Visiting Borobudur and Prambanan: Borobudur vs Prambanan

Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Java in Indonesia

Borobudur vs Prambanan – should you visit Borobudur or Prambanan, or should you visit both?

Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Java are famous Indonesian temples and breathtaking World Heritage sites in Indonesia

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO. 

BOROBUDUR AND PRAMBANAN TEMPLES: BOROBUDUR VS PRAMBANAN

Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Java in Indonesia
Temple of Borobudur © World Travel Connector

Borobudur and Prambanan are ancient temples near the town of Yogyakarta on the mystical island of Java in Indonesia

In the Indonesian Bahasa language, ‘candi‘ means ‘temple‘. Candi Borobudur and Candi Prambanan are the most famous temples in Indonesia and renowned World Heritage sites in Indonesia

Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Java in Indonesia
Prambanan temple in Indonesia © World Travel Connector

While Borobudur is a Buddhist temple, Prambanan is a Hindu temple. Furthermore, the temple of Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the World and the largest temple in Indonesia, while the temple of Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia. Both temples are remarkable holy places of worship, architectural masterpieces, and famous World Heritage monuments. 

Both temples were built in the 9th century and both got covered by ash after the eruption of nearby Mount Merapi volcano in the late 10th century. First was built Borobudur by followers of Mahayana Buddhism during the rule of the Buddhist Sailendra Dynasty in Java. Later on, in the same century, the Prambanan temple was built after the rise of the Hinduism and Hindu Sanjaya dynasty in Java. Regardless of the volcano eruption, no one knows for sure why both of the temples were completely abandoned around the 14th and the 15th century. Later in the 15th Javanese people converted to Islam and the temples got forgotten. However, both of the temples were rediscovered in the Javanese jungle. The temple of Prambanan was rediscovered first in the 18th century and later the temple of Barabudur in the 19th century. History of Borobudur and the history of Prambanan are known a little, while the mystery of Borobudur and the mystery of Prambanan live on.

Today modern Indonesia with about 225 million followers of Islam is the largest country with the Muslim population in the World. But Borobudur temple remains a Buddhist pilgrimage site in Indonesia and the Prambanan temple remains a place of Hindu worship.

BOROBUDUR TEMPLE 

The top level of Borobudur temple in Indonesia © World Travel Connector

Borobudur, also called Barabadur, is an architectural masterpiece designed in the shape of a pyramid, stupa, sacred mountain, and a mandala. Name Borobudur is believed to mean ‘Buddhist Monastery on a Hill’. While three-dimensional mandala symbolizes Buddhist cosmology, Borobudur also symbolically lies between two volcanos (Mt Sumbing and Mt Merapi) and two rivers (Progo and Elo).

Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Java in Indonesia
Borobudur temple in Indonesia

Borobudur temple stands as a single building on the top of a mountain, but Borobudur temple compounds consist of three temples aligned on the same axis. The architecture of Borobudur portrays the Buddhist path to Enlightenment. Three levels of Borobudur stupa represent a spiritual journey from the World of Desire (Kamadhatu) – the 1st level, the World of Form (Rupadhatu)  – the 2nd level to the World of Formless (Arupadhatu) – the 3rd level. 

Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Java in Indonesia
The Buddhist temple of Borobudur © World Travel Connector

Borobudur is a unique Buddhist temple on the area of  2.500 m2 built of six square terraces, three circular platforms, and central dome (stupa) on the top dedicated to the ‘Great Sun Buddha’. There are 504 Buddha statues in total and about 2.670 narrative reliefs picturing Buddha’s teachings (the Dharma), Buddha’s past lives (Jataka tales), and stories from important Buddhist scriptures (sutras).

Reliefs of Borobudur temple © World Travel Connector
Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Java in Indonesia
Stone carvings of Borobudur © World Travel Connector

Barabudur temple holds the largest number of Buddhist sculptures on one site in the World. Just to mention, in case you are wondering, Borobudur was built 300 years before Angkor Wat in Cambodia. And while it is not officially one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Borobudur certainly is a true Wonder of the World.

Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Java in Indonesia
Borobudur temple in Java

1991. Borobodur was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in Indonesia. Today Borobudur is a Buddhist pilgrimage site where Buddhists commemorate Vesak Trisuci (Vesak Day, or the Buddha’s Birthday). Borobudur temple is a main Yogyakarta tourist attraction, and a top tourist attraction in Indonesia by visitors a year.  

Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Java in Indonesia

Recommended read: Borobudur Golden Tales of the Buddhas by John N. Miksic

MAYBE YOU ALSO WOULD LIKE TO READ: 16 Buddhist Temples in Southeast Asia You Must Visit

PRAMBANAN TEMPLE

Prambanan temple complex in Indonesia © World Travel Connector
Prambanan temple compound in Indonesia © World Travel Connector

The Prambanan temple complex consists of hundreds of shrines surrounding the central temple. The main temple of Prambanan is dedicated to the Trimurti – the Hindu Trinity (‘three forms‘ or ‘three Gods‘): Brahma – the God Creator, Vishnu – the God Preserver and Shiva – the God Destroyer.

Prambanan temple complex in Java © World Travel Connector
Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Java in Indonesia
Prambanan temple complex in Indonesia © World Travel Connector

The tallest temple of Prambanan temple complex is the Shiva temple, or also called Candi Shiva Mahadeva temple dedicated to God Shiva.  It is the central temple of Prambanan. The Vishnu temple stands on the north side to the Shiva temple, and the Brahma temple stands on the south to the Shiva temple.  There are 3 smaller Hindu shrines in front of the Shiva temple: a Nandi temple – dedicated to Nandi, the sacred bull of Shiva, a Hamsa temple – dedicated to Hamsa, the sacred swan of Brahma and a Garuda temple – dedicated to Garuda, the sacred bird Garuda of Vishnu.

Stone carvings of Prambanan temple © World Travel Connector

Reliefs of Prambanan temples feature stories of Ramayana epic. Stone carvings of the Vishnu temple illustrate the story of Lord Krishna from the Mahabharata story. Reliefs of the Brahma temple depict final scenes of the Ramayana story.

Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Java in Indonesia
Candi Prambanan in Indonesia © World Travel Connector

WHERE TO STAY IN YOGYAKARTA

Recommended Yogyakarta accommodation

BUDGET: The Sleepingroom Hostel, Otu Hostel By Ostic, Snooze, Santai Sini Hostel 

MID-RANGE: Grand Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta, Swiss-Belboutique Yogyakarta, Eastparc Hotel Yogyakarta

LUXURY:  Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta, Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel, Hotel Tentrem Yogyakarta, The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta – MGallery by Sofitel

VISITING BOROBUDUR AND PRAMBANAN IN ONE DAY

Borobudur vs Prambanan? Should you visit Borobudur or Prambanan? For me, there’s no question. I would say both! I have visited them both and each of them is a unique masterpiece!

I stayed in Yogyakarta for a few days and explored Borobudur and Prambanan at my own pace, each one in a day. Although Borobudur is about 19 km (12 miles) by air from Prambanan, it is not easy to reach one temple from another.  The ride from Borobudur to Prambanan takes from an hour and a half to two hours.

But if you wish to visit Borobudur and Prambanan in one day, the best would be to book a guided tour, take a taxi, rent a car or a motorbike. 

Borobudur and Prambanan tour from Yogyakarta: Usually the tours pick you up at your hotel around 5 am with the arrival at Borobudur around 6 am. The tours allow exploring Borobudur for 3 hours on average and after visiting Borobudur, they head to Prambanan temple. Borobudur and Prambanan tours allow 2 hours for exploring Prambanan on average and go back to Yogyakarta around 2 pm.

Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Java in Indonesia

BOROBUDUR AND PRAMBANAN ONE DAY TOUR WITH BOROBUDUR SUNRISE

Borobudur sunrise tour usually starts with the pick up at your hotel in Yogyakarta around 4 am before heading to Borobudur for sunrise. I haven’t visited Borobudur at sunrise, but many visitors claim that the best lighting at Borobudur is on a sunrise. If you want some special Borobudur images, you should go to Borobudur for sunrise. Please keep in mind, for Borobudur sunrise, you should buy a special sunrise ticket which allows you to be at Borobudur at 4:30 am.

Borobudur Sunrise or Sunset Half-Day PRIVATE TOUR from Yogyakarta

Borobudur Sunrise & Prambanan Full Day PRIVATE TOUR from Yogyakarta 

Borobudur Sunrise, Merapi Volcano and Prambanan Full-Day Tour from Yogyakarta

COMBINED TICKET BOROBUDUR PRAMBANAN:

A great option to visit Borobudur and Prambanan in one day is to visit Borobudur for sunrise and Prambanan for sunset A combo ticket for a Borobudur sunrise tour and Prambanan sunset tour is cheaper than to buy them separately.

Prambanan temple Sunset Tour from Yogyakarta

OPENING HOURS OF BOROBUDUR AND PRAMBANAN

Borobudur temple opening hours and Prambanan temple opening hours:

CANDI BOROBUDUR OPENING HOURS

Borobudur Sunrise: 4.30 am – 6 am

Borobudur Pass: 6 am – 5 pm

Borobudur Sunset: 5 pm – 6.30 pm

CANDI PRAMBANAN OPENING HOURS

Prambanan Opening Hours: 6 AM – 5 PM ( and on public holidays)

BOROBUDUR AND PRAMBANAN ENTRANCE FEES 

Borobudur ticket 1-Day Pass (Borobudur entrance fee): 25 USD for foreigners (credit cards accepted – MasterCard, Visa; cash – only accepting in IDR); 10 USD discount for students with student ID (but the discount is not valid only for Borobudur sunrise tour)

Borobudur Ticket

Borobudur sunrise ticket: 33 USD for foreigners (475.000 IDR); can exclusively be bought at Manohara Resort Hotel in Yogyakarta; Ticket for Borobudur sunrise is possible to buy online. Click here to book online Borobudur sunrise ticket

Borobudur sunset ticket: 33 USD for foreigners (475.000 IDR); can exclusively be bought at Manohara Resort Hotel in Yogyakarta; Ticket for Borobudur sunset is possible to buy online. Click here to book online Borobudur sunset ticket

Prambanan entrance fee:  25 USD for foreigners

Prambanan Ticket

Borobudur Prambanan combo ticket: 40 USD, online (the combo ticket is valid for the next 24 hours)

STEPS AND TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR YOUR PERFECT TRIP

1. Find and book your flight: Skyscanner
2. Find and book your stay: Booking.comHotelsCombined.com
3. Get travel insurance (insure yourself against any accident, sickness, theft, and canceled flight): WorldNomads.com
4. Find and book great guided day tours: GetYourGuideViator

HOW TO GET TO BOROBUDUR

The historic temple of Borobudur is located about 25 miles (46 km) northwest of the town of Yogyakarta in Java.

GETTING TO BOROBUDUR:

From Yogyakarta to Borobudur

You can go from Yogyakarta to Borobudur by public bus, taxi, renting a car or motorbike. A drive from Jogjakarta to Borobudur takes about an hour and a half. 

The local public bus goes from the Jombor bus terminal in Yogyakarta to Borobudur Bus Terminal. A bus ride lasts an hour and a half. A one-way ticket costs about 1.7 USD (25000 IDR). 

From Jakarta to Borobudur 

The best options to go from Jakarta to Yogyakarta are by train and plane. The most popular way among tourists is to travel from Jakarta to Yogyakarta is by train.  That’s something I did. 11 trains a day run from Jakarta to Yogyakarta.  The ride lasts about 8-9 hours, but if you take a day train, you will enjoy the scenic Javanese countryside!  Jakarta – Yogyakarta train goes from Pasar Senen Station (the business and economy class) or Gambir Station (the executive class) in Jakarta to Lempuyangan and Tugu Train Station (the central station) in Yogyakarta.

Flying from Jakarta airport to Yogyakarta airport is obviously the faster option. A flight from Jakarta to Yogyakarta lasts only an hour. Many airlines fly from Jakarta airport to Yogyakarta airport like AirAsia, Citilink Indonesia, Lion, Batik Air, Garuda Indonesia, Singapore Airlines etc.

From Bali to Borobudur

The best way to travel from Bali to Yogyakarta is by plane. A flight from Bali to Yogyakarta takes only about an hour and a half.

There are many airline companies that fly from Denpasar Airport to Yogyakarta Airport you can choose from and some of them are low-cost airlines: Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, Mandala Air …

You can also travel overland from Bali to Yogya by bus from Denpasar’s Ubung Terminal to Yogya’s main bus terminal, Giwangan. A bus ride from Bali to Yogyakarta takes 17 hours. Yes, it is a long ride from Bali to Yogyakarta, but, but the way you can see Mt Ijen and  Mt Bromo volcanoes.

Borobudur and Prambanan Full Day tour from Bali (with Flight Tickets)

HOW TO GET TO PRAMBANAN

Prambanan temple is located about 17 km (11 mi) northeast of Yogyakarta. 

From Yogyakarta to Prambanan

If you want to explore Prambanan on your own, you should know that Transyogya bus goes from the Jombor bus terminal in Yogyakarta to Prambanan, but you need to change the bus 3 times: from the Jombor terminal to Terminal Condong, from Terminal Condong to Terminal Maguwo, from Terminal Maguwo to Prambanan Terminal. A bus ride from Yogyakarta to Prambanan lasts up to 60 minutes in total. A one-way ticket costs about 0, 25 USD (3600 IDR). 

BEST TIME TO VISIT BOROBUDUR AND PRAMBANAN

The best time to visit Yogjakarta and the Yogyakarta temples is in the dry season from April to October. In the dry season, days are hot, dry and sunny with average daily temperatures from 69.8°F (21°C) to 89.6°F (32°C).

Rainy season in Java goes from November to March. Because of the regular strong rain showers, I would not recommend visiting Borobudur and Prambanan temples during the monsoon season from November to March.

MAP OF BOROBUDUR AND PRAMBANAN 

Borobudur vs Prambanan? Which one do you like more Borobudur or Prambanan? Any thoughts about Prambanan vs Borobudur? Or maybe you are just like me, in love with Borobudur and Prambanan?!

Visiting Borobudur and Prambanan: Borobudur vs Prambanan
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ MY DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO.

26 comments

  1. They all look absolutely stunning, especially the Prambanan temple. It must have been great fun walking around and admiring their beauty

      1. I understand that, Carol. I am feeling blessed and thankful for visiting Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Borobudur and Prambanan in Indonesia. They are all unique, unparalleled and spectacular. After all, they are World Heritage sites of outstanding universal value.

  2. I remember walking up to Borobudur still at night with flashlights and waiting for the sunrise over the temple and it was really spectacular. I loved the entire experience Prambanan temple is also an amazing complex of temples to visit and a highlight to the area.

  3. We have not yet visited this part of Indonesia. But the mystical island of Java an the “candi” of Borobudur and Prambanan would be interesting to see. I would not have expected to find the largest Buddhist temple in the world here. Such fascinating carvings in stone. The stories they must tell. Thanks for noting that it may be difficult to visit both on the same day unless you book a tour to do them together.

  4. My favorite is Borobudur by far. I was immediately captivated by its architecture. They look like bells! I bet the sunrise is amazing there. I will definitely have to add it to my list!

  5. I had no idea that these temples were so huge, or that Borobudur was built before Angkor Wat. It sounds like a tour is the way to go. I would definitely like to see and photograph Borobudur at sunrise.

  6. Wow, Borobudur temple looks like rows of bells. I can’t believe it is older than Angkor Wat. I would love to be at the Prambanan temple complex at sunset – those intricate towers would be so captivating as silhouettes!

  7. Borobudur Sunrise Tour seems like an amazing experience. We took a sunrise tour of Chichen Itza which, despite being on the other side of the world, seemed very similar. It was only available from a certain hotels and it let us explore a beautiful site without the crowds and in the perfect lighting.

  8. Visiting these temples are definitely high on my list when I get to visit Indonesia. 🙂 Though I’d prefer to visit the temples at my own pace, a sunrise and sunset tour sounds great, especially if the view is as beautiful as they say. 🙂

  9. Very informative post on Borobudur and Prambanan. Both are impressive. It amazes me that Hinduism had spread till Indonesia several centuries back. A great place for photography, I would like to plan a visit during the twilight hours.

  10. This post brings a lot of good memories! I visited these temples in 2017 and was totally in love with them. They are truly beautiful and so full of history. Congrats for this post and all the tips you give.

  11. The temples look simply magical! I would love to visit the ancient Indonesian temples. Great photos and thanks for writing such a detailed guide!

  12. I didn’t know about these temples in Indonesia, most of the posts I have seen about the country is about nature and beaches. I wouldn’t be able to guess Indonesia has the largest Buddhist temple in the World and the largest Hindu temple.

    1. Hey Mansoureh,

      Yes, Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the World. And Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia (not in the World). As far as I know, the largest Hindu temple in the World is Srirangam temple in Tamil Nadu in India.

      But the largest religious complex in the World is Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Angkor Wat is a complex of temples and it is both a Hindu and Buddhist temple complex (It was founded as a Hindu complex but later got converted to a Buddhist complex).

      xoxo
      Milijana

  13. WOW! I would love to explore Borobudur and Prambanan. The entire area is beautiful and the Buddhist sculptures on Borobodur are amazing. Would love to walk through that visual story

  14. Stunning! Until I saw your photos, I had no idea how elaborate the architecture was for both temples. Both are so different, of course, since one is Hindu and the other Buddhist. I am completely taken with Prambanan temple! And like you, I think I would opt to see one temple one day, the other the next, at my own pace. The “jam them into a day tour” with a 5:00 am start sounds a bit rushed and brutal.

  15. I had never heard of the Borobudur and Prambanan temples before, but you definitely made me want to visit! I appreciate that you took the time to not only give us the background on each temple, but also included hours, fees, and how to get there. This is such a helpful article!

  16. Thank you for your detailed post about these two temples! I have seen so many pictures of them on Instagram and elsewhere but never knew where they were or how to visit them. It’s incredible how many statues exist at Borobudur. I’ll keep them on my list of options for the next few months now that I’m based in Vietnam 🙂

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