There are few things more spiritually peaceful in this world than Borobudur temple at sunrise.

The Island of Java in Indonesia has historically been a cauldron of religious struggle and a holy land for the precursors of modern religions way before Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam built competing shrines and pilgrimages. The islands active, fiery volcanoes echo the intense religious struggles that lie hidden beneath the surface of society.

After spending the night in an old Buddhist monastery, I am awakened like clockwork at 4am to the chanting of prayers to climb to the top of the ancient temple of Borobudur before sunrise. This is the world’s largest Buddhist monument surrounded by volcanos in the central valley of the island of Java.

Borobudur Temple at Sunrise

Borobudur Temple at Sunrise

Borobudur has been a Buddhist pilgrimage site for thousands of years. The architects have carved a holy book of sorts within its tantric layout that simultaneously represents the Buddhist cosmology and the nature of mind.

Borobudur Temple at Sunrise

Borobudur Temple at Sunrise

Sunrise at Borobudur

Borobudur Temple at Sunrise

Borobudur Temple at Sunrise

The central and largest stupa is hollow and said to depict Buddha’s doctrine of the underlying emptiness existing in all beings and phenomena. (Nothing exists without everything else)

The monument contains over 500 Buddha statues, many hidden within these stupas to signify the hidden spirits that surround us every day.

Borobudur Temple at Sunrise

Borobudur Temple at Sunrise

2600 detailed bas reliefs depict Buddha’s life (and previous lives), and hundreds of Buddhist concepts through parables


As you wind your way clockwise through the corridors of this massive temple, over 2 miles of intricate carvings depict the path to enlightenment from the world of desires to the world of forms, and finally towards the heavens, the formless world.


How to get there

Borobudur is in a small village about 40 minutes by road outside of Jogjakarta, Indonesia’s sprawling and congested second city. Domestic and International flights are frequent into Jogja (JOG). Fixed price taxis are available at the taxi stand to avoid the need to haggle.

Almost all budget travelers stay at hostels near the (relatively) quiet Sosrowijayan and Prawirotaman streets in Jogja, (I still can’t pronounce them), which has a great selection of hostels, bars and trendy cafes.

Have to see while you’re there

Bird market with thousands of caged birds, overflowing baskets of live bugs. Go inside the crumbling ancient pleasure baths of an ancient king, whose fondness for women sharply contrasted the conservative culture outside those doors


About the author: Brad Bernard


Brad Bernard has traveled through 92 countries to find off-the-map experiences and authentic adventure travel. He pushes his own personal boundaries by travelling experimentally. Brad’s personal quest to find the most extreme and unique in travel has bred misadventures and moments of enlightenment alike. You can read his craziest stories on his adventure travel blog