Eight Reasons to Visit Java
The most many visitors to Indonesia see of Java is Jakarta airport. But, while Indonesia’s gridlocked capital is a tough city to love, and hectic traffic makes this populous island tough to get around, there’s more to Java than sprawling Asian mega-cities. If you’re thinking of visiting Java, here’s eight good reasons to get up and go.
Possibly the most iconic of Indonesia’s volcanoes, Bromo stands stark amid a sea of black sand, where the local Tenggerese still ride horses as they have since time immemorial. It’s volatile and very active, and the Tenggerese still propitiate the volcano with offerings at the Yadnya Kasada festival in June.
Just a short hop from Bali, the Ijen plateau offers tranquil highland landscapes, coffee plantations, perfectly conical volcanoes and the Kawah Ijen crater lake, from which miners draw chunks of sulphur. It’s possible to stay at hotels in Banyuwangi, like the Hotel Santika Banyuwangi, but, although accommodation is more basic, the highlands themselves make a better choice.
Java really is at the epicentre of Indonesia’s Ring of Fire, and Krakatau, midway between Java and Sumatra, rocked the world when it erupted in 1883. There’s little of the original volcano left, just the shattered edge of a caldera and Krakatau’s “daughter”, Anak Krakatau, which continues to rise from the sea at a spectacular 6 metres per year.
Indonesian cities can be hard to relate to, due to largely uncontrolled development, pollution and litter. But cultured Yogya, with its vibrant modern art scene, attractive old town and university city lifestyle, is the exception that proves the rule. It’s also a perfect base for exploring Borobudur.
While today Java is overwhelmingly Muslim – albeit with some distinctly Hindu and animist features – this serene highland landscape is scattered with literally hundreds of Hindu temples. The temples themselves aren’t stunning, but the crater lakes and rural landscapes are: consider staying in Wonosobo for a better choice of accommodation.
The Sumatran rhino might get all the press, but in this national park in far west Java, the rare Javan rhino is still occasionally seen. Not far from Krakatau, with striking offshore islands and unspoilt forest full of bird life, Ujung Kulon is rarely visited.
Bandung Tea Plantations
Back in the Dutch colonial era, tea grown around Bandung was a rival to the British plantations around Assam and Darjeeling – and, while most teas are mass-market, a handful of growers are producing organic, hand-crafted teas for connoisseurs. Stay here for colonial hill stations and misty tea plantations, many of which are open for tours.
Image credits: Borobudur 4 by Thrillseekr, Mount Bromo by Ronald Tagra, Sunrise from Ijen Crater, Indonesia by Jimmy McIntyre, #Krakatau by Valdemar Anthony Kornholt, Kereta Kuda, Malioboro, Yogya by Danumurthi Mahendra, Telaga Warna Dieng Plateau by Jimmy McIntyre, Orange Umbrellas by Riza Nugraha and Tea Garden in Indonesia by Skyseeker, all on Flickr’s Creative Commons.