Borobudur – Magelang, Indonesia - Atlas Obscura


Hundreds of Buddhas in a re-discovered Indonesian temple. 


Built in the late 8th century, Borobudur temple took an army of workers and 60,000 cubic meters of lava rock to construct. Yet despite its massive size and elaborate rows of Buddha statues, it was mysteriously abandoned during the 14th century and sat in the jungle, undiscovered until 1814.

In the style of a step-pyramid, the temple has six square bases, topped with three circular layers and a large main stupa. Pilgrims and visitors alike follow a guided path to the top of the complex, which leads them around the monument a number of times before reaching the peak. Along the way, the path is marked by 500 Buddha statues and thousands of reliefs that depict daily life in Buddhist Java.

At one point in time, Borobudur was the center of Buddhist life in Indonesia, but the adoption of Islam led to a complete abandonment in the 14th century. During the period of British administration in Java, the monument was rediscovered by a Governor-General, and he led the charge over the next 30 years to fully excavate the site and reveal the mysterious lost temple.

Since that time, restoration has become a priority and Borobudur is now protected as a UNESCO site. Despite efforts to protect the temple, a few stupas were nearly destroyed during a terrorist attack in 1985. As the site is quite near to a few active volcanos, the temple has also received its share of volcanic dust and earthquake events. The effort for conservation has always been made after similar events happened.

Know Before You Go

Most people visit Borobudur temple from Yogyakarta as a side or day trip. But it is also well recommended to stay the night at the city itself. From Yogyakarta to Borobudur, there is a public bus connecting the cities. If you are doing a day trip, it is advisable to hire a car along with a driver to get there and back. Alternatively, if you are coming from the west side, catch the public bus from Wonosobo heading towards Yogyakarta and drop off at Borobudur. If you are coming from Jakarta, the easiest way is to first take the direct train to Yogyakarta, and then do a side trip to Borobudur after. The temple is open to public from 6:00 AM to 5:00 PM but only those who get a special pass from the Manohara Hotel can get in before 6:00 AM. Note that you don't need to be a guest of this hotel to get the special pass though.

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