When it comes to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, most travelers think about visiting Borobudur & Prambanan temple. A lot of people visit Kraton (Royal Palace) and Taman Sari, and some visit mount Merapi as well. Travelers visit Yogyakarta, Indonesia as part of their journey around Java island before continuing the trip towards Bromo, Ijen, Bali, and Lombok. And most people only stay in Jogja for a few days. But Jogja is more than just ancient Buddist & Hindu temples or the royal palace and former bathing complex. Nature surrounds Jogja has much to offer to everyone who visits the charming city.
I didn’t know that Yogyakarta, Indonesia has plentiful fascinating caves and pretty waterfalls before some folks who have been living here for a few years showed me those places. Not only are they pretty, but most of the places I visited also looked well maintained and clean. As you might have guessed, during my 4 months stay in Jogja I became busy visiting some other cool places in the area, besides enjoying some quiet beach time in Karimunjawa.
Most of the places I visited has become popular among local visitors. But only a few foreign tourists pay a visit. So, if you are looking for beautiful nature yet still less touristy so you are able to enjoy the scenery and relaxing vibes, I suggest you to pay a visit to some of the places I’ve visited. Trust me, you won’t regret spending a few more days in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA : OVERVIEW
Yogyakarta (often spelled and pronounced Jogjakarta, or Jogja and Yogya for short) is the center of Javanese culture, the predominant culture in Indonesia. If Jakarta is Java’s and Indonesia’s political and economic capital, then Yogyakarta is its cultural soul. In Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Javanese philosophy flows in every breath of the citizens. Yogyakarta population is around 423.000 (2017).
Rich in history ranging from Buddist & Hindu eras, the Mataram kingdom era, through the war of Independence (during which Jogja was Indonesia’s capital for a few years), Jogja emerged as one of Indonesia’s education centers and also the main tourist hub in Java. Foreign tourists flock to Jogja to see Indonesia’s most important archeological sites, learn Javanese art & culture, and admire a beautiful blend of Javanese and Dutch architecture. Meanwhile, local tourists come to Jogja to experience a slow-paced lifestyle and enjoy the relaxing vibes offered by Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
As the only officially recognized monarchy within Indonesia that’s ruled by a sultan, Jogja is indeed one of the most unique regions to visit in Indonesia. While you are planning your trip to Jogja and thinking about visiting historical sites such as Borobudur, Prambanan, and Ratu Boko temple, or planning to learn to make batik or cook gado-gado, I will show you some hidden gems in Yogyakarta, Indonesia that also worth your time and energy.
- Kedung Pedut
Located in Jatimulyo village, Girimulyo, Kulonprogo Regency, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Kedung Pedut can be reached by driving for around 1 hour towards the southwest. When I saw the waterfall and natural pools, I was so amazed that I could find a turquoise-colored natural pools around Jogja. By curiosity, I asked the guard if the color is real or purposely made to attract tourists. With an annoyed look, he told me that of course the color is real!
A friend from Jogja showed me the place back in May. We drove towards the southwest. Soon after we left Jogja city, the scenery alternated from residential areas to terraced rice fields and hills. We passed Kiskendo cave, and drove uphill until we finally saw a directions board to Kedung Pedut. To enter, we had to pay Rp.3.000,00 per person and Rp.5.000,00 for the car parking fees. Kedung Pedut is located at the bottom of the valley so we had to go down the steps across the forest for 15 minutes.
The 16-meter high waterfall and the turquoise-colored natural pools of Kedung Pedut come from Kelir mountain, a limestone mountain located in between Kulonprogo Regency, Yogyakarta and Purworejo, Central Java. Its location, which is hidden between hills makes the kedung (natural pools) sometimes covered with fog, so that the surrounding community dubbed it Kedung Pedut. In Javanese pedut means fog.
The water flows along the river and crosses the cascade and creates multi-tiered waterfalls of up to hundreds of meters, from the size of a door or dozens of meters of the waterfall. We were so lucky that we visited Kedung Pedut during the fasting month. Almost nobody was there so we could swim and enjoy the waterfall & natural pools only for ourselves. It was fun swimming in 3 meters deep natural pools without any other tourists!
Kedung Pedut consists of 6 waterfalls; Kedung Pedut, Kedung Anyes, Kedung Lanang, Kedung Wedok, Kedung Merak, and Kedung Merang. You need at least 2 hours if you’d like to see all of it. One particular thing that I like about my visit to Kedung Pedut is the bamboo bridge built over the river. It gives the place an atmosphere of real Indonesian countryside.
Not far from Kedung Pedut, we found Taman Sungai Mudhal. Translated as Mudhal river park, the place consists of a small waterfall, a swimming pool and some small natural pools in which the water comes from a cave in Girimulyo, Kulonprogo. Taman Sungai Mudhal seems intentionally built as a family recreation center. It has more tourist facilities such as flying fox, viewpoint tower, restaurants, and warungs, even equipped with wifi services. Between the two places, I prefer Kedung Pedut since it looks more natural.
Open hours : Monday – Sunday : 08.00 AM to 05.00 PM
2. Kiskendo Cave
Kiskendo cave offers two things at once: beauty and a story.
We found Kiskendo cave on the way to Kedung Pedut. Located at the border of Kulonprogo Regency, Yogyakarta and Purworejo, Central Java, Kiskendo cave is a geopark site that offers an experience of exploring through the long curves of the cave decorated by stalactites while remembering a story from the Ramayana epic.
The cave was found in 1820 and officially opened as a tourist attraction in 1964. We paid Rp.10.000,00 to enter the cave and Rp.5.000,00 for car parking fees. Before entering the cave, we were greeted by a relief carved on the rocky cliffs around the cave entrance. The relief tells a story from the Ramayana epic. It’s about an intense battle where Mahesasuro and Lembusuro fought against Subali, the half-monkey-half-human-man. Subali won the battle but Sugriwa mistakenly thought that Subali died in the cave. He then decided to close the cave. The misunderstanding between the two makes them fight which leads to Subali’s death. We stood stunned for a while in the face of the odd relief that was carved in 1980 by a local art community.
To enter the cave, we had to go down the stairs to the depths of the cave. The farther we stepped in, the darker it got, until the light from our phones became the only guide. It wasn’t a difficult exploration since the whole length of the track has been paved. Sometimes I heard the sound of water drops falling from the stalactites, creating small holes and cold air. It made the atmosphere in the cave feel quieter but also a little bit scary. To be honest, this is the most beautiful cave I have ever visited. It was large and decorated with a lot of stalactites. Going to the cave wasn’t my thing since I don’t like being in a dark place, but since visiting Kiskendo cave I begin to like the cave.
It doesn’t take a long time to explore every part of the Kiskendo cave. We spent 30 minutes inside the 800-meters depth cave. On the way back from the cave I saw hermitages sites. Kiskendo cave has 9 hermitage sites since the cave was often used for meditation.
The cave is kept in good condition. Outside from the cave, there’s a small footpath that leads to the park. On the way back to the parking area, we saw a monkey locked up in a cage. It’s sad to see an animal being locked up in a cage, lacking its freedom and forced to rely on the foods given by visitors.
If you plan to visit Kuloprogo Regency, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, make sure to visit the marvelous cave as well.
Open hours : Monday – Sunday : 08.00 AM to 05.00 PM
3. Blue Lagoon
I decided to pay a visit to Blue Lagoon since I saw a street sign towards Blue Lagoon on the road near my house. Although it has the same name as Blue Lagoon in Iceland, Blue Lagoon Jogja is completely different than the former one. The name comes from the color of its waters. Blue Lagoon is a natural spring, part of the Tepus river which is built as a Jerangkong reservoir for the local rice field irrigation system. The water looks clear, clean, and feel cold, while the scenery is pretty nice since it’s surrounded by a bamboo forest.
It used to be called Pemandian Setia Budi but gradually came to be called Blue Lagoon since students from a university in Jogja call it that because the water has a turquoise color. Since 2014 the Blue Lagoon has become increasingly popular among local visitors. Swimming and relaxing here are perfect to unwind fatigue and stress on weekends. When I was there, I also saw some locals jumped from the cliff. Cool!
Blue Lagoon is located at Dalem village, Widodomartani, Ngemplak, Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. To reach the natural springs, take a car or motorbike towards Jalan Kaliurang Km.13, at Besi-Jankang junction, then turn right towards Pasar Jangkang then turn right. Blue Lagoon is 100 meters from Pasar Jangkang. The entrance is Rp. 10.000,00 per person and includes a bottle of tea.
Open Hours : Monday – Sunday : 08.00 AM to 05.00 PM
4. Cave Tubing at Pindul Cave
Pindul cave is a cave that becomes part of the group of seven caves with an underground river flowing inside. Its located in Bejiharjo village, Karangmojo, Gunung Kidul Regency, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. To reach the cave, I drove for 1 hour 30 minutes from Jogja’s city center.
It was an enjoyable yet challenging experience. I felt the sensation of adventure when I did cave tubing. Riding a tube and by wearing a life vest, I go along the river in the darkness of the bowels of the earth. During the journey inside the cave, I was fascinated by seeing stalactites & stalagmites in various sizes, moon milk, crystals and even some bats. I was accompanied by a guide for 45 minutes exploring the cold cave.
I did cave tubing at 3.30 PM. I feel glad visiting Pindul cave during the afternoon time since I didn’t see any visitors other than me and my friend. I also felt lucky I didn’t visit the cave on the weekend. The guide showed the picture on his phone of how full Pindul cave is during the weekend. It looked like the famous image of a packed beach in China during the summer that I saw on the internet. Scary! Even though I like visiting the cave in the afternoon, the guide told me that the best time to visit the cave is in the morning, around 9 or 10 AM since the water won’t be too cold and there’s a chance we may see the light from heaven, which is actually the sunlight from above that goes through the big hole in the top of the cave.
The cave is named Pindul, and along with other caves around Bejiharjo village, is based on a legend about Joko Singlulung’s journey to find his father. After exploring the dense forests, mountains, and rivers, Joko Singlulung got into the caves in Bejiharjo. In one of the caves, he bent the rock, so the place was named Pindul as the short form of Pipi Gebendul in Javanese languange.
WARNING: SCAM HAPPENS!!
On the way to the Pindul cave, I saw some road signs towards Pindul, which is strange since the Waze app told me to go straight instead of turn left like the road signs were suggesting me to do. At the time I thought there might be a potential scam happening here and I was right. 10 minutes before reaching the site, my car was stopped by 2 men. They said they are official guides and willing to help to guide me to the destination without receiving any payment. It was completely unnecessary since I could find the cave by following the GPS, but still, I let one of them guide us. My bad feeling about him turned out to be true. He pushed me and my friend to buy a tourist package consists of 2 caves and a river tubing trip. The package was very strange since the price is more expensive than if I buy it separately. I’ve read that the ticket for cave tubing in Pindul cave is only Rp.40.000,00 (including guides and equipment). But this guy asked us to pay Rp.150.000,00 per person for 2 caves and a river tubing trip. I tried to ask for help from the ticket guy but he didn’t do anything. In the end, we bought the package from him.
When we were in the cave, our guide who was also the person who sold the ticket told us that the guy who pretended to be our guide was a scammer. The locals call them as joki. The guide said that the villagers used to try to stop their activity but ended up being threaten with dead by the jokis, so now they let them do what they want. The scammers took the commission money Rp.50.000,00/ person by pretending to be the guide which means they’re doing nothing!
I’d rather give the money as a tip to our guide since he was a funny and nice person. Next time I visit Pindul cave, I won’t bother to stop when they approach my car and will firmly refuse their ‘service’. If you are going to visit the cave, don’t let them scam you as they did to me and my friend.
Open hours : Monday – Sunday : 7 AM to 5 PM
5. Puncak Becici (Becici Peak)
I went to Puncak Becici on a nice sunday a few weeks ago since I was curious about the peak that’s often seen on Instagram. The location isn’t too far from Jogja’s city center, around 30 km. I drove to Muntuk village in Bantul Regency where Puncak Becici located, and within 41 minutes I got there. I paid Rp.2.500,00 for entrance fees and Rp.5.000,00 for car parking fees.
It was crowded when we got there. I saw a lot of uniformed students lined up to take a picture at the peak. All of them were locals and there was only one foreign tourist. It seems Obama visited in 2017 and attracted more visits from the locals instead of foreign tourists like the management had expected. But I have also heard the locals like to visit the peak since it offers panoramic views, especially the sunset view. I saw some of them lined up to sit on one of the wooden decks upon the trees to take a picture.
Puncak Becici was first opened in 2015. It occupies 4,4 hectares of pine forest and is a part of Blok Mangunan. Blok Mangunan itself consists of seven tourism blocks run by the locals.
Come here to enjoy the scenic landscape of Yogyakarta, Indonesia from a height of 380 meters. When the weather is nice, you can even see mount Merapi and Parangtritis beach from the peak.
The peak can be easily accessed by a two-wheeled or four-wheeled vehicle.
Have you found other hidden gems in Yogyakarta, Indonesia?
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