Best cultural attractions in East Java

Gunung Kawi

Gunung Kawi ©GOC53/Flick

The East Javanese Majapahit dynasty started to lay the foundations of an empire that later dominated the entire Indonesian archipelago, the Malay Peninsula, and also a part of the Philippines for centuries. At this time were built the beneficial trade relations with China, Cambodia, Siam, Burma and Vietnam.

As the Central Javanese empire began to decline in the 10th century, the east Javanese kingdoms started to develop to fill the void of power.


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In the years of the reign of King Erlangga East Java and Bali were in a very profitable trade relation with the neighboring islands, this being the basis for a spiritual and artistic rebirth as well.

East Java also took part of the modern history; it was a pioneer of the fight for independence in 1945 against the colonial forces. The memory of the former glory of the Majapahit Empire in East Java is still alive today.

Cultural heritage

East Java has a rich cultural heritage that can be experienced during your visit.

Several parts of the Mahabharata epos were translated and adapted to the East Javanese philosophy and world view. East Java inherited the defining memories of church art from that era as well.

The outdoor amphitheater performances held in the city of Pandaan tell us about the glorious past. The natural background is provided by the view of the distant volcanoes that expresses the culture of East Java and the spirit of those lands.

On the Kawi Mountain is the tomb of a sage and it is an important place of pilgrimage for all those who want to multiply the fortunes of this world. The atmosphere of the hilltop grave environment is strongly Javan: there are often held shadow plays and Gamelan performances. Along the long staircase leading to the tomb are sacred springs, Chinese worship houses, flower and souvenir vendors and other cultural attractions as well.

Gunung Kawi

Gunung Kawi ©GOC53/Flick


The provincial capital Surabaya is the second largest city after Jakarta regarding its territorial size and number of population. East Java is the most industrialized province of the country and its economic strength lies in agriculture (coffee, mango and apple production), fishing and petroleum. In Surabaya you will find good hotels, shopping centers and entertainment venues, being a great base for discovering the cultural attractions in East Java. In its rich zoo you will see some rarities of the Indonesian wildlife, such as orangutans, Komodo dragons and a unique collection of nocturnal birds. In the traditional port of Kalimas you will find the world-famous Bugis schooners in their original glory.

The city of Surabaya in East Java

The city of Surabaya in East Java ©bennylin/Flick

Important settlements in East Java

It is believed that on the place of the village of Trowulan and its surroundings once stood the ancient capital of the Majapahit Kingdom. During the ​​archaeological excavations on the area many terracota ornaments, sculptures, ceramics and stone carvings came to the surface that can be seen in the Trowulan museum.

The city of Pandaan lies at 45 km to south from Surabaya. On the Candra Wilwatika open stage are held East Javanese ballet evenings at every full moon from June to November. The performances animate the Ramayana epos and the East Javanese folklore stories. In the background the Panangungan Hill provides a magical atmosphere.

Tretes is one of the most scenic mountain resorts of East Java and is located at only 10 km from Candra Wilwatika.

Seller in East Java

Seller in East Java ©DMahendra/Flick

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