Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, with literally tens of thousands of islands, 8000 of which support human life. With its several hundred languages and distinct island cultures, Indonesia is as diverse a place as any. It’s a far cry from only welcoming the beach resort crowd. Adventure tourists, cultural experts, nature lovers and casual travelers will all be dazzled by the islands, their people, the history, the landscape and the ecosystems.
When many think of Indonesia, Bali first comes to mind. Bali is indeed the biggest tourist attraction in Indonesia, and when visiting you will be amazed with the beauty and the plethora of opportunities for tourist activities. However, Bali is far from being the only place in Indonesia worth visiting.
Whether you’re exploring the big, buzzing cities or sightseeing at one of the daunting Buddhist or Hindu temples, Java is an island that should definitely make your itinerary. Lombok, which neighbors Bali immediately to the east, is Bali’s less travelled counterpart, making it an appealing alternative for many tourists. There is so much more in Indonesia just waiting to be discovered. You’ll simply have to keep reading to find out the top twelve best places to visit in this incredible archipelago.
Okay, we admit it. Bali is an absolutely amazing place to visit. Whether it’s the urban life and white sandy beaches of the south, the dynamic culture of central Bali and Ubud, the incredible landscapes of the east, or the stunning nature of the west, you will find that the island of Bali has plenty to tempt you to miss your flight home. It is a compact island with much to share – there’s a reason it is one of the top tourist destinations in the world.
As far as cities go, Jakarta is one of the best. While it isn’t always on the map for tourists visiting Indonesia, Jakarta is a lively city with a population of nearly 10 million. As Indonesia’s largest, richest city, Jakarta certainly deserves some attention. This bustling city has everything a wealthy big city should: huge hotels, silver skyscrapers, glitzy condos and popular shopping malls. The further out you go, the more rural the architecture feels – people have been migrating to Jakarta from all over Indonesia for generations and settling on the outskirts of town.
This Buddhist temple complex, located in central Java, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that won’t disappoint. Stemming back to the 8th century, this temple is the biggest Buddhist building in the world, so don’t be surprised when your jaw drops at the sheer magnitude of the place. Standing proudly in front of more than one active volcano, you will really feel the importance of this incredible temple. Without a doubt, Borobudur should be on everyone’s list of world landmarks to visit.
04. Komodo National Park
Spanning three islands of the Indonesian archipelago (Komodo, Rinca and Padar), Komodo National Park is famous for a reason you may have already guessed: Komodo dragons. This park is of immense biological importance and is protected not only as a national park (since 1980), but also as a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve, both titles granted by UNESCO in 1986. Other endemic species besides the famous Komodo dragon live in the park, so your visit will include glimpses of wildlife that you would never see anywhere else in the world.
Long a little known hidden gem in terms of travel destinations, Lombok is the island located immediately east of Bali in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago. It is an island famous for its rural, traditional lifestyle, but is becoming more well-known for its lovely southern beaches as well as the green flora of the west. Lombok’s culture treasures a harmonious society, meaning visitors are welcome and conflicts are minimal. Generally, tourists come to Lombok via Bali, making the contrast between the two islands all the more obvious.
Easily the most popular Java destination for tourists, Yogyakarta (usually shortened to “Yogya”) serves as a convenient base location for a visit to Borobudur and the Prambanan Hindu temples. That being said, Yogya is a town worth visiting in its own right, as it includes interesting sights like the Sultan’s Palace, the ruins of water gardens, a flashy bird market and the walled kraton area. In terms of culture, Yogya could be considered Java’s capital. You will find comfortable accommodation, exciting tourist packages, and a hip, young population in Yogya due to the university presence – we’re certain you’ll love it.
07. Tana Toraja
Located on the island of Sulawesi, Tana Toraja is an area of fascinating culture and breathtaking scenery. Visitors come here to catch a glimpse of traditional rituals and unique, colorful architecture set amid a surrounding wall of mountains. The Toraja’s funeral ceremonies in particular are world famous, although the countryside has seen just a few travelers. You will be welcomed and treated with loving hospitality, and when trekking around you’ll get a sense of true isolation from Western life.
Bunaken is an island in the Indonesian archipelago that is world famous for one main reason: incredible diving opportunities. The Bunaken National Marine Park is located here, although this park also includes the islands of Manado Tua, Siladen, Mantehage, Nain and Nain Kecil – encompassing nearly 900 square meters in total. The national park is beloved especially due to its crystal clear water, amazing and diverse fish and coral, and supposedly the best dive spot in all of Indonesia. If you’re a diver, you definitely won’t want to miss it.
09. Mount Bromo
Known to the locals as Gunung Bromo, this towering volcano (2329 meters high) is one of the most visited places on the island of Java. It is located within Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park and is known to many as the most memorable experience from their holiday in Indonesia. Tons of tourists wake up early to spend the sunrise here – and the loss of sleep is well worth the sunrise views. Unfortunately, mass tourism is a problem here during the high season, so don’t be surprised if you’re accompanied by droves of other picture-taking foreigners (even at 5 o’clock in the morning).
10. Raja Ampat
Located on the furthest east province of Papua, Raja Ampat encompasses four major islands: Waigeo, Misool, Salawati, and Batanta. Whether you’re there to kayak, snorkel, see ancient rock paintings, trek or scuba dive, Raja Ampat has it all. You can enjoy a number of activities here while amongst the incredible natural formations and biodiversity of the area. Underwater photographers can’t get enough of this place – and, assuming you use goggles to glance underwater once or twice, you’ll quickly see why.