We are all familiar with the exotic delights of Bali, which featured in Eat, Pray, Love – starring Julia Roberts – however there are so many destinations in Indonesia that are just waiting to be discovered.
The largest archipelago in the world, Indonesia is made up of over a mind-boggling 17,000 islands, spanning more than 2,500 miles (4,000 km).
One of the most exciting and diverse countries on the travellers map, Indonesia encompasses many different climates and landscapes, from the wildlife-rich Sumatra to beautiful, bustling Bali to the impenetrable, remote Papua.
Boasting some of the most stunning beaches in the world and more volcanoes than you can shake a stick at, there really is something for everyone, whether you are an adventurous backpacker or a holidaymaker looking for more than just a luxury beach break.
Not to forget of course that Indonesia is one of the surfing mecca’s of the world; Indonesia really is every surfers paradise, with consistent swell and perfect coastline. The only downside being the crowded line-ups of the most well-known spots and the sharp, shallow reefs, but there are still uncrowded and undiscovered waves to be found if you are feeling adventurous.
Indonesia’s most westerly island really is a place for adventurers and explorers. This vast island is predominantly Muslim, from the strict Muslims of Banda Aceh in the north to the more relaxed of south Sumatra, travellers are still advised to show respect by covering up.
This island is teeming with exotic wildlife, from the orangutans in the dense jungle canopies to the sea life of the islands sculpted reefs. This stunning landscape is a kaleidoscope of colour. When driving along coastal roads of the south, marvel at the turquoise sea and white-sand beaches to one side and the wild knot of greens of the jungle to your left…one extreme to another in no more than five feet.
Some of Indonesia’s most sought after waves are found of the smatterings of islands off the coast of the mainland; boat trips to the Mentawais and the wild surf camps of Nias are a must!
With Indonesia’s capital Jakarka leading the way, Java is the most densely populated island in this archipelago. This vast overcrowded metropolis isn’t exactly the ruby in Indonesia’s crown but the island still has a lot to offer. Another hot spot for surfers with the infamous G-Land…not for the faint hearted or inexperienced.
The most visited and well known island in Indonesia, whether it is five-star resorts to £3 a night surf homestay’s you’re after; Bali caters for all budgets and traveller types. The island is prominently Hindu and is known for its friendly, helpful people, and stunning, postcard-perfect beaches.
Those who like to party, will love the nightlife in Kuta. From the sophisticated cocktails of Sky Garden to the sweaty jungle of Bounty, you’re guaranteed a good laugh, whilst chugging down bintangs and fishbowls of fluorescent toxic-coloured alcohol. For those adrenaline junkies out there, head to Seminyak’s Double Six and take on the bungee jump in the centre Seminyaks most infamous club, with the odd visit from well known DJ’s.
Once you can overlook the incessant hassling for trade in the bustling markets of Kuta, there are many bargains to be had on fake Ray Ban’s, sarongs, wooden masks and more.
The most traveller friendly island offers great transport options, whether you want to explore the island by car, motorbike, bus or boat. Beware the traffic in Kuta, Legian and Seminyak and those daring enough to take on the numb-bum inducing motorbike, take care on the main road along the west coast of the island up to Gili Manuk, the procession of trucks belching out black smog will leave you gasping for fresh air at the end of your journey. Worth the journey for beautiful, uncrowded surf spots, waterfalls and breathtaking views from the volcano summits!
The artistic and tranquil jewelry markets and rice paddy fields of Ubud are definitely worth a visit, and even those who don’t surf should visit the monkey temple and famous surf break of Uluwatu.
Lombok is the most popular destination in Nusa Tenggara, the collection of islands to the east of Bali. The magical Gili Islands off the North West coast of the island entice travellers with the renowned relaxing atmosphere, incredible snorkeling and picturesque beaches. The perfectly positioned south coast of this island attracts surfers seeking to escape the crowds of the Bali breaks, though known as the new Bali, Kuta Lombok is getting more crowded year on year. Head to Mataram, the island capital for a day trip, and Senggigi for its beautiful sweeping bays.
A favorite among the serious surfing crowd, Sumbawa sees many travellers returning to Indonesia just for the incredible waves of this islands perfect coastline. Situated between Lombok and Flores, this poor but scenic island has infrequent and uncomfortable transport links, and few travellers visit it that aren’t on the quest for Indonesia’s perfect waves.
This beautiful island attracts many travelers, but nothing like Bali and Lombok. Although the island is predominantly Catholic it is still rich with indigenous cultures. Head to the incredible multi head crater lakes of Kelimutu and for some of Indonesia’s best snorkeling, explore its offshore islands. Not to be missed is are the impressive Komodo Dragons and exquisite diving of Komodo Island, off the west coast of Flores.
Sumba, previously known as the ‘Sandalwood Island’, is a fascinating island with unique culture and known for its Ikat weaving. The people of this poor island still hold ancient burial rituals and take part in Pasola Ceremony of spear fighting on horseback. A trickle of adventurous surfers travel to this island for the uncrowded waves of the south coast, wither in the expensive West Sumba Resort, or the more budget friendly Terimbang Surf Camp.
Two-thirds of Borneo’s land mass, Kalimantan boasts dawn canoe rides to Banjarmasin’s floating markets and treks through Kayan Mentarang National Park. Another of Indonesia’s wildlife rich regions, you can find orangutans, macaques, Proboscis monkeys, bird life and if you are really lucky a Sun bear.
Home to volcanoes, rice paddy fields, cave graves, boat shaped houses and the best snorkeling and diving in Indonesia, this extraordinary shaped island is playground to the adventure and culture seeking traveller. Head to the beautiful beaches of the Togean Islands for an escape from the tourist trail and to the southeast part of the Island for the amazing Wakatobi Marine National Park.
Formerly known as ‘the Moluccas’, the original Spice Islands are the perfect haven for travellers seeking an off the beaten track paradise. Explore the picturesque white-sand beaches unspoilt by tourism and experience the incredible snorkeling.
Papua (Iran Jaya)
Also known as West Papua or Western New Guinea, this is the west part of the island of New Guinea, with the eastern part being the independent country of Papua Guinea. The island of New Guinea is one of the world’s largest and most tropical islands.
Papua is incredibly diverse and different from the rest of Indonesia, home to over 250 languages and retains many traditional cultures. Cannibalism and headhunting were practiced in some areas until just after the 1970’s. Though much of the region is covered by impenetrable jungle, most inhabitants live in and around coastal towns.
Papua is an extremely challenging place to travel, but those who are up to it will reap the rewards. Head to Baliem Valley for some of the most remarkable traditional cultures on earth, to the Asmat region for the art, or explore the bird life and coral reefs of the northern coast and islands.
This rarely travelled part of Indonesia is an easy stop for a visa run, over the border to the troubled country of east Timor. Its capital Kupang is a bustling city with friendly people, eager to practice their new English language skills. The reintroduction of the Darwin-Kupang flight path is due to boost this islands tourism.
Indonesia Essential Information:
Capital: Jakarta (on the island of Java)
Major cities: Jakarta (Java), Denpasar (Bali), Bandar Lampung (Sumatra)
Places of interest: Komodo Dragons of Komodo Islands, Ubud in Bali and the Orangutans of Sumatra
Time Zone: Depending on which island – GMT+7, GMT +8, GMT +9
Language: Bahasa Indonesia is the official language of Indonesia, though most Indonesians are also fluent in a regional language as well
Currency: Indonesian rupiah (IDR). For up-to-date exchange rates see: www.xe.com
International dialling code: +62
Visa: The 30 day Visa can be bought on arrival, the 60 day Visa need to be applied for and purchased through the Indonesian Embassy in your county. For UK visit the website: