Bali is far and away the most popular spot in Indonesia, but there’s more to the land of dragons than the warm beaches of Bali. Not that you should favour one part of the country over another. The ideal Indonesian vacation takes you to Bali and beyond. In order to inspire you to visit this Southeast Asian nation on an upcoming vacation, we’ve highlighted some of the top things to do in Indonesia. We’ve included Bali, but also listed some of the temples, volcanoes, and wildlife attractions beyond the obvious.
What is special about Indonesia?
Indonesia is massive and diverse
Indonesia is a massive nation with a population of 264 million spread across 17,000 islands. And no two islands are the same, nor are the populations on each island homogenous. Whether culture, landscape, or simply things to do, you’ll find a lot of diversity here.
The beaches are probably the most famous attractions, as Bali has some of the most famous surfing spots and sandy stretches in the world. But you’ll also find beautiful beaches on Sulawesi and some of the smaller islands around Bali. The wildlife is also incredible. Most notably, Indonesia is home to Komodo dragons, the world’s largest lizards, but it also has rare animals like orangutans and Sumatran tigers, both of which are critically endangered. And in terms of culture, few countries can match the range of experiences you’ll get in a land that has both the remote, peaceful villages of Bali and the bustle of the capital, Jakarta.
Indonesia accommodates any kind of budget and trip style
Indonesia is not a country for any one kind of traveller. Regardless of your budget level or travel inclinations, you’ll find a spot in Indonesia perfectly suited to you. You’ll find moderate accommodations with budget prices, sparkling 5-star resorts for the price of a chain hotel back home, and the most pampering, ultra-luxe properties you can imagine. Indonesia is a great place to spoil yourself, as everything is great value, but even if you want to finally go on that epic backpacking trek you’ve talked about all your life, you’ll find plenty of cozy spots to spend the night with backpack in tow.
What is there to do in Bali?
Famous Beaches of Bali
It’s easy to understand why Bali is so popular. It has an intimate blend of beaches, traditional Balinese villages, jungle temples, and warm waters that are perfect for aquatic adventure, from surfing to snorkelling. You can stay at one of the famous beaches like Kuta and try your hand at surfing, or go more upscale at Nusa Dua. Go shopping in Seminyak to find designer deals and spend some nights in the famous nightclubs to the west of Denpasar. Regardless of where you stay on a Bali beach escape, you’ll experience the idyllic atmosphere that’s synonymous with the island’s name.
Sacred Volcano of Mt. Agung
Beyond the beaches, you’ll find volcanoes across the island, most notably Mt. Agung, an active volcano that’s the tallest mountain on Bali. Sitting 3,142m-high, Mt. Agung towers over the horizon here. It’s also the island’s most sacred place, as the Balinese revere it as the dwelling place of the gods. If you venture to the mountain in the early morning, you can watch the sunrise from a lookout on the mountain face. However, since the volcano has had occasional eruptions over recent months, it does have a 4km exclusion zone around the rim of its crater, so be sure to check safety conditions before you visit.
Temples and Remote Villages
Beyond the beaches and volcanoes, Bali is the land of lotus flowers and temples. If you look to explore culture, book a rental bike and head on a gentle downhill ride through remote villages in the island’s interior, or explore some of the key temples, like Pura Luhur Batukaru, a Hindu temple on the slopes of the island’s second-largest volcano. A trip to Bali doesn’t mean you sacrifice historical attractions; far from it, actually. It just means that you can track back in time at historical landmarks in between trips to the beach.
Rice Terraces of Ubud
You should also consider visiting Ubud when you head to Bali. Located in the south-centre of the island, Ubud foregoes the beaches of the south for a landscape of jungle and rice-terraces. Known as the island’s artistic hub, it attracts a lot of expats and is the perfect spot to enjoy wellness treatments while in Bali. If you want to escape to a place where time seems to melt away, spend at least a few days in Ubud.
Classic Bali: Beach and Ubud with Airfare
What are some beautiful places in Indonesia outside of Bali?
Sumatra and Borneo
The island of Sumatra is the third-largest in the nation, but has a relatively sleepy culture that makes it appealing, especially after a visit to Jakarta or the popular beaches of Bali. Borneo is similarly a cultural melting pot, with various ethnic heritages that make it an appealing cultural spot to visit. But both islands are most important for being home to some of the world’s rarest animals, specifically orangutans. These lovable orange apes are some of the smartest animals on the planet and live in the jungles of Sumatra and Borneo. They’re critically endangered, but still live in the deep jungles on these islands. If you’ve ever wanted to see these incredible animals in the wild, Sumatra and Borneo are the only places to do it.
If you want to deep dive into Indonesian culture at its best, head to the island of Java. The capital, Jakarta, lies on the west end of the island and is the largest city in the nation. It’s a stunning blend of various ethnicities, including Javanese, Malay, Chinese, Arab, and Indian, and a meeting point between Asia and Europe. You need only admire buildings like Museum Fatahillah and the small restaurants of Glodok (Chinatown) to see its diverse cultural influences, whether Dutch colonial or East Asian.
Borobudur and Prambanan Temples
Base yourself out of Yogyakarta to see the greatest attractions on a trip to Java: the ancient temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. It dates back to the 9th century and has over 500 Buddha statues and 2,600 relief patterns along its temple walls. Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple in the country. Its 47m-high Shiva temple is as stunning an example of Hindu architecture as you’ll find anywhere in Southeast Asia.
12-Day Highlights of Bali & Java
11-Day Best of Indonesia: Bali, Borobudur and Komodo
About an hour from Bali, on the east end of Java, you’ll find Mt. Bromo, the nation’s most-photographed volcano. This active volcano is often draped in smoke, which when combined with its conical shape and rich green colour, makes it one of the most attractive volcanoes on the continent. You can enjoy great views of Mt. Bromo from nearby Mt. Penanjakan or you can explore the crater on a hike or pony ride.
Komodo National Park
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Komodo dragons of Komodo National Park. These lizards are the largest in the world, growing up to 3m long and as heavy as 70kg. Their natural habitat is restricted to the islands within the park, namely Komodo Island and Rinca Island. It’s easy to arrange a boat cruise through the park to see these dragons up close. Note that access to Komodo Island will be limited during 2020, but you can still explore the surrounding areas even if the island is off limits.
3-Day Dragons of Komodo
Interested in a trip to Indonesia? Book with Goway to explore the best of this Southeast Asian nation.
Get the latest travel trends & hear about the best deals on vacations around the world.
If you’re a Globetrotter, these are the newsletters for you!