Indonesia highlights & map
In case you didn’t already know, Indonesia is a country made up of over 17,000 islands so you can imagine how easy it is to lose orientation! Not to worry, we have compiled a list of our top ten places to visit, using our handy map to help you find yourself.
Known as the “green heart of Bali”, Ubud is crammed with arty culture and surrounded by emerald rice paddies. Located just an hour from Bali’s international airport, it’s the perfect spot to begin your Indonesia holiday. It’s also home to one of Bali’s royal families and where you will find the majestic Peliatan Royal Palace, along with countless other traditional temples. Get lost wandering the small streets that are lined with warungs, bohemian bars and cosy coffee shops.
2. Gili Islands
It’s on these tiny islands that you will find your tropical paradise. Made up of three islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno, the Gili Islands are a castaway sensation. There are no cars allowed here, giving the islands a real slow-paced and carefree vibe. With crystal clear waters, the snorkelling here is superb and there are many different coral reefs for you to explore. Hop on a boat from either Bali or Lombok and, before you know it, you’ll be strolling barefoot along the white sandy beaches and sipping cocktails with dramatic sunsets behind you.
3. Komodo National Park
Yes, real life dragons really do exist! You can find them on Komodo Island in the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Komodo National Park, located just off the coast of Flores. These mammoth scaly residents are the main attraction here, but you’ll also be spoilt with stunning landscapes as you cruise between the tiny forested islands that are scattered around the area. Neighbouring Rinca Island is the greener and hillier than Komodo, boasting fantastic views and rewarding trekking routes.
Yogyakarta is commonly known as the “cultural heart of Java”. It’s the only Indonesian royal city that is still ruled by a monarchy and a popular centre for various Javanese arts. There are two impressive UNESCO World Heritage temples just outside of the city; Borobudur temple, the largest Buddhist temple complex in the world, and Prambanan temple, the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia. Jump on a becak and head to one of the best places on the island to pick up all kinds of souvenirs, the bustling street of Jalan Malioboro.
5. Mount Bromo
Considered to be Java’s most photogenic volcano, with it’s perfectly shaped cinder cone, sunrise at Mount Bromo is a staggering sight to see. To reach Mount Bromo, you’ll journey through small local villages that will give you a taste of local life beyond the usual tourist track. Hop into your 4×4 jeep and cruise across the deserted volcanic plains that lead to the foot of the volcano. Climb the steps and stare straight down inside the volcano’s crater.
6. Bukit Lawang
A small village on the edge of Gunung Leuser National Park, North Sumatra. This is where you come to take a walk on the wild side and trek through the dense Sumatran jungle in search of semi-wild orangutans. Tourism hasn’t quite kicked off on Sumatra like elsewhere in Indonesia, so the trip to get here makes for a scenic and fascinating drive through beautiful countryside.
7. Samosir Island
Stranded in the rippling waters of the huge volcanic Lake Toba is Samosir Island. With uninterrupted views across the lake towards the mountainous region and densely wooded jungles, it’s a truly beautiful and welcoming place. This is the heart of the Toba Batak culture and you’ll find many traditional villages made up of typical Batak houses along the shoreline. Witness daily Batak dance performances, discover ritual graves and soak up the authentic culture.
A highland world of misty mountains, forest waterfalls and serene temple lakes. There’s a myriad of trails through the hills to hidden villages, coffee and cocoa plantations, crashing waterfalls and traditional temples. Being between 700m – 800m above sea level, the climate is a little cooler here, offering an escape from the heat and humidity elsewhere on Bali. A trip to Pura Ulun Danu Bratan Temple is also highly recommended and you’ll probably recognise it from photos you’ve seen of Bali.
9. Ijen Plateau
Java’s Ijen Plateau on the more isolated eastern part of the island is less visited than Mount Bromo, but is just as remarkable. It features three giant volcanoes that dominate the skyline, with an almost milky coloured crater lake and blanketed by drifting clouds. Miners still work the area and you can see them climbing the volcano, carrying heavy sulphur loads in their bamboo baskets.
Ramble through the rice paddies and hike to hidden waterfalls at the foot of Mount Rinjani on Lombok. Tetebatu is a peaceful pocket nestled in a valley amidst forests, tobacco plantations and tiered green rice terraces. You’ll get lost in the authentic way of life and immerse yourself in true Sasak culture, learning about local pottery, traditional stick fighting and basketry.
For even more Indonesia travel tips, head to our travel guide below.
Take a peek at our favourite Indonesia itineraries
From 14 days / 13 nights (flexible)
Indonesia, Ubud - Maumere - Kelimutu volcano - Bajawa - Ruteng - Labuhan Bajo - Komodo National Park - Jimbaran
From 12 days / 11 nights (flexible)
Indonesia, Yogyakarta - Sukuh - Malang - Mount Bromo - Palangkaraya - Bapallas Island - Sanur