Completed sometime around AD 856 to commemorate a major battle victory, the Hindu temple complex Prambanan was deserted within a few years of its completion and eventually collapsed. Preparations for the restoration of the central temple began in 1918, work started in 1937, and it was completed in 1953. Over time, other disasters have brought it harm – including a 5.9-magnitude earthquake in 2006 which damaged 30–40 percent of the complex. A lengthy restoration project is mostly complete, but the upkeep of Prambanan is an ongoing project and further restoration work is usually going on somewhere in the wider complex.
Prambanan, the largest Hindu temple complex in IndonesiaNow a Unesco World Heritage Site, the central courtyard of the main Prambanan complex contains eight buildings. The three largest are arrayed north to south: the magnificent 47-metre (155ft) tall main Candi Siva Mahadeva is flanked on either side by the slightly smaller shrines Candi Vishnu (to the north) and Candi Brahma (to the south).
Standing opposite these, to the east, are three smaller temples that once contained the ‘vehicles’ of each god: Siva’s bull (nandi), Brahma’s gander (hamsa) and Vishnu’s sun-bird (garuda). Of these, only nandi remains.
By the northern and southern gates of the central compound are two identical court temples, standing 16 metres (50ft) high.
In the other three chambers are statues of Agastya, the Divine Teacher (facing south); Ganesha, Siva’s elephant-headed son (facing west); and a 3-metre (10ft) Siva (central chamber, facing east). One aspect of Roro Jonggrang’s appeal is its symmetry and graceful proportions. Another is its wealth of sculptural detail.
On the inner walls of the balustrade, beginning from the eastern gate and proceeding clockwise, the wonderfully vital and engrossing tale of the Ramayana is told in bas-relief (and is completed on the balustrade of the Brahma temple).
Best things to do at PrambananPrambanan is one of the most visited sights on Java, but the beauty and variety of Prambanan demand more than a single visit. Some of the best things to do here are to linger a little longer and take it in during different times of the day.
#1 Admire the largest temple, Candi Siva MahadevaThe largest of the temples, Candi Siva Mahadeva, is dedicated to Siva. It's also known as Roro Jonggrang, a folk name sometimes given to the temple complex as a whole. Local legend has it that Roro Jonggrang was a princess wooed by an unwanted suitor. She commanded the man to build a temple in one night and then frustrated his nearly successful effort by pounding the rice mortar prematurely, announcing the dawn. Enraged, he turned the maiden to stone, and according to the tale, she remains here in the northern chamber of the temple as a statue of Siva’s consort, Durga.
#2 Spot the difference between the twin templesTwo 'twin' temples, Candi Vishnu and Candi Brahma stand north and south of Candi Shiva Mahadeva. The bas-reliefs in Vishnu retell Lord Krishna's story from the epic, Mahabharata with Vishnu the Preserver topping the inner sanctum; whilst Brahma retells the ending of the Ramayana with a four-faced sculpture of the god guarding the middle of the temple too.
#3 Seek out the lesser-visited temples like Candi SewuWithin the same complex as Prambanan itself – and covered by the same entry ticket – is the sprawling Buddhist sanctuary known as Candi Sewu. Numerous other ancient structures dot the surrounding landscape. The Kraton Ratu Boko is a ruined palace and temple complex located on a high ridge south of the main highway. A little further afield are seldom-visited temples such as Candi Banyunibo and Candi Ijo. Private transport is needed to reach these places, set in tranquil countryside.
#4 Watch the moonlight Ramayana BalletOne of the most romantic ways to view the temple is by moonlight, during an open-air performance of the Ramayana Ballet, staged over four nights each month around the full moon between May and October. Tickets can be arranged through most hotels and travel agents in Jogja. During the rest of the year, abridged performances of the epic are held in the adjacent Trimurti Theatre.
Best places to stayMost people visiting Prambanan will stay in either Yogyakarta or Solo. Both cities have a wide choice of accommodations from five-star hotels with pools to high-quality guesthouses and homestays.
Nearby Borobudur also has plenty of new places to stay which are within striking distance of both Prambanan and Borobudur temples. Book ahead if visiting during big Buddhist celebrations.
YogyakartaYogyakarta is stuffed full of a broad range of excellent accommodations, including hotels, guesthouses, and budget hostels.
SoloSolo also has a vast range of places to stay, including some affordable, high-quality guesthouses.
BorobudurThere are a growing number of high-end places to stay close to Borobudur as well as bucolic and boutique escapes.
Things to know before visiting PrambananPrambanan is open daily from 6 am–6 pm. There are licensed guides available at the temple entrance.
Tickets for Prambanan are priced at $25 for those 10 years and older; and $15 for students (with a valid ID card) and those aged 3-9 years. Toddlers and babies are free. Indonesian citizens and permanent residents get a discount.
Visitors can buy a combined Prambanan and Borobudur discount ticket, which is valid for two days.
All tickets can be bought online via Borobudurpark.com.
You will need a sarong to enter the temple. These are available onsite.
Prambanan is a Hindu temple, so dress accordingly. Wear long sleeves, cover your shoulders and consider trousers.
There isn’t a lot of shade at Prambanan, so arrive early – sunrise is good – to explore the large site before it gets too hot.
How to get hereThere are plenty of ways to get to Prambanan, some quicker than others. Note that Yogyakarta suffers from bad traffic jams, which inevitably lengthen journey times.
By busThe Trans Jogja bus 1A leaves from Jl Malioboro in Yogyakarta and takes around 45 minutes to get to the temples of Prambanan.
By trainFor a quicker way of getting to the temples, catch the train to Maguwo Station, near Adisucipto International Airport, and pick up the Trans Jogja bus 1A from there.
By ride-hailing app and taxiGo-Jek and Grab are available in Yogyakarta and Solo. Download the app to book a taxi or motortaxi to Prambanan.
By bicycleIt's possible to cycle to the temples of Prambanan from Yogyakarta. Numerous places rent bikes in town, including some hotels.
Best time to visitWith two distinct seasons, dry and wet, the best time to visit Prambanan is during the dry (April to October). This is when there is little chance of rain and the humidity is lower.
The busiest time of day is usually in the afternoon, so visiting in the morning can be a good strategy to avoid crowds.
If you prefer cooler temperatures, the wet season runs from November to March but is marked by sharp downpours and high humidity. The temple is less busy. Pack accordingly.
Find out more about the best time to visit Indonesia.