Tailor-made Tour 15 days from £2995 per person
Places Visited: Yogyakarta, Bromo-Tengger National Park, Kalibaru, Menjangan, Bali Barat, Ubud, Sanur
Experience the scenic and cultural highlights of eastern Java and neighbouring Bali on this superb two-week road adventure. Winding from Yogyakarta, the nation’s ‘cultural capital’, across the island’s volcanic spine to the coffee and cocoa growing plantations of the interior, it culminates with an ascent of Gunung Bromo – the signature spectacle of Java’s lesser visited eastern flank – before a wind down on the blissful beaches of Bali. Along the way, you’ll visit ancient Hindu temples, watch some of Indonesia’s finest batik being made, snorkel over dazzling coral gardens, peer over the rim of a smouldering volcano and explore some gloriously unspoilt stretches of coastline before a spell in one of southeast Bali’s most relaxing resorts.
In short: a non-stop parade of exotic wonders packed into a varied fortnight of luxury travel and gorgeous hotels – the ultimate Indonesian road trip.
Cultural Tours Walks, Hikes and Rides
Fly overnight from the UK to Yogyakarta in central Java on an indirect service.
On arrival in Yogyakarta, you’ll be met by your TransIndus guide and driver, and escorted to your hotel for a two-night stay. Spend the remainder of the day recovering from your journey. In the early evening, you could hop in a ‘becak’ (three-wheeled auto-rickshaw) for a ride around the backstreets streets, or ‘jalan tikus’, of the old city, pausing for a browse at antique shops, batik showrooms and silver galleries.
The conservative rule of Yogyakarta’s traditional sultans has ensured the tidal wave of westernization sweeping across the rest of the country has made a more measured impact in this pleasant provincial capital. Visitors flock here to experience traditional gamelan, shadow puppetry, classical and contemporary Javanese dance and ritual theatre. It’s also a great place to sample traditional Indonesian cuisine. For your first supper, we recommend the wonderful Gajah Wong restaurant, which is famous for its grilled duck with nasi kuning (turmeric rice) and fragrant chicken curries. Live gamelan musicians perform most evenings.
Spend the morning visiting the Royal Palace (in the kraton, or ‘walled city’), proceeding later to Borobudur to experience the magnificent Buddhist ruins at sunset time.
Begin your guided tour of the city’s sights in the morning with a visit to the 18th-century Sultan’s Palace, Water Palace and Sonobudoyo Museum, where the highlight is a collection of 1,200 wavey-bladed kris daggers.
In the afternoon your guide will accompany you on a tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Borobudur. Ash from the volcanoes on the western horizon buried the mighty stupa at the heart of the complex until the early 19th century, when British and Dutch officials re-discovered the site. It’s now Java’s most visited attraction, and an active place of worship and pilgrimage hub. Borobudur encapsulates everything that’s most exotic about Java. At sunset you can watch the warm evening light illuminating the faces of 1200-year old stonework, which presides over a plateau of rice fields and palm groves framed by the plume of smoke rising from the summit of Gunung Merapi – pure magic!
After checking out of your hotel in the morning, visit the 9th-century Hindu temple complex at Prambanan, continuing on to Surakarta in the afternoon.
Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, the UNESCO-listed Prambanan complex centres on an elaborately carved, 47-metre-tall sanctuary tower, surrounded by over 200 subsidiary shrines, all of them richly decorated. The spectacle of this extraordinary architectural behemoth soaring above the palm canopy ranks among the most memorable Southeast Asia has to offer.
Surakarta – aka ‘Solo’ – is Java’s second royal capital. It was established in the mid-18th century and continues to be an important hub of Javanese culture. Music (particularly gamelan) and traditional courtly dance is still widely studied and performed here, but the great local speciality is batik. Some of the finest textiles in all Indonesia originate in the city, and you can admire superb antique pieces in the famous Danar Hadi museum. Two kraton palaces survive, dating from the years after 1745 when European power was in the ascendency.
Bromo-Tengger National Park
Travel in the morning by train to Jombang, in eastern Java, where you’ll be met by your driver. A short trip to the outskirts takes you to the temple complex of Trowulan, which you’ll explore before proceeding by road to the Bromo Tengger National Park.
An early start is required for the train ride to Jombang. Set amid 100-square-kilometres of lawned gardens, the sprawling archaeological site of Trowulan encompasses remains of the Mahapahit kings’ 14th-century capital. The tranquil setting of winding lanes, cornfields and small, thatched farming compounds make this a particularly enjoyable site to explore. Still standing are the remains of huge, red-brick temples, halls and gateways, while the museum holds some of the treasures unearthed locally, including a famous stone statue of Airlangga in the form of Vishnu.
Peaking at 2,392m (7848ft), Gunung Bromo may not be Indonesia’s highest volcano, but it’s one of the most conveniently accessible, with a road running all the way up to the lip of the caldera’s encircling cliff, from where the views are magnificent. Bromo is actually one of three volcanoes cradled in a massive, 10-kilometre crater that’s carpeted in a covering of grey-brown sand and ash. Rising in the background, a plume of smoke and steam billows from the perfectly symmetrical snout of Gunung Semeru, Java’s loftiest peak (3,676m/12,000ft) – surely one of the most extraordinary views in the world!
You’ll be woken before dawn for the drive by 4WD to the Penanjakan Viewpoint on Gunung Bromo. After breakfast, continue by road to Kalibaru – a memorable drive through bucolic Javanese landscape.
From the Penanjakan Viewpoint, the full majesty of the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park is revealed in all its glory – a particularly splendid spectacle at sunrise, when golden light illuminates to summits of the mighty volcano and lunar landscape around it. Afterwards, you’ll have the opportunity to drive through the ‘Sea of Sand’ to the foot of the mountain and tackle the ascent to the rim of the crater itself – a stiff climb up 245 steps!
Continue in the afternoon to the east coast, spending the night at a delightful hill resort outside the village of Kalibaru, set amid coffee, cocoa and rubber plantations. Before supper, enjoy sunset views from the veranda of your colonial-era bungalow.
Menjangan, Bali Barat
Transfer to Ketapang Harbour for the ferry ride to Bali, pausing en route at a herb, coffee and spice plantation. On arrival at Gilimanuk harbour, you’ll continue to a resort set on the wild, far west coast of the island for a two-night stay on the fringes of the Bali Barat National Park.
In the rain shadow of Gunung Batukaru, the sparsely populated far west of Bali is the most pristine corner of the island. A large tract of it falls within the borders of the Bali Barat National Park, a reserve of primary monsoon forest, mangrove-lined bays, open savanna and deserted, sandy beaches frequented by several species of rare birds, including the endemic Bali starling. The highlight in this area is Pulau Menjangan (‘Deer Island’), named after the herd of dwarf deer that migrates here each year by swimming across the straits. The animals are quite tame and graze on the beaches and gardens around the beautiful resorts we use.
Spending a couple of nights in West Bali means you’ll be able to embark on a boat trip to the reefs off Pulau Menjangan, regarded as one of the top snorkelling and dive sites in the world.
Menjangan, Bali Barat
Enjoy the delightful surroundings of your resort, taking a boat trip in the morning to Pulau Menjangan for a dive or snorkel. Bird-watching tours, horse rides and guided walks are also on offer.
Ranging from shallow coral gardens to vertical reef walls smothered with sea fans, seven world-class dive sites lie off the coast of Menjangan Island, a short boat ride from your hotel. This small, uninhabited islet supports a dazzling array of marine life, which you’ll be able to experience by snorkelling or diving. Pygmy seahorses, schools of snappers, gorgonian corals, reef sharks, sand banks with garden eels and magnificent coral gardens may all be sighted. With some of the clearest waters in the region, visibility is normally excellent.
Today you’ll drive across the island’s spine to Ubud, Bali’s arts, crafts and shopping hub, for a two-night stay
Ubud is the best place in Bali to experience traditional dance and ritual arts. The town is jam-packed with pretty little stalls and workshops where you can watch artisans at work and browse an astonishing range of quality local handicrafts. The thatched villages around it offer windows on the island’s more traditional way of life. The Mother Temple for Balinese Hindus, Besakih, at the foot of Gunung Agung, is a popular daytrip. Crowds of worshippers laden with floral offerings file around the site’s 20 different temples and innumerable subsidiary shrines, spread over a 3-km area interconnected by ascending terraces, colonnaded walkways, long, steep flights of steps and ceremonial gateways.
Spend the day exploring Ubud and environs, taking in a performance of classical Balinese dance in the evening.
One of the most magical locations to start your day’s sightseeing is the town’s beautiful Botanical Park, a wonderland of lilies, weeping figs, orchids and rainforest plants. Linger for lunch at the Chocolate House Café, housed in century-old teak hut. Then sample the local art scene at the nearby Neka Art gallery. Another must-see is the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, on the south side of town, where over 200 macaques congregate in a patch of dense forest scattered with old stone shrines.
Around half a dozen different dance companies perform in Ubud each night. We particularly enjoy the Semara Ratih troupe, known for the expressiveness of its dancers, and Suara Sakti, a Gamelan group that invites members of the audience on stage to try the instruments. Another must-see in Ubud is Kecak, a ritual dance recounting episodes from the Hindu epic, the Ramayan. It is performed by a male chorus of upwards of 100 men dressed in traditional clothes and accompanied by a Gamelan orchestra.
After breakfast, drive to Sanur on the south coast, for a three-night stay.
Sometime dubbed ‘Snore’ by its (mostly youthful) detractors, Sanur is the most laid back of the main resorts on Bali’s south coast – one of many reasons why we like it so much! The others are the spellbinding views of Gunung Agung’s conical top to the northeast, excellent diving sites and facilities, and the abundance of space on the beach itself – a beautiful, 5-km spread of golden sand fringed by palm trees and vivid turquoise water. A wide choice of courses are also on offer in the village: from Balinese cookery to traditional Indonesian circus skills.
Spend the day at leisure enjoying the beach and sea in Sanur, with the option of various activities and daytrips, including an excursion to the famous Tanah Lot temple.
Dating from the 15th century, Tanah Lot is the most famous of three Balinese shore temples. It is perched precariously on a craggy, wave-lashed outcrop of rock, becoming cut off from the mainland when the tide rushes in, which adds greatly to the mystery and allure of the shrine. The sublime setting and distinctive, typically Balinese shape of the sanctuary towers have made the temple the most iconic on the island.
Spend you final day in Sanur souvenir shopping, and making the most of the beach. The resort also offers an exceptionally wide choice of restaurants.
For fine Indonesian cuisine, try ‘Kami Sama’, which does a delicious ‘siap sambal matah’ — a Balinese specialty of shredded fried chicken spiced with chopped chillies, shallots and lemon grass.
On your final day in Bali, there will be plenty of time for a last swim and spot of shopping before a late-afternoon transfer to the airport to catch your return flight to the UK.
Arrive UK in the morning.
Tailor-made Tour 15 days from £2995 per person
✓ International flights from London
✓ 12 nights accommodation
✓ All internal transportation and transfers
✓ English-speaking guides
✓ Breakfast daily
✓ Entrance fees to sites, national parks and monuments listed in tour itinerary
Places and Experiences in this tour
The conservative rule of Yogyakarta’s traditional Sultans has ensured the tidal wave of westernization sweeping across the rest of the country has made a more measured impact in th…
Borobudur encapsulates everything that’s most exotic about Java. Come before dawn and you can watch the first rays of daylight illuminate the faces of 1200-year-old stone Buddhas g…
Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, Prambanan, 11 miles (18km) east of Yogyakarta, was constructed in the mid 850s AD, but deserted only a couple of generations later – probably beca…
Peaking at 2,392m (7,848ft), Mount Bromo in eastern Java may not be Indonesia’s highest volcano, but it’s one of the most conveniently accessible, with a road running all the way u…
The perennial rival to Yogyakarta, Surakarta – aka ‘Solo’ – is Java’s second royal capital. It was established in the mid 18th century by King Pakubuwono II, one of the main descen…
Bali, to the east of Java, has always been considered the pearl in the necklace of Indonesia’s Sunda Islands. Its mix of spellbinding volcanic scenery, glorious beaches, pounding s…
Well before you even set foot on the island, you’ll be familiar with the distinctive, multi-tiered form of Tanah Lot, whose shrines rise seamlessly from the rocky coast, 16 miles (…
A winding 3-hour drive from Yogyakarta, the Dieng Plateau is a lush, cloud-swept caldera at an altitude of 2,000m (6,600ft). Encircled by dramatic volcanic peaks (including some th…
Thanks to its fertile volcanic soil and plentiful rainfall, Java is the most populous island in the Indonesian archipelago. The nation’s sprawling capital, Jakarta, lies on its nor…
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