Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to discuss the local wisdom-based recovery model that has been applied in the Bantul district, Yogyakarta, Indonesia following the 2006 earthquake. This recovery model might appropriately be implemented in any type of local government in developing countries which have strong local culture characteristics. Design/methodology/approach - This research is an exploratory case study which concentrates on the Bantul district. Data were gathered in two categories: primary data and secondary data. Primary data were collected through in-depth interviews. Secondary data were collected from related document such as articles, books, web sites or government and NGO reports. Findings - Bantul is a small district in the province of Yogyakarta Special region, Indonesia, and is known to be a highly urbanized area, poverty-stricken and lacking in funds, and with a limited capability to manage a disaster. However, the two years of recovery has resulted in reimaging this district as a well-planned area with a correctly targeted development strategy. The results of the recovery phase were satisfactory. The recovery efforts paid due respect to the high quality of existing local cultures and popular wisdom. Principally, it is the people themselves who should decide how to rebuild their houses. Local government has only provided assistance for earthquake-resistant houses and has supported basic housing needs. Originality/value - This paper presents lessons learnt from local government in a developing country in dealing with a recovery process based on local community wisdom.