than 500 Buddha statues, the world's largest Buddhist temple stands next to an archeological museum displaying thousands of photographs and carvings.Mount Bromo
: Located in a national park, this active volcano is one of the most sought-after and photographed sights, especially at sunrise.Museum Angkut
: A tour of this cultural center with a large collection of automobiles will take you back through time and space as it explores the world's various methods of transport.Mount Bromo
: Preserving a traditional way of life, the diverse exhibits of this enchanting museum will add a bit of art and culture to your Java holiday experience.Jakarta Old Town
: Many notable historic sites, original buildings, and museums line the streets of colonial-era Jakarta, which European sailors once dubbed the "Jewel of Asia."Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park
: Set within volcanic scenery, the changing topography of this national park features an ancient volcano, Java's only sand sea, lakes, waterfalls, and large forests.Taman Safari Indonesia Cisarua
: This popular Java tourist attraction is home to over 2,500 animals, including sun bears, giraffes, orangutans, and Komodo dragons.Batu Secret Zoo
: This modern, well-designed, and extensive zoo encourages younger visitors to learn about the animals living in its themed areas.National Monument (MONAS)
: Built to celebrate Indonesia's independence, this soaring marble tower topped with a sculpted flame features an observation deck and a history museum at its base.
Planning a Java Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Java with Kids
Java is a wonderful place to explore with children: they'll love running around the ancient temples, discovering the island's spectacular wildlife, and experiencing other elements of the local culture and traditions.
The proximity of one of the world's most beautiful Hindu temple complexes should definitely put Yogyakarta
on your Java itinerary. Your children will also enjoy cruising around town in bicycle-driven rickshaws.
If your budget allows, consider taking a luxurious train ride to Jakarta
for a day trip. Though the crowded capital itself does not particularly lend itself to family holidays, it certainly offers several kid-friendly attractions, such as theme parks and interesting museums.Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park
promises a rich experience for the entire family. Kids will love walking or horseback riding along the black volcanic plain, and then climbing up the crater.
The capital of West Java, Bandung
features entertainment parks and lovely colonial architecture, making another great choice for family travel.
The place that probably offers the largest number of child-oriented attractions--including theme parks, zoos, animal and wildlife centers, and a museum dedicated to the human body--is Batu
in East Java.
Things to Do in Java with Kids
Whether or not you're traveling with kids, no one should miss the top two tourist attractions in Java--the World Heritage Sites of Taman Safari Indonesia Cisarua
and Borobudur Temple
To experience the sights, sounds, and secrets of Javanese nature, take your kids to Mount Bromo
and Batu Secret Zoo
. You can also have a great family day out at Taman Safari Indonesia Cisarua
, where a small petting zoo and an amusement park supplement the large collection of animals.
Thrill-seekers will have a blast at the multiple play areas of Trans Studio Bandung
, one of the world's largest indoor theme parks, and at the waterfront resort of Ancol Dreamland
Budding scientists will love the collection of dinosaur fossils and interactive exhibits at Jawa Timur Park 2
, a well-designed family-focused attraction. For a slice of Javanese history take them to Yogyakarta Fortress Museum
, a converted Dutch-era fort featuring some 50 dioramas depicting the Indonesian independence movement.
Finally, don't forget to unwind while your children build sandcastles on one of the cozy and uncrowded beaches, such as Klayar Beach
Tips for a Family Vacation in Java
When staying in one of the larger cities, lots of families opt to hire a driver and a car through their hotel: this popular option lets you get from place to place with ease. If you need to cross larger distances, consider flying instead of taking long boat rides. Local flights are quite inexpensive compared to Western standards. Having children with fair skin and blond hair will garner a lot of attention from the locals on your Java holiday; if that's the case, prepare to set firm boundaries.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Java
Cuisine of Java
Overall, Javanese cooking is simple, not particularly spicy, and sweeter compared to the rest of Indonesian cuisine because of the extensive use of sweet soy sauce and palm sugar. It differs slightly in flavors depending on your exact locale: for example, Indian influences on the east of the island mean food is a bit spicier with the use of chili. Steamed rice is served with every meal as the most important staple. Tubers, vegetables, seafood, and meat also feature heavily in Java's cuisine. You won't find many dishes with pork however, since the vast majority of the population is Muslim.
Some common regional dishes include soto (chicken, beef, or mutton soup with vegetables seasoned with turmeric), martabak (a sort of savory meat pie), nasi goreng (fried rice), and bakso solo (meat balls served in a vegetable soup with green noodles). Don't miss the favorite local snack, sate (skewered grilled meat or shrimp drenched in peanut sauce)--served straight off the smoking street cart. For budget-friendly meals on your Java vacation, check out the warungs, modest family-run restaurants that make a wide range of dishes from snack foods to family meals.
Shopping in Java
A holiday in Java offers various shopping opportunities, from huge, modern shopping malls like Mall of Indonesia
to colorful and vibrant local markets. Don't leave the island without browsing through street stalls packed with handcrafted goods, which you can buy straight from the artisans. Intricately patterned textiles, silver pieces, ceramics, and uniquely designed furniture are just some of the things to bring home from a Java trip.
Yogyakarta's main thoroughfare Jalan Malioboro
is lined with a mix of traditional and international shops where you can browse for souvenirs and gifts. For a wide assortment of batik garments, spices, perfumes, jewelry, and tableware at very affordable prices head to Hamzah Batik
. Hunt for a bargain at Pasar Beringharjo
, a lively market filled with stalls selling everything from fresh food and spices to antiques and knickknacks. Finally, stop by Floating Market Lembang
for a quintessentially Southeast Asian shopping experience.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Java
Interesting Facts About Java
● With a population of 143 million and counting, Java is the most densely inhabited island in the world.
● More than 90 percent of the island's inhabitants are Muslim.
● The island was home to the controversial Pithecanthropus erectus, the so-called Java man, which some scientists considered the "missing link" in the evolution between apes and humans.
● The coffee cup is a symbol of the island, whose strong, black, and very sweet coffee gained global popularity in the early 20th century.
● The interior of the island is home to some dangerous wild animals, including tigers, crocodiles, and rhinoceroses.
Holidays & Festivals in Java
Central Java observes Lebaran, a major Islamic holiday similar to Ramadan that emerged from the clash of Javanese traditions and Islam during the 15th century. If you're planning a trip to Java around this holiday (the dates of which vary from year to year), keep in mind that literally millions of locals will be traveling to their home villages to ask for sungkem (forgiveness and blessing from their elders).
The people of Yogyakarta celebrate Grebeg Kraton on several occasions throughout the year, coinciding with important Islamic dates. This intriguing procession starts in front of the Presidential Palace
and is accompanied by a military parade.
Useful Java Travel Tips
Climate of Java
Being a tropical island, Java has a wet season (October-April) and a dry season (May-September), with average temperatures ranging from 22 C (72 F) to 29 C (84 F). January and February are the rainiest months on the whole island, and some places like Jakarta may flood during this period. September and early October are the hottest months in Jakarta, with temperatures reaching 40 C (104 F). The eastern regions of the island receive less precipitation than West Java, which is heavily influenced by monsoon trade winds. Naturally, temperatures get lower as you move into the mountains. All things considered, the best time to plan your Java holiday is in the months of May and June, though peak season lasts through mid-September and then spikes again in late December and early January.
Transportation in Java
There are many ways to travel between cities on your Java vacation, but trains are one of the fastest and most comfortable. Most major urban centers have airports, with domestic flights relatively inexpensive compared to western standards. Public minibuses (called "taksi" in East Java) are the common way to move around cities and towns, with metered taxis and car rentals also available in larger metropolises. Jakarta boasts an extensive system of buses--tickets are inexpensive, but watch out for pickpockets. In Yogyakarta, you can rent a bike and do some sightseeing on two wheels.