15 Best Places to Visit in Indonesia

by Sarah Rizwan
Sipolha Hill at Lake Toba

Indonesia, one of the world’s most populated countries, consists of more than 17,000 islands and islets scattered over the emerald seas between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. The country is home to incredible natural beauty and intriguing cultural practises. Large mosque minarets soar into the sky, while in other areas, the earthy mystique of Hindu temples and the twisted incense of local shrines fill the air.

There are also the roaring surf swells of Bali and Lombok, which attract long-haired board riders from far away; the shimmering coral gardens of the Nusa Tenggara, which are a mecca for SCUBA sorts and free divers; the gorgeous Gilis, where cold Bintang beers flow in the scorching tropical sun; and the wild forests of Borneo, which are home to swinging orangutans. Sure enough, Indonesia is a unique blend of colossal cities and smoky volcanoes.

Discover the top tourist destinations in Indonesia with me!

1. Gili Islands

Gili Air in West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.

A stunning view of Gili Air Island in West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. Image source: TannerPhoto/Shutterstock.com

The Gilis are a group of three stunning islands located between Lombok and Bali in the midst of the Nusa Tenggara archipelago. They are sometimes cited as the world’s best example of a tropical paradise.

Gili Air and Gili Meno, two smaller islands, are quiet and relaxing, with the odd bamboo ecolodge hidden in the mangroves and long lengths of shell-spotted sand edging down to a sea of turquoise blue.

Gili Trawangan, the biggest of the Gili islands, is where all the action is.

The bars are made of driftwood and buzz with the excitement of travellers from all over the world.

These men spend the day soaking in the sun on the beaches or diving for endangered sea turtles to help them recover from the night before.

They drink beer, buckets of it, and dance till morning.

2. Bali

Rice terrace of Bali Island, Indonesia.

A beautiful view of the rice terrace in Bali Island, Indonesia. Image source: Efired/Shutterstock.com

Bali is a well-known destination for those who want to experience the exotic culture of the Far East.

Even while areas like Kuta in the south have suffered from the invasion of Australians and Britons, there are still enclaves of the earthy, aga (old) Bali that visitors may experience.

Ubud, in the centre of the regency, is surrounded by forest and is home to tumbling rice fields and crumbling Hindu temples that have been taken over by crab-eating macaques.

You might also see the dawn over Lombok Island to the east by travelling to the northern Kintamani Volcanoes.

You could also simply hang out on the beaches of Bukit and Nusa Dua and surf and party all day if that’s more your style.

3. Lombok

Aerial shot of Seger Beach and Kuta Beach in Lombok

A breathtaking aerial view of Seger and Kuta Beaches in Lombok, Indonesia. Image source: Anom Harya/Shutterstock.com

Over the last several decades, Lombok has emerged from relative obscurity to become somewhat of a more intellectual alternative to Bali.

Unlike Kuta, where flashy bars and big clubs have taken over, this little town has managed to keep its traditional Indonesian charm.

Get yourself to the western coast, specifically the salt-washed town of Senggigi.

Close to the water, regulars may dine at one of the many traditional warungs (cosy local bars) and enjoy meals like hot noodle fries and sate, which are filled with peanuts.

Both Kuta Lombok in the south and the lovely bays that surround the coconut palms all around the west coast provide excellent surfing.

4. Yogyakarta

Andong is typical transportation in Jogjakarta city.

A beautiful view of Andong in Jogjakarta City, Indonesia. Image source: Bangkit Widyanarto/Shutterstock.com

Due primarily to its artistic nature and cultural diversity, Yogyakarta holds a well-deserved fourth position on our list.

Located between the towering volcanic domes of Central Java and the magnificent Buddhist spires of Borobudur, possibly Indonesia’s best-known UNESCO monument, it is a spot rich in history.

Kraton is a huge complex that was originally the residence of Java’s sultans.

This massive castle was once home to the king’s harems, but is now a museum filled with lavish carriages and pleasure gardens.

For example, Pasar Beringharjo and Kranggan are two of Yogya’s most popular tourist destinations due to their daily traditional artisan markets; however, if you want to get the best deals, you need to avoid staying out late at the backpacker pubs.

5. Jakarta

Jakarta downtown skyline with high-rise buildings at sunset.

A stunning view of the Jakarta downtown skyline with high-rise buildings at sunset. Image source: amadeustx/Shutterstock.com

massive, tense There are more than nine million people living in Jakarta, making it a lively and hectic location to get a feel for Indonesia. The broader metro region has an additional thirty million residents.

Although it may seem impossible to find true charm and fascination among the glittering skyscrapers and noisy food courts of this huge megalopolis, you’d be surprised.

Consider the 137-meter-tall Monas monument or the charming Kota Tua old town, where the twisted fumes of purring motorcycles mingle with the remnants of Dutch colonial architecture.

Nighttime on Jalan Jaksa is when you want to be at one of the many backpacker pubs.

6. Borobudur

Borobudur Buddhist Temple.

A stunning view of Borobudur, a Buddhist temple in Indonesia. Image source: Adel Newman/Shutterstock.com

Above, massive stupas made of graphite-colored stone rise, while in front, cryptic reliefs portraying ancient Buddhist legends are etched into the rocks.

Steam and sulphur are being released into the mountain ranges by the volcanoes of Central Java, which can be seen spitting smoke into the sky.

You have arrived at Borobudur, Indonesia’s most well-known UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This incredible 8th-century marvel is still the world’s biggest Buddhist site.

Actually incorporating Hindu design elements, it now attracts tourists who marvel at its many towering pagodas, ornate paintings, and monumental scale.

7. Raja Ampat

Wayag Island in Raja Ampat Regency, Indonesia

A stunning view of Wayag Island in Raja Ampat Regency, Indonesia. Image source: Raiyani Muharramah/Shutterstock.com

Every SCUBA diver’s fantasy is realised at Raja Ampat, with its mosaic of blue oceans and multicoloured coral reefs.

It is a shard of Papua off the uncharted eastern coast of the Indonesian archipelago, far from any major tourist destinations.

Unspoiled and remote, the area is made up of over a thousand distinct rocks that rise steeply from the glistening water and are surrounded by mangroves and primaeval woods.

Dive operators providing excursions to the pristine seas around the huge islands of Waigeo and Batanta have made them popular destinations.

8. Komodo

Two Komodo dragons fighting with each other in Indonesia.

A breathtaking view of two Komodo dragons fighting with each other in Indonesia. Image source: GUDKOV ANDREY/Shutterstock.com

Komodo, roasted by the sun, is a harsh and unforgiving wilderness.

Located far from the rest of the Lesser Sunda Islands’ turquoise waters and vibrant coral reefs, Komodo Island is best known as the only habitat of the Komodo dragon, the biggest living species of lizard.

The enormous stalking beast is just one of the attractions. Nowadays, visitors flock to see the arid hills and dusty backwoods that slope down to the pink beaches and coastal waters teeming with rays, sea turtles, pygmy seahorses, and rainbowfish.

In addition, sea kayaking along the rocky headlands is becoming more popular; visitors may look forward to exploring remote, uncharted bays.

9. Bandung

Bandung, West Java, Indonesia.

A beautiful view of Bandung City in West Java, Indonesia. Image source: Akhmad Dody Firmansyah/Shutterstock.com

The nation’s second-biggest city is far more charming than the nation’s capital.

The cool highlands of the nation, dotted with swaying palm trees and enfolded by the misty peaks of untamed Western Java, provide an attractive setting.

It’s easy to understand why this destination is so well-liked by tourists: it has a long history of producing beautiful batik fabrics, and its cuisine is a veritable feast (the steamed bakso tahu with tofu and peanut sauce is to die for).

On the outskirts of town, near Ciwidey and Pangalengan, you may visit expansive tea plantations where you can pick your own leaves for a cup of hot tea.

10. Bukit Lawang

Bukit Lawang village in Sumatra, Indonesia.

A beautiful view of Bukit Lawang village in Sumatra, Indonesia. Image source: Mazur Travel/Shutterstock.com

The orangutan’s jungle lies just beyond Bukit Lawang.

There are just a handful of bamboo-built longhouses and riverfront teahouses at this remote location in the woods of northern Sumatra.

Ecotourists and budget travellers flock here, and they can be seen darting between the town’s palm-shaded gardens and the park’s wild reaches, where guided safari walks promise sightings of baboons and Thomas leaf monkeys, as well as the chance to follow the tracks of the elusive (and critically endangered) Sumatran tiger.

11. Labuan Bajo

Man standing on rock at Padar Island

A man enjoys the stunning view while standing on a rock at Padar Island, Labuan Bajo. Image source: Sittichai Wangngam/Shutterstock.com

It has long been assumed that Labuan Bajo serves only as a transit hub for travellers between the well-known destinations of Nusa Tenggara and the less-visited, forested volcanic mountains and plains of Flores to the east.

With its proximity to a group of idyllic tropical islands, the gleaming sands of beaches like Pede and Binongko, and convenient access to other major towns and places in Indonesia (such as Komodo Island), it has emerged as a tourist hotspot in its own right.

Explore the rushing Cunca Wulang Waterfall or take a boat ride to the picturesque Seraya Kecil isle; other activities include walking to crater lakes and scuba diving in clear waters.

12. Samarinda

Islamic Center Mosque of Samarinda

The grandeur of the Islamic Center Mosque of Samarinda in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Image source: Katesalin Pagkaihang/Shutterstock.com

Samarinda, a jewel in the East, is at the crossroads of two cultures.

In one part of town, you’ll find bustling bazaars stocked floor to ceiling with elaborate handmade batik and carved wooden souvenirs from the Kalimantan tribal realm.

Below the towering minarets of the city mosque, surrounded by winding, dusty lanes, is where the residents live and work.

The opposite side is industry, which in Samarinda’s case is the coal sector.

Many environmental issues and even sketchy-looking retail malls may be traced back to the town’s many smokestack mines.

Even so, Samarinda is still a wonderful riverside stopover in the middle of untamed Borneo.

13. Surabaya

Colonial building in Surabaya

A glimpse of Surabaya’s rich colonial past. Image source: INTREEGUE Photography/Shutterstock.com

Do not be immediately impressed by Surabaya’s massive size.

You’ll need some time to get to know this sprawling metropolis on East Java’s outskirts, which is home to roughly nine million people.

To begin with, you’ll have to escape the smog and exhaust of nearby factories and roadways.

Once you’ve done so, you’ll be able to explore Chinatown and find hidden gems like the district’s many beautiful Dutch homes (one of the biggest Chinatowns in the world, no less). After dusk, G-Walk comes alive with its busy marketplaces and spice-scented food courts, not to mention the artistic rooms and coffee shops of the House of Sampoerna.

14. Tana Toraja

Traditional houses in Tana Toraja

A row of traditional houses in a typical village of Tana Toraja. Image source: Fabio Lamanna/Shutterstock.com

Visiting the fascinating town of Tana Toraja in South Sulawesi is a great way to learn about the region’s indigenous peoples and their rich, earthy customs.

Among the mountain ranges here that have been completely overtaken by rainforest, there is a bastion of the indigenous Toraja people.

One of the most notable characteristics of Toraja culture is the construction of these ship-like structures, which are made from exquisite arches of wood and inlayed reeds.

Additionally, Tana is bordered by strange graveyards, many of which have monolithic stones and sculpted rock effigies of animist spirits.

To sum it, it’s a window into the rich, folkloric, and historic customs of this venerable island country.

15. Lake Toba

Sipolha Hill at Lake Toba

A view of the beautiful Sipolha Hill at Lake Toba. Image source: Andry Beruat/Shutterstock.com

One of the most dramatic climate changes in Earth’s history occurred in Lake Toba approximately 77,000 years ago.

The last time this gigantic crater lake erupted in a volcanic explosion of historic proportions was some 40,000 years ago.

The former caldera on Toba has been completely filled with water, making the island considerably quieter than it once was.

As the biggest volcanic lake on Earth, it is a popular destination for ecotourists, boaters, and swimmers.

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