With over 17,000 islands to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start in Indonesia.
Whether it’s sunset beaches and scuba diving that you’d like or the opportunity to buy some souvenirs, this list will be your guide to the most popular destinations.
Start your trip to Kuala Lumpur! This city has a lot to offer: the famous Sultan Abdul Samad Building in the city’s colonial quarter, the colourful market of petaling Street in Chinatown Kuala Lumpur or the indoor aquaria KLCC Aquarium. Don’t forget the inevitable visit to the colossal Buddha image standing outside the Batu Caves, enjoy the amazing flora and fauna of Borneo and save a few days for an island in Tioman or Langwaki!
1 Recommended Itinerary:
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After a couple of days in Kuala Lumpur, it’s time to start your adventure in Indonesia! Being Indonesia’s most famous island, Bali blends spectacular mountain scenery and beautiful beaches with warm and friendly people, vibrant culture and fantastic resorts. To learn more about Bali you can buy the Lonely Planet guide.
There is a reason why Bali is the number one tourist destination in Indonesia. Rich in wonder and full of everything from ancient temples to discos, this small island develops to create any kind of experience you would like to have. Throw yourself into the mix of beach bars, backpackers and Australian family vacationers in Seminyak and Kuta, even if you watch out for crowds. Discover Uluwatu (perhaps an elegant eco-resort such as Suarga Padang Padang) for a slower pace and deserted and tropical beaches. Or head to the hills for a yoga retreat or immerse yourself in the vibrant art and culture of Balinese tradition. Spend a week or two here and you could do everything-and don’t forget, all these points are within reach of world class diving, surfing and snorkeling.
The Gili Islands
Long overshadowed by its neighboring superstar across the Lombok Strait, there is a constant buzz about Lombok that captures the ear of travelers looking for something other than Bali. Boasting exquisite white-sand beaches, epic surf, lush interiors and hiking trails between tobacco and rice fields, Lombok is full of equestrian charm. You’ll probably notice the mighty Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia’s second tallest volcano, its full peak of hot springs and a dazzling crater lake!
From Lombok to The Gili Islands:
A few hours by boat from Bali, the Gili islands are worth a visit.
Each island has its own unique flavor, but they all give you ample reasons to pull the plug. Gili Trawangan, also known as “Holiday Island”, is a backpacker’s paradise. Over 30 clubs are packed in its 3-kilometer extension, but this is nothing like Downtown Miami.
A 30-minute boat ride from Gili Trawangan is the paradisiacal Island of Gili Meno. The tropical solitaire is the name of the game here, and the cabanas on the beach are the way to get it. Scuba diving and surfing here are excellent, but it is also a perfect place to spend quality time with your partner or have a bit of room for yourself. The third island of this chain is Gili Air. Even quieter than Gili Meno, this tiny, Sandy island is perfect for relaxing walks on the beach, followed by sunset and maybe live music in a watering hole.
Home to the National Marine Park of Bunaken, this northeastern island is a holy grail for snorkellers and divers. It is estimated that about 2,000 species of fish are hidden in coral reefs and dive spots. This is 70% of the species of the entire Indo-Western ocean on display in the crystal clear waters of this single destination. And do not think that this is only for experienced divers: diving spots vary from beginner to advanced, and schools and locations offer beginner training courses.
What does a Dutch colonial fortress do in the tropics? Fiercely defends the world’s only supply of nutmeg and cloves. Although Ternate is now one of Indonesia’s most visited hotspots, it was an international spice Trade centre. Remnants of an imposing Dutch castle-like empire now rest alongside imposing mosques built later on once the islands have gained more independence. If the story is your passion, you will love Ternate and you’ll love the wild Medieval and tropical combination. Think that Ternate is the gateway to the Maluku Islands-a number of tourist destinations where you can dive, do beach-hop, hike and party-and Ternate is a solid addition to any Indonesian hit-list.
Here are the Dragons! Yes, the world’s largest lizards, the justly called Komodo Dragoons, roam freely through the prehistoric scenery of this island. But these scaly creatures are not the only reason to visit. Pink sandy beaches and coral reefs mean world-famous dives. The Komodo National Park is one of the new 7 Wonders of nature (a global consensus reached by over 600 million votes). and numerous excursions and waterfalls offer experiences particularly worthy of Instagram.
Indonesia Islands to avoid
Java (and especially Jakarta)
Capitals often make the list of mandatory visits for any country, but this is not true for Jakarta. Overpopulation, bad traffic, water contamination problems and a general lack of tourist relevance have created disappointments for many unknown tourists. The surrounding Java island offers excursions, explorations of volcanoes and beaches, but these are pale compared to those available on the peripheral islands.
To avoid: Try to cross the entire country
As mentioned, there are over 17,000 islands in Indonesia. Not all are close, nor are they easy to reach. If you do not plan your trip around one or two central hubs (Bali and Sulawesi, for example), you may be caught in a maze of boats, buses, vans and airplanes that will make you travel more than sightseeing.
That said, Indonesia is a dynamitic destination, and as long as you do some research on the main stages (reading this article counts!) You will have a fun world.
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