The Indonesian archipelago is a collection of islands that holds untold treasures in its diversity of cultures, landscapes, and cities. With nearly 13,500 islands under its jurisdiction, Indonesia offers an adventure for everyone, from exploring ancient temples and hiking active volcanoes to diving in largely untouched waters. You can wander the busy streets of Jakarta, or take a step back in time with a visit to the remote villages of Tana Toraja; indulge in the bliss of Bali, or come face to face with the volatile Anak Krakatau. Whatever you choose, the experience is sure to be one filled with awe and appreciation for a country as steeped in history and natural beauty as this one.
These Islands are a major draw in Lombok, which has risen in popularity among backpackers and tourists in recent years. They offer beaches that rival those of Bali in their beauty, as well as opportunities for diving and even snorkeling at a turtle sanctuary.
Beaches of Bali:
Indonesia's most popular vacation spot, Bali, has a number of cultural landmarks and traditions that make a visit here worthwhile. But anyone who travels to Bali is going to have warm sand and blue water on their mind, and the island does not disappoint. Kuta is the best known beach, and is great for those who like to combine sun, surfing, and socializing.
Indonesia’s longest river, Sungai Kapuas, begins in the foothills of the Muller range and snakes 1143km west to the sea. Along the way it passes by some of Kalimantan's oldest, friendliest, and most vibrant longhouse communities, the photographer's paradise of Danau Sentarum, and Bukit Raya, the tallest peak in Kalimantan.
Another of Indonesia's natural wonders, Lake Toba is both a body of water and super volcano. The lake, which sits in a crater, was formed between 69,000 and 77,000 years ago and is believed to have been the result of a catastrophic eruption. Volcanic activity is still regularly recorded here and has pushed some islands above the water's surface.
Indonesia sits on the Ring of Fire, an area with some of the most active volcanoes in the world. Many of the country's volcanoes, such as Mount Merapi, are famous for their violent eruptions and their stunning, but dangerous beauty. Mount Bromo is among the best known, thanks largely to its incredible views, particularly when seen standing over the caldera at sunrise. Bromo's peak was blown off in an eruption, and you can still see white smoke spewing from the mountain.
Another of Indonesia's famed volcanoes, Gunung Rinjani is a top attraction on Lombok. Rinjani itself does not see the eruptions and activity that some of the others have, but its caldera-forming eruption in the late 13th century is believed to have been one of the most powerful in human history. A lake sits in Rinjani's caldera, and within the lake sits Mt. Baru, another active volcano. In Rinjani National Park, you may spot animals such as the rare black Ebony leaf monkey, long-tailed macaques, the sulfur-crested cockatoo, and other exotic species.
Gunung Kawi :
At the bottom of a lush green river valley lies one of Bali's oldest and largest ancient monuments. Gunung Kawi consists of 10 rock-cut candi (shrines) – memorials cut out of the rock face in imitation of actual statues. They stand in awe-inspiring 8m-high sheltered niches cut into the sheer cliff face. Be prepared for long climbs – there are more than 270 steps. The views as you walk through ancient terraced rice fields are as fine as any in Bali. Each candi is believed to be a memorial to a member of the 11th-century Balinese royalty, but little is known for certain.
Sacred monkey forest:
Ubud is the cultural heart of Bali, and it is here you will find the Sacred Monkey Forest, a serene space where you can feel the ancient majesty of the island. At this Hindu temple, you will see many long-tailed macaques. The forest is near Padangtegal, a small village that has drawn artists of all varieties for many years, and the temple, artistry, and stunning natural backdrop make a trip to the forest and village a must-do in Bali.
At the heart of Bogor are the fabulous botanical gardens, known as the Kebun Raya, the city’s green lung of around 87 hectares. Governor General Raffles first developed a garden here, but the spacious grounds of the Istana Bogor (Presidential Palace) were expanded by Dutch botanist Professor Reinwardt, with assistance from London’s Kew Gardens, and officially opened in 1817. Colonial cash crops, such as tea, cassava, tobacco and cinchona, were first developed here by Dutch botanists.
Pura Tanah Lot:
This is one of Bali's most popular temples, built on a rock formation in the sea. The original formation began to deteriorate at one point, so a portion of the rock is now artificial. Still, Pura Tanah Lot draws people in droves, particularly in time to catch the sunset. This temple compound is found on the southern coast of Beraban village, and you can walk out to the temple at low tide. Once the sun goes down, browse the stalls at Tanah Lot market to purchase unique Balinese souvenirs.
This scattering of ruined and partially restored temples is the most important Hindu-Buddhist site in Sumatra. The temples are believed to mark the location of the ancient city of Jambi, capital of the kingdom of Malayu 1000 years ago. Most of the candi (temples) date from the 9th to the 13th centuries, when Jambi’s power was at its peak. Eight temples have been identified so far, each at the centre of its own low-walled compound. Some are accompanied by perwara candi (smaller side temples) and three have been restored to something close to their original form. The site is dotted with numerous menapo (smaller brick mounds), thought to be the ruins of other buildings – possibly dwellings for priests and other high officials.
House of Sampoerna:
Undoubtedly the city’s best-presented attraction, the House of Sampoerna is the home of one of Indonesia’s most famous kretek cigarette manufacturers (now owned by US-giant Altria, formerly Philip Morris). Whatever you think about the tobacco industry, this factory and museum make a fascinating place to visit. The building itself is a wonderful 19th-century Dutch structure, originally an orphanage but later converted into a theatre. The former lobby is now the museum and is something of a shrine to the Sampoerna empire. It has exhibits on the use of cloves and the history of kretek in Indonesia, alongside uniforms and drums of the Sampoerna marching band and other quirky company curios. There is also an incredible collection of cigarette lighters, holders and cases, mainly from Europe, as well as some Ming dynasty china and a vintage Heidelberg printing press.
Museum Negeri Propinsi Bali:
Think of this as the British Museum or the Smithsonian of Balinese culture. Most displays are labelled in English. The museum comprises of several buildings and pavilions, including many examples of Balinese architecture, housing prehistoric pieces, traditional artefacts, Barong (mythical lion-dog creature), ceremonial objects and rich displays of textiles.