Indonesia, an archipelago consisting of a total of 17 508 islands, crosses the equator and covers a distance of 1 904 569 km2, being equally expansive in cultural diversity and breathtaking ecosystems.
Many travellers, when they visit this nation, go to the famous holiday destinations, namely Bali. Despite being a lovely island with a fantastic spirituality and contagious vibe that offers us everything from culture to nature and wildlife, there is so much to see.
If you happen to be wondering what you can visit besides Bali, here are some suggestions.
Komodo National Park
Declared one of the New Seven Natural Wonders, Komodo National Park is one of the most dramatic landscapes in all Indonesia and one of my favourites.
Most people come here attracted by their most notable inhabitant with the same name, the Komodo Dragon. However, the palette of colours of its landscape, starting in the turquoise waters, through the brown of the mountainous islands with steep slopes of dry savannah and ending in the various species of green vegetation, will leave you utterly speechless.
Still, the beauty of Indonesia’s best-known National Park is not overgrown. Underwater, there is a whole world to discover, that you will not want to lose.
In the east of Nusa Tenggara is the spectacular island of Flores. A chain of volcanoes stretches along the island, home to pristine waterfalls, prehistoric heritage sites and traditional villages. Along with its coast, one can find sea life of the most exotic and rich of the world.
Having Labuan Bajo as an accessible starting point for discovering the outstanding Komodo National Park, for those who venture down the island, the Kelimuto National Park is something not to be missed. Being the smallest of six National Parks between the islands of Bali and Nusa Tenggara, its size remains apart when it offers us a spectacular wonder of nature, Mount Kelimuto.
Lombok is the underdeveloped neighbour of Bali. However, blessed with deserted white sand beaches, incredible surfing and a densely forested interior, it is full of treasures to discover.
Mount Rinjani, the second largest volcano in Indonesia, is hard to miss and extremely beautiful. There are cascades down the fissures of its slopes and, at its summit, we are presented with hot springs and an impressive lake in the crater.
The Gili Islands are a total of three islands – Trawangan, Meno and Air – surrounded by white sandy beaches, coconut palms, coral reefs and turquoise sea. Here, the noisy scooters are replaced by bicycles and horse-drawn carts, with each island having its character. Trawangan or Gili T is the most popular and cosmopolitan with a vibrant and festive atmosphere. Gili Meno offers the perfect balance between some bustle and tranquillity, while Gili Air is a desert paradise. Overall, they are perfect for a couple of relaxed days.
With white sandy beaches, several coral reefs and a wide variety of fish, Sulawesi’s secret lies in its highlands.
Travel to Tana Toraja, home to one of the most authentic and culturally rich tribes of the island – the people of Toraja. Here you can witness the elaborate funeral ceremonies, in which buffalo are sacrificed, something almost impossible to find nowadays, in accessible areas. At the same time, you can trek through the lands of Toraja with its lush valleys and green rice terraces, coffee plantations and small villages, almost untouched by time, to witness the villagers’ daily life.
Kalimantan is the political component of Indonesia on the island of Borneo, mainly known for its orangutans, the only Asian primate.
Densely covered by rainforest, with both populations of fauna and flora on the island being incredibly varied, it appeals to all who seek adventure in unknown territory, offering not only wildlife but also culture. One of the best ways to explore the forest is by taking a river cruise in the Tanjung Puting National Park or even doing the cross-Borneo Trek, only recommended to the more adventurous souls.
Java is the heart of the nation, being the most complex and culturally “attractive” island in the country.
The cultural capital of Java, Yogyakarta is known for all the performances of shadow puppets, concerts, art exhibitions, and of course, by the Ramayana ballet with dancers and pyrotechnics. Not far from here are some of the most magical places to visit in the country, the Temples of Prambanan and Borobudur, both declared World Heritage of UNESCO.
As far as nature is concerned, an expedition to Mount Bromo provides fantastic views of the volcanic crater at sunrise. On a four-hour night trek to Mount Ijen, you’ll see the legendary mining sulfur flames visible only at night. Although being a challenging climb, you will be largely offset by the breathtaking panorama and views of the majestic turquoise sulfur lake of Kawah Ijen, 2148 meters above sea level, as well as witnessing the arduous day-to-day of the sulfur miners.
Practically out of the plans of any traveller, Sumatra is an island of extraordinary beauty, offering unique and adventurous activities.
As in Kalimantan, it is possible to have encounters with orangutans, and other wild species, in the forest of Bukit Lawang. If you are a diving lover, you can find some world class locations in Pulau Weh. Lake Toba, a large natural lake occupying the caldera of a super volcano, is an excellent place to sit, relax and soak up the beauty of the pristine landscape. If surfing is one of your favourite sports, you’ve probably heard of the Mentawai islands, and before going there, I advise you to try the spicy Padang cuisine.