Sited just 65 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Yogyakarta, the city of Solo, formally known as Surakarta was also a center of power during the great Javanese kingdoms. Although larger than Yogya, Solo has more of a small town feel and is not as visited as its neighbor. Which is not to say there isn't plenty to see. The royal city boasts two palaces, and the surrounding countryside is home to some of Indonesia's more unusual ancient temples.
Surakarta's founding dates to 1745, when the susuhunan, Pakubuwono II, is said to have heard voices telling him the city of Solo was where the court should be established after the old capital of Kartsasura was sacked. It didn't work, as the kingdom crumbled within 10 years of the city's founding, with the susuhunan's own brother founding a court at Yogyakarta.
Sights of Solo
Solo is usually visited as a day trip from Yogyakarta, but these usually leave a number of interesting sights unseen. To really take in all that the city has to offer, you should plan on spending one or two nights in town. Withing the city the major sights are the two palaces, the newer, smaller Mangkunegaran Palace and the older Kasunanan Palace, which also houses a museum. Near the Mangkunegaran Palace is the antiques market, where can find old batik stamps and other collectables. Lastly, take a stroll through the relatively quiet lanes of the Batik Kampung, a section of old shops and houses near the Kasunanan Palace where batik is still made and sold.
Tucked away in the mountains near Solo in central Java are some of the more interesting Hindu temples in all of Southeast Asia. The temple of Candi Sukuh is unique not only in overall design, but also in decoration. Further up the same mountain where Candi Sukuh is sited, through tea plantation covered hills, is the temple of Candi Ceto. On the other side of Mount Lewu are the Grojogan Sewu falls, a spectacular 80-meter high waterfall that makes a good scenic stop after a day visiting the temples. About 15 kilometers (10 miles) north of Solo is the archaeological excavation of Sangiran. This is where the prehistoric 'Java Man' was unearthed in 1936. A small museum is open on the site, but it doesn't seem to figure much on the tourist trail as I couldn't find anyone to take me there.