The world’s largest Buddhist temple

Borobudur temple, largest buddhist temple, indonesia, most visited site in indonesia

The world’s largest Buddhist temple

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Borobudur Temple, Indonesia

High on a mountain in Central Java, Borobudur Temple rises up towards the sky. In Buddhist belief, the closer you are to Heaven, the closer you are to the gods. And as you climb the steps of the temple, the jungle landscape of Indonesia revealing itself in every direction, you can understand how the people who built this masterpiece felt more connected to the ethereal than the earthly.

Borobudur temple, largest buddhist temple, indonesia, most visited site in indonesia

The world’s largest Buddhist temple is made up of five large square terraces, with three circular platforms on top of them, and then a magnificent stupa at the very top. From a distance it is stunning… but close up the true magic is revealed with intricate carvings on the walls throughout the whole complex.

Borobudur temple, largest buddhist temple, indonesia, most visited site in indonesia

Borobudur temple, largest buddhist temple, indonesia, most visited site in indonesia

Borobudur was built in the eighth and ninth centuries but, at some point in history, was abandoned and left to the wilds of nature. For at least five hundred years the jungle was all that climbed the steps towards the celestial. Trees, vines, and animals overtook one of man’s greatest creations and embraced the rocks again. The temple became hidden from the eyes of humanity.

Borobudur temple, largest buddhist temple, indonesia, most visited site in indonesia

It wasn’t until 1814, when Java was under British control, that the English governor, Thomas Stamford Raffles, heard stories from local villagers about a mysterious and abandoned structure. He sent his people to investigate and for two months a team of 200 men had to cut down trees, burn vegetation and dig away at the earth to reveal the temple at Borobudur.

Borobudur temple, largest buddhist temple, indonesia, most visited site in indonesia

Borobudur temple, largest buddhist temple, indonesia, most visited site in indonesia

Visiting Borobudur

Visiting it today, it’s hard to understand how something this large and spectacular could have remained hidden for so long. But there’s a certain enchantment in imagining you are the explorer who finds it for the first time in centuries. It’s slightly easier this morning because I’ve come before the official opening hours to climb to the top in time for the sunrise (a privilege for which you pay ten times the normal entrance fee). There are only a handful of people here and there’s a peace and serenity fitting for such a spiritual place.

Borobudur temple, largest buddhist temple, indonesia, most visited site in indonesia

I’m told by some tour guides that the site gets absolutely packed during the day – to the point where it’s hard to even climb up the narrow and steep staircases, let alone lose yourself in the moment. I’m glad that’s not going to be me.

Borobudur temple, largest buddhist temple, indonesia, most visited site in indonesia

As the sun rises in the sky, it’s obscured partly by this morning’s cloud cover but rays are starting to break through and illuminate the structure and the surrounding lands. It’s still very quiet at the top of the temple and slowly it’s becoming lighter. Around me, inside 72 small stone stupas, are 72 seated Buddhas. They turn from shadowy silhouettes into glowing images of divinity as the morning progresses. Only one is uncovered (I’m not sure why) but the rest seem protected and disconnected from the daily pilgrimage of the tourists.

Borobudur temple, largest buddhist temple, indonesia, most visited site in indonesia

The Borobudur Temple complex is the single most visited site in Indonesia, although the majority of tourists are Indonesians. The increasing numbers are presenting challenges and the authorities are looking at ways to manage any potential damage to the site. Millions of dollars have been spent on restoration and preservation over recent decades – particularly by UNESCO, which listed the site on the World Heritage List in 1991.

Something so intricate but also so large, abandoned for so many years, needs a lot of love and care. Being closer to Heaven doesn’t make it immune from the hands of man.

UNESCO world heritage siteThis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info click here.
You can see all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I’ve visited here.

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

22 Comments
  • Natalie | Oct 26, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Looks like an amazing place that definitely needs to be showcased to the world. Not sure I would want to see it while it is packed though. Places like this need to be seen at a slow pace in solitude.

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 29, 2012 at 11:07 am

      I think it would be a really different experience to be there when it’s full of tourists. There was something a bit special about being there as the sun came up.

  • Laurence | Oct 26, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Ah.. it must have been nice to be able to dispatch 200 men to find stuff for you. I wonder how one does that.
    Laurence recently posted..#TravelPinspiration: SunsetsMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 29, 2012 at 11:08 am

      If you ever find out, please let me know – it would make life so much easier. I’ve got about four pairs of socks they could start looking for…

  • D.J. - The World of Deej | Oct 26, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    Things that are this old simply boggle my mind…great stuff.
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Shula’s 347 Grill – TallahasseeMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 29, 2012 at 11:09 am

      Yeah, I know. it’s hard to imagine sometimes. But its especially hard to imagine it being hidden away for so long. It would be like losing the Vatican for a few centuries. “I know I left it around here somewhere…”

  • BlogDaz | Oct 27, 2012 at 9:40 am

    That looks like a truly amazing place and I never even heard of it before now, just goes to show , you learn something new every day. Thanks for sharing.
    BlogDaz recently posted..Pattaya Street RobberyMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 29, 2012 at 11:12 am

      I have to confess, I hadn’t heard of it before I starting looking into the Indonesia trip. But it’s such a beautiful place that I’m very happy to be sharing it with people!

  • Elmer Cruz | Oct 29, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Already in my hit list since its so close to the Philippines.
    Elmer Cruz recently posted..The Rise of the DeadMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      Oh yeah – it’s quite easy for you to get over there. You could probably even fly straight into Yogyakarta.

  • Jade - OurOyster.com | Oct 29, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Wow that is gorgeous… I especially loved the last photo
    Jade – OurOyster.com recently posted..Travelling With Children – Interview With FamilyOnBikesMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 29, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      Thanks. It was a very photogenic place!

  • Cam | Nov 5, 2012 at 3:59 am

    It looks so different without any other visitors. Almost makes you want to pound your chest and bark out Tarzan calls over the jungle canopy! Okay, maybe that’s just me…
    Cam recently posted..The disOrient Express – London to Everywhere and BackMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 7, 2012 at 10:27 am

      Ha ha… I think it might be just you. Although, to be fair, it does feel like that a bit.
      It is definitely much nicer without the crowds – and with beautiful light in the early morning.

  • [email protected] Global Travel | Nov 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Love the first photo! The temple looks so peaceful.
    [email protected] Global Travel recently posted..ECO NEWS: NY Aquarium Needs Help After Sandy’s DevastationMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 11, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      It was definitely peaceful in the morning. ‘m not sure how quiet it would be later in the day when it’s full of tourists!

  • Sherry | Dec 3, 2012 at 9:48 am

    I’ve seen many fascinating photos of this place. But I never before realize its grand scale. Its even more alluring now. I cannot wait to get to Indonesia and see it.
    Sherry recently posted..Canyon Deep in RondaMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 7, 2012 at 10:47 am

      It’s the perfect mix, though – a huge monument that is impressive from the distance… and tiny, intricate details carved into the stone when you’re close up.

  • Bishan | May 10, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Oh thanks for sharing these wonderful pics, As a Buddhist It’s a shame I haven’t heard about this place, thanks for enlightening me.

    Bests
    Bishan.

    • Michael Turtle | May 11, 2013 at 2:33 am

      It’s an astounding place so I hope you manage to get there one day. It can get really packed during the day so you might find it a bit more spiritual early in the morning at sunrise.

  • Antique Buddhas | Feb 29, 2016 at 8:48 am

    Borobudur Buddhist temples is quite quite amazing, I love the design and architecture of all the Buddhist structures that were built inside the largest buddhist complex in Indonesia.
    The Color of the materials used in Borobudur Buddhist temples is quite amazing.

  • Marco Noorwendo | Jan 31, 2017 at 2:21 am

    Why Borobodur lost its trace for centuries? It began when Javanese converted to Islam, looked such great temples as pagan’s house of worship, and abandoned it. My great grand parents told me that our ancestors was told that the Great Temple was a place where Devil reigned. No wonder if nowadays local tourists never give a such respect on it… They just use it as a good background to take some beautiful selfies… In some points, I feel pity of my own country.

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