Java is the hub of Indonesian society. It has enjoyed its role as a regional leader for centuries. Many powerful empires of yesteryear – Hindu kingdoms, Buddhist kingdoms, Islamic sultanates, and the Dutch East Indies all were based in Java. Today, Javanese culture is a collage of the architecture, arts and music these great civilizations left behind.
Home to the nation’s capital, Jakarta, and with over 60% of the population living here, Java is the most populous island in the world and heartbeat of Indonesia. With just under 7% of Indonesia’s total land area and the lion’s share of its population, it is also one of the world’s most densely populated places.
As expected in such a densely populated place, traffic in most parts of Java is extreme, to say the least, especially on weekends when city dwellers from Jakarta, Surabaya, and other cities head into the countryside for their weekend getaways. But there are remote places that are rarely visited such as Ujung Kulon National Park - the only place the endangered one-horned Javanese rhinoceros can be seen. During the week, Java’s more popular joys are readily accessible.
Javanese Wayang (puppet) theater and Gamelan (traditional orchestra) can be enjoyed in several varieties throughout Java. Originally court dances, you will find many traditional forms of Javanese dance performed as they have been for centuries, as well as modern renditions. Javanese dance is often characterized from Wayang theater and performed to hypnotic Gamelan music as it tells its intricate story.
Temples such as Cangkuang, Borobudur, Prambanan, Sukuh, and Singosari remain as permanent landmarks to Java’s epic past.
Geographically, Java is of volcanic origin, formed by thirty-eight mountains that run its full length, providing limitless camping and trekking that will take you through lush vegetation teeming with wildlife to remote mountain lakes and waterfalls.
At various times most of these mountains have been active volcanoes – some still are. Extremely rich soil has been left behind by all this volcanic activity. When traveling across Java you will see kilometer after kilometer of beautiful terraced hillsides covered with abundant rice, coffee, and other crops. Agra-tourism is a growing trend in Indonesia, allowing visitors to spend time on working plantations.
Java is well known for its surfing as well. Among its many surf spots, Plengkung is the most famous, having hosted the Quicksilver Pro surfing championship on many occasions.
Javanese Batik, Java’s most popular craft can be found throughout Java. An art form, it is cloth dyed into intricate patterns, each with a unique meaning traditionally signifying the wearers position in society. Other Javanese crafts include silverwork, rattan, and wood carving.