Indonesia is a country rich in cultural diversity, home to around 300 ethnic groups and 700 languages. It is one of the largest countries in the world, counting around 17,500 magnificent islands, some of which are still unexplored. Our guide explores the top 10 places to see while you are traveling across the country.
Dieng Plateau, Central Java
Formed after the eruption of the Prau mountain, the Dieng Plateau is a caldera complex situated at 2,000 meters above sea level. Its location makes it one of the coolest destinations in Indonesia, and the change is easily noticeable coming from the surrounding lowlands. The major sights to visit there include a multicolored lake, a hot spring and ancient Hindu temples. Different in character from the rest of Java, trekking through the lush rolling hills, passing by beautiful plantations, and breathing in the fresh air while looking at the mountains in the horizon, is one of the most fascinating journeys to be taken in the area.
Lake Maninjau, West Sumatra
A little off the beaten path, in a region where many unspoiled natural wonders can still be found, lies the beautiful Lake Maninjau. The lake is located in a volcanic crater, 461 meters above the sea. To reach the end destination, the journey involves negotiating 44 hairpin turns on the steep road down from Bukittinggi. With all the twists and bends, the ride can be eventful, but with the breathtaking views over the blue lake and the surrounding hills, it is worth the effort. The lake Maninjau is one of the most serene and quiet places in the country, far away from the hustle and bustle of big cities. The area is one of the best spots to relax, restore inner peace and experience a slow paced life.
Thousand Islands, DKI Jakarta
Just a 90 minute speedboat ride from the marina in Ancol lays the beautiful Pulau Macan, namely the Tiger Island. For breathtaking views, crystal clear water, white sand, great snorkeling spots in a well preserved environment, mouthwatering and fresh food, and a chilled atmosphere, this is the place to be. There is one resort on the island: the Tiger Islands Village & Eco Resort. The staff there ensures a comfortable stay and the resort engages in conservation activities by planting corals and mangroves, aiming to be a model for other eco-resorts nationwide.
Yogyakarta and Surroundings, Central Java
Yogyakarta is the arts and culture and culinary hub of the island of Java. Days can be spent exploring its streets in search of the best batik, puppet makers, gamelan concerts, food vendors, street art and much more. But it does not end here. The city is also the main hub for the more historical side of Java, constituting the perfect base to explore the nearby temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. Dating back to the ninth century, the former is one of the oldest Buddhist temples, with more than 2,000 relief panels and 500 Buddha statues. Dating back to the same time, the latter is a Hindu temple where you can enjoy beautiful evening dance performances staging the Ramayana, one of the greatest Hindu epics of all times.
Komodo Island, East Nusa Tenggara
Close to Timor Leste, the Komodo Island is home to one of the most fascinating creatures on earth: the Komodo dragon. The dragon is native to Indonesia, and these islands are the only place where they can be found living in the wild. It is the largest lizard in the world, sometimes growing as tall as three meters long and weighing up to 70 kilograms, with sharp claws and poisonous saliva. Their natural habitat is the tropical forest where they live in groups. The Komodo National Park is a protected site in Indonesia, and it has become illegal to hunt or harm these deadly dragons. With the permission of the local government, local and foreign tourists alike visit the islands every year.
Bandung, West Java
Bandung, commonly referred to as the Paris of Java, is a green and cool city situated in West Java. Scenery lovers will be delighted with the breathtaking views, especially around the tea plantations, volcanoes, and Kawah Putih – the turquoise sulfur lake. And food lovers will fall in love with all the culinary delicacies. Bandung is famous for its cuisine, and many locals from all around the country go there just for the food. The city is also a commercial one, where cheap fabrics are on sale at the markets, and big-name clothing brands are sold at outlet stores. Last but not least, it is a great place to enjoy the traditional music of Sunda played with the local instrument, angklung.
Lombok Island, West Nusa Tenggara
Similar in density and size to neighboring Bali, and sharing some cultural heritage, Lombok has developed as one of the main tourist destinations in Indonesia. It is around Senggigi that most facilities have developed, and it also from there that the very popular Gili Islands – Gili Trawangan, Meno and Air – are most commonly accessed. The Gili Islands have enough diversity to provide for all tastes: from luxury resorts, to laidback backpackers’ retreats, the islands have it all. Other tourist spots south of Lombok include Kuta Beach, famous for its quasi-deserted white sand beaches, and as one of the best surfing spots worldwide, and Mount Rinjani, an active volcano.
Manado, North Sulawesi
Formerly used as a Dutch stronghold and cultural center of the Minahasa ethnic group, Manado was for a long time a prosperous city trading with neighboring Philippines, and the rest of the world when it came to spices. However, most of the older buildings did not make it through WWII. The city is still worth a visit though as it is home to the biggest and most important churches in the region. Contrary to the rest of Indonesia, which is predominantly Muslim, Christianity here is the main religion. Other interesting sights include the impressive Lake Tondano and Lake Linow, the nearby volcanoes, and the Christ statue in a flying posture in the Citraland Park.
Pontianak, West Kalimantan
The second longest in the world and the longest in Indonesia, the Kapuas River in the jungles of Borneo brings you all the way into the hinterlands, home to the indigenous Dayak people. Deep in the rainforest, traditional ways of life have survived throughout the years. In an incredible natural setting, rich in diversity, boat rides starting from Pontinanak are the ideal way to explore the region. You can also experience the Dayak way of life by staying in traditional longhouses. In the villages, elders still use traditional medicine, perform rituals, mark bodies with intricate tattoos, and wear heavy earrings. Borneo is also the best place to spot black orchids, orangutans, and fresh water dolphins.
Raja Ampat, Papua
Situated in Papua, the archipelago of Raja Ampat, comprising more than 1,500 small islands, is a diver’s dream destination. The underwater scenery is incredibly beautiful, and includes one of the richest coral reef ecosystems on earth. It also includes around 1,300 different species of fish, 530 species of coral, and around 700 species of mollusk. The islands remain remote, and are hard to access, which makes them relatively undisturbed by human activity and expensive to get to. But for divers, this place is highly recommended.