Java with kids – temples, rice fields and volcanoes

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Are you looking for a travel destination that includes nature, culture, adventure and good food? Then you should include Java, Indonesia, on your travel bucket list. We started our trip with a visit to the famous Borobudur temple, travelled the beautiful landscapes around the Bromo volcano and ended our trip by climbing Ijen crater to see the blue flames. A trip we will never forget! 

Borobudur

You can reach the largest Buddhist temple of the world and a Unesco World Heritage site in 3,5 hours, coming from KL. The flight to Yogyakarta takes 2,5 hours and from there it is another 1 hour drive to the temple. Most tourists visit the Borobudur temple at sunrise, but we didn’t feel like getting up at 5am and visited after breakfast. From our hotel it was an easy 30 minute walk to the entrance of the temple complex. Once inside, we decided to take a shuttle to the temple, as it was super hot to walk in the sun.

Tip: bring enough water before going all the way up. After climbing to the top of the temple, which was not that hard, we were rewarded with a magnificent view over the area. 

Java’s nature is incredible, so we booked a driver through our hotel for a hike up to the Selogriyo temple, around 1 hour drive from Borobudur. The temple itself was not really the reason why we wanted to go, as it was under renovation. The easy 30 minute walk between the rice terraces was just breathtaking. At the time of our visit there were no other tourists, so it was nice and quiet.

We stayed at two locations in this area. Gopalan Borobudur is a small hotel, at walking distance from the temple and the village. It has a small swimming pool and a view over the rice fields. The family room was quiet small and dark, but perfect for just a short stay.

We also stayed at Villa Borobudur, a luxury resort in the jungle with amazing food and a beautiful, authentic, Javanese style. Read the full review here.

Malang and Mount Bromo

There are a few options to get to Malang from the Borobudur. We chose to book a car with driver and it took us around 6 hours to get there. You can also get there by train. After the long drive, we decided to visit the rainbow village in Malang. This super cute village is a truely instagrammable place, because every house has a different colour and is decorated with art. The villagers ask for a very small entrance fee and in return you get a colourful key chain. Our kids loved to walk around and play with the local village kids. 

To get to Mount Bromo from Malang, we arranged a private jeep tour through our homestay. It took around two hours to reach the area and the first lookout point. While driving up, we noticed the change of vegetation from jungle to ‘the floor is lava’. We felt amazed by the beautiful nature and couldn’t stop taking photos. Once we arrived at the foot of the Bromo crater, our driver told us we were not allowed to climb up as the volcano was active at the time. On the way back to Malang we had a few more stops at viewpoints and also a waterfall where we walked around for 20 minutes.

There are many hotel options in Malang, but we decided to book at INNI homestay, as we only needed a bed to sleep in and a shower with no extra facilities. Many tourists choose to stay near Mount Bromo to see the sunset, which we were told is epic.

Ijen crater

Another long ride from Malang to the region of Ijen took us again around 6 hours. This was the highlight of our Java trip, hiking up the Ijen crater! We decided to split up the family; a father-and-son hike at night (which started at 1am) to see the sunrise and a mom-and-daughter hike after breakfast (we just like to sleep a bit longer…). If you choose to do the sunrise hike, you will need a guide and masks, as you will also descent the crater to see the blue flames and experience the sulphur smell (hence the masks). My 7-year-old daughter and I took it easy during the hike up the mountain, which took around two hours. She is a good hiker and wasn’t too tired once we arrived at the crater. Make sure to bring enough water, some snacks and warm clothes as it can be cold up the crater, especially at night.

Once at the top, we were rewarded with a beautiful view. Going down we felt a bit lazy and took a mountain taxi, which is basically a trolley which the miners use to transport the sulphur. You can also go up Mount Ijen by ‘taxi’ if you don’t feel like walking or if you decide to go with smaller kids.

We stayed in Mi Casa Ijen guesthouse in a beautiful Javanese style house. The management of the guesthouse organised our tour and guide to Ijen. 

From Banyuwangi (an hour away from the guesthouse) we flew back to KL. Banyuwangi is just a boat trip away from Bali. If you have more time you can go there and explore this beautiful island.

When to go?

The best time of the year to visit the island of Java is during the dry season from April to October, when days are hot, dry and sunny. These months are also ideal time to travel if you are planning to climb Mount Bromo or Ijen. From November onward you can expect lots of rain during the wet monsoon.

We loved Java and didn’t expect so much beautiful nature. The people are very friendly, food was great and the kids found it an amazing trip! Another great trip to tick off from the bucket list.

There is so much to see and explore on Java: read here about the fun city of Bandung.

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