The most densely populated island in the archipelago, Java is Indonesia’s fifth-largest island with the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, located in the west of the island. There are four provinces in Java: East Java with its capital being Surabaya, Central Java with its capital of Semarang, West Java with the capital city being Bandung, and Banten whose capital is Serang. The island itself is steeped in history and culture dating back centuries. Naturally the main ethnic group is Javanese with the exception of West Java where most people are Sundanese. There are only two cities in Java with a special status (Daerah Istemewa) and they are the cities of Jakarta and Yogyakarta.
The Main Cities in Java:
Surabaya: The industrial centre of Java and Indonesia’s second-largest city. Historically it played a great part in the wear of independence against the Dutch. Surabaya is a good place to base yourself if you want to visit the tourist sites of the Ijen Plateau and Gunung Bromo.
Yogyakarta: Commonly referred to as the cultural heart of Java. It is a friendly city and the centre of Javanese art and culture. The main tourist sites in the city are the Kraton and the silverworks. On the outskirts of the city you will be able to visit the second largest Bhuddist monument in South-East Asia, Borobudur. Only twelve kilometres from the city centre is the Hindu temple complex of Prambanan.
Semarang: A fascinating and historical port city. Renowned for its old buildings and inspiring museums, it is from Semarang you will be able to access the eerie Dieng Plateau.
Bandung: Often called ‘Jeans City’ because of its plethora of fashion outlets, the city has a great nightlife, fabulous restaurants and warungs, and has a multitude of art galleries and museums.
Jakarta: The congested capital of the country, it is chaotic to drive around but has an excellent bus, taxi and rail service. Also, Jakarta played an important part of the independence struggle and you ill find monuments (Monas) to honour the fallen heroes. Add to this the plethora of museums, art galleries, numerous nightclubs and bars, then it is no wonder that it is such a well-visited city.
Surakarta (Solo): Has the ‘blue’ Kraton and is a centre for Javanese culture. Like Yogyakarta and other batik-producing towns, it has its own distinct pattern.
Bogor: Known especially for its botanical gardens and the Presidential Palace. Bogor is a cool mountain retreat for a lot of Jakartans.
Cirebon: An historical city with an interesting culture. It is also the major transport hub in the area.
Purwokerto: Famous for its batik.
Getting Around Java
The island of Java has an excellent infrastructure is by far the best in Indonesia. In fact the roads, rail and bus services are such that you could traverse the island in a day albeit a long one! Java has the best railway network in Indonesia, with trains connecting the capital city of Jakarta with most other cities and towns in the island. The eksekutif class is the best class, and consequently the most expensive. There are toll roads on Java so be aware of these. Most of the road structure is excellent.