Watching the sun rise over the hundreds of stupas and Buddhas before the public descends in droves to disturb the peace is one of the world’s most rarefied experiences.
Guests staying within the village compound are allowed to enter this 9th century monument, hidden beneath volcanic ash for centuries, before opening time.
Like Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Bagan in Myanmar, Java’s Borobudur makes the rest of Southeast Asia’s spectacular sites seem almost incidental. Looming out of a patchwork of bottle-green paddies and swaying palms, this colossal Buddhist monument has survived Gunung Merapi’s eruptions, terrorist bombs and the 2006 earthquake to remain as enigmatic and as beautiful as it must have been 1200 years ago.
It’s well worth planning to spend a few days in the Borobudur region, which is a supremely beautiful landscape of impossibly green rice fields and traditional rice-growing kampung, all overlooked by soaring volcanic peaks. Locals call it the garden of Java.
This region is establishing itself as Indonesia’s most important centre for Buddhism, and there are now three monasteries in the surrounding district. Visitors are welcome and you can even join the monks at prayer time for chanting.