Yogyakarta’s palace and the family honours

The Royal Palace in Yogyakarta, known as the Keraton, is built on tradition. Inside, the colours and cultural heritage showcase the region’s history.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


The Keraton, Yogyakarta

At the palace in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, there are two honours passed down through the generations.

In both cases, when a son is born, the father knows his child will one day take on a special responsibility. It is the right and the duty of the child to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors.

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

One of these honours is to become the Sultan of Yogyakarta, a hereditary title that dates back to the eighteenth century.

The other great honour that stays in the family is to be a guard at the palace.

It is not just royalty that passes on the job to the next generation, but also those who dedicate their lives to the royal protection.

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Today, there are two thousand palace guards in total. Only about one thousand are active, though.

It’s a job for life, so as they get older and can’t physically work anymore, they are looked after rather than being thrown out of service.

On any particular day there are about one hundred palace guards actually working.

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The palace is known in Yogyakarta as the Keraton. Although it’s open for visitors in the morning, it is still a functioning part of the political sphere here in the region.

The sultan holds that particular title in name, not power, since the declaration of Indonesian independence in 1945 – but he is also automatically the governor of the region. Therefore the Keraton is used for official functions, political meetings, and as the royal residence.

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

There is also a cultural link with the compound and the people. In some ways it is almost a spiritual connection.

The Keraton was designed to reflect the Javanese cosmos. It faces towards the volcanic Mount Merapi in one direction and towards the Indian Ocean, home of the important Indonesian sea spirit, in the other.

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The placement of the pavilions, the courtyards and even the trees all have a significance within the traditional spiritual view of the world by the local people.

But, look a bit closer, and you’ll also see in the intricate designs an integration of the faiths that have influenced this part of Indonesia over the years.

There are Buddhist, Islamic and Hindi elements to much of the decoration in the central part of the palace.

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

From my experience, most of Indonesia is very proud of their heritage. But those in Yogyakarta seem more enthusiastic than others to continue weaving it into daily modern life.

The Keraton and the connection with the people is a strong one. There seems to be a genuine affection and respect for the leadership amongst the people here.

This palace complex is the bridge between the old and the new and the faith that binds the cultures.


There are some really cool places in Yogyakarta, which is just would you would expect from one of Indonesia’s most creative cities.


If you’re looking for a backpacker option, I would recommend the cool Cubic Jogja.


A good cheap and comfortable hotel is Aloha Hotel.


For some ecofriendly accommodation, there’s the affordable Greenhost Boutique Hotel in a good location.


And when it comes to luxury, I would recommend the Sofia Boutique Residence.

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


This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

15 thoughts on “Yogyakarta’s palace and the family honours”

  1. Wow, gorgeous photos! I can only imagine seeing the palace in person. Indonesia looks like a very interesting place and your stories about it are making me want to book a plane ticket there!

    • It’s quite a sprawling palace and you can work through different pavillions and see a few different parts. There are also some areas which are closed off because they’re being used by the sultan and his family or staff.

  2. Greetings from Yogyakarta. I love your photos and article . Anyway, You should try to visit Kraton when the Garebeg Ceremony. You’ll see the royal troops march with their full-dressed uniforms and weapons, it was a rare experience. Because the troops only march three times a year.

    • That does sound really interesting! I have been to Yogyakarta a couple of times now but clearly not on the right dates to see the ceremony. I’ll have to look up when it is next time I’m heading to Indonesia in case it coincides. Thanks for the tip!


Leave a comment