If you’re planning your trip to the country that stretches along the equator between Oceania and southeast Asia, and are looking for inspiration on what to put in your itinerary, go ahead and read what travel bloggers answered when asked where to go in Indonesia. Indonesia is huge, varied and distributed among island-like massive geographical units. It is recommendable that you have an idea of the places you want to explore and your moves with due advance. But first, find out what places other travelers found irresistible in terms of landscape, wildlife, beaches, and adventure.
WHERE TO GO IN INDONESIA IN THE SULAWESI REGION
Tangkoko National Park
Few people go to Sulawesi, and even fewer venture to this island’s remote northeasternmost tip, where the incredible Tangkoko National Park is. Sandwiched between low hills and a volcanic black beach, this national park is home to the endemic black crested macaque and the tarsier, the world’s smallest primate. The most popular thing to do at Tangkoko is obviously taking a guided walk into the jungle, looking for these unique animals. Most guides are able to point you to the direction of the “tarsius tree”, set in a clearing inside the reserve, where these cute primates sleep during the day or roam around in search for groups of black crested macaques, which are quite tame and friendly — but don’t touch them. The park also has hundreds of species of birds, other mammals such as Sulawesi’s endemic bear cuscus, and the babi rusa, one of the strangest wild boars ever existed.
How to get to Tangkoko National Park
Getting to Tangkoko National Park is fairly easy when coming from Manado, North Sulawesi’s main destination, connected by flight to Singapore and, soon, Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. It’s about an hour and a half drive towards Bitung, and then up in the interior to the park’s entrance.
The tarsier spotted at Tangkoko National Park in Sulawesi. Image by Monkey Rock World
WHERE TO GO IN INDONESIA IN THE SUNDA ISLANDS ARCHIPELAGO
Sumba is an amazing place to visit if you want to experience an ancient, traditional culture and have breathtakingly beautiful beaches all to yourself. Very few Westerners make it to this sparsely populated island, and tourist infrastructure is minimal. But as long as you’re prepared to rough it a bit, you can stay in friendly homestays that serve simple Indonesian food. It’s possible to travel around the island independently on public transport, as long as you have a lot of patience. You’ll be rewarded by stunning beaches, like Pero Beach in the far west of Sumba, and traditional villages of houses with tall, thatched roofs. While the majority of the population is Christian, many people on the island practice an animist religion called Marapu. They bury their dead in large stone monuments known as megaliths and are one of the last remaining megalithic cultures on Earth.
How to get to Sumba
There are flights from Denpasar on Bali and Kupang on Timor, and ferries also run to the island. Nowadays, a few agencies have started to offer organized tours to Sumba from Bali or Lombok.
Buildings in Sumba. Photo from The Nomadic Vegan
Labuan Bajo is a small fisher-town located on the island of Flores in Indonesia. What makes it an unmissable destination in Indonesia is that from here you can visit the famous Komodo National Park, home of the Komodo Dragons. If you ever dream to see a real-life dragon, this is the closest you can get to one. They may not spit fire, but they are the biggest lizards in the world that can kill you with one bite because poison runs on their bodies. You can see them in their natural habitat and get close to them, but always accompanied by a guard from the park. Komodo National Park is also home of the most beautiful diving spots in all Indonesia, and the world too according to many rankings made by divers. Giant Mantas are the top underwater encounter, as you can see them very closely, but there are also lots of sharks, hundreds of different corals, fishes and lots of underwater life. “Amazing” can’t even start defining this destination. If you’re backpacking, check this backpacking guide to Indonesia.
How to get to the Komodo National Park
Fly to Labuan Bajo International airport and then get a right to to town. In there, you’ll find agencies arranging tours to the park.
The Komodo dragon in Labuan Bajo. Photo from Universo Viajero
One of the most enchanting beaches in Indonesia is the Pink Beach on Komodo Island. Pink Beach is only a small part of Komodo Island, and it is usually not overwhelmed with people. You might actually be the only one on the beach the day you visit, which makes it much more special. Walking along the beach, you’ll see the sands and waters start to turn pink with each wave crashing. Each of your footsteps will make the sand more and more of vibrant pink color as well. Definitely a site to see when you head to Indonesia.
How to get to the Pink Beach
Easy! It’s just a short plane ride from Bali Denpasar to Komodo Intl. Airport, and then a boat ride. You can head to Pink Beach on a tour on the way to Komodo Island. If you book a tour to go see the Komodo Dragons, you’ll want to add stops to Pink Beach and Padar Island. You’ll have a short stop at the beach where you’ll be able to hop in the water and swim to the pink sand.
Walking along the water’s edge at the Pink Beach. Photo by Our Kind of Crazy
Off the northwest coast of Lombok, Indonesia lie the Gili Islands. An archipelago of three islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air, the islands are a welcome sanctuary from the mass tourism of Bali. The islands are well known for aquatic activities including scuba diving, snorkeling with sea turtles, and sea kayaking. On land, biking around the islands or hiking to the highest point on Gili Trawangan to watch the sunset are popular activities. However, one of the best reasons to visit the Gili islands is simply to getaway. Beautiful white sand beaches circle the islands and make them ideal for long walks. Throughout the islands beachfront bars and restaurants serve up fresh, locally caught seafood with million-dollar views of the crystal blue water. To really getaway, booking a beachside massage at one of the island’s many spas is highly recommended. If you are heading to the Gili Islands, make note of when the Muslim holiday of Ramadan takes place. Many shops and restaurants close or slow down during this time.
How to reach the Gili Islands
From Bali, take a slow ferry (about 5 hours trip) or a fast boat. If you’re staying in Ubud, read this guide on how to get from Ubud to the Gili Islands.
The beach at the Gili Islands. Picture by With Husband in Tow
If you’re meditating on where to go in Indonesia from a backpacker’s perspective, the amazing Nusa Penida island in Bali should be at the top of your list. An island of pure beauty, stunning coastline, Instagram-worthy palm trees, and amazing culture. Nusa Penida is rapidly growing famous due to its spectacular locations such as Kelingking beach, the Broken beach, and Atuh beach. These are some of the most amazing beaches in the whole of Asia and you need to see them with your own eyes. What makes this island even more amazing, it’s the locals and the culture. The locals are easy-going and love to share stories with visitors to the island: a great way to learn about the history of Nusa Penida.
How to get to Nusa Penida
To get there, you can take a slow/fast boat from mainland Bali, which is not expensive. Also, Nusa Penida is near the amazing Gili islands, so you could visit them too on your travels.
Promontory facing Kelingking Beach in Nusa Penida. Pic by Anastasia R
Bali – Munduk
If you’re looking for a truly special part of Bali, away from the crowds of Ubud and Seminyak, then Munduk should be on your Bali itinerary. This small town in the mountains of central Bali is a lot cooler than the rest of the island and makes for a refreshing break. Using Munduk as a base you can visit Ulun Danu Bratan – a stunning temple set on a lake, surrounded by mountains. At sunrise, this place is serene and spectacular. Adventure lovers will be spoilt for choice with the many stunning waterfalls in the area. Our favourite would be Banyumala, a truly wild waterfall that sees a lot fewer visitors than the majority of falls in Bali. Or you can simply admire the views at Jatiluwih, a UNESCO world heritage site made up of endless rice terraces which showcase the beauty of rural Bali. Here are a few more beautiful temples in Bali. If you are backpacking, read this backpacking Bali travel planner.
How to reach Munduk in Bali
It is easiest to get to Munduk from Ubud. You can hop on one of the buses which go several times a day, taking about three hours. Alternatively, you can ride a scooter or take a taxi.
The Ulun Danu Bratan Temple. Photo from Walk My World[/caption]
WHERE TO GO IN INDONESIA IN THE JAVA ARCHIPELAGO
Tumpak Sewu Waterfall
If you want to enjoy some of Indonesia’s incredible nature, then head to East Java. The province is home to some truly breathtaking natural attractions, in particular volcanoes and waterfalls. The two main attractions in East Java are Mount Bromo and Kawah Ijen, but you shouldn’t miss out on the stunning Tumpak Sewu Waterfall. The waterfall stands at 120 metres tall and is surrounded by lush, green jungle. As the waterfall is in a remote location tourists often overlook it, which helps it retain a feeling of being relatively untouched. It’s definitely worth the effort of getting there to see this incredible work of nature!
How to get to Tumpak Sewu Waterfall
To get to East Java you can either fly into Surabaya or alternatively, you can take a ferry from Bali, which arrives around 10 kilometres north of Banyuwangi. Transfer to Probolinggo or Maland, and then arrange a private driver to send you through the 3/4 hours drive to the waterfall.
The spectacular Tumpak Sewu waterfall in East Java. Photo by Something of Freedom
Kawah Ijen Crater
If an overnight hike down a treacherous decline into an active volcano spewing noxious sulfur gas sounds like your thing, pay a visit to the Kawah Ijen Crater in Banyuwangi on Java. You’ll get to experience something that occurs nowhere else on Earth: the spontaneous blue fire of Mount Ijen. Within the caldera of Ijen is a sulfur mine, and that sulfur gas causes a constant burn of blue flames. As described by Dani from Diapers in Paradise, to reach the crater, you have to hike 2 hours up the volcano, and 45 minutes down a steep, challenging climb to the bottom, where you’ll find the largest highly acidic lake in the world. Be sure to bring your gas mask! Along the way, you’ll be passed by miners carrying heavy baskets of sulfur on their shoulders, and you’ll appreciate the incredibly hard work they do every night. After you’ve seen the blue flame burning, you can hike back up to the top and wait for sunrise, which brings with it the most incredible view over the mountain and back down into the crater. The overnight hike is hard, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will not forget!
How to get to the Kawa Ijen Crater
To hike to the crater, you have to drive to the base of Mount Ijen from the nearest town, which is Banyuwangi. There are tour companies there that will drive you to the base and then do the hike with you, but you can also just catch a ride to the mountain with a local.
The blue flames show in the Kawah Ljen Crater. Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash
The landscape of Indonesia is scattered with volcanoes. One of the most glorious to visit is Mount Bromo, located inside the massive Tengger Crater (its 10km across!). It is a spectacular experience to walk across the Laotian Pasir, the sea of sands, and then walk up the steps to the Bromo crater itself. Mount Bromo is an active volcano, evidenced by the smoking crater located in East Java. It’s at an altitude of 2,329 meters (7,641 feet) and it is one of the most visited tourist locations in Indonesia. Most will visit with a tour group, but it’s possible to visit Bromo independently. The most popular thing to do is to gaze at the entire crater from Gunung Penanjakan just after sunrise. It is, despite the crowds, the most spectacular of views. To avoid the crowds you will need to set off at around 2 am and walk in the dark up the mountain to get the view for free.
View on Mt. Bromo. Pic by Ronald Tagra
Yogyakarta became my favorite city in Java. Most come to Yogyakarta to visit the famous Borobudur Temple, which is very close by. It is considered the largest Buddhist temple in the world and is known for its many Buddha statues on different levels. The most magical moment of the day to visit the temple is at sunrise with a Borobudur sunrise tour. But also the lesser known but still impressive Prambanan Temple which is also located near Yogyakarta is worth a visit as well and should definitely be part of your Yogyakarta itinerary – and the best part is that you will most probably find way far fewer tourists there than at the Borobudur Temple. The Prambanan Temple is considered the largest Hindu complex in Indonesia and actually consists of several temples. The city itself is also of historic architecture. For example, you can discover the Kraton Sultan’s Palace or the ancient water castle. If you just want to relax a bit, you can stroll through the streets of Yogyakarta, taste the delicious food and discover the batik art that makes this region famous throughout the country.
Borobudur buddhist sanctuary in Yogyakarta. Pic by Vicki Viaja
Karimunjawa islands archipelago
Around 80 kilometers northwest of Jepara, Java there is a lesser-known archipelago of 27 islands called Karimunjawa. If you want to explore Indonesian nature without as many tourists as seen in Bali, this is the perfect place. The most popular way to get to Karimunjawa is by slower ferry (4,5 hours) or by speedboat (2 hours) from Jepara. The best way to get around on the main island is a motorbike, as there is no public transportation. If you are an inexperienced driver, don’t worry! This is the perfect place to learn to drive a motorbike, as the town is small and not as populated as Java, so you can learn to drive in low traffic. The main attraction in Karimunjawa is a day trip to the surrounding snorkeling spots. Many islands in the Karimunjawa archipelago are a part of a marine reserve. There is a wide variety of corals, fish, and plants on the islands to marvel at. You may pre-book a snorkeling tour from the hotel where you are staying, or just go to the port in the morning and ask to join one of the multiple boats prepared for the day trip. It starts with a few snorkeling spots, where you might even see some turtles. At noon there is lunch on a secluded island with fine, white sand and shallow water on coasts for a dreamy stroll in the tropical place. Locals prepare fresh caught fish and fruit for lunch. Afterward, a bit more of snorkeling follows. At the end of the day, you can watch a sunset from another tiny island.
The off-the-tourist-tracks Karimun Jawa archipelago. Photo by Wandernity
WHERE TO GO IN INDONESIA: SUMATRA
One of the main points of interest on the island of Sumatra is Bukit Lawang. Travelers spend time in the Gunung Leuser National Park in order to meet the Orang Utan. The Orang Utan is rehabilitated into the park and most of them are self-supporting again. Because they are used to the humans you will see them shortly after starting your hike. But there are lots of other animals to see too. If you are really lucky you might see an elephant or even a tiger. In the meantime, you will hear a variety of birds singing for you while you are exploring the jungle. You will be able to join a guided 2-day trek in the park and sleep in the jungle, surrounded by vegetation and wildlife.
It is easy to get to Bukit Lawang by bus from either Medan or Samosir Island. Booking your trip is not hard as there are many local tourist companies that off join er the same kind of trips in to the park to see the Orang Utan.
Orang Utan in the rainforest of Bukit Lawang. Photo by Safe and Healthy Travel
This paradise island is so off-track to the most visited destinations in Indonesia that you might accidentally sweep it off your Indonesia itinerary, but you shouldn’t. It is geographically closer to Malaysia and preserves a cross-cultural heritage: Indian, Malay, Indonesian. Most travelers got here attracted by what they hear about the underwater diversity and the number of dive sites. It might take you weeks to explore the island and the coral reef, but stay at least one week to get a fulfilling experience. There are three main beaches with accommodation, a few diving centers, a jungle with a waterfall and monkeys, a town with a market a half hour by motorbike, and incredible wildlife. The island isn’t big nor small, just the perfect dimension that allows you to meet new people, or to chill in a solitary way if that is what you really need. Head here for a complete guide to Pulau Weh.
How to get to Weh Island
To get to one of the most beautiful islands in Indonesia, take a flight or bus to Banda Aceh, and then a ferry to Sabang. From the touristic port area, get a ride to either Iboih Beach, Gapang Beach, or Long Beach.
View from one of Weh Island’s viewpoints over the tiny Rubiah Island
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