A country with more than 17,000 islands and each island offering something different from the rest, Indonesia holds the promise of a lifetime’s worth of adventures. Whether you’re into nature tripping, water sports, traveling through history, or beach partying, you can have it all to your heart’s content and more on your holiday to Indonesia.
To fill your short time in this archipelago with as much color and excitement as possible, you must see these top twelve Indonesian destinations:
Mention Indonesia casually to just about anyone and the first thing that probably comes to mind is Bali. No surprises there – the island of Bali is the most popular tourist spot in the country. Bali is known for its lovely beaches and its elegant temples, so expect your visit here to be a strange yet heady mix of the hedonistic and the spiritual.
Once called the “Paris of Java” and playground of Dutch plantation owners, Bandung remains a weekend getaway for Jakartans escaping the heat. The city is surrounded by green volcanic mountains, making a stark contrast between nature and the urban sprawl. Bandung is also the place to go if you want to shop until you drop.
Sitting in the middle of Sumatra in the caldera of a super volcano, Danau Toba is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake and the largest volcanic lake in the world. It’s also one of the most serene spots in Sumatra, where you can escape the bustle of daily living and spend your days sunning in a hammock on a beach.
The island of Flores is so lush that there’s no doubt it deserves its flowery name. Flores is home to the magnificent Kelimutu, an extinct volcano known for its three rainbow-colored crater lakes. It’s also the location of two National Parks – the Komodo and the Kelimutu – which serve as sanctuaries for endangered wild Komodo dragons and giant tree rats. A former Portuguese colony, Flores is also dotted with Roman Catholic churches.
Jakarta is the face of modern Indonesia and is one of the largest and densest cities in the world. As Indonesia’s cultural and economic heart, Jakarta is where you will find the best museums, the finest preserved relics from Indonesia’s past as a Dutch colony, and the biggest cultural performance venues in the country.
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Kalimantan is where you need to go if you literally want to get lost in the wilderness. Located in Borneo, Kalimantan is covered with dense jungles separated by great rivers. It is largely untouched and undiscovered, with few roads or tourist facilities, but it’s a great way to experience Indonesia’s wild side and the customs and lifestyle of the Dayak, one of the country’s many tribes.
A part of the Komodo National Park, the island of Komodo is largely known for its population of its namesake dragons. The island is also one of the world’s best diving destinations. Additionally, it is home to one of only seven of the world’s pink beaches.
If you want a quiet and tranquil alternative to the beaches of Bali, you could head to Lombok instead. The island is lined with as-yet pristine beaches with very little development. If you’re looking for some adrenaline rush, you can try trekking the slopes of Gunung Rinjani, an active volcano sitting on the northern side of the island.
The islands of Maluku are the original Spice Islands, the search of which triggered European colonialism in Asia. Once the only producer of nutmeg, cloves and mace in the world, it is still an unspoiled tropical paradise of beaches and clear waters.
If Indonesia’s Dutch colonizers called Jakarta the “Paris of Java,” Medan is their “Paris of Sumatra.” The largest city outside of Java, Medan has retained much of its old-world charm in its march for progress, with its well-preserved Dutch architecture. It also has an impressive collection of shopping malls and theme parks.
Tana Toraja is the second most popular tourist destination in Indonesia, next to Bali. Lots of people visit here in droves, not just for the breathtaking scenery but also to see for themselves the death-obsessed culture of the Toraja people. The Toraja creates year-round festivals out of funerals, complete with ritual animal sacrifice, and their dead are buried in elaborate cave tombs.
If Jakarta is the economic heart of Indonesia, Yogyakarta is its spiritual heart. Just outside the city are the great temples of Borobodur, the world’s largest Buddhist complex, as well as Prambanan, one of the biggest Hindu temples in Southeast Asia. Both temples date back to the ninth century and are still used as places of worship today.