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Exotic, fascinating Indonesia is your gateway to the South Pacific! If your dreams swirl with languorous visions of crashing seas, cozy jungle hideaways, and plentiful native charm, Indonesia might be just the getaway for you. Considered the “sleeping giant” of Asia, Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago. It consists of over eighteen thousand islands, approximately one-third of which are inhabited. Even then, two-thirds of the population is concentrated on just one island, Java. Consequently, a great deal of the nation is only sparsely populated and runs greatly towards untouched -and sometimes inaccessible- wilderness.

Friendly people, delicious food, and enthusiastic hospitality are all hallmarks of the Indonesian travel experience. Other can’t-miss items on your list should include touring the ancient and stunning holy relics of Java, catching a glimpse of the fearsome Komodo Dragons, trekking volcanoes (Indonesia is located within the Pacific Ring of Fire), indulging in a traditional massage, and simply soaking up the sun on the beach with a beer in hand. This is a land of singular delights!

The feather in Indonesia’s cap is, without a doubt, Bali. The name alone conjures daydreams of tropical romance and sun-drenched pleasure… paradise on earth. The reputation is deserved, and it can’t be denied that Bali’s storied beauty has made one of the most popular travel destinations in Asia. The golden shores of Nusa Dua set the standard for beach perfection, and are normally packed with international pilgrims ready to worship the sun. While beach bumming is practically the official pastime, a deeply spiritual and traditional side to Bali hides behind the bright, bold face it presents to visitors. Slip off the beaten path to the hippie enclave of Ubud, sink your toes into the black sands of Amed, or enjoy the cooler temperatures and mountain scenery of Kintamani. No matter which part of Indonesia you choose, there’s always room for you to stake your own tiny piece of heaven here.

Indonesia Top Attractions

Bali

Beautiful Bali consistently ranks among the world’s top honeymoon destinations, and with good reason. Romance is in the air! Gorgeous landscapes abound, with pristine white beaches and crystalline blue waters offering a feast for the eyes. Unlike most of Indonesia, Bali is predominantly Hindu. Accordingly, pretty little temples are everywhere. Some of the most amazing accommodations in the world can be found here. Private villas with pavillion bedrooms and personal swimming pools abound, especially in the exclusive and resort-y Nusa Dua enclave. You’ll learn to surf in beachy, popular Kuta, go green on the earthy, hippie paradise of Ubud (and visit the sacred monkeys), and stargaze upon the sight of the rich and beautiful on South Bali Beach. The nightlife thrums here, and social activities are never in short supply. The coastline is understandably popular, but the island’s interior has much to offer as well: exquisite volcanic lakes and small villages tucked in the rich green foliage of the rainforest offer fascinating day trips.

Lombok

Lombok’s profile is on the rise, although those who love it here would probably prefer its charms stay secret! The island is regarded as a quieter, more secluded alternate to Bali’s frenetic pace and bustling crowds, with purer, cleaner beaches. Hotels with traditional bamboo or thatched roofs dot the shore, and soaring Mt. Rinjani, an active volcano, dominates the skyline. The multi-colored coral and deep, peaceful jungles of the Gili Islands are also popular, especially with divers. Take a pirahu boat out on a fishing charter, take a bike tour, or trek the mountain. Traditional Sasak massages are in hot demand at the hotels or on traditional platforms set up down on the beach! Tourists tend to buy pearls as a reminder of their time on Lombok—the island is one of the world’s leading producers of the gemstones, and the rare golden variety are prized above all.

Java

Rise with the sun for the morning adnan (call to prayer) on Java, Indonesia’s most populous island. Over two-thirds of the country’s population is concentrated here, to the extent that traffic jams and a leisurely pace of life have become part of the charm. Sip a cup of the famous Java coffee in Jakarta, a huge city that is also the national capital. Birdwatching is a perennial joy, and just a small part of the colorful and exotic sights to be found. Yogyakarta is the royal city, and considered an Asian treasure. Most of its culture is located conveniently within the kraton of the Old Town. Nearby, you’ll find the latticed stupa of Borobudur, one of the great holy relics of Southeast Asia. It’s worth waking at dawn to watch the morning mist roll over the rice paddies spread out below. Also in the vicinity: the massive, awe-inspiring temple complex of Prambanan, one of the best examples of Hindu art in the world. While in Java, make time for busy Surabaya, where a bustling Arab Quarter and a lively spice market distinguish the second-largest Indonesian city.

Kalimantan (Borneo)

Wild Borneo thrilled the Victorians, and its untamed charms still delight visitors today. The largest native population of orangutans in the world frolic in the rainforest, shyly watching visitors with their guileless eyes. Speaking of the rainforest, it’s interesting to note that it is 70 million years older than the Amazon… and even more biologically diverse. Over three thousand species of trees and two hundred twenty species of mammals alone make their home in Kalimantan. Human occupation is sparse, leaving much of the island untouched. Taking a klotok boat ride down the river is a true voyage to what has historically been regarded the heart of darkness, although you’ll likely find it a complete pleasure. Ecotourism thrives here. It totally common to see proboscis monkeys hooting and swinging by your window in the morning! A glimpse of civilization can be found at Banjarmasin, where a famous floating market sees a brisk trade in gems, cloth, and foodstuffs.

Papua

The western side of New Guinea is a natural wonderland, home to the richest biodiversity in the world. It boasts dense jungles, glacial lakes, and mountain peaks tipped with pristine snow, as well as the status of the world’s largest and highest tropical island. Papua is very primitive outside the plush confines of the resort and tourism industry that’s arisen in the last forty years and visitors are free to luxuriate in the island’s virgin beauty. Lorentz National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see for visitors. Puncak Jaya is the world’s tallest island mountain, and is surrounded by equatorial glaciers that, unfortunately, are rapidly melting away. Accommodations are charming and traditional in Papua, consisting of bungalows that may or may not be situated over a river, most of which are bedecked with tribal art.

Komodo National Park

The rare monitor lizard for whom this park is named is the superstar of any visit! Komodo dragons are kingpin predators, and best viewed from a distance. Their phenomenal size and swinging gait lend them an irresistible appeal! The three small islands of which the park is composed are one of the only places on Earth to see these beauties in their natural habitat. Kayaking the waters and diving amid exquisite coral are top diversions. On Pulau Rinca, the largest island of the trio, wild hogs, horses, and monkeys also roam freely. If you stick around until twilight, you might catch a glimpse of flying foxes—their wingspan can top four feet. Absolutely breathtaking, unspoiled landscapes surround you on every side. Grass-capped hills roll off into the horizon, and the soft expanse of the sand gives way to teal and then royal blue waters.

Quick Facts

Capital: Jakarta
Primary Airports: Soekarno–Hatta International Airport (CGK), Juanda International Airport (SUB), Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS)
Government: Republic
Currency: Indonesian rupiah (IDR)
Population: 245,543,000 (2009 est.)
Language: Bahasa Indonesia
Electricity: 220v/50Hz (Schuko Euro plug)
Time Zone: UTC +7
Indonesia

Indonesia Travel Reviews


Bali - The Heart of Indonesia

Toni

One of our fondest memories of Bali included the evening we came upon a traditional Balinese funeral procession. It was a celebration of life rather than death. Many young women, dressed in white carried baskets of offerings on their heads, containing trinkets, flowers and incense. The procession, which included traditional Balinese dancers ended at a small temple in the heart of Kuta.

A trip to Bali would not be complete without visiting the glorious temples, including the Pura Tanan Lot, a well-known pilgrimage temple located on a large rock formation just outside the city. The only time the temple can be visited is during low tide when visitors can walk to the base of the temple.

Also worth visiting are the Uluwatu Temple, the Taman Ayun Temple and the Pura Ulun Danu temple complex, consisting of four unique temples dating from the early 14th century. When visiting temples, it is important to honor Balinese culture. Shorts, ball-caps and casual dress are not allowed inside sacred sanctuaries.

One of Kuta’s most notable tourist attractions is the Sinadha Beach Market, which offers a wide assortment of traditional clothing and local crafts. Prices may be “suggested,” but negotiating is expected. Adjacent to the Sinadha Market are many fresh food and craft markets.

When visiting Bali, be sure to explore outlying regions including Sanur, Nusa Dua and Ubud. Ubud, located in central Bali, is regarded as the cultural center of Bali, famous for its many art galleries and working artisans. The outdoor artisan area features unique Balinese handcrafts, including traditional ikat weaving. Be sure to visit Ubud’s Monkey Sanctuary, home to the largest population of orangutan monkeys in the world.

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Destinations Visited: Indonesia

Go beyond the beaches of Bali

Tom Hamilton

Bali is by far one of the most popular Indonesian travel destinations and there is certainly a lot to recommend about it. The beaches and surf are fantastic, as are the shopping, restaurants and nightlife. All of the local service providers are used to catering to international visitors, and everyone is made to feel welcome. However, there is a lesser known destination in Bali by that only a tiny percentage of visitors to the beach resorts of Sanur and Kuta ever venture to see. Ever since scenes from the movie Eat Love Pray were filmed there, it has become more popular, but it remains relatively quiet.

The small town of Ubud is a glimpse of an earlier time before the tourist boom, and is described by many as the cultural center of Bali. Located to the north of Denpasar, the capital and airport, Ubud is about 600 feet above sea level and noticeably cooler than the coastal areas. There is no shortage of transportation options, ranging from shared vans for a few thousand rupiahs to private cars which can cost as much as $200,000. Transport is available from the airport and the beach resorts and it's best to do a little research to find the best option for you.

Once you get to Ubud, there are so many options for things to do that there is something for everybody. There are lots of reasonable spas for those wanting relaxation and about a dozen museums for those wanting culture. For the active, take a bicycle tour through the bamboo forest or go whitewater rafting. For the adventurous, visit the Jalan Monkey Forest (and heed all of the posted warnings). For everyone else, just go! You'll find the perfect thing for you and have the time of your life.

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Destinations Visited: Indonesia

Island-hopping in Indonesia

Mneme C.

It is impossible to settle on a simple description of Indonesia. It is, after all, a nation of 18,100 islands. What struck me upon arriving at the Soekarno Hatta International Airport in Jakarta was the friendliness and openness of the locals. Be prepared to smile and gesture a lot because the locals speak many different languages, including Bahasa Indonesia, Javanese and 600 others. Jakarta, being the capital city and the primary economic hub, is bustling, crowded and muggy but fun nonetheless. Sampling Jakarta's street food is a wild adventure. I like reviewing old architecture at every new place I visit, and Old Batavia did not disappoint. Once the hub for the Dutch East Indies Company, vestiges of this graceful era are well preserved in what are now museums. Bandung was a welcome respite from the hectic air of Jakarta. Peaceful views of the Parahyangan Mountains are a balm for weary souls, but nothing compares to the awe-inspiring sight of Mt. Bromo spewing white smoke, a reminder of Indonesia’s rep as volcano central. I flew to Denpasar in Bali to meet up with friends and enjoy the famous beaches. The underwater views are to-die-for if you are a diver. In Sumatra, I found the orangutan experience unsettling, but the laidback beauty of Medan and Berastagi made up for it. I saw a little bit of Lampung: White Sand Beach, Bandarlampung and other coastal places with tranquil views of Lampung Bay, which was enough to tell me that I will be visiting again.

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Destinations Visited: Indonesia

Travels to Indonesia

Mike

A number of years ago I was fortunate enough to travel several times to Indonesia on business trips. As an American and having never been there I wasn’t sure what to expect. An amazing and friendly country greeted me. Smiles were everywhere. Folks were very open and interactive but not obtrusive or obnoxious. Many people spoke excellent English and this only added to my ease of travel. Indonesia is a country of islands. I was fortunate to experience several of these enchanting islands including Java and Kalimantan (Borneo). Although highly populated in the cities, the tropical rain forests are abundantly preserved and beautiful. Indonesia is home to the Orangutan. I saw several – their human-like expressions are unforgettable. If you enjoy excellent food, you will find it in Indonesia. Much of the food I ate was seafood based, served with rice, tropical fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget to ask for watermelon juice. It’s quite refreshing in such a warm climate. Of course there’s the coffee. The Indonesian climate and volcanic soils are perfect for growing some of the most flavorful coffee on earth. Indonesia is an equatorial country. Several times I found myself standing next to a road sign indicating we were crossing the equator. I had one foot in the southern hemisphere and the other on the northern half of the earth. Quite a memory!

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Destinations Visited: Indonesia

West Sumatra a trip to not miss!

Arlene Mattera

Staying in a lodge in the jungle and riding elephants up to camp behind a waterfall.

Snorkeling in the Indian Ocean on Palu Weh.

Visiting with orangutans.

Hiking into a bat cave.

Meeting the friendliest people anywhere in the world!

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Destinations Visited: Indonesia
Tour Operator: Raw Wildlife

Island Hopping Through Indonesia

Brittany M

We took a 3 week trip to Indonesia and went all over the place. We started in Bali and enjoyed the beaches. We also went to Ubud on Bali and visited the Sacred Monkey Forest, where we saw hundreds of monkeys climbing through trees and outdoor temples and shrines. I even ended up with one on my backpack for a bit. We also saw a fire dance, did a white water rafting trip, and visited a lot of temples in Ubud. From there we attempted to do a hike around Mount Bromo, but we had to cancel because of volcanic activity. We were super bummed about this and hear it's a phenomenal hike. So instead we went to Kalimantan where we cruised the river on a boat, sleeping on the deck, and visiting orangutan habitats in between. This was one of the most unique and most enjoyable experiences I've had on vacation. We had the entire boat to ourselves for a very low price (we stay on a hostel-level budget for the most part). You can feed the orangutans bananas and generally interact with them. We also planted a couple native trees that we could go back and visit some day. From there we went to an unbelievably beautiful island in the middle of a volcanic lake: Lake Toba. This place apparently used to be pretty popular, but it was pretty much desereted when we were there. We paid for a room in a beautiful hostel on the water, and they just gave us the whole building. We swam, scootered around the whole island, and ate at Poppie's, the place next to our hostel where you could watch Poppy go out and fish for you, then take his catch, wrap it in bananas leaves, and cook it for 4 hours. Our last stop was the Gili Trawagan, one of the three Gili islands which are more or less what you imagine when you think of a beach paradise. The water was bathtub warm and crystal clear. We went snorkeling, saw sea turtles, and basically lived on the beach. We rented a private hut just feet from the water for cheap. We loved our Indonesia trip, but traveling in between islands can be time consuming, so you have to prepare to spend a decent amount of your trip in transit. Also, be prepared to deal with the humidity. But it was totally worth it and definitely the most unique trip I've gone on.

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Destinations Visited: Indonesia

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