If you are travelling in Yogyakarta, whether in group or alone, the Prambanan Temple compound is a must visit alongside with the ever popular Borobudur Temples. This guide will go in depth on various ways you can get to the temple compounds, what are the cost of guides there and what you can learn from the temple. There are also some smaller temples around the Prambanan Temple area that you might be interested to visit if you have the time.
From someone who loves to learn about culture while travelling, I personally feel that Prambanan Temple is a perfect starting point for your trip in Yogyakarta. It takes a good 2 – 3 hours to cover the compounds for someone who takes their time and understand about the wall carvings and the story behind it.
Before we go into that, let’s talk about getting to the Prambanan Temple.
Method 1: Trans-Yogya Bus
The trans-yogya bus is a true blessing for travelers and locals alike. For a fee of only IDR3600 per ride, you can get to most parts of central Yogyakarta and yes, that includes the Prambanan Temple. To get to the Prambanan Temple, take bus 1A. You can get bus 1A as long as you wait within it’s route and if you are on another route, worry not, the bus conductor will always tell you where you can get off the initial bus and get on bus 1A. They are extremely friendly and helpful, as long as you are willing to ask.
After getting off the bus at Prambanan station, immediately turn left and walk down the road. There will be many trishaws around telling you that it is far away and will charge you IDR10,000 to give you a ride to the entrance but the truth is, the entrance is a mere 500 metres away. If that is far for you, then by all means, take the trishaw but a good old walk for me is good enough.
Just to be sure you are on the correct route, you will be passing an arch that looks something like this:
After taking the left turn, entrance the Prambanan is on your left and are extremely obvious. Purchase your ticket at the ticket counter before entering.
Method 2: Taxi/Go Jeks
Taxi and GoJeks (motorcycle) are pretty straight forward. Depending on where you are, they can cost from IDR30,000 – IDR60,000 and brings your directly to the entrance of the Prambanan Temple. If you are not one who is up for bus rides with the local, this will be an option you would like to explore. GoJeks are way cheaper and they would cost around IRD10,000 to IDR15,000 if you are coming from Malioboro Street or nearby. Of course, the bike fits only one person and unless your are alone, go for taxi.
Ticket can be purchased at the ticketing counter. They have separated ticketing counter for foreigners and locals visitors. Here’s the latest entry fee for foreigners:
I have read that some visitors thinks that the entrance fee is expensive but I personally would like to clarify that the money that is collected are channeled in the preservation of history and if you have been at the Prambanan, you would know that your money is well spent. Of course, there will always be people complaining but the above is my opinion. If you are local, you only pay IDR30,000 for the entrance fee.
Getting a guide, yes or no?
Right beside the ticketing counter is where you can get official guides for the Prambanan temple compound. A guide would cost you IDR100,000 for a tour around the Prambanan temple and can take up to 4 person for that amount of money. So if you are travelling in a group, it is a very good deal. If you are alone, try asking around the entrance ticket for some other solo or duo traveler who are thinking of getting a guide as well. Sharing the piece of pie would lessen the burden especially for backpackers.
Whether you should get a guide or not, that is very subjective to what kind of traveler you are. I personally got a guide even when I am alone (yes, I forked out IDR100,000) and I think it is worth it because of the knowledge that he imparts on you. There are a lot of story behind the Prambanan temples and if you do not get a guide, it will just be another temple where you take a couple of pictures of it. There are so many tourist there who are there for the sake of taking picture and letting others know that they are there. My guide was really good at explaining the history of the temple and the other smaller details.
So, should you get a guide or not? It depends on what kind of a traveler you are.
The Temple Compounds
Within the Prambanan Temple compounds, there are actually 4 different temples: Prambanan Temple, Lumbung Temple, Bubrah Temple and Sewu Temple. The Bubrah temple was under construction while I visited so it was 3 for the time being. Of course, the more popular one would be the Prambanan Temple and that is where a lot of the tourist will be flocking to. All the temples are totally do-able just by foot and can be completed within an additional hour.
Here’s the map of the compound (you will find one as well at the entrance, so no worries):
The Prambanan Temple which is also known as Candi Rara Jonggrang (Slender Virgin Temple) is the largest Hindu complex in Indonesia which was built in the 9th century.
Originally there were a total of 240 temples standing in Prambanan. The Prambanan Temple Compound consist of:
- 3 Trimurti temples: three main temples dedicated to Shiva (Destroyer), Vishnu (Protector), and Brahma (Creator)
- 3 Vahana temples: three temples in front of Trimurti temples dedicated to the vahana of each gods; Nandi (Bull) for Shiva, Garuda (Eagle) for Vishnu, and Hamsa (Swan) for Brahma. Vahana are transports of the Gods and they come in the form of divine animals. Their temples are the ones that are in front of the Gods. The real replica of Nandi is still in the temple.
- 2 Apit temples: two temples located between the rows of Trimurti and Vahana temples on north and south side
- 4 Kelir temples: four small shrines located on 4 cardinal directions right beyond the 4 main gates of inner zone
- 4 Patok temples: four small shrines located on 4 corners of inner zone
- 224 Pervara temples: hundreds of temples arranged in 4 concentric square rows; numbers of temples from inner row to outer row are: 44, 52, 60, and 68
The temple are built with volcanic stone and sandstone and what is amazing about it is that there are no nails etc. during those times, so in order to make sure the building stands strong, they would build the stones in an “L” shape which allows it to interlock with each other.
One the walls of Lord Shiva’s temple is the love story of Rama and Shinta, how Shinta got kidnapped and how Hanuman was sent over to save her. The carvings on the walls are simply incredible and are so advanced for their times. The love story depicted on the wall are now a famous show that are shown nightly for over 39 years in Yogyakarta town, called the Ramayana Ballet.
Being in the largest Hindu complex in the world gives makes you curious about so many things and if you hired a guide, feel free to ask them. The guides are there to clear any doubt that you have and are your best photographers as well (no need for selfie stick)
Once you are done with Prambanan, you can take a walk to the nearby temples in the compound. Follow along the map and you will come to the smaller temples which are less populated with tourist.
Candi Lumbung is a 10 minutes walk away from the Prambanan Temple and are still open for tourist visits. Restoration efforts are ongoing for this structure and are still worth a visit.
Candi Sewu on the other hand is a Buddhist temple and is actually the second largest Buddhist Temple complex in Indonesia after Borobudur. The temple consists of 249 temples in total and folklore relates the temple to stories such as giants and princesses. Remarkable architecture also caused some to believe that the temple are built not by humans, but of extraterrestrial beings.
After you complete the Prambanan temple compounds, there are a small exit at the back that will lead you to Candi Plaosan, a lesser known smaller temple within the area. The 20 minutes walk would cross beautiful green paddy fields and are extremely suitable for those who prefers the road less taken.
If you are feeling adventurous and are ready to explore the smaller Plaosan Temple, here’s a guide for you.