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Indonesia is a truly vast country. With an archipelago of some 18,000 islands, a diverse mix of cultures and everything from mouth-watering cuisine and booming cities to historic temples and prime beaches, this Southeast Asian nation attracts tourists from around the world. However, Indonesia is so much more than miles upon miles of sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters (though that's certainly enticement enough!) Here are some of the best places to visit in Indonesia, in no particular order.
- Chloe Mallett
- From England
The gorgeous Tanah Lot temple (pictured above) is not only a spectacular place to visit in Indonesia but exploring this site is a top thing to do in Bali as well. One of Bali's seven oceanside Hindu temples, Tanah Lot is possibly the most well-known. Rumour has it that the temple, which was built in the 16th century and sits in the middle of the ocean, is guarded by sea snakes. You can approach Tanah Lot on foot during low tide, however, non-Balinese visitors cannot actually enter the temple. Instead, you can only view it from the outside.
Tip: Drop by around sunset for some truly incredible views.
Entrance cost: 60,000 IDR per person (USD 4.20)
It's not exactly the type of dragon you see in Game of Thrones, but the Komodo Dragons are certainly something to fear. Reaching up to 3 metres (10 feet) in length and weighing up to 70 kilos, these massive reptiles tackle their prey with their sharp claws and poisonous saliva - and they roam freely on Indonesia's Komodo Island! Don't worry though - experienced tour guides feed the dragons every morning so they don't prey on the island's visitors.
Opening hours: Every day from 7 am to 5 pm
Entrance costs: 150,000 IDR (11 USD) per person
The capital of Indonesia, Jakarta is a truly bustling city, home to an incredible nine million people. It's busy, it's frenetic, and the traffic can be crazy — but it's still truly worth the visit. Jakarta is a great place to visit in Indonesia for some delicious traditional food and is home to the country's hottest nightlife scene (particularly in Jalan Jaksa with its many traveller bars). Spend your afternoons shopping in the city's many malls, or strolling through the Dutch-settled Kota Tua old town.
Is there anywhere in the world more beautiful than Raja Ampat? We think you'd be hard-pressed to find it. This beautiful area is an archipelago of its own, with more than 1,500 small islands that are just perfect for snorkelling and diving. Below the water's surface, you'll find a rainbow of colour with 530 species of coral and the highest recorded marine life diversity on Earth. If you love diving, this is certainly one of the best places in Indonesia for you.
Tip: The best way to reach Raja Ampat is via ferry from Sorong Harbor to Waisai.
If you're looking for a taste of traditional Indonesian culture, Pontianak should certainly be on your list. Sitting at the top of the Kapuas River, one of the longest river in the world, this capital city of the West Kalimantan province is home to the country's indigenous Dayak people. Visit one of the nearby villages to meet the elders, who often wear large earrings and heavy tattoos and who are dedicated to rituals and traditional medicine. Spend the night in a traditional longhouse before setting off down the river. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for orangutans and freshwater dolphins nearby.
This is one of the best places to visit in Indonesia for orangutan spotting. Bukit Lawang is a charming, rustic retreat nestled deep in the Northern Sumatran jungles. This is a great place to connect with nature, as there is little else here than some riverside teahouses and bamboo longhouses. Popular among ecotourists and backpackers, Bukit Lawang is ideal for relaxing and a little bit of jungle exploring. Keep your eyes peeled for baboons, Thomas leaf monkeys, and even the endangered Sumatran tiger.
Less crowded and busy than Jakarta, Yogyakarta is another city on the island of Java that is one of the best places in Indonesia to experience the country's more modern side. Foodies will absolutely love this city, which is said to be the country's culinary hub. You can also explore the city's many craft markets (be sure to visit the puppet makers) and soak up its artistic, cultural atmosphere.
Tip: Be sure to also take the time to discover the city's historical side, including the palace-turned-museum Kraton.
Check out more interesting tours in Yogyakarta that will guarantee all of the above!
If you see the appeal of Bali but aren't interested in crowds of tourists, Lombok is a great alternative. Once a relatively unknown island, Lombok is quickly catching up to neighboring Bali in terms of popularity but hasn't quite reached the same level of commercialism. For a real treat, sail just off the island's northwest coast to the Gili Islands — Gili Trawangan, Meo and Air — for some snorkelling and a taste of tropical paradise.
Tana Toraja, or Torajaland, is one of the best places to visit in Indonesia for those who want to get to know the rich culture of the Toraja people. Here in the highlands, the Toraja tribe have built their homes from wood and reeds — looking more like a ship than any house you've ever seen. You'll also be able to see the tribe's peculiar burial sites, where the deceased are often buried years after their actual death.
Tip: Visit during the dry season (May to September) if you're particularly keen to see one of these funeral ceremonies for yourself.
Wanting to cool off from the fierce Indonesian heat? The Dieng Plaleau is one of the coolest places in the country (temperature wise, but it's pretty interesting too) as it can be found some 2,000 m above sea level. This caldera was formed following the eruption of the Prau mountain and is a great place to visit for anyone who's ever wanted to see a multicolored lake. There are also some hot springs you can soak in and some ancient Hindu temples well worth exploring.
Tip: It’s a long drive from Jakarta (about 10 hours), but there are a few accommodation options including small local hotels and homestays.
Bandung is Indonesia's second largest city but is quite unlike the capital city of Jakarta. Sometimes called the "Paris of Java", Bandung is full of charm. When visiting Bandung, you absolutely must try some of the local cuisines, like steamed basko tahu in peanut sauce. You can also indulge in some great shopping, with a mix of cheap batik fabrics at the traditional markets and high-end shopping at the outlet shops.
Become totally lost in Indonesia's Buddhist history with a visit to Borobudur, world's largest Buddhist temple. With ancient Buddhist stories carved into rocks, towering pagodas and wonderfully detailed murals, there's even a touch of Hindu influence in the architecture here. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is sure to take your breath away. Visit during sunrise for a truly spectacular view.
Opening hours: Every day from 6 am to 5 pm
If you are a history and culture buff then check out more cultural tours in Indonesia.
While monkeys are often considered to be a nuisance in Bali (mostly because they are known to eat farmers' crops and even pickpocket unsuspecting travelers), this is certainly not true in this sacred park in Ubud, Bali. The Sacred Monkey Forest is home to about 500 monkeys who roam the area freely, running across the paths among visitors. Inside the forest, you'll also find a Pura Dalem, a temple of the dead, that likely dates back to the mid-13th century.
Opening hours: Every day from 8 am to 6 pm
Entrance costs: 80,000 IDR (USD 6) for adults and 60,000 IDR (USD 4.18) for children.
Tip: The monkeys can be quite cheeky, so be sure you follow the rules and advice at the visitor center.
As you can see, there is so much more to see in Indonesia than just beaches and sunshine. Whether you're looking for nature, history or modernity, every traveler to this beautiful and diverse country is sure to find something that suits their tastes.