Flanked by West and East Java, this province is centrally located on Java island with Semarang as its provincial capital situated on the northern coast. A network of good roads and highways in addition to solid railways linking its major cities and villages plus the accessibility to reach it by air through three main airports, all assure the visitor that he finds himself in a region with more than adequate communications.
The land can be flat, hilly as well as mountainous, and is generally fertile and perhaps therefore, is also heavily populated by a people with age-old traditions as well as a rich culture. Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity have all taken part in the evolution of what Central Java is today. Two major seaports are to be noted: one on its northern coast called Tanjung Emas on the Java Sea, and the other one called Cilacap, a natural oceanport in the Indian Ocean, in the southern part of the province. Both these ports function perfectly as outlets for the transport of the province's agricultural and industrial products to the rest of Indonesia and to the world at large for its exports.
To most Indonesian visitors Central Java's history and its social influence over the whole nation are relatively known. The very first Moslem kingdom on the island was founded in 1511 at Demak, about 40 km from Semarang, which became the beachhead from which Islam spread out throughout the island. Today Demak is a sleepy little town, however, its glory of the past is still visible from one of the major relics now still well preserved, the Grand Mosque, a quaint blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture, still honored and worshipped by Javanese pilgrims.
Then there is Surakarta, better known as Solo, which is the cradle of Javanese culture, with two royal houses in one single city: the Kraton of Solo and the Mangkunegaran, a principality. Descendants of these two royal houses are still considered leaders of Javanese culture and traditions which are today still patterned after for their sophistication and bearing. Pre-Independence Heads of Regencies, functioning like small kingdoms throughout Java during the Dutch colonial era, were mostly descendants or relatives of the Solo royal houses which were at the time sufficiently cooperative with the colonial administration. Thus, during centuries of living feudalism it can still be felt and observed by watchful eyes in spite of almost half a century of the republican administration since Indonesia's independence from the Dutch.
Majestic ceremonies and royal festivals are still held with great pomp nowadays.
Towering over Central Java is the smoking volcano of Mount Merapi along with a dozen other smaller mountains, making this province one the prettiest and greener provinces of all.
In size and inhabitants, Semarang falls under the five major cities in the nation. It is situated on Java's normally flat northern coast and appropriately called the capital of Central Java as it lies just about halfway between the two extreme east and west coasts of the island. Indeed, few cities in the country have got hills and mountains so clearly visible from their seaports. In fact, mostly residential, Candi is a hill within Semarang's perimeter from where breathtaking panoramas on all directions can be witnessed: the port, the lowlands and green paddy fields, the city itself and the numerous mountains. The proximity of all this beauty promises adventurous car trips out of Semarang offering you memorable experiences and to be back in the city before dark.
There is an older part of the city, close to its ocean harbor, where you can still find an interesting collection of odd-looking buildings dating back to the Dutch colonial era and further back still, to the time of the Dutch East Indies Company. And finally the city's zoo, may also be worth while visiting.
More up to date, the city offers evening performances of Wayang drama played by live actors, actresses and dancers at Ngesti Pandowo Theater. For sport fans there are tennis courts in all major hotels and 2 golf courses located in the town's suburbs. For short trips out of Semarang within a radius of about 60 km, the following places are recommended :
1. Jepara, northeast of Semarang, is a town with white sandy beaches around it, and is also famous for its wood carving industry. Most artists of this sophisticated art come from around this area. It is also the birthplace of Indonesia's heroine of the national women's liberation movement.
An ancient Portuguese Fort can be found to the east of Jepara. Along the road from Semarang to this town are many sights and curiosities worthy of seeing.
2. Kudus, about halfway between Jepara and Semarang, could be taken in on the same trip, as well as Demak. So, Kudus and Demak are two towns having the same directions as to Jepara, and both have historical significance. Kudus has the Minaret Mosque which was built in the 15th century, whereas Demak has the oldest mosque in Central Java, both of them very interesting structures from the architectural point of view.
Other places of interest are either south, southwest or west of Semarang which are usually not visited on one round-trip out of Semarang. It is recommended that you leave the capital on a tour to another city, say, Solo, and see the beautiful things along the way. But even then, you may not be able to see them all in one single day.
It is advisable that you study a detailed map of Central Java to pinpoint the places you want to visit, which very much depend on your personal taste, interest and time.
A medium size city with a lively character, Solo is also called the city that never sleeps. From the evening throughout the whole night one can always find something to eat or buy, as vendors of all kinds as well as small food-stalls remain active and open 24 hours. Home of two royal houses with centuries of power and influence over the city, Solo today remains distinctly Central-Javanese with an elegance of its own. It is one of the major centers of batik cloths and other Javanese fabrics, whereas souvenir hunters may find exquisite "objects d'art" and very ornate trinkets and other decorative items. Those interested in old Javanese culture and art should not miss Solo on their itinerary, as the royal palaces including relics of all sorts will be all yours to witness.
Once in Solo which offers excellent accomodation, short trips to its surrounding areas can easily be made by car or coach. Most hotels should have a stock of pamphlets and booklets on all interesting sport and items available
Some of the places of interest are for instance Tawangmangu, a mountain resort at an elevation of almost 1 km above sea level which promises you a cool escape from the city's heat. Not far from here is the Sukuh Temple with wayang stone carvings of Hindu origin and which is the only sample of an erotic temple in Java having the shape of a stepped pyramid like the ones in South America of the Maya culture. There are also a two-century old palace of King Pakubuwono, an art Gallery exhibiting Royal heirlooms, various Javanese weapons, antiques and other invaluable items.
Another palace is the royal residence of Prince Mangkunegoro, featuring typical Javanese architecture, a complete collection of masks, heirlooms, wayang golek, handicrafts, Javanese musical instruments and superb antiques are exhibited here.
Jatijajar Cave is about 49 km west of Kebumen, or 20 km from Gombong. It is the most interesting cave in Central Java with its stalactite and stalagmite. Inside, there is Kamandaka statue which has its own legend. Krakal hot water-springs is located 13 km north-east of Kebumen. Bathing rooms are available. Like many other hot water-springs, it is an effective remedy for skin diseases. 3 km north of Gombong, is the Sempor Dam surrounded by hills 'forming a nice mountain scenery. Recreational facilities are also provided here.
Bandungan and Gedong Songo Temple
This is a holiday resort on the slope of Mt. Ungaran, about 900 meters above sea level. Gedong Songo (nine buildings), a group of small 8th century Hindu Javanese temples, can be reached either by car or on horseback from the town. Built at about the same time as the temples of the Dieng complex, Gedong Songo is one of the most beautifully sited temple complexes in Central Java and the views alone are worth the trip.
Ambarawa Railway Museum
Fifty kms south of Semarang, Ambarawa is the home of Java's antique locomotives, Established into a museum, it has locomotives of various types and ages, and it is still possible to ride on a cog railway between Ambarawa and Bedono, a village nearby. Prior arrangements should be made for groups.
Also of interest are a collection of antique telephones and other instruments used for railway communication.
Sangiran, The Land of Mystery
Located 15 km from Surakarta. It is fossilized land of prehistoric living things.
In 1891, Eugene Dubois, a French anthropologist discovered fossils of Phitecantropus Erectus, the oldest Java man known. Again in 1930 and 193 1, Ngandong Village, Trinil-Mojokerto, was marked with the discovery of fossils of a man that belonged to the Pleistocene Period. It revealed human history from many centuries ago.
Prof. Dr. Van Koenigswald in 1936 found more evidence about human evolution. He discovered some fossils that support the theory of human growth from an ape-man to be man as we are now. Other fossils, which include those of mammoths (prehistoric elephant) are now preserved in the Bandung Geological Museum. In mid 1980, scientists were startled by the finding of a complete 4 m tall elephant.
Central Java's outstanding resort is approximately 14 km north of Purwokerto. It occupies a fine site on the slope of Mount Slamet, at an elevation of 650 m above sea level. It has remarkable weather with a cool mountain breeze. The temperature ranges from 18 degree C to 25 degree C.
The resort area is surrounded by nice gardens, hot springs, ponds and bungalow-style hotels. Other features include 200 ha of pine forest, a nearby market and marvelous views.
Located 40 km east of Solo. It lies on the slope of mount Lawu, at an elevation of 1300 m above sea level. It is a recreational resort offering fresh weather, scenic views, swimming pools, bungalow style hotels and restaurants.
Other features include nearby temples in ruins, a national park and the 40 m high waterfall of Grojogan Sewu.
Taman Kyai Langgeng
Kyai Langgeng Park located at the western part of Magelang, and occupying land of about 19 hectares, with the tranquillity of a rural atmosphere, is easily accessible as it lies only about 1 km from the center of the town. Convenient public transport brings you there, leaving town life behind to go back to nature.
Built by the Local Government of the Magelang Municipality and opened its gate to the public in 1987, Kyai Langgeng Park now provides you with collection of many kinds of rare plants from all over Indonesia, collection of dinosaurs statues, fishing pond, traffic gardens, aquariums, green house, swimming pool, open air theater, large cages of various kinds of tropical birds, various kinds of animals from the bigger to the smaller ones, arena for go-carts, a river for canoeing and wild water surfing, restaurants, souvenir shops, tropical fruit market, indoor tennis court, hotel and many other things to see, to do and to enjoy.
This park is named after one of the followers of Prince Diponegoro, one of the Indonesian heroes who fought bravely against the Colonialists during Diponegoro's war (1825-1830). The late Kyai Langgeng was buried in this area and his burial can still be found here.
For now and the future the Local Government of Magelang Municipality will move on to invest in new recreational facilities for all levels of the community.
Four hours from Semarang is the Dieng Plateau. Here some of the oldest Hindu temples of Java are found.
These small monuments, which are not more than 50 feet high stand on a crater floor amidst sulfurous fumes and underlined by the presence of a few of the starkest Shivaite temples at an elevation of more than 6.000 feet, are impressive. The road to the Dieng Plateau passes through tobacco plantations and beautiful mountain scenery.
Located only three kilometers from Borobudur, Mendut is said to face toward Benares, India, where Buddha Gautama taught his five disciples the very first time. The smaller temple of Mendut, which houses the great statue of Buddha and the Pawon temple, form an integral part of the Borobudur complex. The three-meter tall Buddha together with the two Bodhisatva figures of Lokesvara and Vajrapani are in the view of some experts among the greatest manifestations of Buddhist thought and art. Through these smaller temple complexes the pilgrim must pass before ascending the great Borobudur monument
The name "Borobudur" is believed to have been derived from the Sanskrit words "Vihara Buddha Uhr" the Buddhist Monastery on the hill. The Borobudur Temple was built in the eighth century by the Cailendra dynasty and is located at Magelang, 90 km southeast of Semarang, or 42 km northwest of Yogyakarta. Visitors have the option of going by taxi or public bus to reach this temple. One of the world's most famous temples, it stands majestically on a hilltop overlooking lush green fields and distant hills.
Borobudur is built of gray andesite stone. It rises to seven terraces, each smaller than the one below it. The top is the Great Stupa, standing 40 meters above the ground. The walls of the Borobudur are sculptured in bas-reliefs extending over a total length of six kilometers. It has been hailed as the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist relieves in the world, unsurpassed in artistic merit, each scene an individual masterpiece.
The monument has been completely restored and was officially opened by the President on 23rd February 1983. The restoration took eight years to complete, funded by the Government of Indonesia with aid from the UNESCO and donations from private citizens as well as from foreign governments.
The Borobudur was in danger of collapsing as its stone statues and bas-reliefs was affected by stone cancer, moss and lichen. A large parking area is available not far from the monument, so private cars and buses can park in this area. During the Buddhist festival of Waisak in May, processions start from Mendut temple. Public transportation is available from the bus terminal. From that point visitors can hire becaks or horse carts, or walk the rest of the way to the monument.
Batik cloths and garments, hand-woven fabrics, traditional and local jewelry, leather puppets, basketry, tortoise-shell accessories, trinkets, brass-ware and other decorative items, and all kinds of antiques are local specialties.
Souvenir and art objects are available in all major towns of Central Java, mostly in the downtown areas and popular market places or shopping centers.