Java is the most fertile, the most densely populated, and one of the most wonderful islands in the world. It is an island of social and geographic contrasts dominated by mountain peaks, smoking volcanoes and a patchwork of verdant rice paddies. There are more than one hundred and fifteen million people on this 132,000 square kilometer island, but there are still places like the Halimun Mountain Reserve in West Java, Dieng Plateau in Central Java and Mount Bromo volcano in East Java that are as isolated and desolate as any wilderness imaginable.

Throughout their turbulent history, the Javanese have always carried a strong consciousness of their ancient, mystical religions, local customs and cultures. No matter what the changes, the Javanese remain essentially just that -Javanese. Java plays an extraordinary role in Indonesia today. It is more than just the geographiccenter of the archipelago; it is the hub of political and economic power in the country. Java is truly one of the most remarkable places on earth, and one could spend a lifetime exploring the island.

Attractive spots in Java

Jakarta is a study in contrasts: traditional and modern, rich and poor, spiritual and worldly all  standing side by side in a bustling metropolis. The nation’s capital has a remarkable history,  beginning in the year 157, when it was named Jayakarta. As a small harbour town called Sunda  Kelapa it served as the capital of the Dutch East Indies and was called Batavia. When Indonesian  independence was finally secured the city was renamed Jakarta.


Sunda Kelapa, also known as Pasar ikan (Fish Market), is in the north of the city at the mouth of  the Ciliwung River. This is where the Portuguese traded with the Hindu Kingdom of Pajajaran in  the early 16th century and where Dutch domination of Indonesia began. Sunda Kelapa is now a  busy inter-island port. Tall masted Bugis schooners from South Sulawesi, part of the world’s  oldest commercial sailing fleet, are one of the finest sights Jakarta has to offer.

The National Monument, (Monas), is one of the many monuments built during the years directly  after independence. The one hundred and thirty seven metre tall marble obelisk is topped with  a flame coated with thirty five kilograms of gold, and represents the people’s determination to achieve freedom. It towers over Merdeka (Freedom) Square, and serves as Jakarta’s most  prominent landmark.

Located on the west side of Merdeka Square, the National Museum offers historical, prehistoric, archaeological and ethnographic aspects of Indonesia through its extensive collection of artifacts and relics. It has one of the most complete collections in the country of bronzes and ceramics dating back lo the Han, Tang and Ming Dynasties. The museum’s collection of cultural instruments, household utensils, arts and crafts provide a good introduction to the life of Indonesia’s various ethnic groups.

Taman Mini Indonesia Indah in the east of the city gives visitors a glimpse of the diversity of the Indonesian archipelago in a single location. This extensive park houses exhibits from all of Indonesia’s provinces. It has its own orchid garden, bird park with a walk-in aviary, Imax theatre, a fauna museum and recreational grounds. Of special interest is the Museum Indonesia, housing contemporary arts crafts and traditional costumes from around the country.

The Pulau Seribu or Thousand Island group scattered across the Java Sea to the north of Jakarta offer’s a tropical haven away from the bustle of city life. Golden beach fringed with coconut palms and multi-colored coral reefs are just what the doctor ordered. The islands can be reached from Tanjung Priok, Ancol or Pasar lkan (Sunda Kelapa) by ferry or by chartered boat.The most popular islands have been developed as tourist resorts and are equipped with resort style facilities and services.

Taman Impian Jaya Ancol is Jakarta’s largest and most popular recreation park, with sea and fresh-water aquariums, seaworld, swimming pools, an artificial lagoon for fishing and boating, a bowling alley, as well as an assortment of nightclubs and restaurants. The Ancol complex includes a marina, Dunia Fantasi (Fantasy Land) theme park, golf courses and hotels. The ‘Pasar Seni’ or art market has a varied collection of Indonesian handicrafts, paintings and souvenirs for sale while an open-air

Bandung, the capital of West Java used to be referred to as “The Paris of Java” but now is more popularly known as “Kota Kembang”, the city of Flowers, It is a city of artists, writers, intellectual and academics.

The road out Bogor to Bandung passes through the cool hills of Puncak. At the crest of Puncak Pass, tea plantations blanket the hillsides, and the cooler climate makes it a favourite resort and weekend gateway retreat from Jakarta. Further down the road is Cipanas, a natural hot springs resort, whose waters are said to hold magic restorative powers.

Formerly a sleepy traditional fishing village, Pangandaran is home of the legendary Queen of the South Seas. Now a thriving holiday resorts, it is a three hour drive from either Jakarta or Bandung on good mountain roads. At night hundreds of fishermen’s boat lamps merge with the star-studded sky above, creating an enchanting and romantic scene.

Traveling east from Jakarta the seaport of Cirebon offers a wealth of culture and history. Situated on the borders of West and Central Java, it is home to a combination of both cultures. Palaces and temples are testimony to its once regal past, but nowadays Cirebon is most famous for its distinctive batik, a flourishing industry in the nearby village of Trusmi. The local seafood is among the best in West Java.

Semarang is Java’s fourth largest city, about halfway between the extreme east and west coasts of the island along Java’s northern coast. The older part of the city near the harbour has an interesting collection of building dating back to the Dutch colonial era and the Dutch East Indies Company. The city’s Chinatown is full of temples and narrow laneswith an amazing array of busy shops.

The people of Solo (Surakarta) have consciously cultivated their reputation of aristocraticrefinement, exquisite manners and artistic achievement. The royal courts of Solo embody the noble value that the Javanese attach to grace and refinement, with majestic ceremonies and royal Festivals still being held today. Music and theatre have never been considered mere entertainment, but rather nurtured as integral parts of palace rituals, which still occur on a daily basis. The dalangs, master of the shadow puppet plays, and traditional gamelan orchestras of Solo are considered by many to be the best in all of Java.

The Pasar Klewer in Solo is the busiest textile market in Java a great place to buy not only the less expensive ‘stamped’ (batik cap) cloths, but some of the best hand-drawn batik tulis on the island.There are plenty of tailors in the market who can make shirts and skirts in a day. Also not to be issed while visiting Solo is the flea market at Pasar Triwindu, where everything and anything is for sale to those willing lo have a bit of fun bargaining.

Four hours south of Semarang is the Dieng Plateau, the site of some of the oldest Hindu temples on java, some two thousand meters above sea level with a very cool climate. While the temples themselves cannot compare to those near Yogyakarta, their extraordinary setting amidst intense volcanic activity makes it easy to understand why the Javanese consider this area to be a focal point of supernatural power.

Borobudur is one of the world’s most famous temples. It stands majestically on a hill overlooking lush green fields and distant hills and rises in seven terraces, each smaller than the one below it. The top is the Great Stupa, standing forty meters above the ground. The walls are sculpted in base relief, hailed as the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world. Built in the eighth century, and ‘discovered’ by Raffles in 1817, the monument has now been completely restored.

This magnificent Hindu temple derives it name from the village where it is located, seventeen kilometers east of Yogyakarta. Locally known as the Loro Jongrang Temple, or the Temple of the Slender Virgin, it is the most magnificent and beautiful Hindu temple in Indonesia dating back lo the middle of the ninth century. It has eight shrines; the three main ones are dedicated to Visnhu, Brahma, Shiva, which rises to a height of one hundred and thirty feet and houses the magnificent statue of Shiva’s consort, Durga. The Ramayana ballet is performed here on an open-air stage during nights of the full moon period.

Yogyakarta is one of the supreme cultural centers of Java and a Special Province. Full Gamelan orchestras keep alive the rhythms of the past, classical Javanese dances hypnotize with visions of beauty and poise; shadows come to life in the stories of the wayang kulit and a myriad of traditional art forms keep locals and visitors spellbound. Contemporary art has also grown in the fertile soil of Yogyakarta’s sophisticated cultural society.

The Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat Palace or Kraton, with its grand and elegant Javanesearchitecture, lies in the center of the city between the Winongo and Code Rivers. The palace grounds stretch from north to south, in line with Mount Merapi, the axis along which all important ceremonies lake place. The Kraton is constructed to form a model of the Javanese conception of the cosmos. Each gateway, pavilion, and courtyard has a specific symbolic meaning, harmonizing the divine powers of the universe. Over onethousand four hundred retainers serve the current sultan, and can be seen throughout the palace,

No visit to Yogyakarta would be complete without a stroll down the city’s main street, Jalan Malioboro. A dazzling display of tropical fruit, batik, food stalls and second-hand ‘antiques’ make for a souvenir hunter’s paradise. Bargaining is half the fun of shopping here, but even if you’re not buying, the intensity of the street-life is fantastic.

A booming city of over three million people, Surabaya is Indonesia’s second city and the capital of East Java. Surabaya boasts of a proud role in the nation’s struggle for Independence. At what is know the Majapahit Hotel, in the centre of the city, the firstraising of the Indonesian flag was achieved at the cost of many lives. These days, Surabaya offers many fine hotels, shopping centres, restaurants and plentiful sources of entertainment.

Seventy kilometers south of Surabaya lay Malang, one of the most attractive hill towns in Java. A strong sense of civic pride is evident from the well- maintained and elaborately painted becaks, the groomed Main Square, and clean buildings and streets. Twenty kilometers from Malang on the southern flank of Mount Arjuna, are Selecta andSonggoriti, popular hill resorts with hot springs. Nearby Batu is famous for its apples and flowers.

Many local and foreign travelers make the trek for the mystical experience of a life time to watch the sunrise from the crest of the Bromo Volcano. Volcanic sulphur fumes and smoke still emanate from the depths, and when the God of Bromo begins to rumble, the surrounding population quickly brings their offerings. An annual offering ceremony of Kasada is held on the fourteenth day of Kasada, calendar year. It is a dazzling event where villagers from the surrounding areas bring their humble offerings to the holy volcano in the hope of appeasing the mighty forces that lie within.