Stumped for where to go in Indonesia? Most travelers heading to Indonesia beeline for Bali. But with over 13,000 islands, Indonesia has much more to offer than just beaches! We’ve partnered with NYC travel blogger Sher of Sher She Goes to discover some of the best places to visit in Indonesia.
The 7 Best Places to Visit in Indonesia
Located at the crossroads of ancient silk shipping routes, Indonesia is graced with a multitude of religions, traditions and celebrations. With over 350 ethnic groups and 700 languages, this archipelago nation offers plenty, including ancient temples buried beneath the jungle, UNESCO-recognized art and untouched ocean waters.
Discover some of Indonesia’s best islands, vacation spots and local tourist attractions below!
1. See the Sun Rise Over Borobudur Temple
Borobudur is one of the world’s great Buddhist monuments and tops any list of Indonesia tourist attractions. Built in the 8th Century during the Syailendra Dynasty, the temple contains three platforms, symbolizing the universe according to Buddhist principles.
As you walk up the central steps, you’ll find yourself flanked by 72 lattice-work stupas, each containing a large statue of Buddha. The best time to visit Borobudur is before dawn, allowing you to watch the sun rise directly over the temple while mist from nearby volcanic Mt. Merapi creates an eerie, magical morning.
2. Discover Why Death is a Lure to the People of Tana Toraja
The people of Toraja are one of Indonesia’s most unique indigenous tribes. Isolated in the mountainous region of South Sulawesi, the Toraja people are famous for their complex burial practices. Here, the afterlife is viewed with joy and an appropriate send-off includes sacrificing bulls, creating effigies in the likeness of the deceased and a week-long affair encompassing the entire village.
It’s not uncommon for family members to store their dead at home for years, until they save enough money for the elaborate funeral celebration. Torajans work incredibly hard to accumulate wealth, saving for years until they can provide an extravagant send-off for their deceased loved ones.
While it can be a trek to visit the highlands, Tana Toraja is quickly making a name for itself as one of the most unique places to visit in Indonesia.
Discover Sulawesi Indonesia travel deals here.
3. Explore the Trimurti at Prambanan Temple
Built in the 9th Century, Prambanan is a series of temple shrines dedicated to the expression of God as the creator, sustainer and destroyer. A staggering 47 meters high, this unique Indonesian temple was once covered by the jungle and lost to ruin until an adventurous Dutchman re-discovered the temple in 1733.
Visit Prambanan for a crash course in Indonesia’s grand and complex architectural wonders! Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991, Prambanan Temple is a historical site frequently compared to Angkor Wat.
Discover more Yogyakarta travel deals and attractions here.
4. Learn to Make Balinese Offerings… and Try Balancing Them on Your Head
The Balinese practice a Hinduist-based faith involving daily offerings to the gods. You’ll find small devotional gifts of food wrapped in palm leaves all over the island, left to please the various gods and demons of their faith.
On ceremonial days, Balinese women will create elaborate towers in the shape of small mountains. These multi-tiered layers of fruits, cakes and flowers are a symbol of gratitude for their infinite blessings and Balinese women will walk for miles to temple – all while balancing these offerings, called gebogan, on their head!
Visiting traditional Balinese temples and learning how to make these offerings can be a fun and rewarding activity. You can even test your balance, but be careful – these offerings are heavy!
Discover Ubud, Bali travel deals here.
5. Try a Traditional Homestay in Remote Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat is a series of islands in West Papua. These pristine waters are home to incredible marine life and scuba diving here is unbeatable. For lodging, ocean fans can book a liveaboard or homestay with local villagers for an immersive experience. For a great day trip, try feeding the fish at Arborek village before hiking Piyanemo for a starry, whimsical view of the Raja Ampat islands!
If you want to visit Indonesia’s best beaches and landmarks, make your way to Raja Ampat! Check out these Raja Ampat hotel deals here.
6. Discover the Cannibalistic Past of Indonesia’s Batak Tribe in Lake Toba
The Batak people are another of Indonesia’s many tribes, concentrated around Lake Toba in Sumatra. Lake Toba was the site of the earth’s last super-volcanic eruption and makes for a fascinating visit.
Throughout Indonesian history, the Batak people were among the fiercest warriors. Today, they continue to practice a patriarchal clan culture emphasizing lineage and marriage. Visit Samosir village to discover their unique homes, which are shaped like boats and decorated with fertility symbols.
You’ll also learn about their past, during which some tribes would eat the flesh of their enemies to ingest their soul and increase their own strength in the process. Make sure to sit in the stone chairs of the tribal council and experience the unique culture of Sumatra for yourself!
Sumatra is one of the best places to visit in Indonesia for nature lovers and adventure travelers. Discover travel deals for Lake Toba, Indonesia here.
7. Watch the Kecak Dance in Bali’s Cliffside Temple Uluwatu
The Kecak fire dance is a true artistic spectacle. This Balinese drama is a music and dance performance that acts out the main scenes from Ramayana, an ancient Indian saga.
Watch this exorcist-like dance at the stone amphitheater in Bali’s famous Uluwatu Temple. The sight of 150 performers wearing checkered cloths at the waist and acting out battle scenes – all while the sun sets over the Indian Ocean – is truly a dramatic sight to behold!
Sher Jordan is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. For more information on the Travelocity Gnomads, visit travelocitygnomads.com.
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