Sambisari Temple: A Hidden Story From the Earth

Benedictus O.

Sambisari Temple, a Hindu temple submerged in a green pit, under a bright sky with scattered clouds.
Sambisari Temple, a hidden gem 6.5 meters below ground level, surrounded by lush greenery. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/

Discovered in 1966 by a local farmer, Sambisari Temple is an archaeological marvel hidden four meters below ground. Investigating this site reveals a meticulously restored temple complex, featuring a main structure made from andesite stone that stands 7.5 meters tall, accompanied by three smaller temples. It initially served as a sacred worship site for Lord Shiva. The intricate carvings and symbolic features illustrate Hinduism’s rich spiritual and cosmic beliefs.

Amenities include a mini museum, rest areas, and ample parking.

To gain more insights into its fascinating history and tips for planning your visit, continue uncovering its story.

History of Sambisari Temple

A distant view of the main structure of Sambisari Temple, surrounded by green grass and low stone walls.
The main structure of Sambisari Temple stands prominently within its sunken courtyard. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/

Hidden beneath the earth for centuries, Sambisari Temple‘s fascinating history began to unfold in 1966 when a local farmer accidentally discovered its buried ruins. This unexpected find marked the initiation of a significant archaeological journey, highlighting the temple’s immense historical value. Once the site was declared an archaeological sanctuary, experts embarked on a meticulous restoration process. Over 21 years, archaeologists pieced together hundreds of stone fragments, painstakingly reconstructing the temple to its former glory.

Local folklore surrounding Sambisari Temple often speaks of hidden treasures buried within its grounds, adding an element of mystery and allure to its historical narrative. These tales, passed down through generations, spark local and tourist interest alike, enriching the cultural significance of the site. The temple’s discovery unveiled not only physical remnants of the past but also stories of ancient rituals and forgotten treasures, deeply embedded in the region’s collective memory.

Visiting Sambisari Temple today offers a glimpse into this rich tapestry of history and myth. It provides a unique opportunity to appreciate the dedication involved in its restoration and the enduring legacy of the ancient Mataram civilization.

Architecture of Sambisari Temple

Visitors entering the main temple building at Sambisari Temple.
Visitors walk up the steps to enter the main building of Sambisari Temple. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/

The architecture of Sambisari Temple showcases the intricate craftsmanship and religious symbolism of the ancient Mataram civilization. As you investigate this hidden gem, the temple’s main structure stands out as a stunning example of the architectural marvels of its time. Constructed from andesite stone, the temple rises approximately 7.5 meters tall and features a square base.

The temple complex includes a main temple and three smaller accompanying temples, each reflecting the cultural significance of the era. Detailed carvings of mythical creatures, such as lions emerging from makaras’ mouths, symbolize protection and power. Statues of Dewi Durga, Ganesha, and Agastya adorn the temple, each intricately carved to represent various aspects of Hindu mythology and religious beliefs.

The main chamber houses large lingga and yoni stones, indicative of worship practices dedicated to Lord Shiva. Surrounding the temple are eight lingga patok stones, placed according to the cardinal directions, which further emphasize its spiritual and cultural significance.

Walking through the temple grounds, you’ll experience a harmonious blend of architecture and symbolism, offering a profound glimpse into the ancient Mataram civilization’s devotion and artistry.

Function and Meaning of Sambisari Temple

A detailed stone carving of Ganesha on the eastern side of Sambisari Temple.
A beautiful stone carving of Ganesha on the east side of Sambisari Temple in Yogyakarta. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/
A stone Yoni inside the main building of Sambisari Temple.
The Yoni inside the main structure of Sambisari Temple in Yogyakarta symbolizes fertility. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/

Sambisari Temple served as a sacred site for worship and a symbol of the Mataram civilization‘s spiritual devotion. Investigating the temple reveals its primary function: serving religious purposes, particularly the worship of Lord Shiva. The presence of lingga and yoni stones within the main chamber underscores this focus on Shiva, symbolizing fertility and cosmic unity.

The temple complex’s architecture and statues, such as those of Dewi Durga, Ganesha, and Agastya, reflect the rich symbolism embedded in Hindu beliefs. These elements highlight the spiritual and cultural values of the time. Each statue conveys significant aspects of the divine, reinforcing the temple’s role as a place of spiritual guidance and community congregation.

The layout, with its main structure surrounded by three subsidiary temples, illustrates the hierarchical nature of the universe as perceived by the Mataram civilization. The eight lingga patok stones positioned according to cardinal directions further emphasize the temple’s symbolic representation of cosmic order.

Visiting Sambisari Temple offers insight into the profound religious functions and intricate symbolism that defined the spiritual landscape of ancient Mataram society.

Things to Do at Sambisari Temple

Visitors walking towards Sambisari Temple, surrounded by green grass and stone walls.
Visitors enjoy exploring the sunken Sambisari Temple surrounded by lush greenery. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/

Exploring Sambisari Temple offers a variety of engaging activities that guarantee a memorable and enriching experience. You’ll be immersed in both its historical significance and serene beauty. Begin your visit by delving into the temple’s rich history, observing the intricate carvings and statues that tell stories of ancient civilizations. The temple’s layout, with its main and supporting structures, offers a fascinating glimpse into the architectural prowess of the Mataram Kingdom.

To make the most of your visit, consider these activities:

  • Capture stunning photographs: The temple is surrounded by lush greenery, making it an ideal spot for photography enthusiasts. The contrast between the ancient stone structures and the vibrant landscape creates striking images.
  • Explore the mini museum: Located within the temple grounds, the museum displays artifacts and photos from the excavation and reconstruction processes. This provides deeper insights into the temple’s history.
  • Enjoy a leisurely stroll: Wander through the serene surroundings, taking in the tranquil atmosphere and meticulously maintained gardens. This offers a perfect setting for relaxation.
  • Savor local cuisine: After your temple tour, visit nearby eateries to indulge in authentic Javanese dishes. This will enrich your cultural experience with local flavors.

These activities ensure a memorable and enriching visit to Sambisari Temple.

Amenities and Facilities at Sambisari Temple

Sambisari Temple with its surrounding green terraces and stone walls under a clear sky.
Sambisari Temple nestled within its lush green terraces in Sleman, Yogyakarta. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/

At Candi Sambisari, a variety of amenities and facilities ensure a comfortable and enriching visit. Nestled in a peaceful environment, the temple complex is well-equipped to cater to your needs as you explore its historical and cultural treasures. The site allows visitors to fully immerse themselves in the surroundings while enjoying modern conveniences.

Expect the following when you visit:

  • Parking Facilities: Ample parking space is available, making it easy to access the site by car.
  • Visitor Information Center: This center provides detailed information about the temple’s history, significance, and tips for navigating the complex.
  • Rest Areas: Several shaded spots and benches are provided, perfect for relaxing and taking in the tranquil surroundings.
  • Mini Museum: A small but informative museum displays artifacts and photographs documenting the excavation and restoration of Candi Sambisari.

These amenities enhance your experience, offering both comfort and educational value. The thoughtful integration of these facilities allows you to focus on the beauty and historical significance of Candi Sambisari while remaining well-supported throughout your visit.

Best Times To Visit

Visitors walking up the steps from Sambisari Temple located in a green pit with surrounding walls.
Visitors explore the sunken Sambisari Temple in Yogyakarta, beautifully surrounded by green hills. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/

To make the most of your visit, plan your trip to Candi Sambisari during the dry season, typically from May to October. These months generally provide clear weather, offering optimal conditions for exploring the temple grounds and engaging in seasonal activities. Minimal rainfall during this period makes it easier to navigate the site and capture stunning photographs of the temple’s intricate carvings and statues without the disruption of sudden showers.

The best times to visit Candi Sambisari are in the early morning or late afternoon. Cooler temperatures and softer natural lighting during these times enhance your viewing and photographic experiences. Additionally, visiting during these periods helps you avoid the midday heat and larger crowds common in peak tourist seasons.

For a more tranquil experience, consider visiting on weekdays, as weekends tend to attract more visitors. This strategy provides a more peaceful atmosphere and allows you to fully immerse yourself in the historical and cultural significance of the temple.

Regardless of when you choose to visit, planning around the weather and tourist seasons will optimize your overall experience at this remarkable site.

How to get to Sambisari Temple?

Planning a visit to Sambisari Temple offers several convenient transportation options. For those driving, head east from Yogyakarta city via the Jalan Raya Jogja–Solo highway, and then turn north onto Jalan Candi Sambisari. The temple lies approximately 12 kilometers from Yogyakarta, making it a relatively short drive.

Renting a motorcycle or car provides flexibility. Numerous rental services in Yogyakarta offer a range of vehicles to suit different needs. This option allows you to explore other nearby attractions at your own pace, enhancing your sightseeing experience.

Public transport is also a practical choice. Buses and minivans frequently travel the route from Yogyakarta to Sambisari Temple. Catch a bus heading towards Prambanan, and ask the driver to drop you off at the nearest stop to Sambisari Temple. From there, a short walk will lead you to the site.

Regardless of your chosen transportation method, remember to plan your itinerary to allow ample time for visiting both Sambisari Temple and other local attractions.

Entry Fees or Permits Required

Two visitors walking down the grassy steps at Sambisari Temple.
Visitors descend the grassy steps to explore Sambisari Temple. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/

Planning your transportation is just the first step. Knowing the entry fees for Sambisari Temple is crucial for an enjoyable visit. Local tourists pay Rp 5,000 per person, while foreign visitors are charged Rp 10,000. These fees directly support preservation efforts, ensuring the temple’s cultural significance endures for future generations.

Upon arriving at Sambisari Temple, the historical and cultural importance of the site becomes evident. Funds from ticket sales play a key role in various preservation efforts, such as:

  • Maintaining the temple’s structural integrity
  • Supporting archaeological research and discoveries
  • Funding the mini museum that houses artifacts and photos
  • Ensuring the surrounding area remains clean and welcoming

Understanding these contributions adds value to your visit, allowing you to appreciate the efforts that keep this ancient site thriving.

Travel Tips to Sambisari Temple

Planning your visit to Sambisari Temple can greatly improve your experience and guarantee you make the most of this historical gem. Located just 12 kilometers east of Yogyakarta, Sambisari Temple offers both travel photography opportunities and cultural exploration. Here are some tips to optimize your visit:

  • Best Times to Visit: Arriving early in the morning or late in the afternoon ensures you avoid the midday heat and experience the site in the most pleasant conditions. The soft lighting during these times is also ideal for travel photography.
  • Seasonal Considerations: The rainy season brings lush greenery, making the temple’s surroundings more vibrant and picturesque. Check the weather forecast to avoid unexpected downpours during your visit.
  • Respect and Etiquette: As a historical and cultural site, maintaining etiquette is important. Respect the temple’s sanctity by avoiding loud noises and refraining from climbing on the structures. Always follow posted guidelines to preserve the site’s integrity.
  • Preserve Cleanliness: Ensure you leave no trace by disposing of trash properly and avoiding any form of vandalism. Keeping the area clean helps maintain its beauty for future visitors.


Concluding your visit to Sambisari Temple, you feel a profound connection to the ancient Mataram civilization that once thrived here. Intricate carvings and statues of Dewi Durga, Ganesha, and Agastya, along with the symbolic lingga and yoni stones, leave an indelible mark on your historical curiosity.

The sun sets, casting a golden hue over the serene grounds. Sambisari Temple isn’t just a site to discover—it’s a timeless story waiting to be uncovered.



Benedictus O.

Benedictus Oktaviantoro is a dedicated mountaineer and adventurer who loves helping others. He began climbing Mount Salak in 2002 and has since explored many beautiful places in Indonesia. Benedictus is also active in social activities, such as Search and Rescue missions and disaster relief efforts. Currently, he is learning more about digital marketing to improve his skills.