Indonesia often gets overlooked on the South East Asia tourist trail.
Backpackers head straight to Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore, with only a few adventurous souls daring to take on Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia.
As someone who lived in Indonesia for 7 years I can tell you that they don’t know what they’re missing out on!
Indonesia has more to offer than the other countries combined. You’ll just have to work a little harder to get there.
9 Epic Places You Need to See in Indonesia
Most Bali tourists head straight to Kuta, Legian or Seminyak and maybe if they are a little adventurous head into the central village of Ubud (where Julia Roberts starred in Eat, Pray, Love).
That’s not even scratching the surface of what Bali has to offer!
The best beaches in Bali are along it’s East coast, where there are no tourist hoards, no full moon parties and an abundance of peaceful, undisturbed nature.
Amed offers beautiful beaches, untouched coral reef, sailing and snorkeling trips that are very affordable, fresh fish hauled in daily and grilled on the beach and beautiful cottages built right on the cliffs that overlook the ocean.
Surely that’s worth a 4 hour drive after you’ve come all this way, wouldn’t you say?
Lake Toba, Sumatra
Sumatra has a lot to offer anyone who takes the time to visit, but Lake Toba may be the jewel in its crown.
Imagine a lake inside an ancient volcano with an island in the middle. Yup, you just imaged lake Toba! To get there you’ll have to take a bus 4 hours north of Medan, then a ferry-boat out to the island in the middle of the lake.
Toba is one of the most secluded, relaxing places on earth. Miss it at your peril!
How about a little visit to the place where a natural line exists dividing the creatures of the Eastern and Western hemispheres?
Welcome to Rinjani, a stunning volcanic lake on Lombok island. You will not be able to get here unless you’re reasonably fit and healthy since it requires a multi-day climb, but when you get to the top you will be rewarded with one of the most unusual places on earth.
The creatures on either side of the lake are completely separate in their bio-diversity, having evolved completely separate from each-other.
Now if that isn’t considered a “special” place I don’t know what is!
Borobudur, Central Java
An ancient Buddhist temple which lay buried for hundreds of years in the earth before a team of archaeologists accidentally discovered it? Yep – Indonesia has one of those, too! ( We weren’t lying when we said it has everything).
Thousands of people come to visit this beautiful temple every day so you’ll have to be early if you want to enjoy it in solitude. Getting up early is worth it, however, as you’ll catch the sun rise as the morning mist lies on the ground surrounding the temple.
Yoygakarta City is the closet point to Borobudur, which is also a very fun, relaxed city which serves perfectly as a base for exploring the stunning Javanese countryside.
Raja Ampat, West Papua
Just take a look at the photo above and no further explanation is necessary.
Raja Ampat lies in West Papua and will require you to go to much greater lengths than most tourists are willing to get there. I guess that’s why it is completely unspoiled and will make you feel like you have entered heaven early.
Snorkeling, diving and kayaking are all available but will require a park approved guide. All of your fees go to supporting the community which looks after Raja Ampat – that’s money well spent in my book!
There’s only one place in the world to see Komodo Dragons in their natural habitat…yup…that would be the island named after the beasts themselves!
If you want to feel like you have been transported directly back to the Jurassic Era make sure you pencil in a side trip (you can do it in a day) to Komodo Island. You can get there relatively easily from either Flores or Sumbawa, both of which are also worth checking out for at least a few days.
Bunaken, North Sulawesi
By now you’re probably realizing that the 30 day tourist visa the Indonesian government gives you on arrival is not nearly enough to explore this stunning country! You’d be right. Luckily a 60 day visa is available if you arrange it before you come.
Next, head to Sulawesi and go as far north as you can. There you will discover Bunaken, a beautiful little marine park where you can snorkel and dive among some of the best reef on planet earth. You’ll only need a few days to take in Bunaken’s wonders, but they will never leave your memory as long as you live.
Miss it at your peril. This is one of THE top destinations in Indonesia for the underwater enthusiast.
The Gili Islands
If you need somewhere to get away from it all to relax and unwind you won’t find anywhere more suitable than the Gili Islands.
This tiny little archipelago consists of three tiny islands the biggest of which (Trawangan) is 3km squared. The other two are smaller still.
There is a serious lack of almost anything to do on the Gili Islands, and that is the entire point! You’ll have to leave your worries, stresses and cares behind and embrace the absolute laid back pace of the islands.
There are a few places to party on Trawangan at night, but if you want to avoid that and sip coconuts under the milky way while glow in the dark plankton washes gently onto the beach you can always do that instead.
Mount Bromo, East Java
You may have picked this up already, but Indonesia has a LOT of volcanoes!
Mt. Bromo in East Java is one of the most spectacular of the various volcanoes Indonesia has to offer. A reasonably manageable trek will take you to the base for sunrise. Watching the colours change from orange to purple to blue while an ancient volcano smolders a few metres away is something to behold and something which has to be experienced to be understood.
Bromo is easily accessible from Indonesia’s second largest city Surabaya. You won’t find anything else like this place anywhere else in the region.
To Sum It Up:
Summing Indonesia up is almost impossible because it is so many things rolled into one.
It is adventurous and laid back. It is peaceful and chaotic. It is intense and relaxing. It is unthinkably massive yet the warm-hearted Indonesian people make it seem small and friendly.
This list of nine has barely scratched the surface of what Indonesia has to offer. It is, however, a good place to start!