From the towering peaks of West Papua to the radiant greenery of the Sumatran jungle and all the way to the dazzling white beaches of Sulawesi: Indonesia offers backpackers a thrilling world of adventure. At the same time, it can also be a quiet retreat where you can escape the rush of everyday life. We know because we’ve been there and discovered the best places to visit in Indonesia – so unforgettable, you’ll be telling the grandkids about them in years to come. So, are you ready?
Togian Islands (Sulawesi)
Erm..Togi what? These little white dots on the map, located in central Sulawesi, are still as undiscovered as Koh Phangan was 30 years ago. Their untamed scenery will leave you feeling like Robinson Crusoe. You’ll experience secluded boat trips between thousands of uninhabited islands and the most surreal-looking coral reefs in the whole wide world. Plus, everything’s as cheap as Thailand was back in the eighties!
Gunung Bromo (Java)
With a landscape that’s as surreal as something out of Total Recall, it feels like you’ve landed on the moon or Mars. Java’s Gunung Bromo volcano (and its rumbling volcano-mates scattered around the place) are a fascinating piece of nature. The clouds of smoke and mist they billow out are bound to take your breath away. You’re guaranteed pictures that will brighten up your Instagram feed, especially when you reach the viewpoints on top of these fire-breathing giants. Some advice: to really soak up the atmosphere, stay overnight in Cemoro Lawang, a mountain village right next to the volcanoes.
Gili is the original; the mother of all of Indonesia’s laid-back beach destinations (sorry Bali!). With each step you take through fine, powdery sand of these islands you’ll end up even more convinced that popular destinations can be amazing too. Gili Trawangan, in particular, is a feast for the heart and soul – except for the nightlife strip on the east coast (especially during high-season). We spent a month there, snorkelling with turtles, eating delicious rendang and taking in the magical sunsets.
Tana Toraja (Sulawesi)
Think you’ve seen and experienced all the amazing things South Asia’s got to offer? Then think again! Here you’ll find holy sites with unique architecture, caverns where the dead are laid to rest and the ritual sacrificing of bulls. A visit to Tana Toraja, located on the island of Sulawesi, is a simultaneously enchanting and disconcerting due to some of the places and customs that you will experience here. Expect your visit to be full of joy and somewhat nightmarish at the same time.
This is the classic temple to visit, with a bigger wow-factor than any other holy place in South-East Asia (ok, except for Bagan, in Myanmar, and Angkor Wat, in Cambodia). Some advice: come at sunrise and wander between the stupas in the early morning light, letting your travelling heart soak up the Buddhist spirit of the place.
What were your Indonesia highlights? Comment below and let us know!
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About the authors
Bea and Jan are a pair of adventurers and visionaries based in Münster and Berlin with a passion for exploring the world. Their blog is a rollercoaster of ideas, lighting up their synapses somewhere between the rough pavements of Berlin and the fine sand of an Australian beach. Follow them on Instagram.