The mere mention of Bali evokes thoughts of a paradise. It's more than a place; it's a mood, an aspiration, a tropical state of mind. Why I Love Bali By Ryan Ver Berkmoes, Writer In 1993 I visited Bali for the first time. When I went through immigration, the officer glanced at my passport and said in the sweetest voice possible: 'Have a wonderful birthday on Bali.
The heart of the nation, Java is an island of megacities, mesmerising natural beauty, magical archaeological sites and profound traditions in art, music and dance. Boasting a dazzling array of bewitching landscapes – iridescent rice paddies, smoking volcanoes, rainforest and savannah, not to mention virgin beaches – most journeys here are defined by scenic excesses.
If you’re seeking white sand, spectacular diving, frothing hot springs and hidden traditional villages, Nusa Tenggara is your wonderland. Spreading west from the Wallace Line dividing Asia from Australasia, this archipelago is lush and jungle-green in the north, tending to drier savannah in the south and east.
Few isles tempt the imagination with the lure of adventure quite like the wild land of Sumatra. An island of extraordinary beauty, it bubbles with life and vibrates under the power of nature. Eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis are Sumatran headline grabbers. Steaming volcanoes brew and bluster while standing guard over lakes that sleepily lap the edges of craters.
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 stuck in rickety plastic chairs.
Kalimantan – the expansive Indonesian part of Borneo – is an adventure in every sense of the word. Remote jungle, snaking rivers and interior mountains serve up endless opportunities for epic rainforest exploration, while its cities are low-key and little visited by Indonesian standards.
As beguiling, beach-blessed and downright blissful as its near neighbour Bali, Lombok is now much more than just a surfers' paradise. Trekking Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia's second-highest volcano, dominates Lombok's topography, and is a magnet for trekkers. Winding up its jungle-clad slopes (which takes a few days) reveals an ever-changing succession of fecund tropical vistas.
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 with traditional markets, busy malls, great eating and lashings of Balinese history and culture, even as it threatens to absorb Seminyak, Kuta and Sanur. The Bukit Peninsula (the southern part of south Bali) has multiple personalities.
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.
Jakarta may be the nation’s capital, but the Javan identity is at its strongest here, in the island’s historic heartland. This is where Java’s first major Indianised civilisation was born, and it was the stronghold of the great Islamic sultanates centred on the kraton (walled city palaces) of Yogyakarta and Solo as well.
Sprawling, hectic and ever-growing, Bali's capital has been the focus of a lot of the island's growth and wealth over the last five decades. It can seem a daunting and chaotic place, but spend a little time on its tree-lined streets in the relatively affluent government and business district of Renon and you'll discover a more genteel side.
If Jakarta is Java’s financial and industrial powerhouse, Yogyakarta is its soul. Central to the island’s artistic and intellectual heritage, Yogyakarta (pronounced ‘Jogjakarta’ and called Yogya, 'Jogja', for short), is where the Javanese language is at its purest, the arts at their brightest and its traditions at their most visible.