In this Yogyakarta travel guide, I share the five best things to do in Yogyakarta, the best vegetarian restaurants in the city and the best hotels in Yogyakarta. This Yogyakarta travel guide focuses on local culture, vegetarian food and green accommodation, to bring you the best green and local travel advice about the city.
Yogyakarta – pronounced Jogjakarta – is often referred to as Yogya or Jogja by locals. The city has an arty vibe and its common to see street art adorning the walls as you walk around. What we really loved about Yogyakarta though was the culture. There are tonnes of things to do in Yogyakarta and around the city too, including the famous temples, workshops with local artisans, cycling tours and eating local Indonesian food.
5 Best Things to Do in Yogyakarta
- Rise early to catch sunrise at Borobudur
- Drive a scooter out to Prambanan Hindu temples for sunset
- Make your own ring at a Silver Making Workshop
- Wander around the serene Water Castle
- Listen to traditional gamelan music at the Kraton (Sultan’s Palace)
Sunrise at Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple, is the main reason travellers come to Yogyakarta (though there are many other amazing sights around the city). We decided to drive to Borobudur by scooter so that we could take our time and because we planned to drive up the nearby volcano afterwards. We actually missed sunrise because the sun comes up very early at 5AM in Yogyakarta and we didn’t want to drive in the dark. Instead, we left at 6AM and arrived at 7:30AM. We were at the top of Borobudur by 8AM.
The view was glorious – it was a clear day with blue skies and we could see the lush greenery for miles. The only downside was that we went on a Sunday and at this time there were many school groups on the temple who were wanting to practise their English speaking with Westerners. Though I’m all for speaking with students in English (especially since we were teachers in Taiwan), this does mean Borobudur isn’t the peaceful and tranquil experience you might imagine.
Note: Knees need to be covered at Borobudur temple. If like me, you completely forgot this then the staff are on hand with sarong lending stands and you get to wear a fetching blue sarong like the one I’m sporting in the photo.
Prambanan is a 9th-century Hindu temple complex near Yogyakarta. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. We drove out for sunset at the temples, wanting to miss the crowds and the heat. The temple felt magical. The sunset was a pinky yellow colour and the tinkling sounds of gamelan music played around the site. There were still quite a few people visiting the main temple when we arrived with everyone clamouring to get a good Instagram shot (a common issue in Indonesia). After a quick look around the main temple, we climbed down and went to explore the other three small temples in the grounds. There was no one at the other temples, so we got to enjoy them all to ourselves.
Silver Making Workshop at Studio 76
Silver making is an important industry in Yogyakarta and what better way to experience it than attending a silver making workshop with a local silversmith. We learned to make our own silver rings in a 2-hour silver making workshop at Studio 76 in Kota Gede. The workshop was awesome and not like anything we’d tried before. Romeo, the silversmith running the workshop, instructed us through the process from start to finish. The silver making workshop can be booked directly with Studio 76 or through ViaVia. Definitely a favourite of ours from this Yogyakarta travel guide.
Water Castle (Taman Sari)
The Water Castle was the former royal garden and baths of the Sultan of Yogyakarta. The unique lightly coloured terracotta building houses a beautiful pool and underground tunnels. It very aptly rained when we visited the Water Castle, but this added to the atmosphere of the place.
Underrated by travellers, we really enjoyed the Kraton in Yogyakarta. The Kraton is the Royal Palace of the Sultan. The building is beautiful, though it’s true that it needs some TLC. What’s really special about the Kraton are the performances that take place on certain days of the week. We went to see the gamelan (traditional percussion) performance and it was a really beautiful and serene experience.
Cultural performances are:
- Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 10AM-12PM is gamelan (percussion)
- Wednesday 10AM-12PM and Saturday 9AM-12PM is wayang golek (puppetry)
- Friday 9AM-11AM is Javanese poetry reading
- Sunday 11AM-12PM is Javanese dance
Note: Beware of the men who try to stop you in the street when you’re walking to the Kraton. These guys will tell you that the performance schedule is wrong and you’ve got the wrong day or time. They might also tell you that you’re walking the wrong way. Ignore them, smile politely and just keep walking. They are trying to get tourists to visit expensive batik shops instead.
Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Yogyakarta
Vegetarian food is abundant in Yogyakarta. In this Yogyakarta travel guide, I’m going to share the best vegetarian restaurants and veg-friendly places to eat in the city. Tofu and tempeh are common proteins and are used frequently in Indonesian cooking. Dairy, on the other hand, is rarely used in Indonesian cooking. This means that vegetarian meals are mostly vegan too. Vegans can eat in local warungs (restaurants) provided a little bit of research is done beforehand. However, vegetarians and vegans should be wary that shrimp paste is often added into sauces used on otherwise vegan meals, but often you can say ‘no thanks’ to this at local stalls and warungs.
Local Indonesian Specialities for Vegetarians and Vegans
Indonesian specialities vegetarians and vegans should look out for include nasi goreng (fried rice), gado gado (vegetable salad with peanut sauce), lotek (similar to gado gado), tahu and tempe sate (tofu and tempeh on skewers, usually served with peanut sauce but not always) and pecel (mixed veg salad with bean sprouts and peanut sauce).
How Much Does a Meal Cost in Indonesia?
Pricing in restaurants can vary substantially depending on whether you’re eating local food or Western-style or other foreign food. For a midrange restaurant selling Western food and aimed at tourists, a main mean will be IDR40,000+. In most midrange restaurants, Indonesian main meals will be IDR25,000-35,000. In local warungs, expect to pay as little as IDR10,000-20,000.
Our cheapest meal was IDR10,000 per person at the local Warung Lotek Pak Mul for an amazing gado gado. Our most expensive meal was IDR58,000 per person at Yak Yak for a Thai green curry which wasn’t that good. Those prices are just for the mains, not including drinks.
Midrange Vegetarian Restaurants
Milas (vegetarian) – The best vegetarian restaurant in Yogyakarta! Milas restaurant is set back from the main street in a serene garden with mountains and a fairtrade shop. It’s a non-profit that supports young people in the community. The food at Milas is all fresh, organic, homemade and delicious. Expect a mixed menu of local Indonesian food as well as pasta and salads. Our favourite dishes were the sambal goreng, a tofu, tempeh and potato coconut curry and the peanut tofu satay. Try the turmeric and tamarind juice too. For two mains and two drinks, we paid 115,000IDR.
ViaVia (veg-friendly) – A popular restaurant on Jl. Prawirotaman (the tourist street). We loved the food the first time we went, but on the second and third time we visited, we were let down by average food. You’ll find Indonesian and world food on the long menu. Each day there’s a different Indonesian special, so check ahead if there’s a particular dish you’re wanting to try. The dish I loved was sayur lodeh, a vegetarian Javanese dish of long beans and tofu cooked in coconut milk with rice and fried tempeh (the Saturday special). The coconut water drink with young fresh coconut and palm sugar called es degan is refreshing and delicious on a balmy evening. For two mains and two drinks, we paid 120,000IDR. Service is slow.
Water Castle Cafe (veg-friendly) – Family-run Water Castle Cafe sits between the Water Castle and the Kraton. A perfect lunch stop between visiting the two places. The cafe itself a traditional wooden style building with a few benches and tables and chairs inside. Grandma might be sitting at the front when you go in. The food is simple but good. Opt for the vegetarian gado gado (made with steamed vegetables, rather than the traditional salad style) and a banana mango lassi.
Best Vegetarian Local Restaurants in Yogyakarta
Warung Lotek Pak Mul (veg-friendly) – Our top food recommendation in this Yogyakarta travel guide!We were tipped off about this delicious lotek and gado gado stand by the staff at Trava House Hostel. This local lunch joint is a favourite of the locals and a hidden gem amongst tourists. They serve fresh Indonesian salads with peanut sauce. Lotek comes in different varieties, but we recommend the vegetable one (6th on the menu) with tofu. The gado gado is similar but also includes potato, egg and sticky rice triangles. All of the food served here is vegetarian, except for the fact that they use shrimp paste in some of the sauces. Some of the women working here speak English, so let them know you’re vegetarian and they will omit the shrimp paste. Lotek costs around IDR10,000 depending on which version you get. Gado gado costs IDR13,000 for a plate.
Waroeng SS Plengkung Gading (veg-friendly) – Want to eat local food at local prices? Try Waroeng SS Plengkung Gading. This local warung specialises in sambal (hot sauce made from chillies). Don’t expect exceptions for being a foreigner – they’ll make it spicier just how the locals have it. What’s great about this restaurant is that the food works like tapas. Order lots of little dishes including sambals and vegetable plates and then a portion of rice. They have loads of vegetarian options, including mango sambal, tofu and tempeh, water spinach and salad with peanut sauce. For two people, we ordered two sambals, four plates of veggies and two portions of rice. Our total meal cost 40,000IDR including two bottles of water.
Bu Wiryo (veg-friendly) – I read about this local restaurant when searching for the best place to get vegetarian pecel in Yogyakarta. Pecel is an Indonesian speciality consisting of vegetarables and bean sprouts with a slightly spicy, rich peanut sauce. It’s usually served with an egg, tofu and/or tempeh. Bu Wiryo is next to the universities and I hear it’s a popular spot for university students to grab a pecel on their lunch break. The staff are very friendly but English is limited. There are only two options on the menu: pecel and soup. Pecel is vegan (if you don’t add the egg), but the soup contains meat. Ask for pecel and they will serve you rice, vegetables, beansprouts and peanut sauce. They’ll give you the plate to add your own toppings (tofu, tempeh, egg, potato balls). School hall style dining. We paid IDR30,000 each for a main meal of pecel and a large sweet mug of tea.
Best Bakeries and Shops
Mediterranea (veg-friendly) – This Mediterranean restaurant serves up good pizza, pasta and salads, but really I’d recommend coming here for the bakery. Freshly baked bread include sourdough, rye and walnut. There’s a smalls shop inside also selling cheeses, nut butter and similar organic goods.
Chocolate Monggo – Yogyakarta’s best chocolate shop. Chocolate Monggo uses only natural ingredients and cocoa butter. There are lots of different flavours, from plain dark chocolate to mango, praline to red chilli. The packaging is made from recycled paper. You can also buy this chocolate from the shop at ViaVia, Milas and Mediterranea. It’s very slightly cheaper to buy it directly from the Chocolate Monggo shop.
Best Green Hotels in Yogyakarta
Trava House – This locally owned hostel is a real home away from home for travellers. The design is modern and the hostel is small, so the atmosphere here was tranquil and intimate. As digital nomads, it was a great place for us to work because it was quiet. Breakfast is a unique experience. The breakfast is different every day and served fresh; it’s usually a fruit juice and combination of snacks from local food stalls. The staff were incredibly friendly and had great local recommendations.
Book a private double room for £12 per night via Airbnb (get £25 / IDR444,301 off if it’s your first booking with this link).
Google Map: Gg. Dahlia, Mantrijeron, Kota Yogyakarta
Greenhost Boutique Hotel – Greenhost Boutique Hotel is an upmarket hotel with eco-credentials. It’s a unique, industrial design covered in greenery. The decor is an upcycled style. There’s a large swimming pool in the centre surrounded by green plants and a skylight the whole way along the ceiling, so it feels like a magical swimming experience. After a long day exploring Yogya, you can grab a 15-minute massage for 50,000 IDR and relax by the pool.
What I loved most about the hotel was the rooftop creative-farm. It’s not that green in Yogyakarta, so the rooftop garden is like a little slice of green heaven. Up there they are growing spinach, mint, basil, chillies, bok choy and loads of other greens. I spent quite a lot of time smelling all that delicious basil! All these fresh herbs and veggies are used the urban farm-to-table kitchen. The breakfast buffet is extensive, including fresh fruits, eggs, green rice, stir-fried veggies, muesli and healthy juices. A private double room costs £36.50 / IDR650,000.
Are you visiting Yogyakarta? Let us know if this Yogyakarta Travel Guide helped you out and what other amazing discoveries you make in the city.
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