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Prambanan Temple Compounds

By Catherine

What are the Prambanan Temple Compounds? 

The Prambanan Temple Compounds is a significant archaeological and cultural site in Yogyakarta, on the island of Java, Indonesia. Built in the 9th century, Prambanan is recognized as Indonesia’s largest and most beautiful Hindu temple compound. 

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Text: Prambanan Temple Compounds, Indonesia. Images: two views of temples.
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The main temple complex consists of 240 temples, but the three main ones are the Shiva Temple (the biggest and most impressive), followed by the Brahma Temple and Vishnu Temple. The carvings drawn on the central temples illustrate the Ramayana epic of Ravana’s abduction of Sita and her husband Rama’s battle to rescue her. 

While the main temple complex is dedicated to Hindu gods, Buddhist temples and shrines surround the area. The Prambanan Temple Compounds is a remarkable example of how Hinduism and Buddhism, the two major religions in the region back then, coexisted harmoniously. In total, there are over 500 shrines and temples in various degrees of ruin.

Several temples in the background, ruins in the foreground.

Why is Prambanan Temple Compounds a UNESCO World Heritage site?

Prambanan Temple Compounds was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1991 because it is an “outstanding religious complex, characteristic of Siva expression of the 10th century.” Aside from its exceptional architectural mastery, the intricate carvings and blend of Hindu and Buddhist influences make the attraction unique, a “masterpiece of the classical period in Indonesia.”

A grey stone temple in the center with pointed down and smaller points. On either side of the path to the entrance, ruins of smaller structures.

What can you expect on a visit to Prambanan Temple? 

As soon as you walk through the entrance gate, stacks of partially-restored temples line the ancient walkways. The main temple catches your eye right away, with its impressive animal carvings on the tall pillars.

Unfortunately, access to the interiors of many temples is now restricted for preservation purposes. However, you can still appreciate the wall illustrations in very close proximity.

I recommend wandering through the main Hindu temple complex first before going to the Museum Candi Prambanan – an on-site museum with information about the temple complex – and the lesser-visited Buddhist shrine areas. Some Buddhist temples still allow visitors to climb the stairs and walk along the balcony alleyways.

Get ready for a good amount of walking because this complex is quite large, especially if you plan to go to every compound. Once you’re done exploring, catch the Ramayana Ballet performance on select evenings. It’s a traditional Javanese dance that tells the story of Rama and Sita.

Looking up the central stairway of one of the temples. A doorway in the center in the pointed top of the temple.

Is Prambanan Temple worth visiting? 

As one of the most famous landmarks in Indonesia, the Prambanan Temple Compounds is absolutely worth visiting. Although history enthusiasts will find it particularly fascinating, the temple’s grandeur and architectural beauty are outstanding even for non-historians.

When planning a visit, set aside at least a half day to walk the entirety of the complex. Many organized tours combine this with a trip to Borobudur, another UNESCO site, for a full day of ancient history.

Tips for visiting the Prambanan Temple Compounds

The complex hosts traditional Ramayana ballet dance shows on certain nights every week, usually in an open theatre during the dry season and an indoor theatre during the rainy season.

Hire a local guide or download an audio guide to understand the carvings and the stories behind the temples. Or take a tour that allows you to see the sunset from the complex.

A view of a temple between two trees.

Visit in the morning hours. The temple complex is most beautiful in the morning light, but the sunset glow produces a beautiful silhouette.

Buy a combination ticket. If you’re planning to visit Borobudur as well, a combined ticket can help you save some money on the entrance fees.

Book accommodations in Yogyakarta or use the map below:

Where is Prambanan Temple?

The Prambanan Temple is located in the Special Region of Yogyakarta in southern Java, Indonesia. The exact address is Jl. Raya Solo – Yogyakarta No.16, Kranggan, Bokoharjo, Kec. Prambanan, Kabupaten Sleman, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55571, Indonesia.

By car: The nearest city to Prambanan Temple is Yogyakarta, approximately 17 kilometers away. It takes around 30-40 minutes by car to reach the temple from Yogyakarta. A parking lot is available for visitors near the temple complex for a small fee.

By public transportation: Public buses run regularly from Yogyakarta to Prambanan. The journey typically takes around 45 minutes to an hour. From the bus stop, the temple is a short walk away.

For more detailed information about the Prambanan Temple, including its opening hours and admission fees, please visit the official website.

Text and photos provided by Catherine of Nomadicated, a travel blog inspiring adventurous travelers to fulfill their bucket list dreams in far-flung destinations. Catherine has traveled to 65 countries, spending over 4 months exploring Indonesia. 

Have you been to Prambanan Temple? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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