Indonesia Travel Guide
With its fiery reputation as the world’s largest Muslim population, Indonesia is struggling to attract tourists in this era. What a shame considering its vast natural resources for adventure and eco-tourism, magnificent Javanese temples, dramatic Sumatran scenery and pristine waters stretching as far as Sulawesi and Lombok.
Despite two devastating bombings, Bali continues to attract tourists as one of Asia’s most popular resort island destinations, and rightly so. Even more travelers make it to Borobudur, an ancient temple complex that rivals Cambodia’s as the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Jakarta may be the capital, but its congested streets have little to keep visitors lingering.
Diving fans may like to check out Sulawesi, a diverse destination with world class reefs. But there are plenty of great dive sites near the more popular Bali and Lombok for the less adventurous. Jungle and volcano trekkers, on the other hand, have endless possibilities in the rugged wilderness that spans much of the country.
Indonesia has reasonable domestic air service but safety can be dubious. A cheaper way to traverse this island-nation is to travel by boat, or by train if you’re on Java or Sumatra. Driving habits leave a lot to be desired so watch your back.
Why You Should Go
Incredible temples, beauty and culture of Bali, the unspoilt islands and beaches of Lombok, exploring the jungles of the islands in the east, seeing Sumatra’s orangutans and the ancient temples of Yogyakarta.
Anti-western sentiment, Islamic extremists, bombings, the legacy of the tsunami in Aceh, hot humid weather, pollution and noise of Jakarta, coming face-to-face with a komodo dragon!
Getting There & Away
Jakarta and Denpasar (Bali) have only two long-haul international airports and are the most realistic entry points. Getting around is tricky due to the sheer geographical size and spread, therefore flying is the best option, with numerous local routes. Ferries connect Sumatra, Java, Bali and Lombok, with lesser sailings to Sulawesi and Kalimantan. Local buses run across the length of each island; they are fairly frequent but slow and hardly comfortable. On Java, you have the choice of VIP minibuses for a hassle-free journey as well as a train service.
Things to Do
Yogyakarta: This stately java city is full of handsome attractions, but mostly serves as a base to visit the prambanam hindu temple complex and the ancient site of borobudur.
Bali: Recovering from the bombings, this paradise-like island of peaceful and friendly locals, perfect beaches and dramatic scenery was once a popular packaged destination and the jewel in the country’s tourism crown. expect plenty of beer-drinking aussie blokes and sheila’s mate!
Lombok: The next island east of bali is where you go to escape the tourists, best appreciated on a chartered boat. picture beaches all to yourself, azure waters and white sand.
Bukit Lawang: Bukit lawang is a national park on sumatra, 90kms northwest of medan, in which adventurous travellers make a bee-line to seek out the orangutans and enjoy trekking, river tubing and a natural environment.
Lake Toba (Danau Toba): Lake toba is a gorgeous lake on sumatra formed in a volcanic caldera, with a wedged-shape island from the collapsed cone offering all sorts of leisure locations.
The lakes of Kelimutu: The lakes of kelimutu are one of the main attractions on nusa tengara, with multi-coloured waters formed in volcanic craters that seem to change like a kaleidoscope. bizarre and unique.
Sailing: The waters of the archipelago from bali to lombok and north to sulawesi, to find your own private paradise.
Feeding the Komodo Dragons: On nusa tengara. these prehistoric reptiles are unlike any other on the planet in sheer size or ferocity, but make sure you don’t become their breakfast!
Diving and snorkelling: On sulawesi. some of southeast asia’s best reefs are found at bunaken and togean, and you’ll enjoy some of indonesia’s most pristine marine areas.
Partying: At kuta beach on bali, where beautiful beaches and great bars are just meters away from each other.
Trekking: Deep in the jungles of the remote islands of the east like kalimantan, sulawesi and maluku.
Indonesia is a vast country of 400 million people from all religions and there are countless traditional festivals occurring across the various islands and provinces. Here are some of the more fascinating or important.
Pasolais a colourful event celebrated in sumba, with the highlight being mock horse battles.
The festival of borobudur is a chance to witness local culture, withfolk dancing competitions, handicraft shows and sporting events.
The arts festival in yogyakarta comprises of traditional dances, songs and many competitions.
Bali arts festivallasts for one month and has demonstrations of traditional dance, song and handicrafts, along with games and competitions.
Danau toba in sumatra is a grand competition of canoe races and traditional sumatran dances and songs from the region.
National day is on 17 august, and is a festive day of national unity featuring parades, marches, cultural dances, fireworks and other events.
Gerebeg syawal ceremony in yogyakarta is a colourful and grand celebration with processions of the palace guards and other officials dressed in ceremonial attire or traditional costumes. look out for large decorated floats.
Varies according to the celestial calendar and lasts a month, during which time strict fasting changes the whole character of the country in a subdued manner.