Photo Essay: Borobudur Temple at Sunrise

Few things are quite as breathtaking as having a historic place virtually to yourself. I tried it at Petra, entering at 6:00am to get some solitary time at The Treasury, which really proved to be memorable. So when it came time to visit Indonesia‘s Borobudur Temple, the largest Buddhist Temple on Earth and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I knew I wanted to do the sunrise. 

Borobudur Sunrise

While there are many “Sunrise Tours” that leave nearby Yogyakarta (pronounced Johgjakarta), there’s a problem with these…they stop outside of the actual site so you can watch the sunrise with the temple in the background.

If I was going to do the sunrise I wanted to do it right, and there’s only one way to do that…by going on a “tour” run by the on site Manohara Hotel. This package allows you to enter the temple itself starting at 4:30am, well before the gates open at 6:00am. It ain’t cheap at 380,000 IDR (about US$32), though guests at the expensive hotel get a discounted rate of 230,000 IDR or US$19 (I ended up staying at the hotel, as I split the cost of the room with a friend).

Borobudur Sunrise

So, was it worth it? Absolutely! There were very few people there…

Borobudur Sunrise

And the view was just incredible!

Borobudur Sunrise

Borobudur Sunrise

Borobudur Sunrise

As the sun grew higher in the sky it illuminated the exposed Buddha in a spectacular fashion.

Borobudur Sunrise

Borobudur Sunrise

Borobudur Sunrise

Borobudur Sunrise

Borobudur Sunrise

The morning light also hit some of the upper level Stupas pretty well.

Borobudur Sunrise

Borobudur Sunrise

Borobudur Sunrise

As 6:00am rolled around and the temple started to become flooded with tourists making a beeline for the upper “Nirvana” levels, I made my way down, keen on catching another hour or two of sleep. Along the way, I couldn’t help but stop and take a few photos of the backs of Buddha heads staring out across the misty jungle.

Borobudur Buddha

Borobudur Buddha

Borobudur Buddha

Sunrises at places like this can be special, and, you know what? I don’t think I will ever forget sitting up there at 4:30am watching the sun peek over a couple of volcanoes! For Borobudur’s sunrise was just magical!

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12 Responses to Photo Essay: Borobudur Temple at Sunrise

  1. jaime February 14, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    Oh man I didn’t make it to Indonesia while I was in SEA, but hope to one day. Your photos are amazing. This is something I’d love to experience & thanks for the tips! Sometimes are best memories are the sunrises we see around the world.

    • Aaron February 15, 2014 at 12:36 am #

      Indonesia is my new favorite country in Southeast Asia! It’s so astoundingly diverse and it would take a lifetime to see everything that’s there! I would go back in a heartbeat! And yes, agreed, sunrises and sunsets can be unforgettable! I’ve had some great ones I’ll never forget! Mount Sinai, Angkor Wat, Petra, The Pyramids! I’m not a morning person by any scope of the imagination, but I’m rarely disappointed if the place is right!

  2. cailin February 14, 2014 at 11:52 pm #

    Gorgeous! When I was there, there was a bit of a haze and clouds so we couldn’t really see the sunrise and we couldn’t see those mountains/volcanoes in the distance either! Now I need to go back! haha

    • Aaron February 15, 2014 at 12:37 am #

      Haha yes I remember you and I were messaging back and forth about this while I was there! 😛 The jungle was all misty too which made for quite the stunning view! Clearly, you must go back! Just like I must got back to Bromo…

  3. Pamela February 17, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    Lucky you, the sky looks pretty clear for a sunrise! The other time instead of going to borobudur for the sunrise because they only allow visitors from a couple of hotels in that early, I ended up going to this place, Borobudur Nirwana Sunrise whereby you are able to catch the sunrise overlooking borobudur from there! Too bad the sky was rather cloudy, could only catch a teeny weeny bit of the stupas.
    Anyway, pretty stunning photos you have there! 😀

    • Aaron February 28, 2014 at 3:11 am #

      Yeah I saw all those shops in Yogyakarta selling those tours, but I was pretty dead set on doing the sunrise thing that gets you into Borobudur. It was pricey, but having the whole place to yourself was a pretty magical experience! And thanks!

  4. NM April 20, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your experience and pics. I will be there first week of June.

    • Aaron May 12, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

      How exciting! Do yourself a favor a shell out the extra cash for the sunrise entry. It’s SO worth it! Enjoy!

  5. John June 22, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    What a gorgeous place! And the time of the day you were there just made it look a lot better.

    • Aaron July 4, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

      Thanks! Sunrise and sunset are the two best times per day to take photos! They can be kind of hit or miss though. Luckily for me, this one was a hit!

  6. Francisco September 4, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

    Great shots!, by the way , when did you take the pictures? I mean.. month, you had a perfect day!

    • Aaron September 4, 2015 at 7:17 pm #

      Thanks! These were taken in August, which is the dry season. Good weather is no guarantee though. A mere 3 days earlier I had a botched sunrise attempt at Bromo, a dramatic-looking Volcano in East Java. There was so much fog, though, that you couldn’t see anything! So after that experience, I felt very lucky to have such a perfect day!

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