Did you know there are more than 17,508 islands in Indonesia? There’s way more to this beautiful country than just the resort island of Bali. With the help of fellow bloggers and IGers, we’ve put together a list of unique places and things to do in Indonesia.
25 Unique places and things to do in Indonesia
For the outdoor adventurers…
1. Scuba Diving in Komodo National Park, Nusa Tenggara
Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an underwater paradise for divers and marine life lovers. With the Pacific Ocean to the north and the Indian Ocean to the south, the tidal exchanges create some of the strongest currents in the world. This means phenomenal biodiversity- and lots of it.
You can go for day trips or even better, sign up for a liveaboard with Uber Scuba! On this sea safari you’ll get first dibs at world-class dive sites before the day trippers arrive. Indulge in daily sunrises and sunsets on the Flores Sea, and swim with mantas, sharks, turtles, and thousands of species of fish.
2. Dragon Trek on Rinca and Komodo Islands, East Nusa Tenggara
Rinca Island and Komodo Island are the only places in the world where you can find these gigantic, cannibalistic lizards. There are around 1,500 Komodo Dragons on each island. You can go for a trek and see these massive beasts up close. Make sure you go with a guide, though, because there have been casualties in the past!
3. Chasing waterfalls in Bali
Despite what the TLC girls said, always go chasing waterfalls! There are more than 15 waterfalls to explore in Bali. Some are easily accessible from the road side, others require a trek through the jungle. It’s so rewarding taking a dip in the cool nature pools after a sweaty hike!
Always go chasing waterfalls… Don’t stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to💦🇮🇩⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ —————————— ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #chasingwaterfalls #banyumalawaterfall #beautifuldestinations #beautifulmatters #wonderfulindonesia #thebalibible #thebaliguideline #thebaliguru #balicili #indtravel #explorebali #visitbali
4. Snorkeling in Sulawesi, North Sulawesi
Snorkelling in Sulawesi was such a relaxing and fun way to spend a morning. I had just touched down in Manado in North Sulawesi and we made our way to Bunaken National Park. It is one of those magical places I had seen on the internet and Instagram and couldn’t believe the vibrancy of the colours. We jumped in a boat and made our way out, dropping into the water just off Bunaken Island. The coral and fish were beautiful and we enjoyed a quiet lunch on the island before making our way back in to dock. It’s no surprise this area is known to have some of the best diving and snorkelling sites in the world, with 100 sites in North Sulawesi alone. Peak season is May to August and definitely the best time to go.
5. Lake Toba Trek on Samosir Island, North Sumatra
Sumatra’s Lake Toba is a great place to base yourself for adventure. One day trip you can make starts from the tourist town of Tuk Tuk and you simply hike to the other side of Samosir Island. I say simply, but the first third of the hike isn’t easy as you scale the hill overlooking the town. I’d give the hike a moderate difficulty level.
There’s a trail with markers leading you. Once you’ve found the starting point is easy enough to follow. On the way, you’ll be rewarded with epic viewpoints, close encounters with the buffalo and a sample of the local life on the top of the peaceful volcanic island before catching the bus back once you reach the ring road on the opposite side.
6. Surfing at Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara
When you think about Indonesia, you probably have Bali in mind, maybe the Gili islands or even Lombok. But have you ever heard of Sumbawa? This 1.25 million people strong island is located in the East of Bali and a true paradise for any surfers out there. Lakey Peak is one of the most popular destinations among the spots in Sumbawa. This small and hidden village is home to an ever-breaking wave. Come here and check in at one of the few, locally-run homestays and get yourself the prime spot, a fresh juice and watch the surfers hit the waves. You’re not very experienced yet? Better leave Lakey Peak to the professionals and ask one of the friendly locals to take you to any other spot. Once the conditions are right, you can paddle out with them and hit the waveas.
7. Padar Island, East Nusa Tenggara
What’s cool and unique about Padar Island in Komodo National Park is definitely the view that you will remember for a very long time. The island is the third largest in the famous national park and although there are no longer Komodo dragons living there, it is still a must visit if you’re island hopping in the area. From the beach, you would have to hike up a dry and steep incline which is made tricky by the loose soil. It gets easier from there to the last viewpoint before the peak. But the sweat, heat, and the knee pain is all worth it once you get to see the view. It is definitely breathtaking and you’ll be in awe of Mother Nature. Be on the lookout for the different colored beaches of Padar Island in its different coves and the mountains beyond that looks like it’s from a different planet!
8. Stingless Jelly Fish at Lake Kakaban, East Kalimantan
9. Raja Ampat Islands
Raja Ampat is one of Indonesia’s hidden gems. Off the tourist trail and taking more flights than you want to now this part of Indonesia isn’t easy to get to but is worth the hassle. Hidden away in this heaven is some of the world’s best scuba diving and snorkelling. There’s no cafes, no restaraunts and the only accomodation on offer is on a boat or at a full board lodge. Which is perfect for those days when you just want to walk off a pier and snorkel in between an afternoon siesta and dinner time.
10. Mount Merapi Jeep Tour, Jogyakarta
One of my favourite things to do near Yogyakarta was a jeep tour of Mount Merapi. When I went, it was a cloudy and rainy day so we missed out on most of the sweeping views of the volcano surrounded by rice paddies, but the feeling of standing on Indonesia’s most active volcano was electrifying. The rain also made our jeep tour even more fun – we zipped through puddles, muddy fields and flowing rivers, and when the tour ended we were all soaked! We also had the chance to visit a village destroyed during one of the most recent eruptions, highlighting the sad truth of living close to an active volcano.
11. Mount Rinjani Trek, Lombok
One of the most challenging things to do in Indonesia is climbing Mount Rinjani in Lombok. Do not take this lightly and prepare for some serious trekking. The summit of Rinjani lies on 3,726 meters above sea level but from up there you have incredible views over the unique Crater Lake with an active volcano inside plus the surrounding Gili islands and Bali. This is a multiple day hike but the reward is phenomenal it felt like I was hiking somewhere in Canada, Hawaii or Switzerland, as the landscapes that unfold in front of you are so different from the island life down at the beach. It took me a couple days to recover but the memories last forever! Climbing Mount Rinjani was one of the highlights of traveling in Indonesia.
12. White Water Rafting down Ayung River, Bali
One of the most adventurous things to do in Indonesia is going white water rafting down the Ayung River in Bali! The Ayung River is located near Ubud, one of the prettiest places on the island. The river is 10 kilometers long and is great for beginners as it is a rapid class II-III. The trip down the river will take about two hours but it is sure to be some of the most jam-packed two hours of your trip!
Along the river, you’ll be able to stop under waterfalls for photos and check our beautiful lush scenery. I loved this trip so much and definitely consider it the highlight of my trip to Indonesia!
13. Mount Batur Sunrise Trek, Bali
Sunrise Trekking at Mount Batur is an easy to moderate 2 hours climb in the highlands of Kintamani. It is an active volcano and offers a stunning view of Lake Batur and a gorgeous backdrop of Mt. Abang, the highest point in the caldera and second highest mountain in Indonesia.
The journey will start with the tour agency picking you up at 2 in the morning to drop you off the jump off point. It is absolutely exhausting specially for a person like me who don’t workout often, but no worries as the guide will come up with all the motivation words you could ever imagine just so you could reach the summit on time and witness the breathtaking sunrise.
14. Tangkuban Perahu, West Java
Did you know Indonesia has over 147 active volcanoes? A visit to Tangkuban Perahu, just 1.5hr from the city of Bandung, can be extremely exciting. You can actually see smoke inside the crater; weather can be challenging and ever-changing. It’s advisable to carry a jacket as it can start raining or get cold literally anytime. Several “Warungs” sell snacks and souvenirs so while it’s a commercial spot, I highly recommend it if you are looking for a unique adventure in Indonesia.
15. Orangutan Trek in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra
After gorilla trekking in Uganda, my next big ‘primate goal’ was undoubtedly trekking into the jungles of Sumatra to see the Sumatran Orangutan in the wild.
Much like gorilla trekking in the mountains of Africa, the hike into Guneung Leuser National Park is a gruelling one. It’s all muddy hills, tangled vines, and intense heat – but the reward at the end is a few moments of quiet contemplation with these beautiful, brightly coloured primates.
It’s not just about the destination, as you’ll then get to spend a night camped out in the jungle with just the insects and the rushing river to lull you to sleep. Eating a delicious Indonesian feast by candlelight was every bit as memorable as my time with the orang-utans.
Starting from the idyllic jungle town of Bukit Lawang and ending with a whitewater tube trip back through the jungle, an overnight trek is an affordable and unforgettable way to commune with nature at its most unspoiled.
16. Bat Cave in Kuta, Lombok
An adventure for those travellers with strong stomachs, the bat cave in Kuta, southern Lombok is a quirky attraction for people who want to get up close and very personal with the winged residents of the island. Entering the cave, visitors are hit with the pungent smell of bats, and by torchlight you will be able to see thousands of the furry creatures hanging from the ceiling of the cave. If going right into the bat cave is a bit too much for you, each evening there is a spectacular flurry as all of the bats exit the cave at 5:55pm sharp. Visitors can sit on the hill next to the entrance and see the stream of bats flying into the sunset- the stream lasts around seven minutes and the number of bats is almost unbelievable. It is a memorable experience and is a great way to experience the wildlife of Indonesia in a natural and ethical way.
17. Crystal Cave, East Nusa Tenggara
Just outside of Kupang exists the glorious Crystal Cave, named for its crystal-clear pool inside. Aim to visit around midday when the sun lights up the cave, and the water glows electric blue. There are some rocks around the pool fit for jumping off of, or you can just relax and enjoy the cooler air and water temperatures inside the cave – it makes for an amazing respite from the torturous heat outside!
While you can visit the Crystal Cave independently by motorbike or public transport (which will only get you part of the way there), the cave is a little tricky to locate and the walk down into it can be slippery and dark. For this reason, it’s worth hiring a guide to safely take you through the cave. A good one will have a torch to light the pathway down, as well as to illuminate the pool at the bottom so that you see it at its brightest. Admission to the cave itself is free.
For the culture vultures…
18. Waruga Stones, North Sulawesi
The Waruga Stones appear to be little stone houses but they are in fact a type of sarcophagus that dates right back to the 9th century. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these warugas were originally from all over North Sulawesi. After fears of disease outbreaks, they were all collected and assembled into this one area. The little notches on the top and the sides of the roof indicated how many bodies are inside the waruga.
When someone died, they would wrap them in a woka (type of leaf from a palm) and would place the body inside the waruga in a kneeling position facing north. The Dutch banned the waruga in 1828.
19. Sunrise at Borobudur, Central Java
Borobudur in Central Java is the world’s largest Buddhist temple in the world. This incredible monument dates from the 8th and 9th centuries, and consists of nine platforms leading up to a monumental stupa, which perches on top. The main stupa is surrounded by 72 smaller perforated stupas, each containing a hidden statue of Buddha. The sheer scale and intricacy of the temple is staggering. The temple walls are decorated with 2,672 relief panels and more than 400 further Buddha statues adorn the temple.
The most spectacular time to visit Borobudur is at sunrise, when you can watch the sky changing colour as the sun emerges between the distant volcanoes. You need to arrive at the temple by about 5am and you will be given a torch to help lead the way in the dark. Don’t expect to have the temple complex to yourself – there will likely be hundreds of other people there for the experience, but despite the crowds this is a magical time of day, with a sense of calm and serenity, as you all sit and watch the stupas emerge from the darkness around you.
20. Malang’s Colourful Village, East Java
Visiting the Javanese city of Malang is itself a unique thing to do, Malang isn’t a popular tourist stop on a route through the Indonesian island but if you choose to hit the city then for a really unique experience make sure to check out its colourful village!
Previously a slum, this village was painted all the colours of the rainbow thanks to the brilliant idea of a local university student. In 2016, volunteers decorated the neighbourhood with paint donated by a local paint manufacturer. The aim was to brighten up the village for its residents, and in turn, make it a tourist attraction so those same residents can earn a living.
Today the village is now toured by Instagramming tourists who pay a small fee to enter. Once inside you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re in one of Brazil’s colourful favelas in Rio de Janiero. No brick, door, window frame, roof tile or flooring has been missed, we even saw a little chick that had been spray painted green!
21. Sunset at Prambanan Temple
One of the nicest places to visit in Indonesia is the temple and archaeological site of Prambanan. A UNESCO World Heritage Site Easily, Prambanan is easily accessed from Yogyakarta and marks the largest Hindu temple in the country. The temple was built in the 10th century, and is dedicated to Shiva. The site is set in a beautiful park. The main attractions are the central buildings, 3 of them decorated with reliefs that illustrate the Ramayana and which are dedicated to the Hindu divinities Shiva, Vischnu and Brahma, and 3 dedicated to the animals that serve the divinities. The temples stand beautifully against the sunset light. The best view of Prambanan temple is from the park.
22. Wae Rebo Village, East Nusa Tenggara
Situated in the highland of Manggarai, the only way to get to Wae Rebo village is by foot through the hilly forest and lasts for three hours. Just a few yards before entering the village, there’s a wooden hut where you’ll strike the kentongan (a traditional alarm made from bamboo) to let the villagers know there are visitors. Here you can also spot the village for the first time: 7 conical traditional houses that were partly covered with mist when we went there last June.
Once you enter the village, you are welcomed by the village leader at the main house. Life in the village feels calm and steady, with children’s laughter echoing. The villagers still observe their age-old traditions, honor their ancestors, and live in harmony with their surrounding forest. Whether you’re spending the night or just for a few hours, you’ll be taken to another house where they serve you delicious tasting coffee.
23. Sasak Sade Village, Lombok
Sasak Sade village is a community of indigenous locals in Lombok. Women still wear sarung. Men wear a local headdress and prefer batik-made attires. Women are taught to weave at an early age, if not they cannot marry.
Their traditional woven cloth, Ikat, is born of a labor-intensive process. The whole process of dyeing and weaving can take months to finish a high-quality product. The floor of their wooden house is made of clay. Up to now they use a cow dung to polish it!
No one outside their tribe is allowed to live here so marriage happens between cousins. The girl and the boy have to elope and run away first from their respective parents (siblings to each other). When their anger fade, that is the time they return back to the village for the wedding. They also perform local dances that are both entertaining and interesting when the visiting crowd is huge.
24. None, West Timor
Seven months into our full-time travels and we’re in Soe, a town in West Timor located less than an hour’s drive from None, one of the last remaining authentic tribal villages of the region, which renounced its head-hunting practices only a few decades ago.
We had been informed that the villagers do not appreciate having random visitors pop by, and that we should at the very least be introduced to the villagers by a local person, so we hired a guide who could speak the language – not English of course, nor Indonesian, but a dialect particular to the tribe. We also stocked up on gifts of betel nut, mustard sticks and lime, and prepared small notes as a monetary token to the tribe.
We were greeted by smiling locals and laughing children. The gatekeeper (head of the village) lead us to an open common area covered by a grass tent and decorated with pig and monkey skulls. Here he explained (via the local interpreter) that this village was actually a fort strategically located on a hill, built to protect the surrounding villages.
We were shown the area where animal sacrifices used to be made on a regular basis as good omen for upcoming wars. Nowadays fewer and fewer sacrifices are made as less local wars are fought. Thankfully head-hunting is not practiced any longer but the older generation clearly remember village warriors coming back from war with their enemies’ heads!
25. Baliem Valley, Papua
With so many islands, diving spots and volcanoes, it’s no surprise that Indonesia satisfies most adventurers. However, there is a place that only a few people get to explore: Papua. The Baliem Valley is one of the most remote and culturally fascinating places you can visit in Indonesia!
The area around Wamena is one of the most incredible places you can visit in Papua. Getting there is an adventure in itself. You must fly first to Jayapura and then to Wamena. Once there, you’ll want to hike to the Baliem Valley.
The landscapes there are truly beautiful, with wild rivers and steep hills surrounded by thick forests. However, the best part of this hike is that you’ll have the chance to meet the local tribes, known as Dani and Yali. These people live in wooden huts and wear nothing more than a few loincloths. They are very friendly and you’ll feel welcome in every village, where you can find a place to sleep and get some food that they cook for you.