A Guide to Indonesia’s Most Beautiful Islands

Home to some of the world’s most unique islands, Indonesia is a beautiful setting for an unforgettable vacation. That being said, few types of vacation will let you experience it like an Indonesia cruise that lets you get up close and personal to some of the archipelago’s beautiful islands.

But if you’re heading out on a cruise, it’s impossible to visit all the islands, as there are over 18,000 of them in total. What you can do, however, is go for some of the most popular ones that will result in a vacation you can’t wait to repeat. So, let’s check out some of Indonesia’s most beautiful islands and why you want to visit them.

Bali

We’ll kick things off with Bali, arguably Indonesia’s most popular island and an absolute paradise for tourists who want to explore what Indonesia is all about. The island definitely gets crowded throughout the year, which is something you’ll need to keep in mind, but the reason for that is the fact that it’s a mini-Indonesia in and of itself – it has a bit of everything, and people love that.

You can start exploring in Nusa Dua, with a place that’s going to allow you to relax quite a bit, especially if you decide to head to Nusa Dua Beach. There’s also coral life, which is an absolute must if you’re a fan of snorkeling and diving. Then there is Ubud, a place that’s phenomenal when it comes to a variety of things to do. We’d suggest heading to the markets, where you can wander around and find some really beautiful handicraft things. Ubud’s waterfalls and temples are also a great idea if you have the time. And lest we forget – the nightlife is a chance to go absolutely crazy.

There are a lot of things you can do in Bali, the ones we mentioned are merely scratching the surface, but the place is one you just must visit if you’re in Indonesia. For the people who appreciate religion, Bali is home to Balinese Hinduism, an amalgamation of customs and religions that has been in Indonesia for a good while now, and there are plenty of temples that offer immense beauty for you to explore.

The only potential downside is the fact that getting around the island is incredibly difficult due to the number of tourists and the overall messy traffic. If you’re only on the island for a few hours, renting a car is a mistake. Instead, opt for a tuk-tuk and a driver that knows how to navigate the traffic in Bali – this is how you get around in a quick and efficient way.

Nusa Penida, Bali
Nusa Penida, Bali

Raja Ampat

Aptly called the home of the world’s most diverse underwater habitats, Raja Ampat is an absolute paradise on Earth. The name translates to “Four Kings”, which are the four largest islands of the area – out of about 600 or so in total, all within Raja Ampat. The islands in question are Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool, and they’re all incredibly beautiful.

The entire group of islands consists of clusters of limestone karst-wrapped islands that hide stunning caves, lagoons and beaches for you to explore. When you’ve got some time to spare, Raja Ampat will offer you the chance to find a bit of peace and privacy that’s difficult to find elsewhere and enjoy a bit of intimacy. 

The wildlife excursions you can enjoy in Raja Ampat aren’t just on the ground – they’re underwater, too, as the archipelago is right in the Coral Triangle, a marine area that has some of the most incredible coral life, making it a paradise for people who enjoy snorkeling and diving. From secret bays, deep drop-offs and pristine reef flats, to marine lakes and protected coral gardens, the diversity you’ll be able to experience is just stunning.

There is also the fact that the region surrounding Raja Ampat is actually the meeting point of the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, a place known as the Indonesian Throughflow. With an average height difference of six inches between the two oceans, there is an incredible water movement which helps the biodiversity quite a bit. And it’s certainly a place you must explore.

Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat

Weh Island

Pulau Weh, also known as Pulau Sabang, is a thunderbolt-shaped island located off the northernmost tip of the large island province of Sumatra.
The population is Muslim and, due to the special location at the crossroads of multiple cultures, there are Indian, Malay and Burmese influences.
The location “on the edge of Indonesia”, makes this place off the beaten track. Those who come here, do so mainly for the presence of spectacular diving sites where you can spot sharks and rays. Much of the island is wild, even near the 3 most popular beaches:
Iboih Beach
Long Beach
Gapang Beach
The evening life and entertainment (contained, as this is a Muslim region) are concentrated in Iboih Beach, which is teeming with cafes, restaurants, and low-priced resorts with bungalows directly on the water. It’s almost impossible not to make friends almost immediately with the locals and other travelers at Iboih Beach.
If you’re looking for a bit of tranquility, go a few hours before sunset to “Secret Beach”, hidden by vegetation, half an hour away by scooter from the other beaches, ask those who arrived before you how to get there.
The main town, Sabang, is also a pleasant visit, with its fish and fruit market, where you can buy large and delicious papayas.
To get around Weh Island, the best way is to rent a scooter.

weh Island pulau sabang
View from one of Weh Island’s viewpoints over the tiny Rubiah Island | Pulau Weh Sabang

Maluku Islands

Also known as the Spice Islands, the Maluku Islands are a place that’s endowed with rich historical significance, and not just for Indonesia, but for the entire world. At one point in the past, the islands were the only source of nutmeg in the world, which made them a point of contention, and as a result, wars were fought over the territory.

Famous explorers like Ferdinand Magellan and Christopher Columbus both dreamt of finding the islands, but didn’t manage to do so. Eventually, the Dutch established control over them, and consequently, a monopoly over the nutmeg trade. This monopoly lasted until the late 18th century, and in that timeframe, the Dutch managed to build up an impressive number of architectural fortifications in order to stay safe. Nowadays, many of those fortifications are still there, and they’re in surprisingly good shape when you consider their age.

If you were to head to the Spice Islands nowadays, you would feel like you’re walking through a museum. Nothing is changed, with centuries-old buildings and relics that coexist alongside Indonesian traditions like war canoe racing and nutmeg cultivation.

But it’s not just nutmeg and history in the Maluku Islands. There is also Gunung Banda Api, which is an active volcano and more than merely a magnificent landscape. The eruption in 1988 led to the coral life being completely rebirthed, and the underwater thermal springs surrounding the area have led to an incredible underwater life that you can enjoy if you’re a fan of diving and snorkeling.

maluku island market, Indonesia
Market in Maluku

Komodo National Park

Home to the world’s largest species of lizards, the Komodo dragons, the Komodo National Park is actually a group of islands – Komodo, Padar and Rinca, as well as 26 smaller islands. The name was given after the largest lizard species on Earth, the Komodo Dragon, which lives on some of these islands. Heading to Komodo National Park gives you an opportunity to witness incredible wildlife, and experience the Komodo Dragon, something you can’t get anywhere else in the world. But that’s not all you get.  

You probably saw this coming since it’s Indonesia we’re talking about, but oh my, the coral life. The waters that flow through the national park, thanks to the fast currents coming from the Indian Ocean, have led to a vibrant underwater environment that is home to over 1,000 different species. These include sea turtles, manta rays, and no less than 260 coral species. The variety of environments that you’ll witness as part of the islands that comprise the national park makes it a spectacular location for divers.

When you combine all of this with a tropical climate that resembles a savannah, the Komodo National Park and the islands that comprise it is a destination you need to explore as thoroughly as possible. You can enjoy incredible shore excursions if you’re on a cruise, and you should definitely try and get some snorkeling and diving in there, too, because overall, the place is an absolute marvel of nature.  

Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Komodo National Park

 

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