Borobudur as seen from the east
Borobudur is an ancient Buddhist stupa and temple complex in central Java, Indonesia.
Built over a period of some 75 years in the 8th and 9th centuries by the kingdom of Sailendra, Borobudur is the largest Buddhist monument in the world. Constructed out of an estimated 1,600,000 blocks of volcanic stone, dredged from the river and assembled solely by human labor, the nine-terraced temple is a representation of the transition towards nirvana and is famed for its 1,500 intricately carved reliefs, covering a total length of five kilometers end-to-end. The volcanic Mount Merapi, one of the most active volcanoes on Java, can be seen steaming on the horizon directly north of the site.
The first archaeological study of the site was initiated in 1814 by Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore. First restored in 1907, the monument suffered from neglect and war and was once more in effect rebuilt in the 1970s under the guidance of UNESCO, who designated Borobudur as a World Heritage Site. The massive restoration process involved the removal and refurbishing of over one million blocks, rebuilding the foundation and adding drainage systems.
 Get in
 By plane
The nearest larger airports are in Yogyakarta and Solo. Both are well connected and it's possible, if a bit rushed, to visit Borobudur on a day trip from Bali.
 By public transport
Usage of public transport from Yogyakarta or Semarang is usually discouraged by the more cautious guide books and other authorities due to the increase in pickpockets and others on the usually crowded buses. Muntilan is the nearest town on the Yogyakarta to Semarang road. If you are not easily harassed by such issues, it is well worth the experience.
 By car
Yogyakarta is about 40 minutes south of Borobudur by car. Most of the route is on a well-maintained four-lane highway and there are frequent bus services (see above).
 Get around
The only practical means of getting around is on foot. A toy train of limited practical use shuttles around the temple and between museum and entrance gate for Rp 5,000 a throw.
The distinctive stupas of the upper levels of Borobudur
Entry into the Borobudur site costs US$11 - Rp93,000 (US$7 student, or Rp9,000 if you are Indonesian) and the site is open to the public from 6 AM to 5 PM. However, the Manohara Hotel (see Sleep) runs a daily Borobudur Sunrise Tour for an additional US$10, which gets you a flashlight and a lift up to the temple gate at 4:30 AM, in time to see the sunrise and explore for an hour and a half before the hordes arrive, and is well worth the money. Hiring a guide who can explain the reliefs well costs Rp 50,000.
Borobudur consists of a single stupendously large structure, which can be divided into layers as follows:
- The platform at the base of the structure, which was clearly added on later and hides some reliefs, is of uncertain provenance and function. The main theories are that the platform was added to censor reliefs depicting earthly desires or — rather more likely — to buttress the subsiding structure and prevent it from collapsing. A section of the platform has been excavated at the southeast corner, showcasing some of the hidden reliefs underneath.
- The bulk of the structure consists of four square terraces connected by steep staircases. Each terrace has reliefs in two layers on both sides, recounting the story of the Buddha's past lives and his enlightenment. The "correct" way to view the reliefs is to start from the east gate (the main entrance) and circulate clockwise.
- After the square terraces the structure suddenly opens up to reveal the final four circular terraces. Comparatively plain and unadorned, there are no more reliefs here, just several hundred domes housing half-hidden Buddha statues (many headless, some lost entirely).
- The peak of the structure is a central stupa. The two chambers inside the stupa are empty, and it is unclear whether they were empty from the beginning as a representation of nirvana, or whether they originally contained now lost statues.
- You can discover 6 different postures of buddha's statue for bottom level to the top. They are "contact with earth", "giving and helping", "mediatation", "no fear", "teach and learn", "turn of wills".
Carved reliefs in Borobudur's lower terraces
A few sights of interest are located outside the main temple itself.
- The rather lacklustre museum, a few hundred meters to the north of the temple, does a haphazard job of presenting the restoration process. Perhaps the most interesting bits are the exhibition of the Karmawiharga reliefs, with explanatory comments, and the photo gallery of old 19th-century shots of the complex before it was restored.
- Candi Mendut, 3 km from Borobudur (along the road to Yogyakarta). A comparatively small temple that may have acted as a waypoint on the road to Borobudur. Now notable primarily as the start of the Waisak procession (see Do.
On Waisak, Buddha's birthday (held on the night of the full moon in May), an elaborate and colorful multi-day Buddhist festival is held at Borobudur, culminating in a candle-lit procession from Candi Mendut to Borobudur.
Irritatingly persistent touts hassle tourists on the approaches to the temple, but are usually kept away from the temple itself. Be careful when you exit the temple as there are misleading signs of exit gates that will lead you through a maze of stalls taking at least 15 minutes to pass through. If you intend to buy then you need to bargain at least half to quarter price.
- Manohara Restaurant. Inside the park on the grounds of the hotel of the same name, this resort-style restaurant serves up standard Indonesian fare and beautiful views of Borobudur. Mains from Rp 15,000.
While most visitors stay in Yogyakarta or Magelang, it's worth spending the night here as this will give you a chance to get to the temples before the crowds.
There are a number of losmen and basic hotels in the village of Borobudur just south of the park entrance. Owing to the site's popularity with tourists prices are, by Indonesian standards, somewhat inflated for what you get.
- Manohara Hotel, tel. 0293-788131, . Formerly Taman Borobudur Guest House, this friendly resort-style hotel is located inside the Borobudur park, just 200 meters from the temple entrance. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and the views are great, but the rooms are little more than functional (a/c, hot water). Still, a room booked directly from the hotel is just Rp 285,000 nett, which is excellent value as the price includes breakfast and entry to Borobudur for two. They serve excellent food.
- Saraswati Borobudur, tel. 62-293-788 843 ; 62-293-5503643, . This is a beautiful hotel with views of Borobudur, a swimming pool, and the most gracious staff. The rooms are large with the full range of amenities. Room rates are often deeply discounted (up to 60%) so be sure to ask before you go. Breakfast is included in your rate as is transportation to Borobudur (guide is optional).
- Amanjiwo, . Super luxury resort run by the Aman Group, located just 3 kilometers from Borobudur on the temple's south side. Rooms for the night here start from a mere US$650++.
 Get out
- The Hindu temples of Prambanan, about an hour away by car, make the perfect complement to Borobudur.