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Lonely Planet Indonesia

Lonely Planet Indonesia

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Lonely Planet Indonesia

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19 ore
Jul 1, 2019


Lonely Planet Indonesia is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Take in a traditional gamelan performance, laze on hidden beaches, or hike volcanic peaks -all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Indonesia and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Indonesia Travel Guide:

  • Colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, cuisine, environment, outdoor activities, responsible travel and more
  • Over 60 maps
  • Covers Java, Bali, Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, Papua, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Indonesia, our most comprehensive guide to Indonesia, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

  • Looking for a guide focused on Bali or Lombok? Check out Lonely Planet Bali & Lombok for a comprehensive look at all these islands have to offer; or Pocket Bali, a handy-sized guide focused on the can't-miss sights for a quick trip.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

Important Notice: The digital edition of this book may not contain all of the images found in the physical edition.

Jul 1, 2019

Informazioni sull'autore

Lonely Planet has gone on to become the world’s most successful travel publisher, printing over 100 million books. The guides are printed in nine different languages; English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Korean. Lonely Planet enables curious travellers to experience the world and get to the heart of a place via guidebooks and eBooks to almost every destination on the planet, an award-winning website and magazine, a range of mobile and digital travel products and a dedicated traveller community.

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Lonely Planet Indonesia - Lonely Planet



Plan Your Trip

Welcome to Indonesia

Indonesia’s Top 20

Need to Know

First Time Indonesia

What’s New

If You Like…

Month by Month


Outdoor Adventures

Travel with Children

Regions at a Glance

On The Road



Thousand Islands

West Java





Ujung Kulon National Park


Around Bogor



Gede Pangrango National Park



North of Bandung

Ciwidey & Around

Bandung to Pangandaran


Around Pangandaran

Central Java


Dieng Plateau



South Coast

Kaliurang & Kaliadem




Gunung Lawu


North Coast

East Java



Pulau Madura


Around Malang


Gunung Arjuna-Lalijiwo Reserve

Gunung Penanggungan


South-Coast Beaches




Watu Karang


Gunung Bromo & Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park


Ijen Plateau



Meru Betiri National Park

Alas Purwo National Park


Baluran National Park


Kuta & Southwest Beaches

Kuta & Legian



Canggu Region


South Bali & the Islands

Bukit Peninsula



Nusa Lembongan & Islands

Ubud Region


South of Ubud

North of Ubud

East Bali


Klungkung (Semarapura)


Gunung Agung

Coast Road to Kusamba




Tirta Gangga

Amed & the Far East Coast


Central Mountains

Danau Bratan Area

Gunung Batukau Area

Gunung Batur Area

North Bali




Taman Nasional Bali Barat

West Bali

Pura Tanah Lot

Balian Beach

Jembrana Coast

Nusa Tenggara




Southwestern Peninsula



Northwest Coast


Sembalun Valley




East of Kuta

West of Kuta

East Lombok

Gili Islands

Gili Trawangan

Gili Meno

Gili Air


West Sumbawa

East Sumbawa

Komodo & Rinca Islands




Labuan Bajo

Manggarai Country


Around Bajawa









Alor Archipelago


Around Kalabahi

West Timor


Around Kupang


Around Soe


Around Kefamenanu



Around Nemberala



East Sumba

South Central Sumba

West Sumba


North Maluku

Pulau Ternate

Pulau Tidore

Pulau Halmahera

Pulau Ambon

Kota Ambon

Southern Leitimur

Eastern Leihitu

Northern & Western Leihitu

Lease Islands

Pulau Saparua

Pulau Seram

Masohi, Namano & Amahai

Northern Seram

Banda Islands


Pulau Gunung Api

Pulau Banda Besar

Pulau Hatta

Pulau Ai

Pulau Run

Kei Islands

Tual & Langgur

Pulau Kei Kecil

Pulau Kei Besar


West Papua


Raja Ampat Islands


Around Manokwari

Northern Papua



Around Sentani

Pulau Biak


Baliem Valley


Northeastern Baliem Valley

Northwestern Baliem Valley

Yali Country

Southern Papua


Wasur National Park

Asmat Region



North Sumatra


Bukit Lawang


Berastagi & Around


Danau Toba


Pulau Nias

Gunung Sitoli

Traditional Villages

Pantai Sorake & Teluk Lagundri

Teluk Dalam


Banda Aceh

Pulau Weh

Aceh’s West Coast

Banyak Islands

Gunung Leuser National Park

West Sumatra


Pantai Bungus & Sungai Pinang

Mentawai Islands


South of Bukittinggi

Danau Maninjau

Kerinci Valley





Pulau Batam

Pulau Bintan


South Sumatra



Tanjung Setia & Krui

Bandar Lampung

Way Kambas National Park

Gunung Krakatau

Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park


West Kalimantan






Gunung Palung National Park

Central Kalimantan

Tanjung Puting National Park

Pangkalan Bun


Palangka Raya

Sebangau National Park

South Kalimantan




East & North Kalimantan



Sungai Mahakam

Muller Mountains

Kutai National Park



Derawan Archipelago

North Kalimantan


South Sulawesi



Pantai Bira

Pulau Liukang Loe

Pulau Selayar

Taka Bonerate Islands



Pare Pare

Tana Toraja

Mamasa Valley


Central Sulawesi



Lore Lindu National Park


Donggala & Tanjung Karang



Togean Islands

North Sulawesi



Pulau Bunaken & Pulau Siladen



Pulau Lembeh & the Lembeh Strait

Tangkoko-Batuangas Dua Saudara Nature Reserve

Southeast Sulawesi



Bau Bau

Wakatobi Islands


Indonesia Today



Arts & Crafts

Food & Drink


Survival Guide

Directory A–Z

Accessible Travel


Customs Regulations


Embassies & Consulates


Internet Access

Legal Matters

LGBT+ Travellers





Public Holidays

Safe Travel

Taxes & Refunds

Telephone Services



Tourist Information



Women Travellers



Getting There & Away

Getting Around



Before You Go

In Indonesia


Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Welcome to Indonesia

This beguiling nation of more than 17,000 islands has massive potential for adventures. It’s hard to beat Indonesia for the sheer range of experiences on offer.

Rich Diversity

The world’s fourth most populous country is like 100 countries melded into one: a kaleidoscope of a nation that sprawls along the equator for 5000km. Indonesia is a land of so many cultures, peoples, animals, customs, plants, sights, art and foods that it defies homogenisation.

The people are as radically different from each other as the variety of landscapes you’ll see, with every island a unique blend. Over time, deep and rich cultures have evolved, from the mysteries of the spiritual Balinese to the ancient animist belief system of the Asmat people of Papua.

Beaches & Volcanoes

Venturing across Indonesia you’ll see a wonderfully dramatic landscape as diverse as anywhere on the planet. Sulawesi’s wildly multi-limbed coastline embraces white-sand beaches and diving haunts, while Sumatra is contoured by a legion of nearly 100 volcanoes marching off into the distance, several capable of erupting at any time.

Bali’s beaches are the stuff of legend, but you don’t have to travel far to find even more beautiful and less touristed stretches of sand in Nusa Tenggara. The Banda islands in Maluku, Derawan in Kalimantan and Pulau Weh off Sumatra all offer superb beaches too.

Amazing Spectacle

Dramatic sights are the norm. There’s the sublime: an orang-utan lounging in a tree. The artful: a Balinese dancer executing precise moves that would make a robot seem ungainly. The idyllic: a deserted stretch of blinding white sand on Sumbawa. The astonishing: crowds in a glitzy Jakarta mall. The intriguing: tales of the beautiful Banda Islands’ twisted history. The heart-stopping: the ominous menace of a Komodo dragon. The humbling: a woman bent double with a load of firewood on Sumatra. The delicious: a south Bali restaurant. The shocking: the funeral ceremonies of Tana Toraja. The solemn: Borobudur’s serene magnificence.

Great Adventure

This intoxicating land offers some of the last great adventures on earth. Sitting in the open door of a train whizzing across Java, gazing out at an empty sea while on a ship bound for the Kei Islands, hanging on to the back of a scooter on Flores, rounding the mystifying corner of an ancient West Timor village or simply trekking through wilderness you’re sure no one has seen before.

The great thing about adventure in Indonesia is that it happens when you least expect it.

Balinese Legong dancer | KATIEKK/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Why I Love Indonesia

By David Eimer, Writer

Gliding across the Banda Sea, from one stunning island to another, temple-hopping around Yogyakarta, beach-bumming in Bali and Nusa Tenggara, bar- and club-hopping in Jakarta, wishing I had more time to explore the jungles of Kalimantan or wind my way through Sulawesi’s mountains. Indonesia is so vast and varied that it’s almost impossible to be bored here. In fact, it’s difficult just deciding where to go. And then there are the people, an astonishing mix of races and cultures and all welcoming you with a smile and hello. What’s not to love?

For more, see Our Writers

Indonesia’s Top 20

Komodo National Park

Indonesia’s best-known national park comprises several islands and some of the country’s richest waters within its 1817 sq km. Expect hulking mountainous islands blanketed in savannah, laced with trails and patrolled by the world’s largest lizard – the Komodo dragon. That’s the big draw here, and it’s easy to spot them, but there’s also big nature beneath the water’s surface where polychromatic bait draw big pelagics such as sharks and manta rays in great numbers. Nearby Labuan Bajo, on the island of Flores, is the perfect traveller base.


Top Experiences

Gili Islands

One of Indonesia’s greatest joys is hopping on a fast boat from busy Bali and arriving on one of the irresistible Gili Islands. Think sugar-white sand, bathtub-warm, turquoise waters and wonderful beach resorts and bungalows just begging you to extend your stay. Not to mention the coral reefs, which are teeming with sharks, rays and turtles. Savour the dining and nightlife on Gili Trawangan, the perfect balance of Gili Air and the pint-sized charms of Gili Meno. Or simply do nothing at all.


Top Experiences

Balinese Dance

Enjoying a Balinese dance performance is a highlight of a visit to Indonesia’s most famous holiday island. The haunting sounds, elaborate costumes, careful choreography and even light-hearted comic routines add up to great entertainment. Swept up in the spectacle, you’ll soon understand why Balinese culture is among the world’s most developed. The music that often accompanies traditional dance is based around an ensemble known as a gamelan. The melodic, sometimes upbeat and sometimes haunting percussion is a night-time staple of life in Ubud, Bali’s cultural centre.


Top Experiences

Kapuas Hulu

At the headwaters of the Sungai Kapuas, Indonesia’s longest river, everything you need for a primal jungle adventure awaits. Step into the past at Kalimantan’s oldest longhouse perched high on its gnarled ironwood pillars. Snake through Danau Sentarum’s photogenic mudflats on narrow fish-packed waterways that are seasonally submerged. Soak up the port town of Putussibau. Tackle roiling rapids and leech-infested forests on the epic Cross-Borneo Trek. Or strike off into the darkest corner of the island in search of new rainforest species in Betung Kerihun National Park.


Top Experiences

Tana Toraja

Life revolves around death in this region of rice terraces, boat-shaped roofs and doe-eyed buffalo in Sulawesi. Tana Torajan funeral ceremonies involve days of prayer, feasting and dances, as well as water-buffalo fights and animal sacrifices, before the deceased is brought to his or her resting place. This can be carved into a cliff-face, or be a cave or hanging graves suspended from cave edges. Travellers should be aware that they may see mummified bodies, that water-buffalo fights may be difficult to watch and that animal sacrifices are bloody.

Tau tau (life-sized wooden statue) at Lemo | FABIO LAMANNA/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Tanjung Puting National Park

The African Queen meets jungle safari in this ever-popular national park in southern Kalimantan, where you can not only get up close and personal with Asia’s largest ape, the orang-utan, but also cruise the jungle in high style aboard your own private klotok (local canoe with water-pump motor). The typically three-day journey takes you on a round trip up the Sungai Sekonyer to Camp Leakey, with stops at several orang-utan feeding stations and plenty of impromptu wildlife spotting.


Top Experiences

Banda Islands

The Banda Islands offer a rich and intoxicating cocktail of history, culture and raw natural beauty. This remote archipelago draped in jungle and clove and nutmeg trees, fringed with white sand and surrounded by clear blue seas and pristine reefs, kick-started European colonisation and helped shape the modern world. Fly to the capital – Bandaneira – from Ambon, stroll the shady streets, admire late-colonial relics, then charter a boat to the outer islands, where awesome beaches and jaw-dropping underwater drop-offs and coral await, and village life is warm and easy.


Top Experiences

Raja Ampat Islands

The remote, still-being-discovered Raja Ampat Islands off Papua’s northwest tip are a diver’s dream. Raja Ampat is home to the greatest diversity of marine life on the planet, from giant manta rays and epaulette sharks that use their fins to ‘walk’ on the sea floor, to myriad multicoloured nudibranchs (‘sea slugs’), fantastic pristine coral, and every size, shape and hue of fish you can imagine. The snorkelling is great too, while the above-water scenery – white-sand beaches, turquoise seas and jungle-covered islands – is almost as sublime as what is underwater.


Top Experiences

Jakarta Nightlife

If you have the stamina, Jakarta has the action. It is one of Southeast Asia’s best-kept party secrets, from superstylin’ lounges frequented by the oh-so-beautiful crowd, to low-key bars where the soundtrack is vintage 1970s funk, alt-rock music venues and electro clubs where DJs attain messiah-like status. How long the party will last is uncertain. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim nation where traditions run deep, and conservatives are lobbying for club curfews and strict alcohol laws. But for now people party on.


Top Experiences

Pulau Bunaken

You know those gardens that seem to have hundreds of plant species artistically thriving together in small decorative plots? Now imagine that done with coral in every colour from stark black and white to intense purples. Next cover it all in clear water teeming with iridescent fish, some in thick schools fluttering like sprinkles of sunlight. The water around Pulau Bunaken is more beautiful than you could imagine and yet it gets better: turtles the size of armchairs, reef sharks and, if you’re lucky, dolphins and dugongs that swim casually through the scene.


Top Experiences


Set 90km off the north coast of Central Java is an archipelago as little-visited as any in east Indonesia, yet still accessible by ferry and flights from Semarang and Surabaya. The Karimunjawa Islands are a group of 27 coral-fringed beauties, but only five are inhabited. Most of the islands are accessible on day tours that allow visitors to get a taste of undiluted tropical paradise: white-sand beaches fringed by swaying coconut palms. Base yourself on the mountainous and jungly main island of Karimunjawa, which has fine beaches too, and prepare to be enraptured.


Top Experiences


Indonesia’s countless volcanoes don’t get much smaller and more perfectly formed than Gunung Api, a miniature Mt Fuji, which shelters the natural harbour of the Banda Islands. Topping out at a rather diminutive 656m, it erupted as recently as 1988 and can be climbed in an arduous three hours. Among the many others worth exploring are Bali’s Agung, Lombok’s Rinjani, Java’s Bromo and the infamous Krakatau, although frequent eruptions mean that you’ll need to check the current activity status of any volcano before climbing it.


Top Experiences

Togean Islands

Almost smack on the equator, the blissful, off-grid Togean Islands are an unadulterated vision of the tropics, with blinding white-sand beaches fringed by coconut palms, a smattering of fishing villages, homestay digs, and world-class snorkelling and diving on majestic coral reefs. There’s also plenty of wildlife to see in the jungle interiors of the islands themselves. Things are so mellow here that there’s even a jellyfish lake where the jellies don’t sting. You can forget all about news headlines and Facebook updates – internet access and cellular coverage is near zero.


Top Experiences


Famous in books and movies, the artistic heart of Bali exudes a compelling spiritual appeal. The streets are lined with galleries where artists, both humble and great, create. Beautiful dance performances showcasing the island’s rich culture grace a dozen stages nightly. Museums honour the works of those inspired here over the years, while people walk the rice fields to find the perfect spot to sit in a lotus position and ponder life’s endless possibilities. Ubud is a state of mind and a beautiful state of being.


Top Experiences

Gunung Leuser National Park

This vast and little-visited expanse of steamy tropical jungle draped across the mountains and valleys of northern Sumatra has its own unique ecosystem. Filled with cheeping, squeaking, growling animal life, it’s paradise and fantasy for both naturalists and an adventure travellers. Sitting pretty beside a chocolate-coloured river, the village of Ketambe is a relaxing place to rest up for a few days. More importantly, it makes a great base camp for multiday hiking expeditions in search of howling gibbons, lethargic orang-utans and maybe even a tiger or two.


Top Experiences

Baliem Valley

Trekking in the Baliem Valley is the highlight of a trip to Papua for most visitors and takes you into the world of the Dani, a mountain people whose traditional culture still stands proud despite changes wrought by the Indonesian government and Christian missionaries. You’ll sleep in their villages of grass-roofed huts, climb narrow jungle trails, traverse panoramic open hillsides, cross raging rivers by wobbly hanging footbridges, and be charmed by the locals’ smiles. Tip for those bridges: don’t look down at the water, but do be careful where you’re putting your feet!


Top Experiences


South Bali’s Kerobokan, and its neighbours Seminyak and Canggu, may be just north of notorious Kuta, but in many respects the trio feel like another island. They’re flash, brash and filled with hipsters and expats. It’s beguiling, rarefied and just this side of too-cool. The beach is part of a stunning swath of sand stretching to the horizon in both directions. Countless boutiques, many run by top local designers, vie for your daytime attention. At night have a fabulous meal, then hit a club.


Top Experiences

Indonesian Food

When you eat in Indonesia, you savour the essence of the country. The abundance of rice reflects Indonesia’s fertile landscape, the spices are reminiscent of a time of trade and invasion, and the fiery chilli echoes the passion of the people. Chinese, Portuguese, colonists and traders have all influenced the flavours, which include coriander, lemon grass, coconut and palm sugar. Sate (skewered meat), nasi goreng (fried rice) and gado gado (vegetables with peanut sauce) are justly famous, but every region of Indonesia has its own unique and delicious variations.


Top Experiences

Kerinci Valley

Detour from bustling Bukittinggi to West Sumatra’s Kerinci Valley, a stunning mountain wilderness that’s perfect for off-grid adventures. You’ll venture through a hugely photogenic landscape of lakes, forests, waterfalls, lush rice paddies and low-key traditional villages. For those after something more strenuous, take up the challenge of the Kerinci volcano that looms above the valley and tackle it in a tough overnight climb. If wildlife is your passion, go in search of monkeys, civets, hundreds of bird species and the elusive Sumatran tiger in Kerinci Seblat National Park.


Top Experiences


The breathtaking Borobudur temple complex is a stunning and poignant epitaph to Java’s Buddhist heyday in the 9th century and is a highlight of a visit to Indonesia. One of the most important Buddhist sites in the world and one of the finest temple complexes in Southeast Asia, the temple consists of six square bases topped by three circular ones. Nearly 3000 bass-relief panels on the terraces illustrate Buddhist teachings and tales, while 432 Buddha images sit in chambers on the terraces.


Need to Know

For more information, see Survival Guide


rupiah (Rp)


Bahasa Indonesia


Visas are not hard to obtain, but the most common – 30 days – is short for such a big country. Even the 60-day visa can feel restrictive.


ATMs and money changers are widespread across Indonesia’s cities and tourist areas. In remote areas, ATMs don’t always work and rates of exchange are often poor.

Mobile Phones

Cheap SIM cards and internet calling make it easy to call from Indonesia at reasonable prices.


Western Indonesian Time (GMT/UTC plus seven hours); Central Indonesian Time (GMT/UTC plus eight hours); Eastern Indonesian Time (GMT/UTC plus nine hours).

When to Go

High Season (Jul & Aug)

A Tourist numbers surge across Indonesia, from Bali to Sulawesi and beyond.

A Room rates can spike by 50%.

A Dry season except in Maluku and Papua, where it is rainy.

Shoulder (May, Jun & Sep)

A Dry season outside Maluku and Papua.

A Best weather in Java, Bali and Lombok (dry, not so humid).

A You can travel more spontaneously.

Low Season (Oct–Apr)

A Wet season in Java, Bali and Lombok (and Kalimantan flowers).

A Dry season (best for diving) in Maluku and Papua.

A Easy to find deals and you can travel with little advance booking (except at Christmas and New Year).

Useful Websites

Inside Indonesia ( News and thoughtful features.

Jakarta Globe ( Top-notch national English-language newspaper.

Jakarta Post ( Indonesia’s original English-language daily. ( A convenient way for foreigners to purchase flights with their credit cards. Download the app.

Lonely Planet ( Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.

Important Numbers

Mobile phones are everywhere in Indonesia now; numbers usually start with 08 and don’t require an area code.

Exchange Rates

For current exchange rates, see

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than 500,000Rp

A Simple rooms: less than 200,000Rp

A Cheap street meals: less than 40,000Rp

A Local transport such as bemos: from 5000Rp

Midrange: 500,000–2,000,000Rp

A Double rooms with air-con: 300,000–800,000Rp

A Cheap flights to shorten distances: from 500,000Rp

A Guides and meals in restaurants, each 250,000–800,000Rp

Top End: More than 2,000,000Rp

A Stay at resorts or boutique properties in remote places: more than 850,000Rp

A Flights and cars with drivers to get around: 500,000–1,000,000Rp

A Special tours for activities such as diving; top restaurants on Bali: more than 1,000,000Rp

Opening Hours

The following are typical opening hours across Indonesia.

Banks 8am–3pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday

Government offices Generally 8am–4pm Monday to Thursday, to noon Friday

Post offices 8am–2pm Monday to Friday (in tourist centres, main post offices are often open longer and/or on weekends)

Restaurants 8am–10pm

Shopping 9am or 10am–5pm; larger shops and tourist areas to 8pm; many closed Sunday

Arriving in Indonesia

Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (Jakarta) Jakarta is the primary entry point to Indonesia, but most people merely change planes here before continuing on to their final destination. If staying in Jakarta, you can reach your hotel by taxi (160,000Rp, one hour), train (70,000Rp, 45 minutes) or bus (40,000Rp, one to two hours).

Ngurah Rai International Airport (Denpasar) Bali is the only airport with significant international service apart from Jakarta. Prepaid 24-hour taxis are available to all parts of Bali. It’s 80,000Rp for Kuta, 130,000Rp for Seminyak and 300,000Rp for Ubud.

Getting Around

Transport in Indonesia takes many forms.

Boat Slow and fast boats link the many islands, but beware of rogue operators with dodgy safety standards.

Bus Buses of all sizes travel almost everywhere cheaply and slowly.

Car Rent a small car for US$30 a day (Bali), get a car and driver from US$60 a day.

Motorbike Rent one for as little as 70,000Rp a day.

Becak Motorbike with sidecar; Indonesia’s version of a tuk tuk.

Ojek Get a cheap ride on the back of a motorbike. Used everywhere.

Taxi Fairly cheap in cities, can be pricey in tourist areas.

For much more, see Getting Around

First Time Indonesia

For more information, see Survival Guide


A Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months.

A It’s easiest to apply for a 60-day visitor visa in your home country.

A Organise travel insurance, diver’s insurance and an international driving permit.

A Get a medical check-up and clearance if you’re planning to dive.

A Inform your bank and credit-card company of your travel plans.

What to Pack

A Sunscreen and insect repellent; both are hard to find outside tourist areas.

A Earplugs for the mosque and traffic wake-up calls.

A A torch (flashlight).

A A sarong – it’s a fashion statement, blanket, beach mat, sheet, mattress cover, towel and shade from the sun.

A Phone adaptor.

Top Tips for Your Trip

A Check the weather before you decide when and where to go: Indonesia is so vast that the different regions have their own weather patterns.

A Avoid visiting during Ramadan: many places will shut down or are booked solid, and much of the population is on the move.

A Flights are inexpensive and flying between destinations not only saves time, but is more convenient and comfortable.

A Hop on board the local transport: it’s cheap and a good way to hang out with people.

A If you’re heading off the beaten track take plenty of cash: ATMs don’t always work and you often can’t change money.

What to Wear

Light, loose-fitting clothes are the most comfortable in the tropical heat. If you’re trekking in the jungle, or hiking up volcanoes and to higher elevations, bring sturdy footwear, rain gear and a jacket or fleece. When visiting temples or mosques, wear clothes that cover shoulders, elbows and knees. Bring something smart if you’re planning on fine dining or hitting the nightlife in Jakarta or Bali.


Accommodation in Indonesia ranges from the very basic to the super-luxurious. It’s wise to reserve well in advance in the most touristed areas, especially if you’re visiting during the peak months of July, August and December.

Hotels Often excellent in tourist destinations. Standards drop quickly elsewhere.

Guesthouses Can range from boutique-style to simple family-run operations.

Hostels Generally found in the most visited places: Jakarta, Bali, Flores, Gili Islands.

Homestays Often the only option in remote areas.

Camping Possible in national parks and on some multiday hikes.

Villas High-end villas are a popular choice in Bali.


Security in touristed areas increased after the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings but has since been relaxed. The odds you will be caught up in such a tragedy are low. Luxury hotels that are part of international chains tend to have the best security, though they also make the most tempting targets, as shown in Jakarta in 2003 and 2009. Suicide bombers did strike a bus terminal in East Jakarta in 2017, killing three policemen, and churches in Surabaya were targeted in May 2018 in attacks that killed 28 people, but such incidents remain rare.


Many everyday purchases in Indonesia require bargaining. Accommodation has a set price, but this is usually negotiable in the low season. Bargaining can be an enjoyable part of shopping, so maintain your sense of humour and keep things in perspective. As a general rule, if prices are displayed, prices are fixed; if not, bargaining may be possible.


Tipping is not generally practised across much of Indonesia, but in popular tourist destinations like Bali a small gratuity for services is now expected.

Restaurants (Bali) 10% is the standard tip now.

Hotels Most midrange and all top-end hotels and restaurants add 21% to the bill for tax and service (known as ‘plus plus’).

Taxis, Massages & Porters A tip of 5000Rp to 10,000Rp is appreciated.



Places of worship Be respectful. Remove shoes and dress modestly when visiting mosques; wear a sash and sarong at Bali temples.

Body language Use both hands when handing somebody something. Don’t display affection in public or talk with your hands on your hips.

Clothing Avoid showing a lot of skin, although many local men wear shorts. Don’t go topless if you’re a woman (even in Bali).

Photography Before taking photos of someone, ask – or mime – for approval.


Indonesia has many eating options. Usually, you only need to reserve in advance at high-end places in the big cities or tourist destinations.

Restaurants Found in cities and tourist destinations.

Rumah makan Literally ‘eating house’ and less formal than restaurants.

Warung Simple open-air joints that often specialise in one particular dish.

Street vendors The locals choice for basic noodle and soup dishes.

Markets Fantastic for fresh fruit.

What’s New

Airport Train, Jakarta

A new train linking Soekarno-Hatta airport to central Jakarta is up and running, cutting the journey time to just 45 minutes.

Labuan Bajo, Flores

Increasingly popular Labuan Bajo is booming, with a new port and shopping centre and luxury hotels opening. It’s on its way to becoming the next Bali – now is the time to visit.

Togean Islands National Park, Sulawesi

A ‘park on paper’ since 2004, the Togean Islands have now been officially recognised as an area of ecological importance and high tourism potential, which means regular patrols protecting the world-class reefs and improving travel infrastructure.

Selfie Paradise, Central Java

Wildly popular with the locals, the DMZ: Dream Museum Zone in Semarang is supposedly the world’s largest 3D selfie complex. Pose for selfies against 3D backdrops from around the world.

Pulau Weh, Sumatra

Pulau Weh has got even more traveller friendly with a free dive school and foreign-run dive shops opening up, along with new cafes serving up some of the most authentic international fare you’ll find in Sumatra.

Earthquake Aftermath, Sulawesi & Lombok

Earthquakes in 2018 caused widespread damage across central Sulawesi, northern Lombok and the Gili Islands. Some areas in those regions were inaccessible or off-limits at the time of research, including the famous Guning Rinjani climb on Lombok.

New airports, Kalimantan

Samarinda and Sintang saw airports open in 2018, making getting around Kalimantan easier.

Pura Lempuyang, Bali

This East Balinese temple is one of the oldest on the island, but is only now becoming a visitor hot spot thanks to the awesome but long trek to reach it.

Budget liveaboard in the Raja Ampat Islands, Papua

Accessing some of the finest dive sites on the planet is now much cheaper thanks to this liveaboard.

Jiwa Jawa Ijen, East Java

Offering spellbinding views over the countryside, this boutique hotel also has a superb restaurant.

Pulau Kei Kecil, Maluku

Kei Pirate Divers is the first dive operator on the remote Kei Islands, opening up splendid sites that few have dived before.

Pulau Morotai, Maluku

The Indonesian government has designated this idyllic island in north Maluku as a future tourism hub: get here quick to experience the beaches and reefs before everyone else does. There’s surf off the far northern coast too.

For more recommendations and reviews, see

If You Like…


The problem isn’t finding a beach, the problem is choosing from the many tantalising options.

Gili Islands Near Bali and Lombok, these three testaments to hedonism are ringed by pure white sand.

Pantai Trikora Chill in beachfront homestays along Pantai Trikora, the more rustic alternatives to Pulau Bintan’s manicured resorts.

Rote Alongside its epic surf, we love Rote for its miles of empty beaches and sweet solitude.

Banyak Islands This chain of largely uninhabited sandy dots fringed by pristine coral reefs has Sumatra’s best beaches.

Pulau Tabuhan A white-sand jewel floating just offshore of Banyuwangi.

Pulau Kei Kecil Picture-postcard beaches and Indonesia’s longest sandbar.


Orang-utans are the stars of a world of wildlife that includes elephants, ‘dragons’ and all manner of birds.

Palangka Raya The Sungai Kahayan offers plenty of orang-utans, crocodiles and more.

Meru Betiri National Park A rainforest home to exotica including rhinoceroses, hornbills, sea turtles and the world’s longest snake.

Papua Birds of paradise – legendary for their colour, plumage and mating dances – hide deep in Papuan forests.

Way Kambas National Park Spy elephants and rare birds; learn about efforts to save the endangered Sumatran rhino.

Alas Purwo National Park Join a nocturnal safari to watch turtles nest and wild leopards roam the jungled, limestone peninsula.

Komodo National Park The world’s largest lizards roam Komodo and Rinca islands, while plentiful marine life awaits underwater.

Tanjung Puting National Park Spot semi-wild orang-utans, proboscis monkeys and abundant birdlife in Kalimantan.

Diving & Snorkelling

Indonesia has some of the world’s best diving, from the plethora of operators and schools in Bali to remote spots that will challenge – and thrill – experts.

Komodo National Park Warm and cold currents keep reefs nourished and attract large groups of sharks, mantas and dolphins.

Pulau Weh Hover above a clown fish and look up to see a giant whale shark.

Pulau Lembeh Arguably the world’s greatest muck diving, with a bevy of macro exotica to encounter.

Derawan Archipelago Dive off Pulau Maratua, where big pelagic fish and schools of barracuda are common.

Pulau Bunaken Combine a tropical idyll with excellent snorkelling and diving atop pristine coral reefs and critter-filled muck.

Tulamben The wreck of the Liberty offers better diving each year as its corals grow, attracting more critters.

Raja Ampat Islands Save up for that liveaboard trip to this remote West Papua diver’s paradise: you won’t regret it.

Banda Islands Fine coral and super drop-offs lure divers and snorkellers to these legendary islands.

Island Hopping

With 17,000-odd islands to choose from, your opportunities to bounce from one idyllic little discovery to the next are endless.

Derawan Archipelago This archipelago has several versions of tropical paradise, from backpacker hang-outs to an uncrowded atoll.

Raja Ampat Islands Jungle-covered hills, pristine beaches and waters teeming with the world’s greatest diversity of marine life.

Karimunjawa Islands Often overlooked, these magical coral-fringed islets are now enjoying better transport connections and facilities.

Banyak Islands Spend just one day on each and soon you’ll be lost in a perfect island cliché.

Riung Seventeen Islands Marine Park actually has 23 islands good for lazy days, snorkelling and swimming.

Togean Islands Hard to reach, but dreamy on land and astonishing underwater thanks to the awesome coral formations.


Much of Indonesia is still wild and remote. Hikes (from part of a day to weeks) through these lands and cultures are the reason many visit the country.

Kerinci Seblat National Park Challenging volcanoes and remote jungle trails leading to hidden lakes and waterfalls draw hikers.

Gunung Semeru Java’s highest peak is a tough challenge, with breathtaking volcano vistas of a cone-studded horizon.

Gunung Rinjani Indonesia’s second-highest volcano, sacred to Balinese Hindus and Sasak Muslims, promises a magical summit sunrise.

Tomohon Suspended between volcanic peaks, the Tomohon region offers grand vistas of volcanic peaks.

Mamasa to Tana Toraja Walk past terraced rice fields and jungle, and stay in villages where the welcome is plentiful.


Surf breaks are found all across Indonesia. Each year new ones are named by surfers in search of the perfect wave.

Bali Ulu Watu is world famous, but there are legendary breaks all around the island.

Mentawai Islands Make a waverider’s pilgrimage to some of the planet’s most iconic and challenging breaks.

Alas Purwo National Park The legendary G-Land wave, off Java’s southeast corner, just barrels on and on.

Watu Karang Southwest of Pacitan, East Java’s newest surf hot spot has perfect barrels.

West Sumbawa Of the many Nusa Tenggara waves, only one, Supersuck, attracts surfers from Oahu’s North Shore.

Pulau Nias The long, hollow right of Lagundri has long been considered one of the world’s best waves.


Indonesia might not be as well known for temples as its neighbours, yet between Java and Bali you’ll find some of the region’s most ancient and beautiful.

Borobudur Come at dawn to experience the ethereal beauty of this stacked Buddhist complex.

Prambanan This enormous 9th-century wonder near Yogyakarta is the largest Hindu temple in ancient Java.

Pura Luhur Batukau One of Bali’s most important temples is a misty, remote place steeped in ancient spirituality.

Pura Taman Ayun A beautiful moated temple with a royal past; part of Unesco’s recognition of Bali’s rice traditions.

Month by Month


Galungan & Kuningan, dates vary

Pasola, February & March

Idul Fitri, July

Tana Toraja Funeral Festivals, July & August

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, October


The near-perfect temperatures in Bali draw many Australians for Christmas and New Year holidays. Europeans searching for warmth also arrive in large numbers.

z Gerebeg

Java’s three most colourful festivals are held annually in Yogyakarta at the end of January and April and the beginning of November. Huge numbers of people in traditional dress march in processions with garish floats, all to the tune of gamelan music.


It’s the dry season in the east. This is a good time to hit dive and snorkel sites in Maluku and Papua, where the waters will be especially clear.

z Pasola

Nusa Tenggara’s biggest festival: vividly dressed teams of horsemen engage in mock, though sometimes bloody, battles in West Sumba. Often coincides with Nyale in Lombok, a huge fishing festival celebrated by the Sasaks.

z Cap Goh Meh

Dragons and lions dance on Chinese Lunar New Year in ethnic communities across Indonesia. Some of the most colourful are in Singkawang, where these creatures dance alongside seemingly possessed Chinese and Dayak holy men during Kalimantan’s biggest Chinese Lunar New Year celebration.


The rainy season is tailing off in Java, Bali and western Nusa Tenggara, and this is a good time to visit Indonesia as crowds are few and options are many.

3 Java Jazz

Held in early March at the Jakarta Convention Center, this huge festival attracts acclaimed international artists. This is a major event on the cultural calendar and each year the number of luminaries on the performance list grows.

z Nyepi

Bali’s major Hindu festival, Nyepi, celebrates a new year on the religious calendar. It’s marked by inactivity – to convince evil spirits that Bali is uninhabited. The night before sees community celebrations with ogoh-ogoh, huge papier-mâché monsters that go up in flames. March or early April.


In April the dry season is beginning in Bali, and the rain has mostly stopped on Java as well.


The weather in Java and Bali is ideal, but in the eastern parts of the Indonesian archipelago the rainy season is set to start.

z Waisak

A key festival for Indonesia’s Buddhists, Waisak commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Gautama Buddha. Thousands of monks and worshippers gather at Java’s Borobudur temple complex on the first full moon of May.


A relaxed time in Indonesia that sees few crowds anywhere. June tends to be very hot around much of the archipelago, but the dry season is just around the corner.

z Danau Sentani

The Danau Sentani festival features spectacular traditional dances and chanting as well as boat events, music, crafts and more. A highlight of Papua’s north, it centres on lakeside Kalkhote, near Sentani town.

z Danau Toba Festival

This week-long festival in mid-June features canoe races on Sumatra’s famus crater lake as well as Batak cultural performances.


Visitor numbers are high in Bali and other areas popular with tourists. July is often the coolest and driest time of the year outside Maluku and Papua, where it is the rainy season.

z Tana Toraja Funeral Festivals

A Sulawesi highlight and an excellent reason to visit the island. Held during July and August, the ceremonies often shock first-time visitors. Toraja working throughout the country return home for celebrations and funeral rituals.

z Erau Festival

Every August thousands of Dayaks from across Kalimantan attend the Erau festival in Tenggarong, a vast intertribal party punctuated by traditional dances, ritual ceremonies and other events. It draws folk dancers worldwide; plan ahead to reserve space.

z Idul Fitri

Idul Fitri is the traditional end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, and this huge weeklong holiday sees tens of millions of people travelling to their home villages or holidaying in places like Bali. Avoid travelling if possible. The date is slightly earlier each year.



Independence Day on 17 August sees parades and celebrations in Jakarta and across the country. You’ll see school kids practising their marching in the prior weeks. Bali gets busy with Australians escaping the southern-hemisphere winter.

3 Bidar Races

Spectacular bidar (canoe) races are held on South Sumatra’s Sungai Musi in Palembang every 17 August and 16 June (the city’s birthday). There is also a dragon-boat festival in Padang in July or August. Up to 60 rowers power these boats.

z Baliem Valley Festival

A celebration of indigenous culture in Papua’s Baliem Valley, with mock ‘tribal fighting’, full traditional regalia, dance and music. The festivities take place over two days during the second week of August.


The driest month of the year on Kalimantan and so perfect for orang-utan spotting (the apes don’t like the rain and often hide away in the monsoon season).


A good month for travel with few crowds and many good deals. It’s the start of rainy season in Java and Bali, but the end of it in Maluku and Papua.

2 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival

This Ubud festival brings together scores of writers and readers from around the world in a celebration of writing – especially that which touches on Bali. Its reputation grows each year.

3 Madura Bull Races

Bull racing is the major sport on Pulau Madura, off Java. Teams compete throughout the year to make the finals held annually in Pamekasan. These competitions feature over 100 racing bulls and legions of fervent fans. Note, the festival is associated with animal-welfare issues.


It’s the rainy season across western Indonesia. But it’s perfect weather in Maluku and Papua, and the diving is spectacular in those regions at this time of year.


Popular tourist areas are very busy from the week before Christmas through New Year’s. It’s prime time for diving in areas such as Maluku’s Banda Islands.

z Galungan & Kuningan

One of Bali’s major festivals, Galungan celebrates the death of the legendary tyrant Mayadenawa. Over 10 days the gods come to earth for the festivities. Barong (mythical lion-dog creatures) prance through temples and villages. Locals rejoice with family feasts. The date changes each year.

Galungan & Kuningan festival decorations | TROPICAL STUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK ©


Beaches, Bars, Bodies & Bliss


Mix the offbeat with the sublime in Indonesia’s heart of tourism.

Start in Bali, acclimatising in the resorts, clubs and shops of Seminyak. Dose up on sun at the beach, then explore the perfect little beaches and surf breaks of the Bukit Peninsula.

Head north to immerse yourself in the ‘other’ Bali – the culture, temples and rich history of Ubud. Take a cooking course, unwind at a spa, wander the rice paddies and see Bali’s famous traditional dance. Then escape to the misty mountains for treks to waterfalls amid coffee plantations in and around Munduk.

Next is Lombok. Take the ferry from Bali’s port town of Padangbai to Lombok’s launching pad of Lembar. Head to Kuta for mellow vibes amid the wonderful beaches of south Lombok. Then potter through the rice fields and Hindu temples around Mataram.

Ferry from Bangsal to the deservedly celebrated Gili Islands, where seamless beaches, translucent water and vivid reefs beg for snorkelling. Or if time’s short, catch a fast boat directly to the Gilis from Bali.


The Java Jaunt


Indonesia’s most populous island mixes the nation’s future and past with natural beauty.

Begin in Jakarta and wrap your senses around the dizzying smells, sounds, sights and people of Indonesia’s teeming capital. Linger long enough to binge on Bintang beer and splurge in the city’s shops, then head to Batu Karas for classic laid-back beach vibes or go for the resorts of nearby Pangandaran.

After you’ve worshipped the sun for a week or so, catch the train to Yogyakarta, Java’s cultural capital. Dabble in batik, amble through the kraton (walled city palace) and part with your rupiah at the vibrant markets. A day trip to majestic Borobudur is a must.

From Yogyakarta, journey to the laid-back city of Solo, via the enigmatic temples of Prambanan. From there, visit Malang and its cluster of nearby Hindu temples. Then head into the clouds at awesome Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, spending a night on the lip of Tengger crater. Finally, hike to the magnificent turquoise sulphur lake of Kawah Ijen on the Ijen Plateau




Sumatra is big and you’ll have to hustle to fully appreciate its myriad natural charms within visa constraints.

Start your explorations in Medan, then head out of town to Bukit Lawang to see the island’s famous residents, the orang-utans. It’s a short jaunt from here to Berastagi, a laid-back hill town amid volcanoes.

Head northwest to Ketambe for truly wild orang-uatan encounters in Gunung Leuser National Park. Then take a bus to Banda Aceh, from where it’s a short boat ride to world-class diving at Pulau Weh. Take a bus along the coast south (or fly) and venture off the west coast to the Banyak Islands, a surfing and beach paradise. Back ashore, follow the Trans-Sumatran Hwy south to Bukittinggi, a good base for exploring the cultures and beauty of the Harau Valley and Danau Maninjau.

More surf, sand and underwater joy await at the Mentawai Islands. Next, head inland to the volcanic Kerinci Valley and Kerinci Seblat National Park for remote jungle villages. Finally, head far south to Way Kambas National Park, where the highlights include elephants. From here, it’s easy to catch the Java ferry.


Nusa Tenggara


Lombok is well-known to visitors and Flores is also popular, but the island province of Nusa Tenggara holds many more surprises.

Head east from Lombok. Admire the beautiful coastline and surf breaks such as Maluk and Pantai Lakey that dot Sumbawa. Catch the ferry to Flores, where Labuan Bajo is the fast-growing hub for exploring nearby Komodo National Park. Enjoy dragons and small, beautiful island beaches.

Flores is a rugged volcanic island with thriving ancient cultures and dramatic terrain, which is increasingly explored via the fast-improving Trans-Flores Hwy. Visit Bajawa to explore volcanoes and villages, then use mountainside Moni as a base for visiting the vivid waters at Kelimutu. Savour the lovely beaches near Paga.

Now take a ferry south to isolated and timeless Sumba, where superb beaches such as Waikabubak and Tambolaka are starting to attract visitors. After indulging in sun and isolation, fly to Kupang in West Timor. Visit entrancing ancient villages like None, Boti and Temkessi in the surrounding areas to the east, then jump over to Rote for relaxed beach vibes.


The Great East


Papua is the launching pad for this route through some of Indonesia’s most exotic and beautiful territory. You can do it in 30 days with judicious use of flights; otherwise take your time for the full land and sea adventure.

Start at the transport hub of Jayapura. But you’ll only be there long enough to charter a boat to visit the magnificent Danau Sentani, a 96.5-sq-km lake with 19 islands perfect for inland island-hopping.

Back on dry land, take to the air to get to the beautiful Baliem Valley, rich in culture and hike-worthy mountain scenery, jumping-off point for treks into the little-explored Yali Country, and home to the Dani people, an ethnic group whose members have eschewed most modern things and live a traditional life. Enjoy mountain views from a thatched hut.

Fly to Nabire via Jayapura and spot whale sharks off the coast – you can even swim with them. Then fly up for some idle island time on Pulau Biak. Next it’s a flight to Sorong, a base for trips out to the Raja Ampat Islands – a paradise for divers and snorkellers, with Indonesia’s most abundant and varied marine life.


Indonesia’s Island Core


Explore two of Indonesia’s greatest concentrations of islands in these little-visited regions.

In Makassar pause amid the pandemonium for excellent seafood. But don’t overdo it, as you want to be fully alive for the elaborate funeral ceremonies in Tana Toraja, a nine-hour bus trip from Makassar. From here, another long bus ride takes you to the mountain-lake town of Tentena, from where you can access the ancient megalithic statues of Lore Lindu. A four-hour shared-car journey whisks you to Ampana, where you take a ferry to the amazing, beguiling Togean Islands for days of island-hopping between iconic beaches.

Tearing yourself away, boat to Gorontalo, then board a bus or plane to Manado and take a boat to laid-back Pulau Bunaken. Fly from Manado to Pulau Ternate, which is as pretty a tropical island paradise as you’ll find. From there, fly onto Kota Ambon on Maluku’s Pulau Ambon. Pause only briefly, then take the fast ferry to the crystalline seas, multicoloured reefs and empty beaches of the Banda Islands. Finally make the jaunt by boat southeast to the Kei Islands, for perfect beaches.


Postcards Come to Life


Mysterious rivers of unfathomable length that wind through the jungle are the avenues via which travellers can discover Kalimantan’s incredible diversity of life, including orang-utans.

Unassuming Pangkalan Bun is the entry point to this excursion – it’s the launching pad for trips into glorious Tanjung Puting National Park, one of the prime places for spotting orang-utans. Scan the canopy for their amber bodies from the upper deck of a klotok (houseboat) as it drifts down the beautiful Sungai Sekonyer.

From Pangkalan Bun, fly or take the overnight bus to colourful Banjarmasin. Make sure to visit its animated floating markets, one of the most photogenic sights in Kalimantan. Detour for some hiking and bamboo rafting in the remote hills around Loksado. From Banjarmasin, travel overland to Samarinda and make an expedition along Sungai Mahakam. Several days upstream will land you in the river’s western reaches, which are peppered with semi-traditional Dayak villages and preserved forests. Travel back to the coast and head north to primitive, teardrop-shaped Pulau Derawan and its offshore underwater wonders.

Plan Your Trip

Outdoor Adventures

Indonesia’s volcanic archipelago geography creates a thrilling range of adventure opportunities. The many seas offer superb diving and snorkelling, and some of the world’s most famous waves for surfers. On land, its string of dramatic volcanoes, wildlife-filled jungles and rushing rivers are an adventurer’s delight.


Best Experiences

Best Beach

The beaches of South Lombok, especially those that line the bays around Kuta (Lombok, not Bali), are stunning and worthy of the trip.

Best Diving

The Raja Ampat Islands are on many a diver’s bucket list, and with good reason: the wealth and variety of marine life is nothing short of astonishing. Sumatra’s Pulah Weh is good too.

Best Surfing

Tough competition, but we say Sumatra for its pure perfection and consistency. The Mentawais and Nias are home to some of the world’s most legendary waves.

Best Hiking & Trekking

The Baliem Valley draws acolytes from around the world for hikes among some of the world’s most unique cultures.

Best Wildlife-Watching

Kalimantan’s Tanjung Puting National Park: anchor along one of its iconic rivers and watch orang-utans go about their business just metres away.


With 17,000-plus islands, Indonesia has a lot of beaches. These range from the wildly popular beaches on south Bali to those for hardcore party people on the Gili Islands, and literally hundreds more where your footprints will be the first of the day.

Pantai is ‘beach’ in Bahasa Indonesia.

Note that sunscreen can be hard to find outside major tourist areas.


Fabled for its beaches, Bali actually pales in comparison to scores of other islands in Indonesia. What the island does have is a thriving beach culture, with surfing and places to imbibe, ranging from the dead simple to the hipster-luxe. Locals and visitors alike pause on west-facing beaches at sunset.

Kuta Beach This is the original draw for tourists, with a golden-sand arc sweeping past Canggu to the northwest. Its beach breaks are good for both beginners and experienced surfers.

Bukit Peninsula Bali’s southern tip has famous surf spots and beaches such as Bingin and Padang Padang that feature little pockets of bright sand below limestone cliffs. The east side has reef-protected strands, such as the one at Nusa Dua.

East Bali A long series of open-water beaches begins north of reef-protected Sanur. Waves pound volcanic sand that ranges from a light grey to charcoal black.

Balangan Beach, Bukit Peninsula | ARKHIPENKO OLGA/SHUTTERSTOCK ©


Beaches near cities in Java can be very busy on weekends, but venture a little further and you’ll find some great sand.

Batu Karas A simple village with two great beaches and a classic laid-back vibe.

Southeast of Yogyakarta Explore this beautiful coastline, a succession of alluring golden-sand coves divided by craggy headlands (but skip Parangritis, which is not in the same league).

Karimunjawa Islands Some 27 islands compose this offshore marine park, which gets very few visitors. It has some of the finest beaches in Indonesia.

Watu Karang East Java’s finest patch of white sand, worshipped by beach-lovers and surfers alike.


The fine beaches here have barely been discovered.

Banda Islands Maluku’s best beaches are all in the Bandas. Charter a boat from Bandaneira and enjoy exquisite empty beaches on Pulau Hatta, Pulau Ai and Pulau Run (Rhun). The best of the Banda bunch is Pulau Neilaka, more a white sandbar than an island.

Kei Islands Sugary Pasir Panjang is ground zero for beach lounging. The petroglyph-swathed cliffs and mind-bending scenery at Ohoidertawun are also worth consideration. Rent a bike and make the two-hour trek to the stunning, remote and drop-dead-gorgeous beaches of Pantai Ohoidertutu. Otherwise charter a boat from Pulau Kei Kecil to Pantai Ngurtavur’s blinding white sandbar.

Nusa Tenggara

Nusa Tenggara is probably the region of Indonesia with the most beaches awaiting discovery.

Gili Islands The Gilis are easily reached from Bali and Lombok, and you can snorkel right off the blinding white sands. Gili Trawangan has one of the country’s most vibrant party scenes.

Lombok Head south for the pristine white-sand islands of Gili Asahan and the north coast of Gili Gede. Kuta is an immense series of one spectacular beach or bay after another. Get there, rent a motorbike and explore.

Sumbawa In west Sumbawa the best beaches are south of Maluk in Rantung and north in Jelenga. In the east, head to the Lakey area.

Flores Head to the islands off Labuan Bajo and you’ll find bliss, especially on Pulau Sebayur and Pulau Kanawa. Pantai Merah on Komodo Island is famous for its sublime pink-sand beaches. The Seventeen Islands Marine Park off the Riung coast also has a dozen remote islands with epic and empty white-sand beaches to laze upon.

Rote The main beach in Nemberala town is beautiful enough, but the beaches just get wider and whiter the further south you travel. Ba’a is the most beautiful of the bunch. We also enjoy the empty sugary beaches on nearby islands Pulau Do’o and Pulau Ndao.


There are vast variations in the weather across the huge swath of islands that is Indonesia. Generally, dry season in Java, Bali, Lombok and Sumatra is May to September, while Maluku and Papua have their best weather from October to April. But exceptions are the rule, especially as the seasons increasingly become confused with changing weather patterns. You’ll want to research any location you plan to visit carefully if the weather will play a role in your enjoyment.


While Papua’s better known for its diving and hiking, word is getting out fast about its islands ringed with powdery white sand.

Raja Ampat Islands There are some divine and empty beaches here, but due to the high cost of reaching the area they tend to be enjoyed mainly as a secondary activity by people who are diving and/or snorkelling.

Pulau Biak The Padaido Islands off Pulau Biak have some decent beaches that are not too hard to reach.


The best beaches on this huge island are actually on tiny islands offshore.

Banyak Islands Banyak means ‘many’, and it’s true there are many fine beaches among the 99 islands in this remote and seldom-visited chain off Aceh.

Mentawai Islands Overshadowed by its reputation as a legendary surf destination, this island chain also features insanely beautiful beaches.

Pulau Bintan A gem in the Riau Islands, this island has some fine beaches where you can live the tropical fantasy in a hut.


Cycling in Indonesia is booming. Lowland towns such as Yogyakarta and Solo in Java teem with bikes, and bicycles are gaining popularity in Bali. Lombok has good roads for cycling.



Bike tours are available across the island. Some are simple downhill jaunts through rice fields while others are much more adventurous.


Yogyakarta is a big cycling centre; pedal out to see the Prambanan Temple. Bikes are also for rent at Borobudur, while Solo is another

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  • (4/5)
    I travelled around Java in about 2006 and found "Lonely Planet Indonesia" rather helpful. I checked out Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Java Man, Borobudur and Prambanan, and although I did get bitten on the scrotum by a Javanese fire ant, which hurt like all buggery, I can’t really blame this guidebook or Lonely Planet for that. I miss the hardcopy travel guides (my partner has an irrational hatred for them) but I pledge to buy one for my next trip.