Our resident Indonesia expert has been lucky enough to travel around the archipelago many times, and recounts how her visits to Bali, Lombok and Sumatra have really brought home just how different and unique all of the Indonesian islands are. And it was on her latest trip to visit Java, that she discovered an entirely new side to this ever-fascinating island nation…
Sure enough, Java brought its own charm and something entirely different to my knowledge of Indonesia than the other islands had. Getting the chance to visit Java, although it’s smaller than Sumatra, still left me feeling it was bigger because of its vast countryside stretching as far as the eye could see; rice paddies scattered throughout and farmers working in their fields. The island is also very strongly Muslim which gives it a strong sense of culture that was not so present on the other islands. The interesting Buddhist and Hindu history of Java means its version of Islam is something completely unique, which is fascinating. The land is so fertile, volcanoes are dotted around the horizon and your eyes are in permanent fixation. The great thing about going to visit Java is that there are great hotels and wonderful scenery pretty much everywhere. Not to mention the stunning islands (that no one seems to know about) North of Semerang which are comparable to the Maldives with their white sandy beaches and electric blue lagoons. If you have done Bali or are looking for more of an adventure, then Java is perfect for you.
Some beautiful hotels
Losari was my first stop. Set amongst lush coffee plantations, it is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the views of the mountains and the jungle. The MesaStila resort is simply perfect with its traditional Jepara houses, one of which used to be the home of the sultan of Jepara. The rooms are therefore huge, traditional and really are something very special.
Next stop was the wonderful Kura Kura resort, located on the Karimunjawa archipelago. To get here you take an eight-seater plane which flies over the wonderful islets, surrounded by turquoise lagoons. From Karimunjawa's main island there is a 20-minute speedboat to the island. Kura Kura is simply beautiful; coconut trees everywhere, a beautiful white beach and a stunning lagoon. With only 32 rooms, this hotel is perfect for couples looking for a romantic getaway. The resort also owns a castaway island which you can choose to stay on - your very own private island.
A spot of culture
For anyone looking to visit Java, Borobudur is a must. The largest Buddhist temple in the world, it is not only an impressive but also beautiful site. Heading here for sunrise is spectacular and a stay at Amanjiwo is the perfect combination. The location is breath-taking and for people who do not love beaches but are looking to relax, this is your place. I would have held onto one of the pillars and refused to leave if I hadn't been so excited to get to Jogjakarta.
Jogjakarta is the second most visited place in Indonesia, after Bali, and I was keen to find out why. The city was not overly exciting, but it was the first place where I noticed a lot of westerners. When I got to the sultan's palace and had visited the traditional puppeteers, silversmiths and batik makers, I understood why. This may be a well-trodden tourist route, but for good reason. I learned so much about the country and its beliefs as a whole, adding a level of understanding I did not get from the other cities I had visited in Indonesia.
Last but certainly not least was Mount Bromo, probably the most well-known volcano on Java. I had one night here and after a nine-hour train and car journey from Jogjakarta, hoped that the volcano would not be a disappointment... Well, it certainly delivered and exceeded my expectations. It started with a 3am wake-up, followed by a one-hour jeep drive to the highest point. From here we watched the sunrise over Mount Bromo and its surrounding craters. I can honestly say it was one of the best things I have ever seen. This was followed by a drive closer to the craters for some excellent photo opportunities and then a horse-ride up to the smoking crater of the live volcanoes of Bromo. All my photos honestly look photo-shopped (they're not, promise!) and I am still in awe of what I saw. A perfect way to end my trip in Java which had an incredible impact on both me and my friend, wanting to come back to Indonesia to see what else it has to offer. For me, West Papua is next!