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.
Bali and Lombok are tried and true vacation spots for a reason, but the lesser-known Banda Islands have their own appeal as an off-the-beaten path getaway. This cluster of 10 islands sits at the edge of the Banda Sea, whose depths reach more than 6,500 meters. The Bandas have long been on the radar of those involved in the spice trade, thanks to their rich source of nutmeg. Called "Eastern Indonesia's best kept secret," the Bandas hold untold thrills for divers and sailors in particular.
A visit to Tana Toraja in South Sulawesi Province will not only feel like you have stepped far back in time, but also offers a look at the richness and diversity of Indonesia's long-standing cultures. The architectural style of Tongkonan, boat-shaped houses and other buildings, are immediate standouts, but the people are what make this piece of natural paradise so special. They are, by many accounts, the friendliest and most welcoming people you could hope to meet while traveling. When travelling to this area, you can visit villages and connect with locals, or trek in the notoriously lush and pristine countryside.
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. The lake is 1,145 square kilometers and 450 meters deep. Volcanic activity is still regularly recorded here and has pushed some islands above the water's surface. Lake Toba is a study in beauty and the powerful forces at work on the planet. Here, you can go swimming, water skiing, canoeing, or fishing, or stick to wandering the surrounding area on foot or bike.
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.
Sacred monkey forest, Ubud:
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, a species of monkey commonly seen throughout Southeast Asia. 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.
Jatiluwih rice fields, Bali:
The beaches may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Bali, but the verdant rice fields are a close second. So lush and life-giving are the terraces of the Jatiluwih Rice Fields that they were designated a UNESCO Cultural Landscape as part of Bali's Subak System. The meticulously cultivated and irrigated fields are a testament to the wealth of natural resources in Bali, as well as the carefully honed skills of the local farmers. No visit to Bali is complete without seeing these rich acres.
Komodo National Park:
The komodos of Indonesia are no mythical creatures, however they are fierce and deadly animals. Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, encompasses five main islands and a number of smaller ones, as well as the surrounding marine areas. The waters of these islands are some of the richest and most diverse in the world. The komodo dragons are the stars of the show on any visit to the park, but visitors can also hike, snorkel, go canoeing, or visit small villages on the islands.
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 ancient temple is one of the most famous and culturally significant landmarks in Indonesia. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is considered one of the greatest Buddhist sites in the world. The massive temple was forgotten for centuries, when it is believed that much of the population moved to eastern Java due to volcanic eruptions. But it was rediscovered in the 1800s and, today, is one of the main draws in Java.
Orangutans of Borneo:
No trip to Indonesia would be complete without seeing some orangutans, and Borneo is a great place to visit these beautiful and endangered creatures. Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan, Borneo, is home to the largest orangutan population in the world, as well as other primates, birds, and reptiles.