Indonesia has a little something for everyone. It is known for beaches, partying and diving, but there is so much more. Heading east, the hard-partying ends in Lombok and the party gives way to nature’s best in Komodo, Flores and all the way to Papua. Head north from Bali and Lombok and you’ll find much of the same in Kalimantan (Borneo) and Sulawesi. In all of these places you’ll find one of the most diverse ecosystems anywhere. This ecosystem extends to the sea, with some of the best diving in the world. Culture buffs, don’t worry, there are thousand-year old temples and indigenous tribes that have had little outside contact. If exploring and adventure isn’t what you’re looking for, don’t fret, there are thousands of miles of unspoiled beaches for you to enjoy. Indonesia, a place with everything, to insure everyone leaves happy.
DON’T MISS: The Gili Islands off Lombok, it is what secluded beach dreams are made of. There is lodging for everyone, from $10 beach huts to $200 five-star hotels, all close to quiet, beautiful, beaches.
MUST SEE: Prambanan (Yogyakarta, Java), Ubud (Bali), Gili Islands (Lombok)
MUST TASTE: Soto Ayam, chicken soup with spice
TRIP PLANNING: Indonesia is a vast archipelago. A week is enough to enjoy the beaches and diversions of Bali and Lombok. It takes at the very least two weeks to visit Komodo and Flores. It takes at least a month to fully see Borneo, but two weeks in East Kalimantan will do for most.
GETTING AROUND: Tourist buses and ferries are the easiest way to get around, including island-to-island. Within cities only take the Blue Bird taxis as they are known to be the most honest taxis in Indonesia.
OUR COST PER DAY (2 ppl): $58.44
COST OF A BEER: $3-4
KEY MONEY-SAVING TIP: The budget accommodations can be very nice. If you arrive and start looking for $20/night rooms you may find a comfortable room, free breakfast, wifi, a pool and gorgeous surroundings.
YOU NEED TO KNOW: Bali, especially the Kuta/Seminyak area is like Cancun for Americans or Ibiza for Europeans, there are loud, drunken parties. However, there are plenty of places you can escape this, including northern Bali.
IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNOW NOW: We would have stayed for two months in order to travel east through Komodo and Flores, then up to Sulawesi. Travel takes more time and effort than expected, making long-distance travel difficult.
HELPFUL LINKS TO LEARN MORE: Travelfish, Wikitravel. Please send us any sites you found useful and we’ll add them!
WE WERE THERE FOR: 4 weeks
OUR HIGHLIGHT: A friend’s Javanese wedding in Jakarta
WHERE WE WENT: Java, Bali, Lombok, Kalimantan
WE REGRET MISSING: Komodo and Flores…we’ll be back.
- Indonesian Food: Don’t miss these tasty treats!
- Gili Islands: What tropical island travel dreams are made of
- Eat, Pray, Shop: the best shopping in Ubud
- Bali Romantics: Where to find the Bali of travel brochures
- Prambanan and Borobobudur: the cultural capitals of Indonesia for millennia
Ubud is the cultural capital of Bali offering a more laid back and cooler locale than the beaches of South Bali. Around Ubud are temples, ancient sites and whole villages producing handicrafts. The lush rice paddies and huge coconut trees lend a village feel, however the boutiques remind you that you're in a tourist center. In many ways Ubud offers the best of both worlds, culture and comfort.
The Central Mountains of Bali are dominated by the mighty Gunung Batur. The slopes of this and the other peaks in the central part of the island hold some of the most verdant rice fields, especially in Jatiluwh, and tropical vistas you can imagine. Along the northern coast Lovina offers attractive beaches. The best way to see the area is by your own transport, which allows you to enjoy the views at your own pace and get lost in the villages along the way.
The three little Gili Islands off the coast of Lombok are gorgeous. Unbelievably blue skies meet the stunning turquoise waters and beaches remain almost completely untouched. It is one of the most incredible beach destinations we have been to and the laid back island life may convince you to never leave.
Rulers of the Sailendra dynasty built Borobudur some time between AD 750 and AD 850. Not much is known about Borobudur’s early history, except that to build the temple was a huge undertaking. Borobudur is built from two million blocks of stone and has survived Merapi's explosions as well as earthquakes to remain one of SE Asia's most awe-inspiring temples.
The huge Prambanan complex was erected in the middle of the 9th century – around 50 years later than Borobudur – but like Borobudur little is known of it's early history. It’s thought that it was built by Rakai Pikatan to commemorate the return of a Hindu dynasty to sole power in Java. Hindu influences are seen throughout with temples dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. We were more impressed with Prambanan than Borobudur, but both are worth seeing as stunning examples of Indonesian temples.
The highlight of our trip to Indonesia was our friend's Adrianne and Tom's traditional Javanese wedding. The event was three days and consisted of a bathing ceremony (Siraman), the official signing of the documents (Ijab) and the traditional Javanese wedding. Each part of the event was beautiful, steeped in tradition and featured amazing food. Adrianne and Tom along with Tom's whole family were incredible hosts making the experience so special.