It's startling to think that the great Buddhist temple of Borabodur was built, by hand, in the eighth century. Similar to Stonehenge, the tools and methods of doing so remain a mystery.
Borabodur will quite simply, take your breath away. This is a UNESCO sight which is well worth the pilgrimage. Still relatively undiscovered by European tourists (there were a handful of French and Italian tourists while we were there - although this won't remain the case for long, we feel), it's quite simply amazing. Discovered by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles of Singapore fame in 1814, it lies near Muntilan, a corruption of 'Mountainland' which is what Raffles called the area when he first visited. It is built in three main layers, with each layer denoting the buddhist journey to Nirvana. It is well worth engaging a guide, as Kiki, our guide explained the symbolism and the stories depicted in the stone frescos which line the layers of the temple. This made the whole temple come to life. At the top, there are 72 stupa, each with a seated Buddha inside and one large crowing stupa. We discovered that shortly after the completion of the UNESCO restoration, bombs were placed by terrorists in 10 of the stupa, and detonated under cover of darkness. The bomb placed in the Buddha known as 'the lucky Buddha' by locals for decades prior to the bombing, somehow failed to go off, cementing his status.
The views from the top are phenomenal - misty volcanoes and steep mountain ridges, shrouded in jungle. It's a magical place.
The best time to visit is at dawn (there is a separate entrance specifically for those wishing to do so), but we visited around 9.30am on a weekday in peak season and it was not busy at all. There is some good natured heckling from local stall holders at the entrance, but nothing like you would find around the main attractions in Thailand. The temple is set within a beautiful park of some 80 plus hectares, so if you want, you can spend longer exploring the area thoroughly.
Java has the feeling of a place trembling on being the 'next big thing' so visiting sooner rather than later would be recommended.