EAST JAVA Travelling in Indonesia

East Java has a variety of attractions, from temple sites to scenic beaches, a sand-sea, highland-lakes, volcanoes, marine gardens and wildlife reserves.

As the power in Central Java declined around the tenth century, powerful kingdoms rose in East Java to fill the vacuum. Between 1055 and 1222, the kingdom of Kediri prospered and expanded. During the reign of king Erlangga both East Java and Bali enjoyed a lucrative trade with the surrounding islands when their arts flourished.

Parts of the Mahabarata epic were translated and reinterpreted to conform closer to the East Javanese outlook and philosophy, and it was from this era that East Java inherited much of its treasure of temple art. In 1292 the Majapahit dynasty began an empire that was to dominate the entire archipelago, the Malay peninsula and part of the Philippines. Majapahit also established profitable trade relations with China and other countries of the South East Asian region. Today the open-air amphi theater at Pandaan tells some of the stories of this glorious past. Aided by the Java Ballet performances against a backdrop of distant volcanoes, any traveler will be easily enthralled by the East Java experience, capturing the spirit of the province's culture and scenery. Its capital, Surabaya is second to Jakarta in size, population and commerce. East Java is also the most industrialized province in the nation. Its economy is based on agriculture, fishery, oil industries, coffee, mangoes and apples.

Connected with the rest of Java by good motor roads and train services, there are also air services between Surabaya and other major cities in the country including Bali which is only half an hour's flight a way. It is also easily accessible by road and regular ferry from Bali and Java. The island of Madura, famous for its bull races, is part of the province of East Java, though it has its own traditions and language.

Magnificent mountain scenery include the crater and sea of sand at Mount Bromo, the "sulfur mountain" Welirang and rugged lien Plateau. Little of the Majapahit empire's former glory still stands in East Java to day with the exception of temple ruins and some archaeological discoveries. East Java's claim to fame in modern history is its vanguard role in the struggle for independence against colonial forces in 1945.



A booming city of over 3 million, Surabaya offers many good hotels, shopping centers and entertainment. Its well stocked zoological garden include several species of Indonesian fauna like "orang utan", komodo dragon and a collection of nocturnal animals.

Kalimas is an old traditional harbor for the world famous Bugis schooner "pinisi" which sailed the Indonesian seas for hundreds of years. At present those praus can still be seen in their former glory with big colorful sails.

Mpu Tantular Museum, well-stocked with archaeological art and cultural items from prehistoric times until independence. Across the Strait Madura, half an hour by ferry from Surabaya is the island of Madura, famous for its unique bull races held each year after the harvest season.

For groups, the races can be arranged on request. The Regional Tourism Offices of East Java provides a monthly calendar of events of the races.

Trowulan - Pandaan - Tretes

The surroundings of Trowulan village is believed to be the site of the ancient capital of Majapahit.

Archaeological excavations in the area have recovered many terra-cotta ornaments, statues, pottery and stone carvings which are displayed at the Trowulan Museum. The map in the museum is a guide to nearby sites of historical interest.

The Candra Wilwatika open-air theater in Pandaan, 45 km south of Surabaya presents classical East Javanese ballet performances on each full moon night from June to November. The performances are based either on the Ramayana stories or East Java's legends and folklore. The backdrop of Mt. Pananggungan gives the performances an enchanting experience.

Up to ten km from Chandra Wilwatika is Tretes, one of the most beautiful mountain resorts of East Java. Hotels and roads cling to the hillside with swimming pools for a dip in the cool climate. Horses are also available for hire. Camping ground is available near the Kakek Bodo waterfall.


Ninety km south of Surabaya lies Malang, one of the most attractive town in Java. A strong sense of civic pride can be noticed from the well-maintained and painted becaks, the neat main square, buildings and streets. The cool climate is one reason why it is highly desirable among the East Javanese as a place to retire. Twenty km from Malang on the southern flank of Mt. Arjuna, are Selecta and Songgoriti, popular hill resorts with hot springs. Five km nearby lies Batu, famous for its apples and flowers. Sports facilities at Selecta include horse riding, swimming, and tennis.

Purwodadi Botanical Garden

Founded in 1941 for the study of plants growing under relatively dry conditions, the Purwodadi gardens lie about 30 km northeast of Malang just off the Surabaya-Malang main road on the lowest slopes of Mt. Arjuno at about 300 meters altitude. It covers an area of about 85 ha (212 acres).

Mount Kawi Fortune Hunting

A sage's grave on mount Kawi, near Malang, has for decades enjoyed unrivaled fame among those who seek to increase their worldly blessings through pilgrimages, offerings, and meditations besides hard work.

Most of the pilgrims to Gunung Kawi are Indonesian Chinese, but even to unbelievers the place is worth a visit for its intensely Javanese atmosphere, with frequent wayang and gamelan performances and a quaint mixture of Javanese and Chinese influences.

The grave itself is built on a hilltop, but to its left and right of the long stairway is an assortment of sacred springs, Chinese houses of worship, flowers, and souvenir stalls.

Mount Bromo

One of the most exciting experiences is watching the sunrise from the crest of the Bromo volcano which is a three-hour drive from Surabaya, followed by a pony ride from the village of Ngadisari over a sea of sand to the foot of the volcano. Ascend the 50 steps to reach the rim.

On the vast expanse of sand, formerly a caldera, there are two volcanoes: the extinct Batok which is a perfect cone and the Bromo.

Volcanic sulfur fumes and smoke still emanate from its depth, while during intense rumbling sounds the surrounding population who believes in the God of Bromo quickly brings offerings.

The annual offering ceremony of Kasada wa held on November 23-24, 1991. It is a colorful event where villagers from the surrounding areas bring their produce of sacrifice to the holy volcano.

Baluran National Park/Wildlife Reserve

Located at the eastern tip of East Java, just off the Surabaya-Banyuwangi main road, it is dry country-side of open forests and scrub land, bordered at the coast by marshes, swampy groves and white beaches. A land-rover or jeep is perhaps the only vehicle that can stand the long haul across these rugged grassy plains. Here, the banteng wild ox, deer and birds can be photographed in their natural habitat.


A privately owned plantation with an elevation of 450-750 m above sea level, on the slope of Mt. Semeru covering a 2.500 acres of land producing coffee, rubber, cocoa and spices. Cloves begin as flowers on the clove tree, cinnamon is ground bark, pepper grown on vines and nutmeg like golf-ball size pears hanging on broad leafed trees, are to be seen.

Touring the plantation is a trip through a vast, exotic spice machine process which ends with neat packages ready for export.


A famous wildlife reserve and feeding ground but of a smaller size than that of Baluran.

Located in the forest of "Hutan Purwo", 81 km to the south of Banyuwangi. It is in possession of 700 wild buffaloes and varieties of other wild animals, all of which can be seen grazing in the late afternoon from the viewing tower.


13 km south of Sadengan on the coast with a beautiful beach view. A nice location to watch the sunset and a place where turtles lay eggs.

Sukamade Turtle Beach

78 km south of Banyuwangi with its deep turquoise water, 250 kg sea turtles and a long beach, surrounded by vast cocoa, coffee and rubber plantations, are to be found here.

Meru Betiri Reserve

After a 30 km very rough road which crosses half a dozen rivers through dense jungle and a rubber plantation, you finally arrive here on the southeastern tip of the province, where the last of the Javanese tigers had sought refuge. A hundred and fifty years ago Javanese tigers inhabited most of Java and was even considered a nuisance in some populated areas. But through the 1800s and early 1990s it was hunted mercilessly and its habitat destroyed by plantation builders.

By the beginning of the Second World War it survived only in the most remote mountains and forests, and today, the last four or five live on the brink of extinction in a remote region.

The government and the World Wildlife Fund have mounted a determined effort to save the tigers and their environment. And to do so, the authorities are even prepared to relocate a few thousand humans. But Meru Betiri is not simply a tiger reserve. Wildlife of all kinds abounds, like black panthers, leopards and turtles.


Between Surabaya and Malang is the town of Singosari where remnants of the early 13th century Singosari Kingdom include a temple and two gigantic statues of guardians to what many believed to be the main gateway to the capital of the kingdom. Jago temple dates back to 1268, and is one of the most attractive temples in East Java. Scenes from folk-tales as well as from the Mahabarata epic decorate the side panels.

Kidal temple, not far from Jago temple, was completed in 1260 to honor one of the kings, and is a gem of Singosari temple art.

Located 120 km south west of Malang and 11 km north of Blitar, is Penataran temple in the Singosari- Majapahit temple complex, dating from the mid fourteenth century. Its structures are laid on a vast field.

The temple terraces are decorated with Ramayana bas relieves. The main temple is well preserved.

Pasir Putih Beach, Situbondo

If you happen to be driving in a private car between Surabaya and Bali, this lovely beach may be worth visiting for a few hours or, if you prefer, an overnight stay to relax after driving long hours coming from either way. For you to enjoy here is fishing, sailing, swimming, snorkeling, wind-surfing, water-skiing or just simply sunbathing. Good seafood is available at some beach-front restaurants where nearby small souvenirs are for sale.

This place is suitable for transiting tourists, rather than a destination point.

Mount Ijen Crater

Not exactly the most accessible of all craters, this Ijen crater may become of great interest to the adventurous tourist. It is located far enough from Bali as well as from Surabaya, whereas an overnight stay is recommended either at Banyuwangi if coming from Bali or at Bondowoso if coming from Surabaya. The trip to the crater should start early in the morning the next day because road accessibility only gets you up to 14 km from the crater which you have to do on foot, and up-hill for that matter.

Special about this crater is its wide gaping mouth having a diameter of 1 km, whereas its depth all the way to the bottom is 175 meters, where a turquoise lake is found with its impressive surroundings.


Ponorogo is located southwest of Surabaya at a distance of 200 km. A bigger town closest to it is Madiun, which lies on the main highway between Surabaya and points west of it in Central Java. So, out of Madiun it would be a side trip to Ponorogo, if you care to witness the Festival Reyog, held here on the 17th of August each year, highlighting the area's traditional drama and dance. Otherwise you may want to visit Ngebel Lake nearby. Batiks and basketry of this region are also well-known.

Shopping Hints

Batik from Madura, brass lamps and ornaments, bamboo decorations, stone statues: bronze figurines, basketry, paintings.

Daily exhibition activities at the People's Amusement Park (T.H.R) and Surabaya Mall (metal handicraft, leather handicraft, embroidered needlework, woven handicraft, textile fabrics).

Batik, woodwork & fretwork, rattan work, wooden furniture, ceramics, onyx & marble-ware, plate-work, flower arrangement).

Other links about East Java:
East Java Government Tourism Services
East Java Tourism
Lots of Pictures here