Indonesia    17.05.2024    Transindus

Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, with some 17,000 stunningly wild and beautiful islands strewn across the equator like a string of pearls. Each one is dramatically different from the next; some volcanic at their heart, others supporting rainforests bursting with life or steep mountains with extraordinary vistas. Each is surrounded by warm, crystal clear waters of equatorial seas teeming with marine life. The fascinating and varied tribal cultures of the indigenous people add another layer to your explorations of these enchanted islands.

Embarking on a journey through Indonesia, a country that is as diverse as it is large, is an adventure of a lifetime, and the challenge lies in choosing where to go!

Here is our selection of Indonesia’s Highlights:


1) Java

Java, the cultural epicentre of Indonesia, offers an exciting mix of eclectic cultures, history, natural beauty, and food, making it a compelling destination for those keen on immersive experiences. Yogyakarta, the former royal and artistic capital of Indonesian rulers, is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Borobudur, the world's largest Buddhist temple complex adorned with elaborate stone carvings, and Prambanan, a grand Hindu temple with soaring spires each provide a serene and mystical ambience and offer a glimpse into Indonesia's regal past. It also remains the country's cultural capital, with regular performances of traditional Javanese Gamelan music and ritual dance theatre showcasing the region's rich artistic heritage.

The diverse and mesmerising setting of Java's volcanic region further west is a nature lover's paradise. It offers incredible opportunities for soft adventure against a backdrop of the surreal and simmering Mount Bromo and the mesmerising Ijen Crater with its turquoise crater lake and blue flames. Jakarta, the bustling capital, showcases modern Indonesian life and is a delightful gateway to exploring the country's delightful cuisine and tantalising street food.

2) Bali

Often hailed as the crown jewel of Indonesia's tourism, Bali's appeal lies as much in its vibrant culture, breathtaking landscapes, and warm hospitality as in its stunning beaches, where you can relax, surf, and enjoy exquisite cuisines. Beaches such as Kuta, Seminyak, and Jimbaran, on the south coast close to Denpasar, offer a busy and lively atmosphere with a vibrant nightlife, while beaches like Sanur, deeper south, and Nusa Dua on the eastern coast boast a quieter appeal with opportunities for cultural explorations nearby.

Ubud, at the heart of the island, makes an excellent base for extended summer vacations for families and those who want to enjoy slow, leisurely travel. Here, you can experience local Balinese music and dance vibrant Hindu religious ceremonies, learn more about local art forms and cuisine, enjoy stunning sunsets on picturesque shores, and rejuvenate amidst natural wonders in serene tropical landscapes. Adventurers are not left behind; they can enjoy captivating experiences like walking, trekking and cycling through local villages, lush rice terraces, forests, and volcano rims.


3) Sumatra

The sprawling Indonesian island of Sumatra, just north of Java, is a veritable paradise for nature enthusiasts, with a diverse ecosystem and breathtaking landscapes. Trek through Gunung Leuser, the largest of Sumatra’s National Parks, and you will encounter the critically endangered Sumatran orangutans in their natural habitat, surrounded by exotic flora, fauna, and birdlife. 

A visit to the nearby Lake Toba, Southeast Asia’s largest volcanic lake, and the charming villages surrounding it is a must. No visit is complete without venturing to Samosir Island at the heart of the lake for a closer look into Batak culture, witnessing traditional rituals, and embracing the warm hospitality of its people. This is a great place to relax and unwind among Lake Toba’s tranquil waters as you connect with nature. 

If it is the Sumatran tiger or the rhinoceros you are keen on viewing, head to the majestic vistas of the Bukit Barisan mountain range, where the vast wilderness of the Kerinci Seblat National Park is home to rare wildlife, including the critically endangered Sumatran tiger and rhinoceros. In South Sumatra, the Bukit Dinding and Sembilang National Parks are an ornithologist's paradise with hundreds of species of birds to spot.


4) Nusa Tenggara 

The Nusa Tenggara archipelago, located east of Bali, is a collection of diverse islands that offer a wide range of experiences, cultural immersion, adventure, and beautiful beaches away from Bali’s crowds. 

Among these islands are Lombok and the Gili, which boast tranquil beaches, hot springs, waterfalls, opportunities for hikes to crater rims like Mount Rinjani, and visits to Sasak ethnic minority villages. Divers will love the Alor Archipelago in East Nusa Tenggara, with its clear waters and vibrant coral reefs where sharks, dolphins, and migrating sperm whales can be spotted. While in West Timor, visitors can explore the villages of the Boti and Temkessi people, where ancient traditions thrive.

Flores, the furthest east of the archipelago, offers unspoiled natural beauty and cultural experiences with its rugged landscapes and nature parks like Kelimutu and Riung, which feature tri-coloured volcanic lakes, uninhabited islands, and rich reefs. The people of Flores follow unique agricultural methods such as Spiderweb Rice Fields, spice cultivation, and coffee plantations.


5) Kalimantan

At the heart of Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, a region that stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of its indigenous Dayak people. Despite the challenges of deforestation, wildfires, and missionary activities, they have steadfastly preserved their traditional way of life. This cultural resilience is a unique aspect of Kalimantan that sets it apart from other Asian destinations.

Kalimantan boasts vibrant and diverse wildlife, a major attraction for travellers crossing the Java Sea. The state's many National Parks, including Tanjung Puting, Kalimantan’s premier park, provide unparalleled opportunities to witness orangutans in their natural habitat and encounter proboscis monkeys, sun bears, gibbons, and an array of rare jungle birds, including the majestic hornbills. One of the best ways to observe wildlife here is to cruise the Sekonyer River in a small cruiser designed to navigate narrow channels.

Kalimantan's National Parks make a captivating detour from more cultural visits to the temples of Borobudur or the beaches of Bali, offering a truly unique and immersive experience in the heart of this wild and enchanting region.


6) Maluku or Spice Islands

The Maluku Islands, also known as the Spice Islands, are at the heart of the Indonesian archipelago. Their stunning beauty, lush green forests, pristine white-sand beaches, and crystal-clear waters teeming with marine life, along with the intrigue of their history, make them a compelling destination for any visitor.

Once the exclusive source of nutmeg and clove, the islands saw many raiders and traders cross their shores and have been the location of bitter trade wars, known as the 'Spices Wars' between the Portuguese, Dutch, French, British and Spanish. Any visit here will transport you back to an era when these exotic and aromatic treasures commanded the world's attention. Immerse yourself in the cobbled streets and age-old alleys of Banda Neira, where colonial remnants of Dutch and Portuguese forts stand testament to a bygone era.

Beyond history, the coral reefs of the Maluku islands are an untouched paradise for snorkelers waiting to be discovered. It is worth staying a bit longer to experience the rich cultural heritage of the local people, whose traditional way of life and festivals have remained unchanged despite hundreds of years of occupation.


7) Sulawesi

Sulawesi, Indonesia's second most visited region after Bali, is a beautiful island with picturesque villages against stunning rice terraces and active volcanoes. The island's cities, Makassar and Manado, although hot and congested, offer some incredible sites, but most visitors hope to explore the island's unspoiled areas, vibrant reefs, unique wildlife and villages of the indigenous Tana Toraja people whose strikingly decorated boat-shaped houses with upcurved roofs are worth staying for.  Equally compelling are the extravagant funeral rites of this community in which embalmed bodies of the deceased are placed in cavities hewn from limestone cliffs, where they can remain on display for many years, and the spirit lives on among the villagers until given a full funeral.  Unlike elsewhere, where communities observe a wedding season and save for it, funeral season (June-August) commands the greatest attention in Sulawesi. They involve gathering the family and the entire village, often for several days or weeks, and sacrificing numerous buffalo and pigs. Visitors are welcome to observe, albeit the sacrifices may not be to everyone's taste.

Tangkoko, the main National park, is one of the best places in the world to see elusive tarsiers, tiny nocturnal primates known for their oversized ears and bug eyes, and other rare species, such as Kuskus possums and babirusa pig-deer, can also be spotted here. The island is additionally renowned for its superb dive sites and snorkelling experiences, particularly in Wakatobi, the Gulf of Tomini, Lembeh Strait, and Bunaken Marine National Park, close to Manado. These areas are part of the renowned 'Coral Triangle,' one of the purest marine ecosystems on the planet.


8) Raja Ampat

The Raja Ampat archipelago is a group of widely dispersed, largely deserted islands and islets off the coast of West Papua, Indonesia’s most easterly province. Incredibly remote and unspoilt, it requires considerable effort to reach, but those prepared to commit to the journey are rewarded with an experience of a pristine natural environment that’s now exceedingly rare in this region.

Divers, in particular, rave about Raja Ampat, whose numerous world-class dive sites are protected as a Marine National Park – regarded as one of the world’s most biodiverse sub-aqua zones, on par with the Great Barrier Reef and Galapagos, with a staggering 374 species of fish and coral recorded so far, including many found nowhere else on earth. You can reach the islands by plane, staying at the beautiful Sorido Bay Resort, or on a long-distance live-aboard cruise out of Bali. Whatever you choose, a glimpse of paradise is guaranteed.


9) Komodo and Rinca Islands

Komodo National Park is one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1991 and home of the legendary Komodo Dragon. A prehistoric dreamland of pristine Pink Sand Beaches, Incredible dive sites, indigenous remote island communities and the world’s largest lizard, the legendary Komodo dragon, make a compelling visit to these stunning islands of eastern Indonesia. Easily accessed, both are starkly beautiful, with parched, undulating hills of bleached grass, Spindly lontar palms falling to turquoise bays, and pale, pink-sand beaches. Against this serene backdrop, the leathery reptiles, which weigh up to 100kg and grow to 3 metres in length, stalk their prey, which they kill by inflicting wounds that become infected by bacteria contained in their saliva.

Expert guides and rangers accompany visitors throughout the safari. While most day trips to Komodo and Rinca leave from the small harbour town of Labuan Bajo, on the neighbouring island of Flores, it is also possible to spend a night on a private boat rather than returning to shore. Either way, expect stops at one or two uninhabited islands that fleck the ocean around Komodo to snorkel and trek. The finest panorama in the region is to be had from the summit of Komodo’s highest hill, Gunung Ara.


10) West Papua

Explore the uncharted wonders of West Papua, a true adventure destination closer to Australia than Jakarta. Here, tribal communities live untouched by modernity, offering a rare glimpse into a world preserved in time. With pristine beaches and great surf breaks, West Papua invites you to discover its natural beauty.

In the Baliem Valley, you can choose various routes tailored to your fitness and interests. Whether you seek scenic countryside or immersive village visits, our guided treks ensure an experience you'll never forget. A five-day trek includes stays in the picturesque villages of Wamarek, Userem, Syokosimo, and Yogoshine. For those with more time, venture into the isolated highlands of Yali country, where the journey can be challenging.

The jungle areas teem with wild flora and fauna, including stunning orchids, giant spiders, exotic birds, and large lizards. Look out for prehistoric fossils scattered throughout the valley, but remember to leave them undisturbed.

Join us in West Papua for an unforgettable adventure where nature and culture blend seamlessly in a land that time forgot.