14 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Indonesia
The modern nation of Indonesia is unlike any other in the world, and a trip there will quickly change how you perceive not only the country's rich culture and history, but also the planet as a whole. With more than 17,000 islands, each endowed with its own distinct personality, a visit to Indonesia is an adventure in itself.
There is no one perfect travel destination in Indonesia, but the adventure is to travel here; over the past decade the country's tourism infrastructure has blossomed, and travelers can now explore incredible destinations in a range of exciting ways.
One of the best ways to enjoy Indonesia is to focus on the natural beauty, exotic wildlife, and amazing wonders of some of the island nations, including Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Bali, Papua, the Gilis, and Maluku. Indonesia's most famous islands, Bali and Lombok, are full of impressive sights and experiences.
To help you plan the best travel experience, be sure to refer often to our list of the top attractions in Indonesia.
Bandung is the largest city in Indonesia and one of the most cosmopolitan. It is the capital of West Java, and the largest metropolitan area in the country. The city was founded in 1913 and quickly became an important trading port with shipping lines linking Europe and South America. There are many first-rate museums including the National Art Gallery, the Jayabaya Museum of Literature, and the ASEAN Cultural Centre. Be sure to visit Gedung Sate (Indonesian for Building of the States) in the northern end of the city which is made of wood, cement, and iron. The main areas to visit in Bandung are Monas, Petitenget and Cisarua Beach. Monas is a Buddhist temple built in 1927, and named after the original Buddha. Petitenget is a white and black beach near the south of the city. Bandung's Chinatown is about a ten minute walk away. The district has a distinct Chinese flavor with its small, narrow streets lined with houses, workshops and small businesses. In the evening it is a pleasant area with people sitting on the street and relaxing.
Gili Islands are the most popular places in Indonesia for diving and surfing. An archipelago that once belonged to Indonesia but that became part of the creation of the nation of East Timor, the six isles of this group of islands were only opened for tourism in 1976. Gili Trawangan is considered the most sophisticated of the six. It is here that one can indulge in a high-end resort experience, with a casino, great restaurants, and luxury shops. If you'd like to see Gili Islands during the day, head to Gili Air, the smallest of the six isles. Visit the sites of the settlements of the ancient kingdom of Sumba, the largest island in the group, and peer into a place and time long gone. Be warned that getting around the islands of Gili can be difficult. Some vehicles are for hire, and it's often possible to hitchhike.
Surrounded by the Indian Ocean, Bali is the most easterly of the Indonesian islands and is also the largest. Unmistakable because of the number of temples, palaces, shrines and mosques found throughout the island, the visual impression of the landscape is of one large, natural Buddhist monument. The main city, Ubud, is home to many small but lovely resorts and is a hotbed of culture. Ubud's temples are recognized for their distinctive Balinese architecture and the beautiful paintings that adorn its stone walls. The elegance and subtlety of the traditional Balinese art are evident in the rice terraces surrounding the towns of Ubud and Gianyar, many of which provide a backdrop to rice-based ceremonies. Bali has an airport and is served by flights from major Asian cities. The ferry terminal is on the southwestern edge of town.
Mount Bromo is a volcano, sacred to the Batak people who still make pilgrimages to it at the end of the dry season. Located in East Java near Mount Semeru, it is one of the most sacred places in the world and thousands of pilgrims arrive daily. They make a 2.5 hour trek from Tiga to the summit of Bromo and back, and then spend an evening at the Crater Lake for bathing in the hot springs. From Pulau Mas next to Mount Bromo you can enjoy views of Java Island and the Andes mountains in South America. The trek to Bromo involves passing through hot and arid coastal plains before reaching the cool jungles of Batujaya (where you can see monkeys) and Timbak (where there are gigantic ferns, thatch trees and rare birds). Once you reach the Crater Lake there is a chance of seeing a beautiful variety of tropical animals like leopards, elephants, tapirs, gibbons, wild boar, gibbons, squirrel monkeys, crocodiles, civets and hornbills, as well as the Batak, or royal nomads, on their way back from Mount Semeru. There are also a number of large temples at the foot of the volcano that pilgrims can visit.
Lombok is the most important of the three Indonesian islands to which Mount Rinjani once belonged. Known as Lombok, it's the smallest and easternmost of these three. It's most famous for its dramatic vertical cliffs and Hindu mysticism, and the remote villages built among the mountains. Today it is a favourite destination for adventurous types seeking more than just beautiful scenery. The place to start a trip to Lombok is on a hike or bike ride up the sacred Gunung Rinjani, the island's main peak, offering spectacular views and stunning vistas. The challenging climb to the summit is even more arduous during the wet season, while the rest of the year it is made easier by taking the more conventional Lombok Walking route. Lombok also offers a number of activities such as diving, white-water rafting, jungle trekking and abseiling. In Bali itself, there's a chance to visit the monkey-filled Bali Safari and Wildlife Park. During low season, the beautiful white-sand beaches are all free. One of the best is that at Beraban, a few kilometres east of Tampakan and about 2.5 hours from Senggigi by bus.
Ubud is in the heart of Bali's beautiful rice fields. Ubud is very touristy and traffic can be a problem during the day, but Ubud has a very live side where visitors can enjoy watching the Balinese dance and playing traditional games like bairro and tembok. The streets are lined with busy restaurants, shops, and bars. Ubud is also the home of the famous Bali Buddha Statue, which is a perfect example of the Hindu-Buddhist religion and is recognized all over the world. There are many temples to visit in Ubud including Pura Luhur Batukau, Pura Segara Empangi, and Pura Taman Saraswati. To get to Ubud from Kuta or the airport, take a bemo or a bus. Bali Buddha Statue is in Ubud.
Borobudur is the greatest and best-preserved of Indonesia's ancient Buddhist sites. The Buddhist relics it contains have been moved to a museum in the village of Yogyakarta on Java, Indonesia's main island. The immense structure consists of more than 1,600 stone blocks, and is said to be the largest Buddhist monument in the world. The monument dates back to the 8th century AD and was originally the Buddhist temple of an emperor who converted to Buddhism in 749 AD. Its construction lasted some 160 years and is said to be the world's largest Buddhist monument as well as being one of the world's largest brick structures. Visiting Borobudur is easy, but beware of the monkeys and the odd stray cattle who roam the ruins, while the views from the site can be wonderful at sunset and sunrise.
One of the most impressive archaeological sites in Southeast Asia, Prambanan Temple (Prambanan) is the largest Hindu complex in the world. Dating to the 9th to 12th centuries AD, it was the home of a Hindu-Buddhist temple that is particularly well-preserved thanks to its location deep in the jungle. Nearly 10,000 huge, intricately carved statues and reliefs make up the sanctuary. While Prambanan is spectacular, the real draw for many is learning how to make traditional dance-drama masks in the workshops around the temple. Almost all can be hired on-site, but many visitors rent masks for their own private performances.
Jakarta, the former Dutch colonial capital, is now Indonesia's largest city and the country's economic center. Jakarta is definitely not a beautiful city, but it is certainly fascinating and filled with historic and cultural sites, ranging from magnificent old colonial mansions to mosques and temples. It is a wonderful place for those who enjoy the urban life. Among the places you will want to visit are Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, a large park in the center of the city that has a wonderful collection of colonial mansions, the National Museum that houses Indonesia's largest collection of art, and the Old English Church that is worth a visit for its beautiful colonial interior. The city is full of other good places to visit, like Puri Lukisan, a unique collection of paintings and sculptures by the masters of 20th century Indonesian art, such as Raden Saleh, Sri, and Tjipto Mangunkusumo.
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Mount Merapi, which is covered with huge eruptions all the time, is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia. Eruptions are frequent and occur without any warning, and sometimes clouds of ashes fly across the area for long distances. There are several places to visit around Mount Merapi; the best known is Mount Salak to the north of the village of Waenggorong. This is the place to see the "time of rain and tears", when the skies are cloudy and filled with volcanic ash and steam, and it rains. Many have described this as one of the most impressive sights in the world. There are also several volcano lakes, where hot sulphuric water emerges from the ground. The most popular place to stay is Kota Kawis, which was a homestay of Princess of Palembang and is now a hotel with a guesthouse. It is also close to other nearby villages with authentic traditional life.
Indonesia's most famous diving location is actually located off the coast of East Timor, where the country makes an interesting political transition. Visiting the island will likely mean seeing locals fishing on the steep reefs and walking along a single dirt track between two villages, each with very little tourism infrastructure. Don't worry, it's not as grim as it sounds and even offers some lovely places to stay, with all facilities. However, Komodo is one of the world's most famous diving sites and is where you'll find the famed Komodo dragons. These creatures are among the world's largest lizards, reaching a length of 5 feet.
Heading south down the island of Lombok from the resort town of Senggigi, Lovina is a small, upscale town of modern houses built along the ocean. Only five kilometers long and three kilometers wide, it is primarily developed for tourism, with several hotels, restaurants and shops lining the beachfront. However, the major attraction is the Gili islands, which are just off-shore from Lovina. An official ferry run by Pelni connects Lovina with Bali. You'll be able to see the islands from the deck of your ferry when it docks in the bay.
Designed by famed architect Gustave Eiffel, the wooden and stuccoed Grand Stairway of Surabaya Cathedral is thought to be the tallest building in Southeast Asia. Completed in 1912, the five-tiered church and the gargantuan central tower-bell and spire are examples of French modern architecture and one of Indonesia's finest examples of the style. The Grand Stairway itself takes its name from the stately French style, Grand Stairway, or megalithic tyle. Surabaya's extensive Chinatown, the largest in Southeast Asia, is an outdoor museum, rich in history and culture. Here visitors can stroll the streets lined with colorful fruit stands and street food vendors, shopping for antiques and curios, and browsing dozens of little shops filled with the most unusual items imaginable. Taxis to and from the city center cost from 5,000Rp. And there are many cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops where visitors can rest and relax.
Lake Toba is situated in the east of Sumatra and is Indonesia's second largest lake. Covering a total area of 4,500 square kilometers (1,826 sq mi), it is by far the largest lake on the island and its waters are some 3,000 meters (9,843 ft) deep. Although it is said that the name is derived from the Sumatran word for "dragon," the lake is actually named after the Indonesia-Myanmar Railway. Notable about Lake Toba is that is fed by two volcanoes, Mount Tiliwung and Mount Batukaru. Lake Toba is also known as "the salt lake" and is a home to more than 350 different species of animals, including the rare palm-sago langur. There are five islands on the lake, including Lamat and Lamongan, which are important bird sanctuaries, and Tigaon Island, which is set on the lake's north-western shore. Lake Toba also has a well-developed fishing industry, making the island a destination for those looking to catch giant Banyak deer (or crocodile) as well as fish, tuna, terrapin, mudskippers and eels. The lake is an important habitat for wildlife including giant hornbills and fireflies. Taman Lebah Islet is also located on the lake and features a resident Buddhist monastery. Travel to Lake Toba can be made through Manado, either by bus or plane, with the flight taking around six and a half hours to fly to Sumatra's Bukit Lawang.