SEMARANG (Gateway for Borobodur)
See a wonder of the world rising from Central Java - as you encounter the majestic Borobudur Temple, the largest Buddhist monument in existence. Hidden from the world for hundreds of years, below the ash of a vast volcanic eruption, it stands in all of its restored glory, with Mount Merapi looming imposingly behind. Semarang itself mainly functions as a gateway for Borobodur, but its port was a vital one for the Dutch colonisers, and the city continues to be a bustling centre of Java life. Hang around to discover Semarang's collection of colonial churches, and the towering Avalokitesvara Pagoda, which reaches up seven tiers into the city's skies.
A soaring UNESCO World Heritage Site, the sprawling Borobudur Temple covers 123 square metres of land and was completed in the 9th century. Learn of its mysteries and secrets, and of the abandonment and eruption, which would conceal it from view for hundreds of years. Built by the Syailendra dynasty – which ruled in Java for 500 years - the lotus flower-shaped temple was restored to its former glory in the 1970s and features three layers, stacked up with intricate carvings. The monuments represent key Buddhist beliefs relating to the process of attaining Nirvana. Indonesia’s largest Hindu temple also rises nearby, in the form of Prambanan Temple. Another lost UNESCO World Heritage Site, its soaring stone spires date back to the 9th century.