An Overland Journey in Java
Indonesia's most populous island is home to bustling cities, ancient religious ruins and bubbling volcanoes - one of which is still a working sulphur mine and a truly otherworldly sight. Spend 11 days travelling overland by road and rail, from the heart of the island to the Eastern tip, where it is just a short ferry journey to beautiful Bali to conclude with a little beach bliss.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Enjoy a serene sunrise at an ancient Buddhist Stupa
- Observe and photograph two of Indonesia's most active volcanoes
- Relax on the beach on Bali's unspoiled north coast
- Snorkel or scuba dive the vibrant reefs of Menjangan National Park
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When To Travel
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Day 1: Yogyakarta
Begin your Indonesian adventure in Yogyakarta, where you will be privately transferred from the airport to your hotel in the heart of the city, or within the rice paddies and jungle of central Java. Spend the rest of the day relaxing after your long flight.
This evening, discover local cuisine with guided gourmet adventure around the local eateries of Yogyakarta. Your guide will collect you and take you to your first stop, Milas Restaurant, a unique venue which has been built in an old Javanese style, and is set in a beautiful garden in the heart of the city. This is a vegetarian restaurant, so your starter dish will follow suit.
You will travel by traditional 'becak' (cyclo) to a restaurant near to the Kraton, where you will enjoy your main course. The restaurant is located inside Prince Joyokusumo's House, together with a café and a small museum, and serves authentic Javanese cuisine.
Your journey will continue by becak to Alun-Alun Kidul, or 'the South Square' which is famous for its sacred twin banyan trees. This is a popular spot with the locals who gather here each evening, and you'll likely see lots of colourful, lit odong odong (go-karts).
Day 2: Yogyakarta
After an early breakfast, your guide will collect you for the half hour drive to the northern gates of Kotagede, a charming village which is home to some of fine examples of Javanese architecture. The village is also known as the 'Silver Village' due to the number of silversmith artisans that call it home.
You'll start off with a short bicycle ride through the narrow lanes of Kotagede to visit an artisan baker, where you can sample some kembang waru - a type of cookie only made and sold in Kotagede. Cycle on to the central market, to explore the bustling alleys and towers of colourful produce before peddling on to visit the oldest mosque in the Yogyakarta region, dating back to 1575.
Leave your trusty bicycle for a while, as you take a walking tour through the labyrinth alleyways of Kota Gede, weaving between the traditional Kalang architecture of the village, as well as Javanese and Colonial style buildings.
After lunch, arts 'n' crafty types will love the village of Giriloyo, which is an artisan Batik village - Javanese Batik is even UNESCO listed. Another UNESCO listed Indonesian heritage is the Keris dagger, which dates back to the 8th and you'll visit the village of Banyusumurup where the intricate sheaths for keris daggers are created. Here, you'll have the chance to take tea with one of the most revered keris artisans in Java, and learn all about this ancient art.
The last stop for today will be the village of Kasongan, which is home to a group of 'kundis' (potters), who craft earthenware jugs. This is a great place to pick up a souvenir directly from the artisans, too.
Day 3: Yogyakarta
An early start is required today, as you travel to the beautiful Buddhist Stupa of Borobudur in time to enjoy a serene sunrise. The temple is at its most magical at this time, free from too many other visitors, and with a view of the morning mist rising over the surrounding Menoreh hills.
Borobudur is the largest Buddhist Temple in the world and a true
work of art. The Stupa is constructed from thousands of volcanic
and river stone blocks which were assembled by hand over 75 years
back in the 9th century. The carvings of Borobudur tell the story
of Ramayana over ten levels and circumambulations of the ten levels
of Borobudur will allow you to follow the story chronologically,
with help from your expert guide, of course.
Next up, visit the market near to Borobudur, which is at its busiest in the morning, as the local people come to buy and sell their produce.
Continue on to explore the smaller temples of Pawon and Mendut, both of which are older than Borobudur before gaining an insight into Javanese village life in Candijero. You'll travel along small lanes by traditional 'dokar' (horse and cart) lined with traditional houses and stop to see village activities such as making cassava crackers and harvesting and drying chillies.
The rest of the day is at leisure to relax, and catch up on some zzz's.
- Guided visit of Prambanan Temple Countryside cycling tour
Day 4: Surabaya
An early start will have you embarking on your train journey eastwards to Surabaya, Java's 'second city' after capital Jakarta. The journey by rail takes around five hours, and offers a great chance to mingle with the locals on your travels.
After all of your early starts we've left this afternoon free to relax. However, if you would like to explore with a local guide, head to the Arab quarter and walk the maze-like streets to the biggest Mosque in Surabaya, Al-Akbar. Whilst out and about you can also spot the statues, which are sprinkled around the city in a celebration of independence and bring life to the nickname appointed to Surabaya, 'City of Heroes'.
- Visit the House of Sampoena cigarette factory and museum Stroll around the Arab Quarter with a local guide
Day 5: Mount Bromo
After a leisurely breakfast, you'll be transferred south to the Bromo Tengger National Park.
Our favourite hotel is located 6000ft above sea level, making for incredible views all around. Grab your camera, a book and a drink and relax on one of the benches scattered around the property. Get an early night tonight, as you'll be up pre-dawn tomorrow!
Day 6: Ijen Plateau
You'll get a wake-up call this morning to make sure you're up and out of bed way before sunrise. Your guide will collect you from your hotel by 4X4 for the drive up to a viewpoint level with the summit of Mount Bromo; wrap up warm and get yourself in a good spot for sunrise.
Watching the sun come up over the horizon, as light spreads across the volcanic landscape, sea of sand and cone of Mount Bromo, is an unforgettable sight.
Return to your hotel for breakfast before continuing your journey east by train. You will have a private transfer to the train station 90 minutes away to board the train to Bangyuwangi, four hours away. A guide will meet you at the arrival station for your hotel transfer of thirty minutes. The evening is at leisure to relax.
Day 7: Bali Barat National Park
Another early start - the last for a while, we promise! - for your morning trek to the rim of Ijen crater. Take the hour journey by car through small agricultural villages and thick jungle with a 4WD jeep to reach the Paltuging base camp before embarking on the approximate two mile trek to the top following a wide dirt pathway.
On your way you'll pass flip-flop clad miners, carrying heavy loads of acid yellow sulphurous rock from the large turquoise Crater Lake. Upon reaching the crater rim, marvel at the magnificent view across the vivid turquoise lake and steaming volcanic vents.
Return to your hotel for breakfast before packing up and beginning the journey to Bali for some R&R. The drive to the port take just 30 minutes, from where you will board the public ferry to Bali - a journey of around one hour. Your beach retreat is just 40 minutes along the coast, located in the heart of a national park. Settle in aaaaaand relax.
Day 8: Bali Barat National Park
Today you'll enjoy a leisurely morning at the hotel then, come afternoon, explore the beauty of the national park on horseback.
The resort's trained staff will cater to your riding ability and take you out on a beautiful trek after the heat of the midday sun has passed. You will be treated to spectacular views of the forest and beach, whilst listening to a commentary provided by experts.
- Cycling or trekking through the jungle with a guide Kayaking through the mangrove forest Bird watching Snorkelling and scuba diving
Day 9: Bali Barat National Park
Ready yourself for a day in Bali's beautiful waters. The coastal area located just off-shore from the resort is renowned for its snorkelling and diving opportunities.
Spend an unforgettable day exploring the coral gardens and dramatic reef walls housing a vast range of marine life. Visibility is excellent, so you'll be able to spot plenty of marine life including seahorses and reef sharks for a lucky few.
Day 10: Bali Barat National Park
A day at leisure in the Bali Barat National Park; you can spend your final holiday day doing as much or as little as you would like.
For relaxation, perhaps visit the Mangrove spa for a dreamy massage in an open air lagoon side bale. Those of a more active disposition could opt to trek or cycle through the park in search of birdlife, monkeys and Menjangan Deer, kayak through the mangrove forest or swim from the jetty in crystalline ocean waters.
Day 11: Home time
This morning is free to chill before making the journey to Bali airport - a drive of around four and a half hours - in time for your international flight.
Holly is our expert for this itinerary and, as a seasoned traveller, has the inside track on the most memorable adventures.