Yogyakarta has long been a seat of learning, and is often described as Indonesia's cultural capital and the cradle of civilization in Central Java. The city is located on a rich fertile plain which gave rise to the world famous temples of Borobudur (Buddhist) and Prambanan (Hindu) which are two of the main cultural highlights of any visit to Java.
The influence of the Mataram Empire dominated the region from the mid 18th Century, and Yogyakarta has since thrived under a powerful Sultanate that first resisted colonial forces and then negotiated a special autonomous status within the Republic of Indonesia. Parts of the Sultan's Palace, or Kraton, are open to visitors, including a number of open air buildings used for ceremonial purposes and museums with memorabilia showing the life and work of previous Sultans. The Water Castle and gardens of the Palace can also be visited, which is where the Sultans enjoyed their time with their many wives and concubines in a series of elaborate bathing pools.
The city itself is sprawling and at times hectic with heavy traffic, mostly made up of students on motorcycles who make up a large proportion of the 400,000 population. There are a number of lively streets to explore in the centre of town with students dining on the pavements at makeshift eateries, restaurants catering to tourist trade, and endless rows of handicraft shops mainly selling batik artwork & clothing.