Straddled between the Pacific and Indian Ocean, Indonesia is world’s largest archipelago comprising a total of 18,100 islands. Of these, 6,000 islands are inhabited. With tropical forests, volcanoes, pristine beaches, lakes, and diverse natural habitat, Indonesia is clearly one of the most-sought after tourist destinations in the world. To absorb the real essence of this unimaginably vast country, you need to venture out of the popular tourists places and take the road less travelled. Skyscanner brings you a lowdown on must-visit destinations on your Indonesia holiday.
Famously known as the island of Gods, Bali is an independent island that forms part of the giant Indonesian archipelago, and remains the undisputed number one tourist attraction in the country. With its hospitable people, numerous centres of spirituality, diverse scenic beauty, magnificent culture, and spectacular beaches, the place has something to offer to everyone from backpackers travelling on a shoestring budget to the elite looking for a luxury holiday.
Spend your time in Bali basking in its scenic beauty, art and monuments. Explore the hot springs, pamper yourself to a wide selection of spas, indulge in exquisite water sports ranging from scuba diving to canyoning, surfing, white-water rafting and yachting. To add to your share of adventures sports and fun with water head to the Waterbom Amusement Park that abounds in adrenaline-pumping joyrides and water activities. Hiking at Kintamani presents offers a good break from the beach. The place is also a great avenue to get a look up close at Hindu culture and history and understand its nuances. The Tirta Empul Temple, Uluwatu Temple, Tanah Lot Temple, and ancient temples at Jagasari are some must-visit destinations for those interested in culture, architecture and history.
In addition to this, you can indulge in some paragliding, mountain cycling, Bungee jumping, and jungle trekking, besides hanging out at the pristine beaches of Jimbaran, Sanur, and Nusa Dua. Shopping, beach life and partying till dawn, of course, are hard to miss while you are here. But if you are looking for an off-beat holiday experience at Bali, the Elephant Safari Park, Bedugal Waterfalls in the north, the hot springs of Banjar, eco retreat at Sanak rice fields, dolphin spotting on a Jukung (a traditional boat) are your best bets.
While Bali is dotted with cafes and restaurants serving all popular international cuisines, your visit is incomplete until you give the rich Balinese food a try. Roast suckling pig locally known as Babi guling to Bebek betutu (darkened duck), local salads known as Lawar, Sate lilit (minced seafood satay) and Urutan (spicy pork sausage) are some of the signature dishes to look out for.
To the west of Bali is the island of Lombok. If you have time at hand, a boat ride from Bali to Lombok is an experience in its own right. You can choose a ferry or even hire a private boat to get there. The place is a haven for water lowers with its pristine beaches, water parks and natural waterfalls.
Bintan is part of Riau Islands and is often referred to as the ‘real’ border of the country. The most popular attraction for tourists is the northern part of the island that is referred to as Bintan Resorts and is dotted with a series of sprawling luxury resorts designed to help you unwind. The place is a 45-minute ride from Singapore. The East Coast of Bintan is home to plethora of electronics factories, native-style resorts known for their adventure sports and beach activities, and fishing villages. The island is also home to Tanjung Pinang town that was once a popular prostitution and gambling destination. It is also one of the oldest and most historical places in all of Indonesia. Kijang and Tanjung Uban are other popular destinations of interest to the tourists.
Since the Bintan island serves as the quintessential border, there is a provision for visa-on-arrival for tourists visiting the place from Singapore, besides a few visa-free entry points. The place can be accessed by air at Bintan’s Raja Haji Fisabilillah Airport from Jakarta, Jambi, Palembang, Pekanbaru, and Natuna Islands, and by a boat from Singapore, Malaysia, and Johor Bahru, and the Batam region.
There is an option to hire a taxi, car, scooter, and minivan to get around the place. The Trikora Beach and virgin beaches of Sumpat are a must-see here. The cuisine mainly comprises a wide selection of fresh seafood. Finding strictly vegetarian food may be a problem in this part of the world, make sure you specify ‘no meat’ in clear, understandable terms to avoid being served some fish or clamps on your so-called vegetarian platter. If you are looking to shop, the local wooden handicrafts are definitely worth exploring.
Yogyakarta, locally pronounced as Jogjakarta, is one of the upcoming tourist destinations in the country. The city is the capital of Yogyakarta Special Region that falls in the Central Java province. It is reckoned as an education and art hub, popular among travellers primarily owing to its proximity to ancient sites like the Borobudur temples. While the city has a wide range of tourist destination and shopping avenues, a visit to Yogyakarta is incomplete without a trip to Borobudur, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising a Buddhist temple complex and a stupa. The temple complex is the world’s largest Buddhist structure set against the backdrop of impressive active volcanoes. The place can be accessed from Yogyakarta by bus, minibus, rental car or train. You can get around the place on foot or rented bicycles. There is also a toy train that shuttles between the temple complex and museum, which despite its limited practicality is an experience to behold. Watching the sunset from the top of the temple complex and a visit to nearby rice terraces and waterfalls of Selo Griyo is highly recommended. The Prambanan Temple, a spectacular example of Hindu architecture, is a sight to behold. The place has many a legend attached to it and is just 17 kms. from Yogyakarta.
Back in Yogyakarta, you can spend your time exploring the monuments and heritage sites such as Tugu Monument, Benteng Vredeburg, Kota Gede, Imogiri, Kotabaru, Sri Sultan’s palace or Kraton. The city is also home to several museums, art galleries and ancient temples locally referred to as Candi.
You can shop at the local traditional market, indulge in adventure sports like rafting, enjoy a session of street chess, or get some relaxation through yoga, meditation and reflexology. The city is a good destination to buy batik, ceramics, silverware, and traditional wayang puppets.
Tickle your taste buds with some local delicacies like a Gudeg (a Jackfruit curry), Ayam goreng Mbok Berek (a fried chicken dish), Nasi langg rice, and Kippo (snacks with coconut filling).
Travelling to this part of Indonesia can be a bit of a challenge in its own right, but if you want to experience the true essence of the country away from the hustle bustle of tourist life, Flores-Komodo is just the place for you. The biggest attraction of the region is the Komodo National Park, which is largely responsible for putting the quaint Flores region on the international tourist map. The place remains popular attraction for its underwater life and dragons. Yes, dragons! The park, stretched over islands of Komoda and Rinca, is inhabited by dragons on both sides. The region can be accessed by a boat. Hiring a local guide once you get there is highly recommended, as it helps catch up on a lot of trivia about the natives as well as gather tons of valuable information on prehistoric animals, if you catch a good guide that is. Though the dragon habitat is the highlight, it not all there is to the magnificent Flores island.
You can indulge in some scuba diving at the Manta Point and catch a glimpse up close of these rare underwater creatures, explore the volcanoes at Bajawa along with the hot springs of Mengeruda, spend time with at the traditional Nagada village, explore the lakes that are revered by the locals as they are believed to possess the souls of the dead and the seamless natural waterfalls. All in all, the Flores Island has to offer everything that makes Indonesia so exotic.
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This piece has been written in collaboration with the Indonesia Ministry of Tourism.