Prambanan is the most evocative Hindu temple complex in Java. It features about 50 temple sites, many of which suffered extensive damage during the 2006 Earthquake that devastated the island. The temples survived but many incurred lasting damage that will take years to fix, especially on the main Shiva Temple; which had damage to 479 stones.
Just recently they have started allowing visitors back into the Shiva Temple and you must wear a hardhat if you do go inside. It is not the most reassuring of things in my view, as you can see in the ridiculous sign they posted (above), and there are a lot of rocks above you that look like they can fall at any time. That said, Prambanan and the Shiva Temple are still worth a visit. Prambanan is a World Heritage Site.
As I said, the Shiva Temple is the main and largest temple in Prambanan and it rises up some 47 meters. It is decorated up and down with a ton of carved deities; which are really cool to examine. The detail is exquisite.
The statue of Shiva stands in the middle chamber. Statues of the Goddess Durga, Shiva’s elephant headed son Ganesh and the teacher Agastya stand in the upper part of the temple. The Shivu Temple is flanked by the Vishnu and Brahma Temples; which make up the main parts of the complex.
Built in the 9th Century, the Prambanan site was abandoned soon after completion and by the 19th Century, most of the temples had collapsed. In the mid 20th century a reconstruction project was done to restore the complex to what it is today.
Today, it is a great place to visit for a few hours and it’s only a 15-minute ride away from Yogyakarta; which is the best place to base yourself to visit Prambanan. You can fly to Yogyakarta airport via several airlines including Air Asia as I did from Singapore. I really enjoyed my time exploring the complex, walking around to see all the different angles to photograph and all the different temples and carvings. It is really impressive although quite touristy.
My biggest piece of advice is to not go when I did. I went in the late afternoon as the sun was almost directly in your eye when you entered form the main gate. This made it difficult to see properly, even with sunglasses on and it made pictures difficult to take from that side. That time of day is also packed with tourist busses.
I had to take most of the pictures that came out well from the back of the complex. It’s still a good site and a great view but not as much creative freedom with photographs. So go in the morning or during the middle of the day when the sun is directly above you.
The ticket will cost some $15 for adults and if you have a valid student ID or ISIC card, like I do, it’ll only cost you $8. Also keep in mind you need to pay 50 cents to park. Not a lot of money but if all you have are 50,000 Rupiah notes it is a pain because you will undoubtedly get a ton of small bill change crumpled up and fairly disgusting. So carry some small bills or arrange with your driver ahead of time to have him pay!