Indonesia Travel Guide
There are so many islands in Indonesia that you can’t even count them – 13,466 islands, say some, 18,406 say others. What is certain is that a lifetime would not be enough to explore them all. This is why we have selected for you the essential excursions to make your holiday in Indonesia. Feel free to save this Indonesia Travel Guide or even prepare any circuits you want to visit, so you don’t miss anything during your stay in Indonesia!
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or embarking on your first adventure, planning a trip to Indonesia can be overwhelming. With so many diverse islands, cultural experiences, and outdoor activities, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Indonesia is also a fine and spicy gastronomy that you will be happy to taste in a kaki lima. As for the warm sandy beaches, bathed in turquoise waters, they have nothing to envy to the postcard landscapes. The hospitality of the locals remains legendary and it is with stars in your eyes that you will return from your trip to this gigantic Asian archipelago.
So let’s take the time to choose
The nature of Sumatra, the impressive ruins of Java, Bali the Hindu, incongruous in this predominantly Muslim archipelago, Lombok and its rough beauty, the string of the Sunda Islands, volcanoes, Komodo dragons which bring us back to prehistoric times, ethnic groups with unique cultures, largely forgotten by the so-called modern world, and a whole tangle of religions, between Islam, Christianity and animism.
And then Celebes, Sulawesi in Indonesian, the large island in the shape of a starfish, or the trident of Shiva (this would be the origin of the word “Sulawesi”): almost impenetrable forests, breathtaking seabed, and living traditions of a mosaic of peoples, Bugis, Makassars, Toraja, Mandar… As proof, no less than 114 languages are spoken in Celebes! Further still, the Moluccas, away from the tourist circuits. Here, the trip becomes a bit of an adventure, we forget the comfort but what a discovery! Finally, at the very end, Iryan Jaya, West Papua, the majesty of its nature and the peoples of the Baliem Valley. So, start learning the basics of “bahasa indonesia”: “Selamat datang di Indonesia! (Welcome to Indonesia).
When to go to Indonesia?
Indonesia enjoys an equatorial, hot and humid climate. The rainy season extends from October to April and can reach a humidity rate of 75%, with a peak of heat in January and February. It is therefore more pleasant to visit the archipelago during the dry season, between the months of May and October, even if the month of January sees the arrival of many travelers who come to enjoy the Indonesian New Year. The transition period between the dry season and the wet season alternates between sunny days and rainy days. So wait until you are really in the dry season to be able to enjoy your stay.
The rainy season promises to be shorter and shorter the further east you go. Although temperatures rarely drop below 20°C or 68 °F (in mountain areas / high lands) during the year, remember to take warm clothes if you plan to go to altitude: it is much colder there. If you go to Bali, you will avoid the heavy tourist crowds by leaving in late spring or early September.
What do we eat in Indonesia?
Rice is the staple of the Indonesian diet. Most of the time, it is served with dried or smoked fish. There is also a lot of curry, coconut and soy in the local cuisine. The national dish is nasi goreng (made with rice, eggs, pieces of meat, vegetables and shrimp). You can also taste krupuk (shrimp chips), sambal (chili peppers and shrimp paste), or even soto (vegetable broth). The most eaten fruits remain avocado, rambutan and salak.
What do we drink in Indonesia?
You will also have the pleasure of tasting the excellent rice wine, a local speciality. The beers are also very famous, especially the Anker and Bintang brands. Then discover lassi (a yogurt-based drink) and Green Sands (a very low alcohol carbonated drink). In Bali, fruit juices are all the rage. We press them directly before your eyes, with the fruits you want. Be sure to buy bottled water, as running water is not drinkable.
Where to eat in Indonesia?
Between traditional gourmet restaurants, fast food and typical outdoor markets, the archipelago has no shortage of places to stop for lunch. The most touristy cities also host many international restaurants while street food remains ubiquitous. You will come across multiple “kaki lima” in Bali, small mobile stalls that offer a quick meal, local, and at very low prices.
List of islands on our Indonesia Travel Guide
Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, cultural immersion, or a combination of all three, our Indonesia travel guide has you covered. With our expert recommendations and insider knowledge, you can explore this incredible archipelago with confidence and make memories that will last a lifetime.
- Central Java
- Special Capital Region of Jakarta
- East Java
- West Java
Located on the island of Java, Yogyakarta is the cultural heart of Indonesia. Visit the ancient temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, sample the local cuisine, and experience the traditional Javanese way of life.
What to visit?
The Sultan’s Palace, Kraton Ngayogyakarto. The goldsmiths’ quarter of Kota Gede. Tamansari (or Water Castle) former place of pleasures of the sultans. The Batik Research Center (batik = fabric printing technique). The bird market. The central post office, Kantor Pos Besar. You can attend performances by Wayang Bulit.
The Great Mosque.
The Sonobudoyo Museum (collection of Javanese arts). The Affandi Museum (works of a famous Indonesian painter). Kereta Keraton Museum (collection of chariots of ancient sultans).
Surabaya, the second-largest city in Indonesia, is a bustling metropolis that offers a unique blend of modernity and traditional Indonesian culture, with a rich history and delicious local cuisine.
What to visit?
The old Town. The Jambatan Mesah Bridge. Tanjung Perak Port. The Chinese and Muslim quarters (souk and one of the oldest mosque in the archipelago). The market.
In the surroundings: Sumenep: the Jamid Mosque. The former Royal Palace (with a Museum inside). The Market and the immense white sand beaches.
Elsewhere in Java
- The Kawa Ijen with the famous sulfur carriers.
- Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park with Mounts Bromo & Semeru and Tengger Crater.
- The Meru Betiri National Park (fauna, tropical forest flora and beaches).
- Baluran National Park (fauna, birds, mangroves, etc.).
- Ujung Kulon National Park (rhinos, beaches).
- The Karimunjawa Marine National Park (mangroves, turtles).
Indonesia’s bustling capital city is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. Visit the National Museum, shop in the traditional markets, or sample the delicious street food.
What to visit?
The Monas or “Monumen Nasional” (National Monument) in Merdeka Square, a 137m (450ft) monument that symbolizes the struggle for independence. Plaza Indonesia. Dunia amusement park. The quays of the old port Sunda Kelapa. The Presidential Palace. The Si Jagurla Canon in Fatahillah Square.
The Istiqlal Mosque. The Catholic Cathedral of Saint Mary of Fatima. The Chinese Dharma Jaya Bakti Temple.
The National Museum. The Wayang Museum (shadow theatre).
- The Village of Ganjuran with the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
- Borobudur Buddhist temple with its giant stupa.
- Prambanan and its vast complex of Hindu temples.
- Imogiri the official cemetery of the royal descendants of Yogyakarta and Surakarta.
- The Merapi volcano (active).
- Near Solo Village, Sukuh Temple and Ceto Temple.
Picture of Jakarta, from top to bottom: Jakarta old Town former Stadhuis of Batavia, Selamat Datang Monument at Hotel Indonesia roundabout, Panoramic Jakarta skyline with Wisma 46 in the center, Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Taman Mini Indonesia Indah Indonesian cultural park, National Monument, Merdeka Presidential Palace, Istiqlal Mosque. Gunkarta, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Founded at the beginning of the 19th century, the city was transformed by the Dutch into a European-style administrative city. In the 1920s, a new town was built to the northeast with new buildings which are now called Gedung sate (due to the spire at the top of the skewer-shaped roof of the building) and Dago.
What to visit?
- Tangkuban Perahu: A popular tourist spot, Tangkuban Perahu is a volcano that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
- Kawah Putih: Located near Bandung, Kawah Putih is a stunning crater lake that features turquoise waters and picturesque views.
- Gedung Sate: This iconic building is a must-see for architecture lovers. The Dutch colonial-style building features unique elements of Indonesian design.
- Saung Angklung Udjo: Experience traditional Indonesian music and dance at this cultural center that showcases the Angklung, a traditional bamboo instrument.
- Dago Pakar: This scenic hilltop area offers panoramic views of Bandung and is a popular spot for hiking, picnicking, and enjoying the fresh air.
- Pasar Baru: One of the city’s most famous markets, Pasar Baru offers a variety of goods, including textiles, clothing, and souvenirs.
These are just a few of the many attractions that Bandung has to offer. Whether you’re interested in nature, culture, or history, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city.
On Weh Island is the small town and port of Sabang, where in the days of the steam-powered navy, ships came to refuel with coal. In Sabang are buried two French sailors, who were among the thirty-six survivors of the sinking of the destroyer Le Mousquet, sunk in 1914 by the German cruiser Emden during the battle of Penang off the island of Penang in Malaysia. Their common grave is regularly maintained by the French government.
Weh is the largest of a group of islands including Klah, Rubiah, Seulako and Rondo. Their total area is 154 km² (95.7 miles²). Rubiah, an islet of just 17 hectares, was a place of quarantine for pilgrims returning from Mecca in the days of boat trips. The islet has coral reefs.
About thirty km from the coast of Sumatra, north of the island of Nias, are the Banyak (“many”) islands, an archipelago of sixty small islands that are administratively part of the province. Their total area is 319 km2. The largest of these islands are Tuanku and Bangkaru.
A tourist activity has developed in Aceh around the memory of the tsunami, notably the Tsunami Museum and a fishing boat that the waves of the tsunami had thrown on the roofs of houses several kilometers from the sea, and which had saved the life to 59 people who had been able to climb on it. Former Free Aceh Movement (GAM: Gerakan Aceh Merdeka) rebels also show their former camps. In 2013, 1.2 million tourists, including 42,000 foreigners, visited the province, which remains subject to the observance of Shari’ah
- Remains of temples have been found in Lubuk Layang, Pidoli, Padang Bolak and the Baruman region.
- At Padang Bolak, some 200 km south of Medan, is the temple of Portibi, a set of 25 shrines dating from the 10th to 14th centuries, dedicated to Shiva Bhairava.
- Medan: the Maimoan Palace (palace of the sultans before Independence). Post office. The Great Market. The Royal Mosque. The Catholic Church of the Bataks. The Parisada Hindu Dharma Temple. The Sumatra Utara Museum (ethnography, arts and popular traditions).
Padang, Bukittinggi, Batusangkar, Padang Panjang.
Fort Marlborough: It’s a good place to learn the history of Indonesia, especially Bengkulu province and Heroes Square. You can see dozens of cannon. The fort also has a very nice view of the shore and a lot of wind. A good place to do or selfie for groups.
Bung Karno’s exile house: which until now still exists in Bengkulu City, This house made as Place for residence by Soekarno when undergoing exile in the year of 1938 – 1942. Located at Anggut Atas, Ratu Samban, Bengkulu City. Following his arrest in 1933, Sukarno remained under house arrest by the Dutch for nine years. The small house where he lived from 1938 to 1941 is next to the tourist office. During his forced stay, Sukarno drew the plans for the mosque which can be seen at the corner of Jl Sudirman and Jl Suprapto.
Thomas Parr Monument: dedicated to Thomas Parr, the British Resident of Bengkulu who was killed in 1807. Constructed the year after his death, it is considered a cultural property of Indonesia. Located along Ahmad Yani Street, in the Kampung Cina (Chinatown) subdistrict of Bengkulu City, Bengkulu. It is not far from the city center, and easily accessed.
What can be visited in Lampung?
- The Lampung Museum in Bandar Lampung displays Chinese ceramics, traditional musical instruments and a collection of old carpet fabrics.
- Belantung Merak Beach, located 40 km south of Bandar Lampung, on the road to Bekauheni port.
- Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park where you can see Rafflesia.
- Way Kambas nature reserve, with an area of 130,000 hectares, in the west of the province.
- There are Asian Elephants, Tigers
- Sumatra and hundreds of bird species. Has an elephant training center.
- Krui is a surf spot.
- Pekanbaru: the provincial capital has many constructions in the traditional style of the region, such as the Balai Dang Merdu and the Balai Adat. There is also the Taman Budaya Riau (“Riau Cultural Park”).
- Siak Sultanate Park: A Moorish-style palace was built in 1889 120 km upstream from Pekanbaru on the Siak River by Sultan Syarif Hasyim Abduljalil Syarifuddin. It is now a museum which contains royal objects.
- Muara Takus Temple: Like many other such structures in Sumatra, this set of Buddhist stupas, located near the village of Muara Takus in the Tigabelas Koto district, is constructed of red brick and sand. It is believed to have been built in the 9th or 10th century AD. BC, at the height of the city-state of Sriwijaya. Excavations are continuing to find out the exact age and function of this set.
- Beaches: the flat and marshy coasts of the province of Riau do not offer many beautiful beaches. On the north coast of Rupat Island in the Strait of Malacca, there is Pasir Panjang Beach, where you can practice surfing.
- Kerumutan Baru Nature Reserve: Located in the Kuala Kampar district, this 120,000 hectare reserve is 18 hours from Pekanbaru by boat, up a calm river bordered by virgin forest.
Composed of different archipelagos: Riau Islands, Lingga Islands, Tambelan Islands, Badas Islands, Anambas Islands, Natuna Islands and Pejantan Island.
Pangkal Pinang is the largest city on Bangka Island in Indonesia, and the capital of the Bangka Islands province Belitung. It is located on the east coast of Bangka.
Elsewhere in Sumatra
- Gunung Leuser National Park (orangutans).
- Lake Toba.
- Siberut Island – The National Park.
- Reserve of Rimba Panti – Tigers.
- Nias Island – Culture, beaches, landscapes.
- Karo Batak country – The Karo culture.
- Minang Country – Landscapes, Lake Maninjau.
- Assam Kumbang – Crocodile Farm.
In Central Kalimantan, you can visit: Leakey Camp and Tanjung Puting National Park, Sebangau National Park, Lamandau River Reserve and Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Center.
Bordering with Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysia). You will find Kayan Mentarang National Park in North Kalimantan.
Banjarmasin is one of the main towns in Kalimantan. Famous for its multiple canals that criss-cross it, it is nicknamed the “Indonesian Venice”. It is pleasant to rent a boat and cross the city via its canals, pass between the houses, observe people going about their daily business by the river, play with the children who bathe and invite themselves in the boat for a few minutes.
The most visited place in Banjarmasin is the floating market, which takes place very early every morning at dawn. There are several, including outside the city.
150 km (93 miles) north of Banjarmasin, in a mountainous region formed by the foothills of Mount Meratus, the Loksado Valley is a region quite popular with tourists who wish to make a first discovery of the Borneo jungle. The valley is dug by a river very used as a local means of transport and one can practice rafting there.
Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo. Borneo is an island in Malaysia. Kalimantan includes 4/5 of Borneo, only a small part in the north belongs to Malaysia and Brunei.
By visiting Borneo, you can discover one of the hottest parts of the country in the tropical jungle. This is an island paradise for hiking enthusiasts.
The forest often consists of large trees that are comfortable to walk through. There are amazing animals like Orangutans or hornbills.
In West Kalimantan there are: Mount Palung National Park, Lake Sentarum National Park and Betung Kerihun National Park. They can also be found at Kutai National Park in West Kalimantan.
This is an amazing island to immerse yourself in nature and discover animals!
Here are some must-visit places in Kalimantan, Indonesia:
- Travel across Kalimantan
- Tanjung Puting National Park
- Kapuas Hulu area
- Derawan Islands
- Pontianak: Some curiosities are the Kadariah palace (Kadri, the name of the sultan’s lineage) in the Kampung Dalam district, the provincial museum and the floating market. This beach can be found in Kijing and on the island of Temajoh. There is also an “Equatorial Monument” in Pontianak.
- In the village of “Saham” not far from Pontianak, there is a traditional Dayak betana or “long house”. 186 m long and 6 m wide, inhabited by nearly 70 people.
- Pasir Panjang: 17 km from Singkawang in the Sambas Regency is Pasir Panjang Beach, where there is comfortable accommodation. In the hills above Singkawang, Gunung Poteng is a cool and pleasant place for nature lovers.
- Sambas: There is a well-preserved palace of the sultan of Sambas, which contains several antiques.
Lore Lindu National Park is home to one of the largest tropical forests in Indonesia, declared a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” by UNESCO.
Bunaken Marine National Park was established in 1991. It covers a total area of 891 km². It includes the 5 islands of Bunaken, Manado Tua, Mantehage, Nain and Siladen. The water depth reaches 1,566 meters in Manado Bay. The park is home to one of the greatest marine biodiversity in the world. For example, 7 of the 8 known species of giant seashells in the world are found in Bunaken. The park is also home to 70 genera of corals. It was at Manado Tua that a second species of coelacanth, latimeria menadoensis, was found in 1999.
The Tangkoko-Duasudaras Nature Reserve, 60 km from Manado, the provincial capital, is home to one of the world’s smallest primates, the spectrum tarsier, the crested macaque and a species of tailless monkey endemic to Celebes, as well as a unique bird species maleo megapode and flying lizards.
The town of Tomohon is an hour from Manado, at the base of two active volcanoes that are easy to climb. The Lokon and especially the Mahawu offer spectacular views.
Bugis, Konjo, Makassar and Mandar
The kingdom of Gowa, of Makassar tradition, was in the sixteenth century the greatest maritime power in eastern Indonesia, standing up to the expansionist and hegemonic aims, first of the Portuguese, then the Dutch (Dutch East India Company).
The Konjo have remained a people of sailors. They used to go as far as the northern coast of Australia, which they call Marage, to fish for sea cucumbers or trepang. Their two-masted pinisi continue to sail the inland seas of Indonesia, transporting various goods from island to island and constituting the last sailing merchant navy in the world.
In South Sulawesi also live the Toraja, known for their boat-roofed houses, and their unique funeral rites. They call their country Tana Toraja.
Kete’ Kesu’ is a tourist attraction located in North Toraja Regency. There is a row of Tongkonan which is the traditional house of the Toraja people. In addition, in the same complex there is also a tomb that has been used as a tourist attraction, as well as many sellers of typical Toraja souvenirs. Ansensius, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Makassar is the capital of the province of South Celebes. Located in the south of the island of Sulawesi, it has the status of kota, which means municipality.
Makassar is a destination combining tradition and modernity. Often less known than others, it deserves that we stop there for at least a day. It is good to walk on its seaside which offers a long walk.
It is also possible to visit other historic places that are worth seeing, such as Fort Rotterdam, witness to colonization by the Dutch or the floating mosque for its architecture and its construction above the water.
- Fort Rotterdam
- Losari Beach
- The coral reef of Samalona Island
- Trans Studio Makassar Park
- The mosque with 99 domes: Dome 99 Mosque
5. Lesser Sunda Islands (Nusa Tenggara)
Discover the natural beauty of Bali and its vibrant cultural scene. Known for its stunning beaches, lush rice paddies, and rich culture, Bali is a popular destination for tourists from around the world. Explore the ancient temples, enjoy the nightlife, or simply relax on the beach.
West Nusa Tenggara
- Lombok, Gili: This lesser-known island near Bali offers stunning scenery, including the majestic Mount Rinjani, pristine beaches, and traditional Sasak villages. Explore the island’s unique culture and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere.
East Nusa Tenggara
- Komodo: Home to the famous Komodo Dragons, Komodo Island is a must-visit for nature lovers. Hike through rugged landscapes, explore the coral reefs, and witness these prehistoric creatures in their natural habitat.
- Labuan Bajo
- Flores: discover the stunning Komodo National Park, hike to the picturesque Kelimutu volcano, and immerse yourself in the rich culture of the traditional villages on Flores.
- Lomblen (Pulau Lembata)
- Timor (bersama Timor Leste)
6. Maluku Islands
These spice-producing islands attracted mainly Portuguese Europeans to the Indonesian archipelago in the early 16th century.
- Maluku: explore the historic Spice Islands, dive in some of the world’s most pristine coral reefs, and experience the unique Melanesian culture on your visit to Maluku.
- North Maluku: experience the unspoiled beauty of North Maluku, with its idyllic beaches, pristine islands, and diverse marine life, perfect for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts.
7. Western New Guinea
mbark on an adventure to the easternmost provinces of Indonesia and discover the untouched natural beauty, vibrant cultures, and abundant wildlife of Papua and West Papua. A destination that will leave you with unforgettable memories.
- West Papua
A trip to Papua is an extraordinary experience, a great privilege reserved for a handful of foreign visitors. Whether we are talking about the thick forests of Central Papua or the paradisiacal islets of West Papua, this distant territory offers you memorable discoveries, both cultural and natural.
Going on a circuit to Papua, (this name is attributed to the center of this Indonesian province), is above all to share part of the daily life of isolated tribes. In this region, from Jayapura, Wamena or Timika, ethnic groups called Dani, Asmat or Korowai live on the fringes of modern Indonesian societies. To meet them, you will walk wild paths, you will navigate along rivers and streams. This vast space is 75% covered by abundant tropical nature. It is home to an astonishing diversity of flora and fauna.
To the west of Papua, your trip can also transport you to the splendid archipelago of Raja Ampat. This string of islands, belonging to Papua Barat, offers exceptional seaside landscapes. This other exceptional trip first seduces divers. However, after discovering Central Papua, Papua Barat will allow everyone to extend their stay along unspoiled beaches of remarkable natural beauty.
This remote archipelago in West Papua is a diver’s paradise, with some of the world’s most pristine coral reefs and abundant marine life. Snorkel or scuba dive in the turquoise waters, hike through the jungle, or simply relax on the beach.
Preparing for your trip to Indonesia, practical guide, advice, tips and itineraries
Preparing for a trip to Indonesia can be exciting, but it’s important to plan ahead to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here are some practical tips, advice, and itinerary ideas to help you prepare for your trip:
Visa and Passport Requirements
Make sure you have a valid passport with at least six months left before expiration and that you have obtained the necessary visa or visa exemption for your length of stay in Indonesia. Check the Indonesian embassy website in your home country for details.
Consider getting vaccinated for diseases such as Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, and Rabies, as well as taking preventative measures against Malaria if traveling to certain regions of the country.
Purchase travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and loss or theft of belongings.
Climate and Weather
Indonesia has a tropical climate with high humidity and temperatures year-round. Check the weather forecast for your destination and pack accordingly.
While Bahasa Indonesia is the official language, English is widely spoken in tourist areas. It’s still helpful to learn some basic phrases in Bahasa Indonesia.
The currency used in Indonesia is the Indonesian Rupiah. Be sure to have cash on hand as credit cards may not be widely accepted.
There are several options for transportation in Indonesia, including taxis, motorbikes, and local public transportation. Be aware of local driving laws and customs if renting a vehicle.
Popular destinations in Indonesia include Bali, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, and Lombok. Consider exploring off-the-beaten-path locations such as Flores, Sulawesi, and Sumatra.
Indonesia offers a wide range of activities for travelers, including surfing, hiking, wildlife tours, cultural experiences, and relaxing on beautiful beaches.
Respect Local Customs
Indonesia is a diverse country with many different cultures and religions. Respect local customs, dress modestly when visiting religious sites, and be mindful of local laws and customs.
By following these practical tips and itinerary ideas, you can make the most of your trip to Indonesia and have an enjoyable and memorable experience.