Java travel guide

There are some stats about Java that are hard to ignore. It is the most populous island in the world, home to 141 million people, which is around 55 percent of Indonesia’s total population. Unsurprisingly, it boasts a handful of ever growing megacities, and both the capital Jakarta and Yogyakarta contain the best and worst of urban life – gridlocked streets, crowds and sprawling malls, mingled with ancient culture, a thriving arts scene and superlative temples.
Humans have shaped much of Java, from its urban hubs to the paddy fields that sculpt its hillsides, but wild pockets and quiet beaches remain, too, far from the madding crowd.
Despite Java’s obvious human history, there is still wild beauty to enjoy, from the steaming volcanoes that rear up in Bromo National Park to the pockets of rainforest that hide endemic species, including rhino, slow loris and gibbons. Tours typically reveal all sides of this dynamic Indonesian island – its future-facing cities peppered with buildings from a colonial past, its beautiful Buddhist and Hindu temples, and its beaches, highlands and peaks where you can hike, bike and relax.
Java is/isn't...

Java is...

the most densely populated island on earth.

Java isn't...

defined solely by people – there are forests, towering volcanoes and sleepy beaches.

Java map & highlights

Both tailor made and small group vacations take in Java, typically combining it with the neighbouring island of Bali or, on longer, three week Indonesia highlights vacations, Sumatra and Flores, too. These longer trips use a flight from Sumatra to Java, and sometimes to Bali and Flores, too. You can also catch a ferry from Ketapang Harbour on Java to Bali, a journey of around 30-45 minutes across the Java Strait. Small group trips rely on a mix of private minibuses and sometimes trains to travel around, while tailor made trips typically include a private car and driver.

1. Borobudur

Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple complex in the world, built in the 8th and 9th centuries from two million blocks of stone. It’s best viewed in the early morning, before the crowds arrive, and with the enigmatic temples, statues and stupas rising above the mist and surrounding forest. Follow the route of ancient pilgrims, circling the mandala-shaped structure from the early realms towards Nirvana.
Ijen Volcano

2. Ijen Volcano

The Ijen Volcano has a one-kilometre wide turquoise-coloured acidic lake in its crater, surrounded by sulphur mines. Hike up before daybreak and you can see the blue fire created by the hot, ignited sulfuric gas, before enjoying views of the 200m deep lake and its steaming water. Local miners may pass you on the trail, carrying blocks of sulphur weighing up to 70kg.

3. Jakarta

This is Indonesia’s capital, a lively, confident and diverse city. Beyond the glitzy malls, swanky hotels and traffic clogged streets lies layers of history, laid down by Dutch, Portuguese and Chinese traders, visible in Chinatown and Batavia, the one-time capital of the Dutch East Indies. People flock here from all over Indonesia, contributing to the city’s vibrant and ever growing food and coffee scene.
Mount Bromo

4. Mount Bromo

With its perfectly shaped cinder cone, Mount Bromo in the Tengger Massif is Java’s most photogenic volcano. Rising to 2,329m, Bromo is still active but unless it’s rumbling you can hike up, a trek of 45 minutes. Get up early to watch sunrise over the sea of sand, the plain surrounding Bromo, and bring a scarf to cover your nose and mouth – it’s very dusty here.
Seloliman Nature Reserve

5. Seloliman Nature Reserve

This peaceful reserve lies on the slopes of the sacred Penanggungan volcano. Reserve staff can take you on a guided walk to learn about the flora and fauna, traditional farming methods, herbal medicine and rice production. Tuck into an organic meal at the Seloliman Environmental Education Centre and stay in its accommodation – a great way to appreciate the mountain scenery by starlight.

6. Yogyakarta

Abbreviated to Yogya (pronounced ‘Jogja’), Yogyakarta is the cultural heart of Java and also a thriving hub, home to more than three million people. Its 18th century palace complex is still inhabited by Yogya’s sultan and has several open air pavilions that host gamelan music shows. From here, you can reach two exceptional temples, the Buddhist Borobudur and Prambanan, the largest Hindu complex in Java.

Our top Java Vacation

Java and Bali holiday in Indonesia

Java and Bali vacation in Indonesia

An adventurous tailor-made journey through Java, Indonesia

From £1846 14 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Java or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Maksim Million] [Is/isn't: Ifan Bima] [Borobudur: Cephoto] [Ijen Volcanoe: Sheikh Izham] [Jakarta: Gede Suhendra] [Mount Bromo: sara marlowe] [Seloliman Nature Reserve: consigliere ivan] [Yogyakarta: Dietrich Ayala]