Indonesia Travel Guide
While many people just need a reason to visit a country, Indonesia will give you one thousand and one reasons. There are over 17,000 islands spread across the country. Beach lovers are spoilt for choice when it comes to Indonesia. You'll find incredible landscapes featuring everything from active volcanoes to chaotic cityscapes, spectacular crater lakes, scorched landscapes, curious wildlife, and so much more.
The cultural and ethnic diversity of Indonesia is worth mentioning as more than 500 languages are spoken by its 255 million citizens. Put in the fact that it's inexpensive to visit Indonesia and you'll see why travelers love this country. While it's more common for visitors to visit the Gili Islands or Lombok, there are several hidden gems spread cross the Asian country.
This article is your complete guide to visiting Indonesia. Continue reading to find out the best attractions in the country and important information you should know about.
Capital city: Jakarta
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). 1 USD = 14,781.40 IDR
Electricity: Power voltage is 230 Volts. Power socket types C and F.
Language: Indonesian, or Bahasa Indonesia, a standardized version of Malay is the official language.
12 Handpicked Highlights of Indonesia
Sunrise over Mount Bromo, Java
Mt. Bromo is one of the three volcanoes on the postcard picture that’s associated with Indonesia. Visiting this active volcano offers you an opportunity to see one of the most magical sunrises you’ll ever experience. The verdant countryside and volcanic gases you’ll see are all picturesque.
There is also the opportunity to explore the landscape on beautiful desert horses. Gallop away on these majestic horses as you take in the scenery around you. It’s worth mentioning that there might be many tourists at Mt. Bromo which can ruin the experience. Consider visiting during the off season if you want to beat the crowds.
Kawah Ijen, Java
Yet another volcano in Indonesia, Kawah Ijen is renowned for its beautiful scenery and its incredible crater lake, made of pure sulfuric acid. Hiking to the summit of the Kawah Ijeh allows you to see the stunning sunrise and meet the sulfur miners working in the crater.
Another phenomenon Kawah Ijen is famous for is the blue fire, which is as beautiful as it is dangerous. In the dark, you can see the sulfur burning in the crater, creating mesmerizing blue flames.
Climb the Rinjani Volcano, Lombok
Getting to the summit of the Rinjani Volcano is not for everyone. The trek will take about 3 days and may be the most challenging thing you’ll do in a long time. But if you are feeling up for it, sign up for a guided tour.
The silhouette of Rinjani can be seen from far away and it entrances hikers to make their way to the peak. The trek itself is fun as you get to enjoy incredible scenery and camp in the wild. But the real attraction is the summit where you see lush valleys with intense purple and green vegetation that seems otherworldly. The lake crater is also incredible with its rich turquoise color. A truly magnificent experience.
Climb the Merapi Volcano, Java
Hiking Merapi is an all-night affair. However, the trek is a shared tour and you’ll be in the company of other people eager to conquer the fire mountain – unless you choose to go with a private guide as I did. Remember to bring along a camera as there are several incredible sceneries on the way to the summit.
You’ll always remember the stunning sunrise you’ll experience at the peak of the volcano. Starting into the heart of the most active volcano is also something you won’t be forgetting in a hurry. All that aside, the feeling of satisfaction you feel after conquering the volcano will alone make the trip worth it.
Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, Bali
Who would have thought rice terraces would make for a good tourist destination? Surprisingly, the rice terraces in Bali are stunning and are the very definition of the word ‘green’. The rice fields are cultivated in line with the flowing hillside topography of the Batukaru mountain range. Interestingly, rice has been planted here as far back as the 9th century.
I like that the terraces are not crowded unlike the popular tourist destinations in Indonesia. You can enjoy a peaceful walk or hike on the terraces and take a break from the chaotic world we live in.
Komodo National Park
What does one go to do at the Komodo National Park? It’s obviously to see the world’s only wild population of Komodo dragons. But there’s a lot more to this park than these large and deadly replies. The park also has a rich marine life you can enjoy when you go underwater. There are several stunning hiking routes and an amazing pink beach. Oh, and the sunsets here are straight out of paradise.
Lake Toba, Sumatra
Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world. That alone should be enough for anyone to visit the lake but Toba isn’t just big. It has beautiful and scenic views that you won’t see anywhere else. The lake is also home to another lake (yep, there’s a lake in Lake Toba) which is an amazing phenomenon.
There is no shortage of water-based activities to do here and you’ll see people having fun on a kayak, banana boats, jet skiing, swimming, and even fishing. Perhaps more important than what the lake has to offer is the hospitality of the locals. They’ll make you feel welcome which is an added advantage.
Borobudur & Prambanan Temples, Java
If you are fascinated by old-world culture and architecture, you’ll want to see the Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Java. The Borobudur temple is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and the most visited site in all of Indonesia. You’ll have to visit the site yourself to see the wonders that make millions of people flock there annually.
The Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, dedicated to the Hindu God, Shiva. Built sometime in the 8th century, the complex has some 240 temples that are mythical, beautiful, and awe-inspiring.
Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan (Borneo) for Orangutans
There’s something interesting about seeing animals in their natural habitat and that’s what you get when you visit the Tanjung Puting National Park. You get to see monkeys, orangutans, birds, and other wildlife in their natural habitat. Exploration of the park is mostly done on a boat and you get to see the wildlife going about their business as you cruise along the waters.
You may have a hard time believing the scenery is real. But it is very real and the stunning pictures you take will prove it to you, haha.
Diving or snorkeling in Bunaken Island, Sulawesi
Bunaken island has a beautiful underwater world and is the scuba diving and snorkeling headquarters of Indonesia. The corals here are among the most beautiful on this planet. You also get to see different fish species and other wildlife. If you have a thing for underwater photography, you’ll take stunning pictures here. If you aren’t a diver, you can snorkel instead.
I also recommend you taste some of the cuisines the island has to offer. They are very fresh as most are sea food and very delicious.
Bair Island, Kota Tual, Maluku
From pristine forests to beautiful mangrove forest, Bair island is unbelievably beautiful. You can walk along the beautiful beach, sunbath on a boat, or go snorkeling. Whatever you do, you’ll have fun. The crowd on Bair island tends to be low and you can expect to enjoy some solitude on the island. Sometimes, it can feel like you are on your personal island.
Raja Ampat Islands, West Papua
Raja Ampat promises pure, unaltered beauty. It’s bound to be one of the most alluring places you’ll ever visit. The beaches are perfect, the waters clear and pristine, the communities kind and welcoming, and the overall surrounding is very picturesque. Sounds too good to be true? A visit will convince you.
Have I mentioned that Raja Ampat is also one of the most sought-after and exceptional diving destinations in the world?
Indonesia's Geography & Landscapes
Indonesia can be divided into seven geographic regions namely Java, Kalimantan, Maluku Islands, Lesser Sunda Islands (including Bali), Western New Guinea, Sulawesi, and Sumatra.
The landscape of the country is diverse and varies for dense forestry volcanic mountains to coastal plains dominated by thick alluvial swamps, shallow seas, and coral reefs.
Best Time To Go To Indonesia
Indonesia is a tropical country and thus has only two seasons – wet and dry seasons. The wet season runs from November to March while the dry season stretches from April to October. The best time to visit the country is in the dry season. July and August is especially a good time to visit as the weather is cool and inviting, despite being in the dry season.
It’s still pleasant to visit Indonesia during the rainy seasons but pack appropriately (pack a rain jacket) and expect intense downpours than tend to last for a few hours.
Traveling in Indonesia
Indonesia is a rather safe country and violent crime is rare. Still, you should use your head and be security conscious. Below are security tips to follow:
- Petty theft is common in the major cities. Stay alert and secure your belongings.
- Make copies of your document and keep the original in your hotel room.
- Don’t leave drinks unattended to and don’t accept drinks from strangers
- Don’t do drugs.
- If you won’t do at home, don’t do it in Indonesia.
- Purchase good travel insurance.
Getting to & Around Indonesia
Jakarta’s Sukarno-Hatta Airport and Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport are the main air gateways into Indonesia. You can catch a direct flight to Indonesia from several Australia cities. Some Islands such as Medan, Manado, Yogyakarta, and Makassar also have international airport although they are mainly connected with other Southeast Asian airports.
Buses are the main form of transportation. They are affordable, easy to book, but tend to be slow. Color-coded or numbered buses called angkots or demos are available in the cities are tend to be faster and cheaper.
An alternative to big buses is tourist shuttle buses which are more expensive than local buses. However, they are more comfortable and a lot faster.
Trains are available and are generally more comfortable than buses.Local flights are available but aren’t the cheapest. Unless you are pressed for time, I wouldn’t really recommend that you fly within the country.
Hotels, hostels, and homestays are available. If you are on a budget, hostels and homestays are your best choices but there are also budget hotels as you can get basic double rooms for as cheap as $5.