Once you start to climb the 9 levels to the top, the height becomes even more impressive.
For years it was buried in the jungle under lava from a nearby volcano.Then, in 1814, during Britain's brief rule over Java, the British governor, Sir Stamford Raffles, heard tales of it and sent a Dutch engineer, H. C. Cornelius, to find and restore it. It is now Java's top travel destination.
The site once held 504 statues of Buddha. Although about 300 have been damaged, either decapitated by thieves or defaced by local fanatics, there are still numerous examples left to see.
Every one of the many stupas (bell-like structures) held a Buddha, although these had suffered the worst damage. It was hard to find one that still had a head.
The popularity of the site attracts mainly sightseers like ourselves, most of them busy taking selfies.
But there are still some devotees among the crowd.
In spite of damage and some clumsy restoration, the bas-reliefs carved into the walls were fascinating.
By the time we left, the late afternoon sun was casting long shadows that silhouetted the stupas against a pale sky.