Everything you Need to Know about Magelang

Magelang serves as a launching point for visits to the sacred 8th-century Borobudur Buddhist temple and has a rich history as a military post. This city in Central Java enjoys a scenic location between the Progo and Elo rivers, located 40 kilometres northwest of Yogyakarta and 75 kilometres south of the Central Javan capital Semarang. Magelang is a pleasant place to explore with a number of historical sites from the Dutch colonial era to see, including the Drinking Water Tower that still stands in the centre of town.

The earliest known record of Magelang dates back to the year 907, when it was established as a village under the Mataram Kingdom. Magelang was an important military base during Indonesia's independence movement against the Dutch government, and it remains an important army training centre with both the National Military Academy and the military school, Taruna Nusantara, located here. Pangeran Diponegoro, the region's most famed resistance leader and prince of the Mataram Dynasty, is memorialised in a museum and a statue that stands in the town square.

While it does not attract nearly as many people as the better-known Yogyakarta, Magelang's lively Chinatown, busy markets, green parks and surrounding landscape of lush hills, hot springs and volcanoes make it a varied and interesting place to visit. Terrific views of Mount Sumbing can be seen from many points across the city.

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Magelang Attractions

Borobudur temple, the ninth-century Buddhist monument, is the main attraction in Magelang's vicinity. Buried by jungle growth and volcanic ash for centuries, this stunning UNESCO World Heritage site was uncovered in 1814 and is now a major pilgrimage and tourist destination. Nearby is the Prambanan Hindu temple, an extraordinary complex built in the ninth century with towering structures dedicated to Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu.

Museum Pangeran Diponegoro is a landmark building where Prince Diponegoro made his last stand against the Dutch colonial rulers in the Java War of 1825-30. His personal belongings including a chair with a fingernail on its arm believed to be the Prince's are on display. A statue of the honoured Prince on horseback stands in the Magelang Town Square (Alun-Alun) near the Water Tower that was built in the early 20th century.

Magelan's Chinatown is stretched along Jalan Pemuda, a thriving merchant area with many shops and restaurants. A fun way to explore this area is by becak (rickshaw) along the narrow street.

Families love to visit Magelang's green spaces including the 28-hectare Kyai Langgeng park near the city centre. Near the park is Langgeng Gallery, which features regular exhibits of Indonesian and Asia-Pacific modern and contemporary fine art. Other parks include Badaan Park, which has a children's playground, as well as Mendut Recreational Park, with a playground, cafe, swimming pool and tennis court.

Magelang Restaurants & Dining

Magelang has fewer international visitors than Yogyakarta thus its dining scene is more local and low-key. It's a great place to sample some authentic Central Javanese cuisine, which is sweeter and less spicy than other regions in Indonesia. One local and tasty delicacy is tofu and steamed rice with peanut sauce (Tahu Kupat Magelang). Several shops offer up hot and fresh basko meatball and noodle soup with their own local variations, chicken satay and spring rolls, served fried or steamed and stuffed with bamboo shoots and different meats. One unique Central Javan dish that's a must-try is Gudeg, green jackfruit stewed with coconut milk, palm sugar and a rich blend of herbs and spices.

During the Ramadan fasting month, many Magelang restaurants close during the day so be sure to make your dining plans accordingly.

Magelang Nightlife

Magelang is a fairly conservative and quiet place with a much more subdued nightlife scene than Jakarta or Bali.

For a grand evening out, there are few better places than the luxurious Amanjiwo resort, just outside the city on the way to Borobudur, where wine and cocktails may be enjoyed in a misty mountain setting at the Rotunda Bar.

Magelang Shopping

Magelang Town Square has street vendors and shopping centres where you can pick up souvenirs, antiques, clothing and local crafts. Central Javan craftsmen and artists are particularly skilled in making jewellery, hand-woven fabrics, batiks, tortoise-shell accessories, brassware and other decorative items. More local goods can be found at the many markets around the city.

Flower lovers will enjoy a visit to the Orchid Nursery with many varieties of orchids on display and for sale, located across the road from Mendut Recreational Park.

Magelang Activities

Magelang's mountainous surroundings offer pleasant day-trip excursions for enjoying the great outdoors. Ketep Pass offers lookout points with panoramic views of Mount Merapi and Mount Merbabu, and the Volcano Theatre with educational films and multimedia presentations about the area's dynamic geological features is found here. The rivers, lakes, hot springs and waterfalls dotted throughout the area offer nice mini-trek and picnic sites. Pleasant strolls and water sports are enjoyed at Bleder Lake, while some easy rafting may be done on the Elo River.

Ambarawan Railway Museum north of Magelang has plenty to interest train buffs with antique locomotives and other artefacts and memorabilia on display. Railway history aficionados will not want to miss a chance to book a private charter trip from Ambarawa to the village Bedono through picturesque scenery aboard a 1907 steam train, which may be arranged with museum staff.

The 18-hole Borobudur International Golf & Country Club, equipped with a luxurious clubhouse, restaurant and driving range, is located in the Mount Tidar area of central Magelang. The city's main stadium, a popular place to watch football matches, is nearby. Magelang's only cinema is found in the town square.

Magelang Information

With no airport, Magelang is reached by bus, taxi or car hire service from the airports of Yogyakarta, Solo or Semarang.

Yogyakarta's Adisucipto International Airport and Solo's Adisumarmo International Airport handle regular international flights from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as well as daily service between Jakarta and other Indonesian cities. From Yogyakarta, the Damri bus line runs 10 trips a day to Magelang, costing 35000 rupiah for the one-hour journey. From Solo, regular bus journeys to Magelang take about two hours.

Before arriving to Magelang it's best to check the latest conditions of its surrounding volcanoes, particularly the active Mount Merapi. In October 2010, Merapi erupted and released tonnes of volcanic ash that killed 30 and forced local villagers to flee. The resulting pyroclastic heat clouds forced the closure of Borobudur and the Yogyakarta airport for several days and caused flight disruptions in Jakarta.

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