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One of the most populous places in all of Asia, Java is still characterized by great natural beauty. Its central spine is dominated by hundreds of volcanoes, many of which are still very evidently active, and their fertile slopes support a landscape of glimmering ricelands spotted with countless small villages. To the south of this mountainous backbone is the homeland of the ethnic Javanese and the epicentre of their arts, culture and language, epitomized by the royal courts of Yogyakarta and Solo . Still steeped in traditional dance, music and art, these two cities are the mainstay of Java's tourist industry and offer first-rate facilities for travellers. They also provide excellent bases from which to explore the giant ninth-century Buddhist temple Borobudur , and the equally fascinating Prambanan complex , a contemporary Hindu site. To the east, the huge volcanic massif of Gunung Bromo is the other major stop on most travellers' itineraries, not least for the sunrise walk to its summit. But there are plenty more volcanic landscapes to explore, including the coloured lakes of the windswept Dieng plateau, the stunning crater lake and sulphur mines of the Ijen Plateau , and the world's most famous - and destructive - volcano, Krakatau off the coast of west Java. And when it's time to chill out, most travellers opt for a spell in Pangandaran , which boasts crashing surf, endless expanses of sand, superb seafood and a national park on its doorstep. Aside from Yogya, Java's cities are not that enticing, but Jakarta , the chaotic sprawl that is Indonesia's capital, does boast several worthwhile museums. And once you've exhausted the pleasures of Java you can move easily on to neighbouring islands - Sumatra is just ninety minutes' ferry ride from Merak in the west; Bali a mere half hour from Banyuwangi in the east.

Edit by: Chris
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