Your ultimate travel guide to

Indonesia

Dense jungles populated by tribes and rich sea meadows cropped by gentle dugongs. Sophisticated beach bars where beautiful people sip coconut cocktails and the rippling rice paddies of Lombok…

 

Sure, Bali’s beautiful beaches may be one of the top things to see in Indonesia, but there is so much more waiting to be discovered in the largest archipelago on Earth. Each of its 17,000 islands boasts a beguiling secret, from real-life dragons in the Komodo national park to secluded beaches made of blushing rose quartz.

 

So where to start when planning your Indonesian adventure?

 

Here are our picks of the best things to see and do in Indonesia.

Getting to Indonesia

You can fly directly to Denpasar, Indonesia from Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. Most other destinations in Indonesia require a connecting flight and layovers are typically taken in Kuala Lumpur.

Things to See in Indonesia

With its fascinating culture, which varies from tattooed yogis offering alternative healing to the ancient animist beliefs of Papua New Guinea’s tribes, and dramatic, volcanic landscapes painted in startling shades of emerald, turquoise and white, there is no shortage of things to see and do in Indonesia.

Get a sense of the country’s ambitious plans for its future in Jakarta, where well-heeled businessmen sip locally grown coffee and glass-clad skyscrapers shoot up as quickly as bamboo cane. Find a complete list of things to see in Jakarta in our handy 48 hours guide.

While the deliciously-soft white powder of beaches such as Seminyak and Padangbai may make relaxing feel like the natural focus of a holiday to Bali, peel yourself off your sunlounger and you’ll discover that there’s plenty to see on the Island of the Gods… Check out our guide to secret Bali here.

Best Places to Visit in Indonesia

How many Indonesian islands can you name? We’re guessing your list might not extend that much further than Bali, Lombok and Java. However, there are countless more magnificent places to visit… Whet your appetite for adventure with our guide to Indonesia beyond Bali.

From the many art galleries and bohemian cafes of Ubud to Bandung, a romantic tangle of colonial buildings surrounded by lush tea plantations, you’ll be spoilt for choice if you’re looking for cities to visit in Indonesia.

The Gilis are some of our favourite smaller Indonesian islands. These three idyllic specks off the coast of Lombok are too small for cars, so you’ll be taken to your beach hut by a horse and cart. It’s these cultural quirks, combined with palm-fringed beaches and lively nightlife that makes the Gillis one of our top secret travel gems of Indonesia.

Best time to visit

The best season to visit Indonesia depends on what sort of holiday you’re after and which region you’re most drawn to. Although it’s always warm and humid, the year can generally be split into two seasons, dry (April to October) and monsoon (November to March). However, these months vary from region to region.

One of the best places to visit in Indonesia in August is Nusa Tenggara. This constellation of volcanic islands scattered across the inky canvas of the Java Sea boasts beautiful beaches and a kaleidoscope of cultures. August is also the best time to visit Borneo island for wildlife lovers, as baby turtles are hatching and the trees dripping with durian fruit, a favourite with hungry orangutans.

For diving during the monsoon season, head to Ambon, a jungle-clad region in the Banda Sea with its own unique weather pattern, resulting in crystalline waters from November until May.

Tours and deals

Immerse yourself in the traditions of ancient cultures and discover mind-blowing scenery on an Indonesia tour.

From golf, motorcycle and adventure tours to homestays and diving adventures, there are countless ways to discover Indonesia, and a package tour can really help you get under the skin of this dizzyingly diverse destination.

If you’re looking for adventure in Indonesia, a private 4×4 tour through the Toraja highlands of Sulawesi is a must. The hill tribes’ culture revolves around death, and watching an elaborate funeral procession has to be one of the top 10 most interesting things to see in Indonesia.

Where to Stay in Indonesia

From humble huts steps from the surf to palatial havens in jungle clearings, friendly homestays, international resorts and traditional phinisi sailing boats, Indonesia’s accommodation options are as varied as the many types of coral that flourish in the gardens below the waves.

Whether you’re looking for castaway escapism or urban chic, we have the perfect Indonesian hotel recommendation for you.

International hotels

Although some of its towns are made up of nothing more than wrought iron shacks painted in rainbow colours, other parts of Indonesia are sleek and sophisticated.

One of the reasons that Bali is such a must visit is the level of accommodation on offer. Clinging to the verdant south coast, with views over one of the best surf breaks on Earth, Alila Villas Uluwatu is the last word in island luxury and you can read our full review here.

Aman resorts are known for their exclusivity and Amanwana, on Moyo Island, is no exception. Spend your days hiking to waterfalls hidden in the jungle and spotting butterfly fish flitting through the reef.

Boutique hotels

Balmy weather year round and abundant natural resources such as palm fronds and bamboo have lead to the creation of some seriously chic boutique hotels throughout Indonesia.

The rooms in Desa Sani are in traditional houses, painstakingly rebuilt and restored so that guests can experience living history. Slow Gili Air is a collection of 10 luxury pool villas, decorated in a rustic yet luxurious fashion that perfectly suits the tousled charm of the Gilis.

Best Places to Eat in Indonesia

The cuisine in Indonesia is as colourful as the orchids that shine through the gloom of Sumatra’s jungles. So, exactly what kind of food do they eat?

Every region has its specialities. If you’re wondering what to eat in Jakarta, try bebek goreng, fried duck with chilli paste, at Angke Rest. Java is known for its tasty meat skewers cooked over a woodfire and dipped in satay sauce. Roll up your sleeves and get stuck in at The House of Sate an atmospheric spot that’s popular with local hipsters.

Although they’re so small they don’t appear on most maps, the Banda Islands were once the most highly contested territory in the world, because of their endemic nutmeg trees. Today, the cuisine is still marked by the use of nutmeg, cloves and mace. Try nutmeg-jam pancakes at Delfika Cafe.

Indonesia’s Cultural Experiences & Festivals

Given that Indonesian society is made up of 1,128 ethnic groups, it’s hardly surprising that there are so many famous festivals throughout the country…

Come May, the rice harvest festival in Bali sees shrines to Dewi Sri, the rice god, erected in the paddies and water buffalo decorated with colourful ribbons for the races at Negara. A far more contemporary celebration is Ultra, a Balinese dance festival that brings some of the world’s biggest djs to the island’s coconut groves and idyllic bays every September.

For more contemporary Asian culture, head to Anime Festival Asia, which sees thousands of local fans gather in Jakarta for drawing workshops and live performances on the Akiba stage.