The heart of the nation, Java is an island of megacities, mesmerising natural beauty, and profound traditions in art, dance, spiritualism and learning. Boasting a dazzling array of bewitching landscapes – iridescent rice paddies, smoking volcanoes, rainforest and savannah – most journeys here are defined by scenic excesses.
If jungle rivers get your blood running, then be prepared for rapids. Occupying three-quarters of Borneo, the world's third-largest island Kalimantan harbours a vast and legendary jungle cut by countless rivers, including two around 1000km in length. Within this primordial puzzle something extraordinary always lies around the next bend.
Ubud & Around
A dancer moves her hand just so and 200 pairs of entranced eyes follow the exact movement. A gamelan player hits a melodic riff and 200 pairs of feet tap along with it. The Legong goes into its second hour as the bumblebee dance unfolds with its sprightly flair and 200 butts forget they're still stuck in rickety plastic chairs.
Long overshadowed by its superstar neighbour across the water, there's a steady hum about Lombok that's beginning to turn into a distinct buzz. Blessed with exquisite white-sand beaches, epic surf, a lush forested interior, and hiking trails through tobacco and rice fields, Lombok is fully loaded with tropical allure.
Ubud is culture, yes. It's also home to good restaurants, cafes and streets of shops, many selling goods from the region's artisans. There's somewhere to stay for every budget, and no matter what the price you can enjoy lodgings that reflect the local Zeitgeist: artful, creative and serene. Ubud's popularity continues to grow.
South Bali & the Islands
You won't have seen Bali if you haven't fully explored south Bali. The island's capital, Denpasar, sprawls in all directions from the centre and is a vibrant place, offering traditional markets, glitzy malls, great eating and plenty of Balinese history and culture, even as it threatens to absorb the tourist hubs of Seminyak, Kuta and Sanur.
If you’ve ever been into white sand, azure bays, frothing hot springs and hidden traditional villages, Nusa Tenggara is your wonderland. Here’s an arc of islands that is lush and jungle-green in the north, more arid savannah in the south and in-between has some of the world’s best diving, limitless surf breaks, and Technicolor volcanic lakes.
Even a country as full of adventure as Indonesia must have its final frontier. Here it is – Papua, half of the world’s second-biggest island, New Guinea. Here, a traditional tribal world still holds its head high amid outside encroachments. This is a place where some people still hunt their food with bows and arrows while others buy it in supermarkets.
Few who dive or snorkel the rich and pristine waters around Pulau Menjangan forget the experience. It's part of Taman Nasional Bali Barat (West Bali National Park), the only protected place of its kind on the island. On the coast, waves pound the rocky shore and surfers hit the breaks at funky beaches like Balian and Medewi.