Most visitors to Indonesia come for the sun, sand, world-class surf, and Instagram photos. But beyond the well-trodden tourist trail, this vast country offers so much more: volcanoes, carpets of deep green jungle, tropical islands with reality-defying views, and deceptively dangerous lakes, so beautiful they almost beg you to dive straight in.
Despite being home to more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia’s best hikes are relatively accessible. Hiking tours and leaders are available for the most popular treks, especially for routes near or on volcanoes, which can't even be attempted without a local guide. A number of other hikes require a nominal entry fee.
Just remember to come prepared, and be ready for the unique adventure that only trekking in Indonesia can offer. Here are the best hikes in Indonesia.
Mt Batur, Bali
Best sunrise hike
6.8km (4.2 miles), 4 hours, easy-moderate
Despite being the general entry point for trekking in Indonesia, the hike up Mt Batur is truly amazing. Framed by the distant peaks of Mt Rinjani and Mt Agung, the sky burns with color if you summit in time for sunrise. You'll need to get up early to cherish the experience, though – most travelers leave their hotels at 3:30am – and you'll find yourself sharing the peak with plenty of other like-minded hikers and tourists.
The climb itself is generally easy, on a meandering, well-trodden trail. It suits most hikers with a base level of fitness, and there are several spots to rest along the way. Come prepared with water, a headlamp (if you have one), and a good jacket for that cold, crisp morning air on top of the volcano.
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Mt Ijen, East Java
Best hike for natural phenomena
14.5km (9 miles), 3 to 4 hours, easy-moderate
One of the most unique hikes in the world and another of Indonesia's most popular, the midnight trek up East Java's Mt Ijen is best completed in the dark so you can see its famous blue-fire phenomenon: electric-blue smoke that billows out of the crater, created by a large amount of sulfur in the air coming into contact with the intense heat from the volcano.
The hike is generally easy and can be completed by hikers of any skill level. However, once you reach the summit, things become a little more complicated, especially if you want to descend into the crater. The footing here is tough, and unsure in the dark. You will also need to wear gas masks to enter the crater. Inside is a beautiful turquoise lake, but touching the water can be fatal – it has the highest acidic level of any lake in the world.
Gunung Rinjani, Lombok
Best multi-day trek
41.4km (25.7 miles), 2-3 days, moderate
A bucket-list hike for many, this Lombok trek offers a truly one-of-a-kind experience. On their way to the summit of Gunung Rinjani, the second-highest mountain in the country, hikers camp on the rim of the world's highest caldera lake, where they can witness both sunrise and sunset from the roof of Indonesia.
For the most part, it's not a technically difficult route, but the optional climb to the true summit is hard, with strong winds and loose scree underfoot. There are two tracks to the top, and most tours take you up one side and down the other. Hikers will find themselves starting out in tropical jungle before walking through lush savannah and rolling grasslands the following day. If you're lucky, a troop of black Javan lutung monkeys may even make an appearance.
Note that depending upon the volcanic activity in the area, the summit or the lake could be closed. Check with your tour company before setting off.
Tumpak Sewu, East Java
Best waterfall hike
Unknown length, 2-3 hours, Easy
Tumpak Sewu is without doubt the finest waterfall in Indonesia. Its name literally translates to "a thousand waterfalls," and when you stand looking down at the ribbons of rushing cascades, tumbling onto the rocks and into the pools below, that feels like no exaggeration.
But that's just the start. From the viewing platform, hike down to the base of the waterfall using the dirt paths and steel walkways that cut across the canyon. There are a number of rickety, handmade wooden ladders to tackle too. Toward the bottom, the path disappears into a waterfall, and you have to climb down while holding onto a rope attached to the rock. Then all of a sudden, you enter a Jurassic world, as the mist from the water fills the air.
Further down the canyon are even more waterfalls, with clear mountain pools where you can cool off and swim. The hike is circular, and you'll need to make your way back up the way you came.
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Gunung Api Purba, Central Java
Best hike for beginners and families
2.4km (1.5 miles), 2-3 hours, easy
While Central Java's Gunung Api Purba may not be the longest or toughest hike in Indonesia, what it lacks in length, it more than makes up for in breathtaking views. Known locally as Nglanggeran, the hike to the summit of this mystical, ancient volcano floors travelers with its vistas. Towering rocky cliffs, wooden ladders, narrow slot canyons and boulders the size of large houses all need to be traversed in order to reach the peak.
A playful troop of monkeys greet hikers from the beginning, at Nglanggeran village, and the route meanders over mossy stairs and past great hulks of rock until all that gives way to massive plummeting cliffs and sweeping views. There are five rest stops on the way, each worth a roll of film alone, but save your snaps for the summit – it's well worth the wait.
Padar Island, East Nusa Tenggara
Best short hike for epic views
1.6km (1 mile), 1 hour, easy-moderate
This hike in East Nusa Tengarra boasts arguably the best views in the country, but vistas this fab rarely come easily. Instead it's a tough 700-stair climb that takes you from the beach to the Padar Island viewpoint, where sweeping panoramas of the surrounding islands await.
Accessible only by boat, a few hours from Labuan Bajo in Flores, this stunning atoll holds the distinction of having three incredible beaches, each with different colored sand – and all visible in one sweep from the 185m (607ft) summit, as are dozens of others. It is possible to visit and complete on a day trip, but most hikers stay and explore the incredible Komodo National Park as well.
Mt Merapi, Central Java
Best active volcano hike
8km (5 miles), 6-7 hours, moderate-hard
Towering nearly 2900m (some 9500 feet) over the city of Yogyakarta, Mt Merapi is officially the world's most active volcano. Like a number of other Indonesian hikes, the trek to the top is best tackled at night, so you can watch the sunrise from the summit – and avoid the incredible daytime heat.
From the peak, you can see five other volcanoes, many of which can be climbed as well. Most hikers are content with conquering the crater rim on Mt Merapi – no mean feat – but more experienced climbers can tackle the true summit. It's even possible to camp overnight on the volcano's crater rim.
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Mt Abang, Bali
Best alternative to Mt Batur
13.8km (8.6 miles), 5-7 hours, moderate
Despite being Mt Batur's closest neighbor, Bali's Mt Abang remains relatively unknown to foreign hikers, making it an ideal low-key trek. What's more, the climb offers something entirely different to most hikes: Mt Abang isn't actually a volcano, but it's the highest section of the Batur Caldera rim, which means that without any volcanic rock underfoot, its sides are entirely forested, right to the very peak.
Locals will often climb Mt Abang in the late afternoon and camp out on top. There are some great forested camping spots, with amazing views down to Mt Batur and up to the imposing Mt Agung. This moderate hike is best tackled in the dry season, as the forested slopes can provide a muddy and slippery experience in the wet. There are two temples en route to the peak, and both have amazing views across the lake to Mt Batur. Best of all? There are no crowds.
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