(Borobudur, Central Java, Indonesia)
The Borobudur Temple is a spectacular structure and the number one reason that tourists pay a visit to this small village. Serving as a major monument to Lord Buddha, the Borobudur Temple is actually the largest Buddhist temple in the whole of Indonesia
and has become a site used for Buddhist pilgrimage, especially in May, on the birthday of Buddha himself (Waisak).
Built in the 9th century, the Borobudur Temple really is a shrine of epic proportions, since it was constructed with in excess of two million stone blocks. There are also more than 2,650 individual relief panels, as well as a total of 504 statues of Buddha.
When viewed from above, the Borobudur Temple is very symmetrical in design, with six square terrace areas, topped by a further three circular platforms and reached by four grand sets of stairs, each of which lead you through some elaborately carved gateways and to the top.
The main dome (stupa) is centrally sited at the very top, where it is surrounded by a total of 72 statues of Buddha. Admission to the temple does also include entrance to the onsite Karmawibhangga Archaeological Museum
, where much of the mystery and history is explained.
Borobudur is now the biggest tourist attraction that Indonesia has to offer and is therefore visited by huge crowds of tourists, numbering around three million each year. However, for roughly 10,000 years, the Borobudur Temple remained completely abandoned, being covered in volcanic ash and quite overgrown with jungle foliage. The exact reason why it was abandoned will always remain a mystery, although most historians and archaeologists tend to agree that its demise was the result of extreme volcanic activity in the 10th century, less than 200 years after it was completed.
It is said that the Borobudur Temple soon became the story of legends and is was not until 1814 that this mammoth structure was rediscovered, when British statesmen Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles was staying in Semarang
and heard rumours that a large temple had been lost to the world, close to the village of Bumisegoro.
During a two-month period, a team of men cut down over 200 mature trees and carefully dug away to reveal this splendid monument, although it was not until 20 years later that the excavation was finally completed and the Borobudur Temple had been fully unearthed. In the 1970s, UNESCO funded a major restoration that lasted seven years, after which the monument was then awarded the prestigious title of being a World Heritage Site.
If you wish to try and avoid the crowds, then do consider coming early in the morning, when you can also enjoy a sunrise. Some private 'Sunrise Tours' depart as early as 05:00 in the morning (arriving well before the temple is officially open to the general public), when a visit to the Borobudur Temple is quite tranquil and relaxed, feeling much more intimate and personal. Later on in the day is also a recommended time to arrive, from 16:00 onwards, or during the Ramadan period, when the temple is at its most quiet.
Open hours: daily - 06:00 to 17:00