Skip to Content

Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan: All You Need to Know

Prambanan Temple Sunset

Prambanan Temple is one of the top places to visit in Yogyakarta and is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia after Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to 850 BC and is definitely worth adding to your Yogyakarta itinerary.

A visit to Prambanan Temple should be combined with a performance of the Ramayana Ballet, at an open-air theatre close by. It’s a fantastic show with amazing views of the temple at night in the distance.

Still not convinced? Here’s all you need to know about the Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan Temple before you book tickets:

It’s a Javanese Ballet

Put away all your thoughts of Swan Lake and the like because the Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan is a traditional Javanese dance that bears little resemblance to Western ballet.

There are no pointed toes here but quite the opposite. There is lots of balancing on one foot with your toes bent up towards the sky. Each movement is controlled and deliberate, often very slow and almost jagged when compared to the smooth movements of European ballets.

The dance is accompanied by a live group of musicians playing traditional Indonesian instruments such as gamelan, an ensemble of percussion instruments.

This includes metallophones, gongs and drums. It’s a distinction tune that you’ll hear throughout your time in Indonesia if you are visiting temples and the like.

It tells the story of Rama and Sita 

Ramayana is one of the two most famous ancient epics originating from India and tells the story of Rama and Sita. It’s one of the largest epics in literature and presents Hindu teachings in narrative form.

The premise is that Prince Rama and his wife Sita are banished to live in the forest as Rama’s step-mother, the new wife of the King, wants her son to inherit the throne.

Meanwhile, the evil Ravana has heard of Sita’s beauty and wants him for herself. He hatches a plan to ensnare her by tempting her with a golden faun, which Sita asks Rama to catch for her.

Whilst Rama is away, Sita steps out of the protective circle he created for her to help an old beggar but it turns out this beggar is Ravana, who whisks her away.

Rama and his brother search for ages before joining forces with Lord Hanuman, the Monkey King, to help bring Sita home.

Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan Temple

There are English subtitles 

Hooray! If you were wondering how on Earth you’d understand what was going on, you’ll be pleased to hear there are some English subtitles.

There are two screens, one on either side of the stage, upon which short descriptions of each major scene are projected. These are really helpful for knowing which part of the story you’re at as otherwise it’s easy to get lost.

On your way in, you should also pick up a one page pamphlet in your language, which explains the story in full. If you read this before the performance begins you will have a much clearer idea of what’s going on.

It’s outdoors

Prambanan ballet takes place in an open air theatre so make sure to check the weather forecast before booking your tickets. The dry season in Indonesia spans from May to September, during which time it is highly unlikely to rain. If you are visiting during peak season, an umbrella should not be needed.

However, I visited in August and still found it became a little chilly as the night went on so I’d recommend bringing a light jacket even in the summer months. Also, if you’re prone to being bitten, it may be wise to bring some insect repellent to quickly spritz yourself with too as you will be sat inactive for a few hours.

You may also see some bats flying across in the darkness from time to time!

Prambanan Temple at night

There are amazing views of Prambanan Temple

The theatre is across the road from Prambanan Temple and it is lit up at night so you get amazing views of the Temple in the dark from your ballet seats. Of course you’ll already have seen these structures up close from your Prambanan sunset tour but seeing the numerous peaks lit up in the distance is a spectacular sight.

The temple also looks much larger from further away and much more grand. When you are standing in the temple complex, you will see that it’s actually made up of lots of smaller towers, however, from a distance only the largest and most impressive peaks are lit up.

You’ll be given cushions to sit on

As you walk in, you’ll be handed a waterproof cushion to put on your seat. This is definitely needed as anything but the VIP seating is just a hard concrete bench! It appeared the VIP seats had cushions with arms but in the rest of the place you get one to sit on only one cushion. The addition of a seat cushion is more than enough to make the seat comfortable enough for two hours though so there’s no need to worry about this.

The Ramayana Ballet is 2 hours long

The ballet performance runs from 7:30pm to 9:30pm with a short interval. Oddly, the interval is 1.5 hours in, rather than half way through, so you’ll be waiting until 9pm for an opportunity to run for the loo or buy snacks if you don’t want to miss anything.

There are a couple of stalls outside the main theatre where you can pick up drinks and snacks if you’re feeling peckish before the show or during the interval.

Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan Temple

There’s a restaurant onsite 

If you’re doing a Prambanan sunset tour before the Ramayana ballet, you may be wondering when to eat. Although there are some warungs and restaurants at Prambanan, these will have shut by the time you leave after sunset.

Fortunately, there is a restaurant at the Ramayana Ballet site. However, there is only one and it offers a pretty expensive buffet meal. It costs 145,000 IDR per person (less than £8.50), but this is about four times as much as any meal I enjoyed in Yogykarta so it is pretty expensive by Indonesian standards.

What’s more, it’s a thoroughly disorganised affair. There was a large group booking on the day we attended so we had no idea what was going on, where to sit, or how to even pay for the meal. There are a large number out of tables outdoors and you’re free to sit wherever you want, though you may have to share your table with strangers.

The food on offer included things like rice, noodles, chicken satay, soup, fresh fruit, jelly, also French fries. It’s worth noting that the food selection is not great for vegetarians, especially given the price.

One pro of the restaurant however is that it’s located outside with incredible views of Prambanan Temple. You can dine with a table out on the grass, with the stars above you and the Temple not too far away, which is spectacular.

It’s not located at the Temple site

It’s important to know that the ballet does not actually take place at the Temple site and is a little walk away. It is common get to Prambanan Temple via a private car or a group bus. If you’re hoping to see the Temple at sunset and then the Ramayana ballet, you should make this clear to the company when booking. They will arrange for your driver to take you to Prambanan Temple, then pick you up after sunset and take you directly to the theatre before taking you home from the ballet.

A private taxi for two friends and I cost 300,000 IDR total (~£17.50), which I haggled down from 400,000 IDR (~£23). If you’re booking a group car or coach, prices are usually 120,000 IDR (~£7) per person, so it’s often more economical to hire a private car car.

Tickets are separate from Prambanan Temple entrance

The Ramayana Ballet performance ticket is not included with your Prambanan Temple ticket so you will need to purchase these separately.

A lot of tourists will buy a joint ticket to both Prambanan and Borobodur so think about whether you’d like to visit the latter too during your stay in Yogyakarta.

The tour companies you’ll most likely be booking your drivers with (more later) will also be authorised Prambanan Ballet ticket resellers. There’s no difference in price here so I’d recommend buying the tickets at the same time you book your transport for ease.

Otherwise, you’ll have to get your driver to stop off at the theatre on your way to Prambanan Temple, which is a waste of time.

Plus, you don’t want to go all that way and then find out that the ballet tickets are sold out for that day!

If you’d like to book your tour in advance before you get to Indonesia, you can easily book from a range of companies on Get Your Guide below. This way you can travel with peace of mind knowing your transport and tickets have been sorted with English speaking guides.

Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan Temple

There are four price brackets 

There are four different price brackets for Ramayana Ballet tickets ranging from 125,000 IDR to 400,000 IDR. At the upper end you have VIP tickets for 400,000 IDR.

These seats are right in the centre of the stage so you have completely unobstructed views of the ballet and the subtitle screens, as well as beautiful views of Prambanan Temple behind the theatre. VIP tickets have comfier seating than the other tiers.

The next tier costs 300,000 IDR and is located right behind VIP. You’re still in the centre of the stage but you’re just a little further away. As you’re higher up, you may have even better views of Prambanan Temple in the distance but the details of the ballet may be much smaller if you’re sat at the back of this area.

The seats in these two top tiers are allocated so it’s best to book these in advance to guarantee getting the best seats. I booked my tickets on the same morning as the show and these two tiers were already sold out, however, there were plenty left in the bottom two.

The next two tiers face the stage diagonally and side-on respectively. These seats are first come first serve so it’s worth arriving at the performance in good time to nab the best seats, closest to the front and centre.

I was sat about half way up the class 1 block (200k IDR) and struggled a little to read the subtitles as they were partially blocked by the lighting towers. If you arrive early, you should be able to sit further forwards to avoid this issue.

If you’re in either of these two tiers, I’d also recommend booking tickets on the right hand side of the stage (facing the stage). This is because Prambanan Temple is located a little to the left of the theatre so if you sit on this side you’ll be able to see both the stage and the temple in the background clearly.

My personal feel from looking at the seats was that those in the lowest bracket (125k IDR), which are side on, wouldn’t have very good views of the action.

You wouldn’t see the dance patterns in quite the same way since they cannot see the faces of the performers when they are at the front of the stage.

I think the third tier is the best option if you’re not looking to go all out on VIP as you still can still enjoy really excellent views.

All that being said, because this is a wide, open-air theatre, most seats are great seats so don’t worry too much if you can’t get the ones you want.

There’s real fire, acrobatics & arrows

Javanese ballet contains much more action than the ballets by Tchaikovsky. You can expect to see huge burning sets, fun acrobatics and some (fairly) accurate arrow firing during the Ramayana ballet.

I was shocked to see performers firing (fake) arrows across the whole stage, sometimes even from the back of the theatre, with quite good accuracy.

You’ll also see Hanuman and his group of monkeys flipping across the stage doing some impressive gymnastics and many of these performers are children.

Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan Temple with Fire

The show is not the same every day

Firstly, the ballet is not held every day of the week. It usually isn’t held on Mondays, Fridays and Sundays, but there are some exceptions each month. It’s worth checking the ballet’s schedule for the period in which you’re visiting to make sure you don’t miss out as it is not on every day.

Secondly, the performance is not always the same. Usually the full story is shown on stage but occasionally this is split into shorter “episodes”. Make sure you pick a day when the whole story is being performed so you are not disappointed.  

You can take photos with the dancers

As you walk up the steps into the theatre area, you will find a few dancers standing at the entrance for photos with the audience. You can grab a quick photo at this point or wait til the end of the show when all the characters are on stage for photos then.

They actively encourage you to get up on the stage at the end to take pictures so don’t be shy! The costumes are stunning so at the very least this is a good opportunity to see them up close.

If you’re planning a visit to Yogyakarta, make sure to add a sunset tour of Prambanan Temple and the Ramayana Ballet to your Yogyakarta itinerary! Have I tempted you?

Get your Prambanan Tour tickets online now before you travel:

Pin now, read again later!

If you liked this post, check out these:
Visiting Borobudur in Indonesia
Why Not to Visit Pura Lempuyang, Bali
All You Need to Know About the Monkey Forest in Ubud
11 Things to Do in Ubud, Bali
Where to Get the Best Views of the Alhambra
Top 50 Things to Do in San Francisco