Immerse yourself in the real Java, discovering one of the world’s most beautiful islands and its friendly people before crossing to Bali. This breathtaking nine-day tour takes you to most famous sights and attractions in the island. Starting in the capital, Jakarta, in the north-west, travel through the heart of Java to visit Prambanan, Borobudur and Mount Bromo – where an otherworldly lunar landscape of volcanoes emerges from fields of dried-up lava – and on to Ijen in the east. The odyssey ends in Bali, after a ferry journey across the strait dividing the two islands.
Jakarta: Head down to Surabaya Street, which is packed to the rim with curio shops selling real and fake antiques
Bandung: In a city whose name conjures up images of stroberi (strawberries) for many Javanese, tasting the locally grown variety is a must
Ijen volcano: The sulphur miners who make their living here supplement their income by selling ornaments made from this bright yellow chemical
Jakarta: Enjoy a panoramic tour of the capital, seeing sights such as the National Museum, old harbour and more
Bandung: A city famed for its art deco architecture and the nearby Tangkuban Perahu Ciater hot springs
Prambanan: Reconstructed ninth century Hindu temple boasting beautiful and elaborate carvings
Yogyakarta: Visit the city’s two palaces – the Sultan’s and the Water – and explore the historic Kotagede district
Borobudur: Imposing and beautiful Buddhist temple that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Solo: This green city is home to the magnificent Mangkunegaran Palace
Mount Bromo: Experience sunrise over this smouldering and growling volcanic caldera
Ijen: Trek for more than an hour to enjoy another sunrise experience over a volcanic caldera
Head straight into the action after meet and greet on arrival at Jakarta Airport, with a quick city tour of the capital en route to your hotel. Jakarta is a modern metropolis of more than 10 million people, which despite the passage of time still boasts a strong heritage from when it was a Dutch colony called Batavia. See the National Museum, the old harbour at Sunda Kelapa and the Monas (National Monument) among other sights before arriving at the hotel for check-in.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before departing for a four-hour drive to Bandung, deep in the heart of west Java. Visit the city’s famous Botanical Garden with its collection of more than 10,000 species of tropical plants and a catch a glimpse of the Presidential Summer Palace and tea plantation. The city centre is renowned for its unique style of Dutch late colonial architecture, which blended traditional Javanese forms with early 20th century movements such as art deco and expressionism. End the day on a cultural high at the Saung Mang Udjo Theatre to attend a performance of traditional west Javanese angklung bamboo instruments. Lunch included
Explore Bandung after breakfast, taking time to appreciate its distinct 1930s feel before heading to the Tangkuban Perahu Ciater hot springs, about an hour’s drive north of the city. These warm, sulphurous springs are located in the midst of a verdant tea plantation and feature a number of pools in which you can relax and swim. The waters contain iodine and sulphur, and are believed to help cure skin ailments and rheumatism. Return to the city after this relaxing sojourn with the rest of the day free. If you want to see how Bandung comes to life in the evening, head for a stroll to Cihampelas Walk, a famous shopping area, which is extremely popular with the locals. Lunch included.
Bid farewell to Bandung and west Java, heading to the train station to catch the 7am train to Yogyakarta, arriving at about 2pm. Check-in at the hotel and enjoy the rest of the day free. Examples of places to visit include the famous Malioboro Street where you can enjoy the hustle and bustle as you trawl through myriad outlets. Maybe even find souvenirs at the many vendors – but try and bargain to get the best offer! At night, this street is famed for lesehan resto, where a lot of local artists will come to you and perform their simple but lovely music. Overnight in Yogyakarta area on a half-board basis. Lunch included.
After breakfast at the hotel, visit the Yogyakarta Sultan’s Palace, which was built in the 18th century in the grand and elegant Javanese architectural style. Known as the Kraton, it lies in the heart of the old town and was built under the orders of Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono. Afterwards, continue to the famous Taman Sari Water Castle, which also dates from the mid-18th century, and then on to the historic district of Kotagede. This a neat and picturesque area was the seat of the once mighty Mataram Kingdom. Nowadays it is famous for being the centre of a thriving silversmiths industry and its charming Javanese-Dutch colonial homes. You will have a chance do try out some silver work exploration and to browse the silver gallery and store. Just under an hour’s drive north-west of Yogyakarta is the next stop on the itinerary, the vast and brilliant Borobudur, a Buddhist temple, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Standing majestically and serenely on a hillock overlooking lush green fields and distant hills, the shrine is without doubt one of the world’s most complete collections of Buddhist bas relief carvings. Return to Yogyakarta for the evening, with the rest of the day free. Lunch included.
From Yogyakarta, drive to Solo after breakfast. Arguably the epicentre of Javanese identity and tradition, Solo is one of the least westernised cities in the island. On arrival in Solo, visit the Mangkunegaran Palace, a classical repository of Javanese art and culture. It has numerous priceless treasures dating all the way back to the Majapahit era, more than five centuries ago. Proceed to the Sukuh ‘erotic’ temple, which is decorated with wayang stone carvings of Hindu origin. Sukuh is the only erotic temple in Java and dates from the 15th century. It appears that at some stage in history, puritan-minded vandals caused considerable damage to the temple’s erotic depictions. After this visit, continue to the city of Kediri in the Brantas valley. Lunch included.
Take to the road after breakfast at the hotel to continue your journey through Java’s multicultural past. The day’s first stop is at the Hindu temples at Panataran, which are the largest intact Majapahit Empire era temples and also the finest examples of east Javanese architecture and sculpture. Construction began in 1197, during the Singosari dynasty, with building work continuing for another 250 years. Some 30km directly north of Panataran is Gunung Kelud (1,731 metres) which is one of Java’s most active volcanoes. It is also very accessible and rewarding to visit, with a plunging crater, steaming vents and a small crater lake. Kelud is in a near-permanent state of growl. Proceed to Bromo, perhaps Java’s most famous region. Here you will encounter a lunar-like landscape of epic proportions and surreal beauty. Rising from the guts of the ancient Tengger caldera, Gunung Bromo (2,392 metres) is one of the three volcanoes to have emerged from a vast crater, stretching 10km across. Flanked by the peaks of Kursi (2,581 metres) and Batok (2,440 metres), the smouldering cone of Bromo stands in a sea of ashen, volcanic sand, surrounded by towering cliffs of the crater’s edge. Afterwards, continue to your accommodation with the rest of the evening free. Lunch included.
Mount Bromo really is something else – and there is no better way to appreciate it than at the crack of dawn. It’s not the mountain itself but the sheer majesty of the experience: the immense size of the entire Tengger caldera, the supernatural beauty of the scenery and the dramatic highland light. Leave the hotel very early in the morning to catch an excursion to Mount Bromo so you can experience the dramatic moment when the sun rises and breaks over the caldera. The trip is reminiscent of an Indiana Jones adventure it and involves a pony ride crossing a sea of sand to reach the base of Mount Bromo. After the magnificent sunrise (weather permitting), return to hotel for breakfast and a shower before driving to Ijen in the far east of Java. Lunch included.
This morning also starts with an early rise to witness a spectacular sunrise over a caldera. The fabled Ijen plateau is a vast volcanic region dominated by the three cones of Ijen (2,368 metres), Merapi (2,800 metres) and Raung (3,332 metres). After driving through a landscape of rice paddies and pine forests, reach Paltuding, a beautiful wooded alpine area. These thinly populated highlands host coffee plantations and a few isolated settlements – Gunung Ijen is Javanese for ‘Lonely Mountain’. Once you have reached the edge of Ijen crater after about 90 minutes walking on a good pathway, you can rest while admiring the fantastic landscape of the caldera, the magnificent jade-coloured lake, and the deep yellow of the continuously sprouting sulphur springs. Return to the hotel to enjoy your breakfast before heading Ketapang port to catch the ferry to cross the Bali Strait to Gilimanuk with drop off at your selected accommodation in southern Bali (Kuta/ Nusadua/ Sanur/ Jimbaran/ Seminyak). Breakfast and lunch included.