With an ancient history, a rich culture and a breathtaking nature, Indonesia is a never-ending source of things to see and do. From Lombok to Bali’s terraced fields to Borneo, here are some of the best places to visit in Indonesia to include in your itinerary for a perfect trip.
Best places to visit in Indonesia
Located in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is the largest island country in the world. Spanning actress millions of square kilometers, Indonesia, straddled in the equator enjoys a tropical climate. Humidity remains high while the seasons are split into dry and rainy.
Although a Muslim-majority country, Indonesia recognizes Buddhism, Hinduism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Confucianism. Today, this tropical paradise draws tourists because of its diverse and multicultural islands and offers something for every traveler here. It remains a favourite country among most tourists who love the vast, vibrant and dynamic feel of the whole continent.
When you think of Indonesia, you think of paradise. Here are some of the most exciting things to do and see while in Indonesia.
1. The Burubur temple – Syailendra Dynasty monument
Burubur temple is a famous Buddhist temple that dates from the 8th and 9th centuries. Located in Java, the temple is made of five concentric square terraces, placed on a pyramidal base. What is characteristic about it is the three circular platforms and the monumental stupa at the top.
Enjoy looking at the beautiful low reliefs on the walls and balustrades of the temple. Each of the 72 openwork stupas surrounding the circular platforms contains a Buddha statue. UNESCO restored the monument which is seen as an outstanding dynastic monument of the Syailendra Dynasty.
2. Yogyakarta – The financial and industrial hub
Also known as Jogjakarta, Yogyakarta is the artistic and intellectual heritage as well as the financial and industrial powerhouse of Java. Experience the Javanese language at its brightest and purest here. Yogyakarta, despite being contemporary, remains a stronghold of rituals and traditions.
It is indeed one of the loveliest cities in Indonesia with many things to do. Explore its streets lined with coffee shops, art galleries, fast-food chains, and shiny malls. Borobudur and Prambanan, the most important archaeological sites in Indonesia, are found here.
3. The blissful Lombok
The beach-blessed neighborhood of Bali, Lombok is a lot more than just a surfers’ paradise. Look forward to trekking, partying, swimming and fishing. Lombok’s great appeal lies in its natural base for wave-chasing along the island’s southern coast that boasts of a motley of bays, reefs and rocky inlets. Trek towards the second-highest volcano in Indonesia, Gunung Rinjani, which works like a magnet for trekkers.
Lombok’s party scene is internationally renowned, and one can party at the raucous bars or the beach-side cocktail joints. Look forward to bottom and deep-sea fishing for trevally, tuna, wahoo, sailfish, mackerel and plenty of other species. We recommend staying at Tugu Hotel in Lombok where you can see relax and having an amazing view.
4. Temples in Bali
Bali, a land of famous landscapes and cultural treasures is well known for its temples. Tanah Lot is the most iconic temple of the island and is perched on a huge rock, surrounded by the. Visit the temple to pay tribute to the guardian spirits of the seas. Another important sea temple is the Uluwatu temple from where you can enjoy dramatic sunsets. Besakih Temple is the largest of all the Balinese temples and is also known as the ‘mother temple’ of Bali.
Visiting its temples is only one of the many things you can do in Bali, and the island is only one of the best places to visit in Indonesia.
5. Borneo Orangutan experience at Tanjung Puting National Park
Get ready for a unique experience while in Indonesia and head for the Tanjung Puting National Park located on the island of Borneo where you can hang out with Orangutans. You find yourself completely absorbed, switched off from the outside world. One of the top things to do in Indonesia, it’s a must to spend the night here on a boat and hear the jungle creatures start to sing once the sun sets.
6. Bali scenic rice terrace fields
Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud and Jatiluwih rice terraces are well famous for the beautiful scenes of rice paddies. Tegallalang is indeed one of the most splendid landscapes and offers a scenic outlook as those terraces leveled down the slopes across the valley. Jatiluwih rice terraces in West Bali are dramatic and genuinely exotic.
Enjoy a soothing retreat away from the crowds as you explore these terraced rice fields. Feel the cool breeze and stop by the roadside locations to take photos. There are numerous art kiosks and cafes along the route to these fields. A great hotel to stay is Solo Villas Ubud where the staff and ricefields will make you fall in love with the place.
7. Relax on the coast of Aceh at Pulau Weh
Pulau Weh, also known as Weh Island, is located in Sumatra. The island sits in the Andaman Sea, and still experiences volcanic activity. Visitors travel to the island to enjoy swimming and snorkeling in the crystal blue waters to enjoy its exotic marine life with an abundance of tropical fish and the rare Megamouth sharks. Gapang beach, famous because of its unique black sand is nearby.
8. Ubud Monkey Forest and Market in Bali
Ubud Monkey Forest is a popular attraction in Bali, and the natural forest sanctuary is also known as the Sacred Monkey Forest. Watch those playful monkeys swinging through canopies or feeding on bananas in their natural habitat. As you walk through the forests, you come across beautiful ancient temples. Ubud Art Market is known for its handmade statues, kites, woven bags, baskets and other local goods. This is the spot to be if looking for Balinese handicrafts and souvenirs.
9. The traditional Padang food
Indonesians think that the best Indonesian food can be enjoyed only in the capital city of Sumatra, Padang. One can enjoy a vast array of traditional food at any of the Padang restaurants that serve the food the customary way. Customers are served as many as 20 or 25 different dishes on small individual plates. They mix them with rice and are expected to pay only for the dishes they touch. Traditional favorites among locals and tourists include Beef Rendang a spicy curry cooked with beef and jackfruit curry with snake beans.
10. Take surfing lesson in Kuta beach of Bali
Kuta beach is a famous strip of beach located in the south of Bali, one of the most popular Indonesia attractions. The gently rolling waves of the sea that rests on a sandbar are just perfect for surf beginners. One can rent a sponge board and ride the waves the whole day. Get ample practice and lessons here as you hone your skills in surfing. Relax and laze around the gorgeous beach with a beer or a soft drink and take photos of the stunning sunset in the evening.
11. Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world and one of the best things to see in Indonesia
Located in North Sumatra, Lake Toba is based on the crater of a long-dormant volcano, and if you are still wondering what to do in Indonesia, this is a great place to visit. It is the most prominent volcanic lake in the world, and the visitors can enjoy swimming in the lake as well as water sports.
They can also visit the traditional houses of the natives near the lake. Batak houses house the graves of long-dead kings and nobles of Batak, the indigenous people. Spend a day at the traditional Batak village to get familiar with the Batak culture and their weaving techniques.
12. Komodo Island – home to Komodo dragons
Komodo Island, located in Lesser Sunda is world-famous because of its Komodo dragons. Komodo dragons are the biggest lizards in the world, and their toxic saliva can kill the prey quickly. Visitors can make a tour of Komodo National Park to see the Komodo dragons.
Learn about the conservation and breeding programs of these fascinating beasts. The rare beasts are indeed unique and their discovery a truly remarkable find. Tourists can take a boat tour to visit the dragons on Komodo and Rinca.
13. Gili Islands for a peaceful retreat
Gili Islands are made of three islands, Gili Meno, Gili Trawangan and Gili Air, which are located off the coast of Lombok. Gili Trawangan is the most enormous and most populated of these islands. There are no cars for transport, and the only way you can move around is via bicycles or horses. Explore these islands and feel the peace of the surroundings.
Visitors love the good mix of the quiet and serene beaches as well as the lively dining and partying hotspots here on the Gili islands. The beautifully barren beaches are indeed the ultimate choice for an escape. Our best recommendation is staying at Martas Gili where you can sleep and rest quietly off the nightlife of Gili Trawangan.
14. Hike on the Mount Rinjani
Mount Rinjani, the second largest volcano in Indonesia, is located on the island of Lombok. The active volcano has a lake in the crater which is considered holy by the locals. Mount Rinjani dominates the landscape of Lombok Island. One can trek up to the summit to experience the sunrise and sunset. However, the summit is often closed as the active volcano is known to erupt frequently and speed ash clouds.
You are likely to see exotic birds, monkeys, and butterflies in the surrounding forest during early morning and evening walks. After hiking Mount Rinjani, relax and spend a couple of days at the Rinjani Lodge. And you can’t miss Tiu Kelep Waterfalls, just a walking distance from Rinjani Lodge in Senaru.
15. Take a walk through the rainforest in Kalimantan
The canopy bridge of Kalimantan rainforests is really high, and one can spot leaf monkeys, macaques, maroon langur monkeys and flying gibbons. It is a thrilling experience as you step on the twisted rope bridges and walk through the rainforest canopy that boasts of thousands of species and are spread across acres.
Naturalists have since recorded an astounding variety of plant species and new orchids. Towering forest canopies and the dense ground vegetation of Kalimantan rainforests will allow you to appreciate the sheer biodiversity of Borneo. This is definitely one of the top places to visit in Indonesia.
Practical tips to help you enjoy your Indonesia trip
Currency and ATMs
The currency in Indonesia is called the rupiah (IDR), where 14500 IDR is equal to 1 USD. You can check the exchange rate during your visit through this link. ATMs abound in Indonesia’s major tourist spots except in the remote islands. You can withdraw up to 2.5 million IDR (or 172.50 USD) per transaction, with up to four withdrawals each day.
How to move around Indonesia
If you’re visiting Java, it is much easier to ride the public buses here than in Bali. The best way to go around Bali is to rent your own motorbike, with which you can also plan one day in Sanur. You can also ride a taxi or an Uber. There are private and public ferries that go from island to island, the private ones being faster but more expensive.
Best time to visit Indonesia
Indonesia is a tropical country with 2 seasons: wet and dry. Therefore, tourists are advised to visit between May and September as it is the driest and warmest months here, while surfers visiting western Indonesia can visit up to October to catch the best waves Indonesia has to offer. May, Jun and July are the friendliest months to visit Bali in general.
Where to eat
There are plenty of warungs (family-owned) local restaurants all over the country so meals can be as cheap as 1 to 3 USD. Food is relatively cheaper in Java than in Bali as it is less frequented by tourists. Mid-budget and luxury restaurants also abound in Indonesia.
Where to sleep
Cheap guesthouses in Indonesia cost around 10 USD each night while mid-budget accommodations start at 20 USD and reach up to 50 USD. If you have the budget for it, you can stay in a luxury hotel for around 100 USD per night.
Indonesia is a very low-risk area to visit, with most places completely safe. Much like any trip, just remember to be respectful of locals and their culture to avoid any misunderstandings.
Most areas like Bali and Lombok don’t really have a dress code except for when you’re visiting a mosque or interacting with more conservative locals in their home or at a restaurant. When exploring a different culture, it’s best to do as the locals do to show respect for their traditions.
Author bio: Ruben is one half of the travel blog Gamin Traveler. He has been travelling for more than seven years and has visited more than 70 countries.
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