Beyond Bali: discover seven of Indonesia’s lesser-known gems
There are so many things to love about Bali. From rice paddies to world-class restaurants, there’s no wonder it has become a rite of passage for so many Australian Travellers. And although this tropical paradise may be the most well-known of the Indonesian islands, the beauty of this spectacular country goes far beyond the braids, Bintangs and Bounty nightclub.   As the world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia is home to thousands of islands – more than 17,000 to be exact. Each one is more exciting than the next, packed with things to do, see and explore.   From white-sand beaches to urban jungles, here are seven Indonesian alternatives that will more than satisfy your travel bug. Lake Toba Located in North Sumatra, Lake Toba is one of the most incredible natural wonders on our planet. A caldera lake sitting at 1145 square kilometres, with a depth of 450 metres, its crystal clear waters measure almost twice the size of Singapore. At its centre sits Samosir Island.   Here you’ll find breathtaking views of a super volcano that has been dormant for the past 74,000 years. And although the idyllic landscapes have given Samosir quite the celebrated reputation amongst tourists, the island still remains untouched in all its nature and greenery.   And as far as your itinerary is concerned, there will never be a dull moment at Lake Toba. Swim and fish around the Binangalom waterfall, or hike up the Pusuk Buhit volcano for spectacular views. On a rainy day, get your Indonesian history and culture fix at the Batak museum.   When taking the trip, Samosir Island is where most tourists choose to unpack. Stay in the vibrant Tuk Tuk area, where many popular restaurants, bars and guesthouses are located. The Gili Islands Given Bali’s popularity as a tourist destination, wanderlusters have long dubbed The Gili’s as its superior, less-crowded neighbour.   To access these white-sand beaches, visitors must drive 45 minutes west of Denpasar and catch a 2 hour speedboat to the cluster of islands.   Stepping onto the sand, visitors are quick to notice the lack of motorised vehicles. Tourists and residents rely on bicycles or a traditional horse and cart as the main means of transportation – a welcome addition for those looking to escape the urban chaos.   Due to the miniscule scale of each island, the majority of accommodation is considered in prime location. However, Lombok’s most developed and populated island, Gili Trawangan, has long-served tourists on their quest for restaurants, bars and quaint shops. Kalimantan Often neglected when discussing the ‘best of’ Indonesia, Kalimantan is located in the country’s southern portion of Borneo. Dense greenery and tropical jungle make up this wildlife paradise, which is so undiscovered that it has been relatively untouched by tourism.   Animal lovers will embrace the once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit the Tanjung Puting National Park, home to the critically endangered Bornean orangutan.   Take a cruise on a traditional klotok river boat, stopping at feeding stations and viewing platforms along the way. And while the orangutans are the main attraction, they are joined by an extensive list of other native wildlife, including clouded leopards, long-snouted gharial crocodiles and gibbons.   After a day in the jungle, you will welcome the chance to unwind in paradise. Accommodation highlights include the Hotel Gran Senyiur, Merabu Homestay and the Nunukan Island Resort. Raja Ampat If diving is your thing, we’re almost sure you’ve heard of Raja Ampat. This turquoise paradise is one of the most isolated group of islands in the world, making it a hot spot for those seeking to explore the deepest waters.   With its location in the Coral Triangle, north Papua, the island’s diverse and unique marine biodiversity is often looked at as the best on Earth. And with over 530 species of coral and 700 species of mollusc to explore, it’s a dream destination for divers.   Because of this, there are a number of diving (and snorkelling) spots to choose from, with the most popular spots being the Kabui Passage, Sawandarek, Yenbuba, Friwen Wall, and many, many more.   The attractions of Raja Ampat don’t stop there however, with many activities happening above sea level. Views from the Piaynemo homestay offer spectacular scenery, as well as bird watching, island hopping, kayaking and hiking. Komodo National Park The Komodo National Park, located in East Nusa Tenggara, is the only place on Earth where you can get up close and personal with the infamous Komodo Dragon.   At least 2500 dragons call this area home, and every day, visitors are toured by locals throughout their jungle habitat in the hope of catching a glimpse of the largest lizard species in the world.   They share the space with a number of other animals including wild buffalo, horses, deer, snakes, monkeys, birds and other wildlife.   Aside from dragons, the Komodo National Park also features those outstanding Indonesian landscapes – including Pink Beach, or Pantai Merah,, which is one of only seven pink beaches in the world. Away from the sand, the island offers a snorkelling paradise, featuring crystal clear water home to coral reefs and exotic marine life. Pulau Seribu – Thousand Islands If you’re spending time in Indonesia’s capital, it would be rude not to check out Pulau Seribu, aka the Thousand Islands. Although there are only 150 of them, these island chains provide some of the most beautiful scenery less than three hours by boat from Jakarta.   Tourists are able to visit just 45 of the 150 islands that make up Pulau Seribu, with only six having overnight accommodation available. Bidadari, Ayer, Kotok, Putri, Sepa and Pantara are all equipped with options, ranging from luxury guest villas to simple homestays.   While visiting the thousand island cluster, you will find plenty to do. Diving and snorkelling are two of the most popular pastimes, with boats available for rent from most ports. Yogyakarta If you’re looking to step back from the beaches and get your city fix, Yogyakarta is your best bet.   As the focal point of Javanese culture, this friendly city is home to some 500,000 people, and the site for the two UNESCO World Heritage temples of Borobudur and Prambanan.   You’ll find an extensive catalogue of art, culture, education and heritage on offer here, and still plenty for nature lovers: explore Jomblang Cave, hike at the Merapi Volcano and wander the Kalibiru National Park.   Street-food vendors line the northern end of Jalan Malioboro, and after a long day of exploring, head here to sample Yogya’s best delicacies, including the famous ayam goreng (deep-fried chicken soaked in coconut milk) and dishes such as sambal welut (spicy eel) and nasi langgi (coconut rice with tempeh).   Yogyakarta also has Java’s best range of hostels, guesthouses and hotels. Many visitors opt to stay in the popular Sosrowijayan area, home to budget accommodation and mazes of alleyways. Others prefer the upmarket suburb of Prawirotaman, known for its boutique pools and restaurants.   Need more Indonesian inpso? Check out some below: 5 reasons to stay in Indonesia...(and where to stay while you're there) The signs you've discovered Bali's surfing nirvana     
No cars allowed on Gili Islands, Indonesia
Three secret travel gems of Indonesia
The 3 hidden gems of Indonesia offer an experience away from your typical commercialised offering, from the largest Buddha temple in the world to an island that prohibits cars. 1. Gili Islands Where on Earth is it? The Gilis are an archipelago of three small islands off the coast of Lombok. Why you need to know about it Surrounded by pristine water and fringed by pure-white sand, The three atolls that make up the Gili Islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air – are an idyllic break from popular Bali (just A two-hour boat ride away).   The fact that they do not allow cars nor motorbikes is bliss; tourists rent bicycles instead. The most developed of the three, Gili Trawangan, is a bit of a party island, while the other two are more laid-back, with hip hotels, bars and restaurants popping up. 2. Borobudur Where on Earth is it? An ancient complex in Central Java. Why you need to know about it The largest Buddhist temple in the world is a massive hulk of sculptural work planted in a lush landscape. Constituting one the most important Buddhist monuments on the planet, it was built in the 9th century and has 2672 reliefs and 504 statues of Buddha. Incorporating Indian influences as well as indigenous art, it’s a distinctly Indonesian masterpiece. [caption id="attachment_26014" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Borobudur Temple surrounded by lush green jungle in Indonesia.[/caption] Pilgrims start their journey at the base of the temple and wind their way to the top in a symbolic journey to nirvana. Spend a few days getting to know the region and rise early to see it at its best.   If you're after a Bali holiday of the spiritual kind, Despina Meris finds a peace in a rejuvenating resort : Is this Bali’s most relaxing hideaway? 3. Sidemen, Bali Where on Earth is it? In east Bali, a 90-minute drive from Denpasar airport. Why you need to know about it The allures of Bali have been commercialised for so long that it’s staggering to find there are still parts of this island that offer a glimpse of life as it once was. Sidemen is one such place, Surrounded by mountains and lush rice paddies that day-trippers flock to see in Ubud. [caption id="attachment_26015" align="alignleft" width="667"] Away from the typical touristy areas of Bali, bean crops are planted on the hills of Sidemen, Bali.[/caption] There are no flashy resorts, but sacrificing chilled towels is a small price to pay for the privilege of discovering the undiscovered.   More… The 17 Secret Travel Gems of Asia
Sunda Kelapa Harbour, Jakarta.
How to spend 48 hours in Jakarta
Few cities incite such love-hate feelings as the bustling Indonesian capital. Here's how to get under the skin of this sprawling metropolis with this ultimate 48-hour itinerary. DAY ONE Fans of Jakarta claim that its nickname, the Big Durian, is a nod to NYC (others say it refers to its many and varied aromas). 6am Rise early to experience the frenetic clamour of Jakarta’s oldest traditional market.   Pasar Ikan fish market (at Jalan Pasar Ikan) is the perfect place to get a feel for the hectic, pulsating heartbeat of this city of 10 million. [caption id="attachment_20131" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Fresh fruit at one of Jakarta's many street stalls.[/caption] Later in the day souvenir vendors will turn out to meet the late-rising tourists, but take the opportunity to visit at first-light and you’ll be warmly welcomed by smiling stall-holders. 9am Kick-start your trip in classic style at the spot where modern-day Jakarta itself got started.   VOC Galangan Cafe (Jalan Kakap) stands on the premises of a wonderfully renovated Dutch warehouse. Sip your morning cup of Java in a building that dates back more than 350 years or on the sun-blessed terrace, which doubles as a parking place for a 1926 vintage Ford and a horse-carriage. 10am There can be few places that encapsulate the diversity of the world’s most populous island nation in quite the same way as Sunda Kelapa harbour does.   The sweeping bows of majestic timber schooners throw shadows across the dock as tattooed Dayak wharfies from Borneo and swarthy Bugis deckhands from Sulawesi offload trade-goods from all over the islands. [caption id="attachment_20128" align="alignleft" width="1500"] One of Jakarta's many tuk tuks.[/caption] The ghost of Joseph Conrad seems to drift evocatively through the scent of cloves and timber. 1pm Flag down a bajaj (a motor-rickshaw taxi) and head back past Chicken Market Bridge – the last remaining Dutch drawbridge – to Daoen Sirih.   This large bamboo-roofed food-court near the backpacker ghetto of Jalan Jaksa retains a mostly local clientele and is a good place to chat with locals while you tuck into tasty goat satays or mee goreng (fried noodles).   Meals start at about $2, so don’t hesitate to be extravagant! 2pm If you’re still feeling adventurous go for an aprés-lunch buzz on an ‘ojek’.   These motorcycle taxis are about half the price of a bajaj and their riders blast through traffic jams like crazed horsemen, so it will only take you a few minutes to reach the Museum Nasional (Jalan Merdeka Barat 12). [caption id="attachment_20129" align="alignleft" width="668"] Taman Mini Indonesia (Little Indonesia Park) is a cultural showcase for some of the great diversity of cultures in Jakarta.[/caption] Built in 1862, this is the most extensive museum of its kind in the country. It closes at 4pm, so if time is tight make a beeline for the ethnology section, which has a mind-boggling collection of artefacts from as far afield as Sumatra, Flores and Papua. 6pm Enjoy a traditional sun-downer at one of the many bars that liven up in the late afternoon around Jalan Jaksa.   Melly’s Garden (37–39 Kebon Sirih Timur Dalam), with its atmospheric courtyard, is the most peaceful, but for unbeatable people-watching and live music, head for Memories Cafe on Jalan Jaksa itself. 8pm – late Dine in classic style at Cafe Batavia on Fatahillah Square (a short bajaj ride away from the neon-lights of Jaksa).   This wonderful old mansion of a cafe is Jakarta’s second oldest building (after the Fatahillah Museum just across the road).   The restaurant upstairs offers a good mix of Indonesian, Chinese and Western meals and the atmospheric saloon below will force you into having a last night-cap on the way out.   There’s live music most weekdays. DAY TWO 7.30am If yesterday was all about Jakarta’s rich history then today is about getting an insight into contemporary Indonesia. [caption id="attachment_20135" align="alignleft" width="1169"] Dining among some of the archipelago’s fine art at Lara Djonggrang.[/caption] Start your day with the commuters on a train ride to Jakarta Kota Station (itself a 100-year-old Art Deco gem).   Take the north exit and after a 10-minute walk you’ll find yourself at Petak Sembilan Street Market.   Located in a traditional residential area off Jalan Pancoran, this market is almost 100 per cent local and a great place to grab a table at a roadside kopi stall and watch the city start the day. 9am Flag down a taxi – Bluebird Company is the most reliable – and ask for Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Jalan Raya Jagorawi).   This massive 100-hectare cultural theme park is 18 kilometres from the city centre, but the ride should only set you back about $9.   With attractions representing most of Indonesia’s major tribes and ethnic groups, this is a fantastic way to gain a feeling for the wonderful diversity of the country.   Culinary influences from all over the country also mean that it is a great place for lunch. 2pm Head back to the city centre for an afternoon stroll through Merdeka Square.   The green heart of the city, with its lawns and tree-shaded parklands is one of the biggest squares in the world and is a playground for Jakarta’s inhabitants.   There is a deer enclosure and you can watch locals playing football, badminton, or the dramatic foot-volley game known as sepak takraw. 4pm Walk to the very centre of Merdeka Square to the National Monument (‘Monas’ to locals).   Dubbed as ‘Sukarno’s last erection’ this 132-metre tower took 14 years to build and is topped with a symbolic flame (leafed with gold) that would supposedly shine a metaphoric light that would unify the entire country. [caption id="attachment_20130" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Taman Mini Indonesia Indah is a massive 100-hectare cultural theme park is 18 kilometres from the city centre, but the ride should only set you back about $9.With attractions representing most of Indonesia’s major tribes and ethnic groups, this is a fantastic way to gain a feeling for the wonderful diversity of the country.Culinary influences from all over the country also mean that it is a great place for lunch.[/caption] It closes at 5pm, so leave enough time to join the queue and take the elevator to the observation deck, which offers phenomenal views from 115 metres up. 6pm From nearby Skye bar (on the 56th floor of Jakarta Menara BCA Tower) you can sip cocktails while you look down on the aforementioned National Monument.   This is the place to be seen with a frosted sun-downer in hand while you schmooze with the nightly gathering of starlets, pop stars and sundry millionaires of modern-day, boomtown Jakarta. 8pm At least a few of the most discerning diners in Jakarta are sure to be heading for Lara Djonggrang (Jl Teuku Cik Ditiro 4), and this lovely restaurant is highly recommended if you want to see how far Jakartan chic has come. [caption id="attachment_20132" align="alignleft" width="668"] Rise early to experience the frenetic clamour of Jakarta’s oldest traditional market.Pasar Ikan fish market (at Jalan Pasar Ikan) is the perfect place to get a feel for the hectic, pulsating heartbeat of this city of 10 million.Later in the day souvenir vendors will turn out to meet the late-rising tourists, but take the opportunity to visit at first-light and you’ll be warmly welcomed by smiling stall-holders.[/caption] Owner Anhar Setjadibrata is a celebrated antiques collector specialising in wonderful works from all over the archipelago. If you ask for a table in the romantic back room, you’ll find that the surroundings are as tasteful as the cuisine and as eclectic as the vibrant city that you might just have fallen in love with. Where to stay Shangri-La Jakarta is in the business district, a short drive from Merdeka Square.   The exclusive Horizon Club on the 26th floor provides afternoon tea with incredible views over the biggest city in Southeast Asia.   Some of the most luxurious suites in Jakarta are available from $287.   DoubleTree by Hilton Jakarta is perfectly located in the heart of Jakarta’s CBD.   Facilities are unbeatable with a choice of restaurants, award-winning spa and a 100-metre pool.   Room rates start at $117.   Artotel is a wonderful boutique hotel that was designed through a collaboration of Indonesian artists.   It has some of the most fascinatingly quirky suites, lounges and dining areas in the city.   Rooms start at just $75.
Komodo National Park in Indonesia, ranked #45 in our countdown of '100 Ultimate Travel Experiences of a Lifetime'.
45. See the dragons in Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Ranked #45 in our countdown of '100 Ultimate Travel Experiences of a Lifetime'.

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