6 Best Things to Do in Indonesia
Published on: February 26th, 2020
Last modified: July 27th, 2023
In the heart of South East Asia, the mesmerising islands of Indonesia await. This country is made up of more than 17,000 islands, in fact, each with its own unique treasures to uncover. Beyond the world-famous paradise of Bali, there are endless other destinations to explore.
Here you can immerse yourself in the picture-perfect landscapes of Java, dive among vibrant marine life in Raja Ampat, discover remote islands near Lombok, and encounter wildlife straight out of a storybook on Komodo Island. In a country as vast and diverse as this, you’ll never run out of novel experiences – or surprises.
Considering the seemingly infinite number of options, it can be hard to know where to go first. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to the best things to do in Indonesia, from thrilling adventures to ancient traditions.
1. See the Legendary Lizards of Komodo National Park
You’ve probably heard of Komodo dragons – but have you ever seen one in the wild? They’re native to Indonesia, and more specifically the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Padar and several other smaller ones which together comprise Komodo National Park. Although you’re not guaranteed to spot one of these famous reptiles, sightings are extremely common.
In addition to seeing the world’s largest lizards, Komodo National Park offers all kinds of other experiences. You can take a private cruise through the islands, with stops for swimming, snorkelling and enjoying spectacular sunsets. It’s a quintessential Indonesian experience, combined with the chance to see a truly one-of-a-kind creature.
2. Marvel at Natural Wonders and Ancient Culture in Java
The fifth-largest island in Indonesia, Java is an incredibly diverse destination in terms of both culture and history. Here you can explore peaceful rice paddies and vibrant rainforests, summit the soaring peaks and peer into vast volcanic craters. The island is full of natural reserves, making it ideal for travellers who want to fully experience the local environment.
Beyond its natural delights, Java also has a wealth of cultural heritage. Don’t miss out on Borobudur Temple, a 9th-century Buddhist monument that features dozens of openwork stupas and statues of Buddha. We highly suggest visiting it at sunrise, when the temple and its surroundings are bathed in a mystical glow. A sunrise atop Mount Bromo or Kawah Ijen is equally enchanting, combining sweeping views with fascinating volcanic landscapes.
3. Cruise the Crystalline Waters of Raja Ampat
Located just off the northwestern tip of Papua New Guinea, the Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat is nothing short of idyllic – both above and below the sea’s surface. These islands are part of the Coral Triangle, and have some of the most biodiverse waters in the world. Divers flock from across the globe to witness the dozens of species of fish and coral that live here.
Raja Ampat is incredibly remote and largely uninhabited, so the best way to explore it is definitely by boat. On an exclusive liveaboard cruise, you can relax on the deck and enjoy exceptional cuisine between dives. The islands also feature white sand beaches, trekking trails through verdant forests, and opportunities to learn about the culture of the local tribes.
4. Discover the Mountains and Waterfalls of Bali
Bali is undoubtedly the best-known island of Indonesia, but you can still get off the beaten track and away from the crowds – as long as you know where to look. We recommend the town of Ubud, where you can relax and recharge while surrounded by tranquil rice terraces. This is the ideal location for a wellness retreat, full of sacred sites and authentic culture.
For a more active adventure, climb Mount Batur to reach an awe-inspiring crater lake, or bike across the island in search of hidden temples and black sand beaches. The lush forests and mountains of Bali are bursting with incredible waterfalls, scenic views, quiet villages and endless other hidden gems that most travellers miss out on.
5. Escape to the Gili Islands in Lombok
The island of Lombok is conveniently close to Bali, providing a quieter and more rugged alternative to its famous neighbour. But if you want an even more exclusive experience, take a day trip to the nearby Gili Islands. Here the only transport options are bicycles and horse-drawn carts, which should give you an idea of just how untouched they really are.
We recommend taking a private boat trip through the islands, which will allow you to reach their most secluded spots. You can sunbathe on isolated beaches, or dive into the sea to explore an intricate underwater world. At the end of the day, head back to Lombok to spend the night in a luxurious seaside resort like The Legian Sire.
6. Experience Centuries-Old Traditions in Sumba
For a cultural experience unlike any other, take a trip to the striking island of Sumba. It’s twice as large as Bali but much less developed, with a wild and untouched beauty that contrasts with Indonesia’s more popular locations. The indigenous inhabitants have maintained their traditional culture; they continue to practise ancient rituals and create artisanal crafts, and are happy to show visitors a window into their world.
Sumba also offers all kinds of exhilarating outdoor activities. Here you can hike through the jungle to find remote waterfalls, swim in natural pools, paddle down the Wanukaka River or learn how to surf at Nihiwatu Beach. There’s no better place to stay than Nihi Sumba, a fantastic eco-resort where time seems to stand still.