If you are wondering where are the best places to visit in Indonesia, then you are on the right page! Made up of over 17,000 volcanic islands, Indonesia is the tropical paradise that has something for everyone. The island of Bali has long drawn crowds from all other the world who come for the iconic rice paddies, beautiful beaches, yoga retreats, surf schools and coral reefs, but don’t you go thinking that this is all Indonesia has to offer! Beyond Bali in the rest of the country there are lots of amazing sights and cultural experiences just waiting to be explored. From the mountains of Bromo and Rijani, to the beaches of the Gili Islands and Lombok, the temples of Yogyakarta and Pramanban, the natural wonder of Komodo and the scuba diving paradise of Raja Ampat (just to name a few!) Read on to discover all about these incredible places to visit – but be warned – your Indonesia Bucket List is about to get super long!
The Best Places to Visit in Indonesia – Including a Map!
Table of Contents
- 1 Bali
- 2 Central Java
- 3 East Java
- 4 East Nusa Tenggara
- 5 West Nusa Tenggara
- 6 North Sumatra
- 7 South Sulawesi
- 8 West Papua
- 9 Yogyakarta
RELATED: Need some help packing for your trip? Read our Ultimate Travel Packing List (which comes with a free pdf download!) to make sure you have everything you need!
Probably the most well known Island in all of Indonesia, Bali has been welcoming tourists in the millions for many years now. A lush island paradise, it is famous for it’s beaches, picturesque rice terraces, is a favorite with surfers, the home of hundreds of yoga retreats and day spas, and offers some of the top restaurants in the whole of the country! It’s no wonder it’s a tourist hot spot, is definitely one of the best places to visit in Indonesia and should not be missed on any Indonesian Bucket List! Here are some of the best place to visit in Bali alongisde the top Bali attractions and some of the activities and adventures available in each!
If you want to live the high life in Bali, Nusa Dua is the place to be. The gorgeous beach here is home to several luxury resort hotel chains such as the Sofitel, Westin and the Grand Hyatt – and at prices a low as $100-$150 a night, you can experience paradise at a bargain price!
Things to do in Nusa Dua
- Stay at the Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort – seriously. If just for a couple of nights. It is categorically one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in with one of the comfiest beds I have ever slept in. Add in the swim up bar, amazing restaurants, pillow menu and the fact you can arrange for someone to come and run you a luxurious bath in your own room (for FREE!).. if you want to feel like a star, the Sofitel is the place to stay. Click to compare prices here an start planning your luxurious stay.
- Stay at the Westin Resort Nusa Dua Bali – a haven of wellness and luxury. The rooms are to die for, the facilities are gorgeous (hop on their website and a take a look!) and the spa is like a little slice of heaven. So much so it is even called ‘Heavenly’! Click here to compare prices.
- Stay at the Grand Hyatt Bali – heralded as the crown jewel of resorts in Nusa Dua. Styled as a traditional Balinese fishing village, the resort, whilst boasting over 600 rooms still feels intimate. There are 8 dining options, a world class spa and facilities that just ooze luxury and wellness. Click here to compare prices.
- See A Traditional Balinese Cultural Show – The Devden Show is a mix of traditional Balinese dance, aerial acrobatics, incredible stage effects and hundreds of breathtakingly intricate Balinese costumes which take you on a 90 minute journey throughout the Indonesian archipelago.
Nusa Penida is the large island (200km sq) located of Bali’s South West coast, and whilst tourist infrastructure is no where near as advanced as on the mainland, it is progressing rapidly. However, visitors must be aware that prices are inevitably more expensive here as even the most basic supplies are brought over by boat.
Things to do in Nusa Penida:
- Pasih Uug (Broken Beach)
- Angel’s Billabong – Natural Pool framed by rugged cliffs
- Nusa Lembongan – Smaller neighboring island celebrated for it’s surf, snorkeling and manta rays and the site of the underwater museum – everything you could need for some interesting underwater photography!
Seminyak is Bali’s hip and upmarket tourist centre, packed to the brim with cool cafe’s, great shopping and with the likes of Ku de Ta and Mama San you’ve got some of the best restaurants in Bali just waiting to welcome you with open arms. Oh, and did I mention there is a superhero training facility?!
Things to do in Seminyak
- Seminyak Beach – day or night, this beach just has a touch of magic about it.
- SuperHero Factory Bali – and its for kids and adults!
- Live like a gypsy for the day at La Laguna
- Get your wine fix @ Vin + Seminyak – fine wine from around the world curated in a beautiful bamboo enclave.
- Potato Head Club – one of the hottest beach clubs on the planet. Come for the day, come for drinks, come for dinner – but whatever you do, make sure you visit this iconic spot at least once when you are in Bali.
For the Balinese, Tanah Lot (Pura Tanah Lot) is one of the most culturally significant Hindu temples on the Island. For tourists, it is the most visited/photographed due to its impressive location on a crumbling rock-face jutting out into the ocean. And to really do the tourist thing – make sure you are here for sunset!
RELATED: Combine Tanah Lot with Tegalalang Rice Terraces on this full day tour!
Located in the highlands of Bali, Ubud is surrounds by the rainforest and revered for it’s insta-worthy rice paddies. It is here you’ll find yoga retreats, day spas, art and culture museums, hindu temples and hidden waterfalls.
Things to do in Ubud
- Ubud Monkey Forest (Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary) – you can’t come to Ubud and not visit the monkeys! Just beware of valuable and shiny things, the cheeky monkeys can be handsy.
- Visit the home of the (former) King of Ubud at Puri Agung Peliatan (Peliatan Royal Palace)
- Ubud Market (Pasar Seni Ubud) – pick up local crafts and arts from surrounding villages.
- Chase Waterfalls – around the Ubud region there are a number of spectacular waterfalls hidden within the rainforest
- Join a Yoga Retreat – 6 days of Namaste and Spa Treatments in Ubud’s highlands. Bliss.
- Get a dose of culture at one of the many art museums in the area. Noteable ones to include on your trip are ARMA (Agung Rai Museum of Art), Blanco Renaissance Museum and Neka Art Museum.
Uluwatu is located at the south western tip of Bali and is home to the Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple where the famous ‘Kecak’ dance is performed nightly. Crowds flock to the cliffside temple daily and stay for the performance that starts just before sunset every night. The area is also a favorite with surfers has one of the best nightlife spots in Bali which says goodbye to the weekend in style every Sunday night.
Things to do in Uluwatu
- Uluwatu Temple & the Kecak Perfomance. (Combine it with a dinner in Jimbaran to end your night)
- Head to the bars over looking Uluwatu beach for the perfect sunset shots. Find your spot at the balcony at SingleFin and sip cocktails on a Sunday night and celebrate the week that was as the sun goes down and tunes are turned up.
Solo – often referred to as the Spirit of Java (they even have their own hashtag: #solothespiritofjava(!) is the historic royal capital of Java. A small city, it is one of the least ‘westernized’ places in Indonesia which is proud of its Javanese traditions.
Things to do in Solo / Surakarta
- Visit Mangkunegaran Palace – a vast impressive structure filled with heirlooms from days gone by.
- Go shopping in the Antiques Market – here you’ll find nick nacks, art and jewellery at rock bottom prices.
- Head to the Batik Museum (also known as the House Of Danar Hadi) to learn about the history of the fabric and how it was made in the past and in the modern day.
Semarang is the modern day capital of central Java, and although it is more of a business than a tourist destination, there are still a few things that shouldn’t be missed on your visit. Its old quarter features decaying dutch colonial architecture and the very impressive former Dutch built train station of Lawang Sewu. There is also a Dome Church and Chinese Temple within the city for those who love interesting architecture.
Things to do in Semarang
- Lawang Sewu – the old colonial train station built by the Dutch that was once the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company. The building itself now empty (apart from a couple of museum exhibits) and is home to one of the largest stained glass windows in Asia. It is also rumored to be haunted – but luckily (for me) I didn’t see anything spooky on my visit!
- Take a Walking Tour of the Old Quarter and see the magnificent Dome Church – the crumbling buildings make for some great photographs.
- Visit Sam Poo Kong (also known as Gedung Batu Temple) which is the oldest Chinese temple in Semarang and has a mix of Javanese and Chinese styles within its architecture.
Prambanan is a ninth century Hindu Temple Complex dedicated to the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer. Withing the grounds there are 200 temples featuring stone spires, sculptures and carvings. Located quite close to Borobudur, it is possible to visit on a half day tour whilst staying in Yogyakarta.
Mount Bromo which stands tall at 2329 m is the most iconic and the most hiked mountain in Indonesia. Most tourists see the sunrise from the base of the mountain before trekking up in the early part of the day where the heat is a little more bearable.
RELATED: Book your sunrise Mt Bromo tour here.
Ijen Plateau (Ijen Crater) a volcano complex in East Java, is one of the unmissable sights in Indonesia. It is a unique place to see electric blue flames rising from the crater, which is also the site a large sulfur mine, and the acid in the volcanic lake is strong enough to dissolve clothes and eat through metal. It’s turquoise blue waters are a sight to behold, and you can book your Blue Fire Trekking Tour here to make sure you don’t miss out on this unique landscape.
East Nusa Tenggara
Komodo National Park
Komodo National Park is part of the Lesser Sunda Island Chain in Nusa Tenggara and is made up of three large islands (Rinca, Padar and Komodo Island), and numerous smaller ones, all of which are volcanic in nature. The diving here is said to be some of the best in world, boasting a variety of marine life including whales, sharks and manta rays, and on land you’ll find the prehistoric looking creatures known as the Komodo Dragon or Komoto Monitor. They are the largest, heaviest lizards in the world and one of only a few that has a venous bite – and can eat a whopping 80% of it’s body weight in a single feed. If they aren’t enough reasons to make you keep your distance, I don’t know what is!
Click for everything you need to know to plan your trip to Komodo National Park including how to get there, where to stay, where to eat and all the other incredible things to do there!
West Nusa Tenggara
The motor-free Gili Islands are a group of 3 tiny islands (Gili Air, Gili Trawangan & Gili Meno) located off the north west corner of Lombok. Known as a complete island paradise the sandy beaches and pristine coral reefs have been attracting visitors for years. Also a favorite with scuba divers and snorkelers, you can swim with turtles at Turtle Point on Gili Meno or go wreck diving off Gili Trawangan. Oh, and the swing in the ocean is always a good spot for photos!
Forming part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda island, Lombok Island has long been overshadowed by it’s bigger island brother of Bali. Boasting long stretches of white sand beach, epic surf, lush rain forest interior, walking and hiking trails and those oh so island-vibe sunsets, there is something to please every style of traveler. And an incredible Pink beach located on the Northern coast of the island should certainly not be missed.
Located on Lombok, Mount Rinjani (Gunung Rinjani) is the second highest volcano in Indonesia that draws hikers all year round. Most come for the sunrise hike, often departing in the very early hours of the morning to reach the summit for sunrise. And I have been assured that they are rewarded with incredible views!
RELATED: For the adventurous amongst you, this 4 day trekking tour will see you reach the summit of Mount Rinjani and see all the other remarkable sights on the way up too!
Lake Toba is the largest lake in Indonesia and was created in the crater left by the eruption of a super volcano. Perfect for those that want to relax but prefer being surrounded by the mountains over beaches, and a popular holiday destination for Indonesians, it a great place to unplug from the world for a few days.
Things to do in Lake Toba
- TB Silalahi Museum in Balige – learn about the Batak culture and watch (or join in!) with some traditional dance!
- Samosir Island – the largest island in the centre of Lake Toba is actually bigger than Singapore! Book a couple of nights stay on the Island for the ultimate in relaxation.
- Take a drive to Sipispis – what is more relaxing than spending the day by a waterfall?
The Tana Toraja Regency in the Indonesian highlands of South Sualwesi is one of the most interesting and culturally diverse places you could visit. Discovered only in the 1920s this society had lived with no existence of the outside world for centuries before the arrival of Dutch missionaries. They are now mostly famous for the complex death rituals that they practice which include keeping the deceased in the family home for months after death, burying their deceased in cave graves or hanging from cliff-sides, and the festival known as ‘Ma’nene’ where the deceased are removed from their final resting place for the corpse to be cleaned, re-dressed and displayed in the village.
Things to do in Tana Toraja
- Visit Ke’te Kesu – a traditional Torajan Village
- Wander amongst the Megalith Stones – a centuries old burial ground
- Climb Mount Sesean – not the highest peak in Indonesia, but a great hike for all capabilities with some epic viewpoints looking out over the countryside.
- Pick up some locally grown exquisite Arabica Bean Coffee.
- Witness the local weekly cattle market at Pasar Bolo (Bolu Market)
- Explore Londa – a cave grave site which tourists can enter and learn about the history of the residents.
The scuba diving paradise of Raja Ampat Islands (which literally means ‘Four Kings’) is home to some of the most diverse sea life you could ever hope to see and there are more recorded species here than anywhere else on the planet. For those that don’t scuba dive, the snorkeling is also incredible (and sometimes better than scuba diving!), the beaches are beautiful, there are rock paintings and caves are on Misool Island, and the crimson bird of paradise lives on Waigeo Island.
Whilst Borobudur Temple is technically located in Central Java, it is most easily reached form the city of Yogyakarta. A UNESCO Heritage Sites, it was built in the 9th Century it is one of the largest Mahayana Buddhist temples in the world. A favorite with photographers, the impressive temple is best at sunrise or sunset. Book your sunrise tour here and experience the magic for yourself.
RELATED: Spending more time here? Check out these other things to do in Yogyakarta to keep you occupied.
And that’s a wrap folks! I hope this travel guide has given you lots of ideas for planning your travels in southeast asias and shown you all the top sites in Indonesia. And I can totally understand if your Indonesia bucket list has suddenly become super long!
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FYI: I visited a few of the location on this list as part of the Wonderful Indonesia Trip of Wonders 2017 operated by the Ministry of Tourism, but all opinions, as always, remain my own. And if you would like to visit Indonesia their Trip of Wonders competition to win a trip to Bali, Komodo or Mt Bromo is open until the end of September and is the perfect way to explore Indonesia!
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