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Prambanan | Courtesy of Mike Aquino

At Candi Prambanan near Yogyakarta in Central Java, Indonesia, you’ll feel like the furthest reaches of Javanese history have just come tantalizingly within arms’ reach. 

The 224-temple complex was built in 856 CE by a Hindu prince marrying into the ruling Buddhist Sailendra monarchy. His enduring masterwork is the largest temple complex in all of Java, dominated by three lofty spires representing the three central gods of the Hindu religion. The tallest spire rises 47m high over the surrounding countryside.

Relief sculptures around the temples’ walls tell the story of the Ramayana. After dark, this Hindu epic comes to life through evening performances at Prambanan’s open-air concert hall, featuring a cast of hundreds with the brilliantly-lit temple spires as a breathtaking backdrop.

Prambanan was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. Its structures are vulnerable to earthquakes, as the temple complex is still undergoing rehabilitation after a particularly strong shock in 2006.