If you’re seeking white sand, spectacular diving and surf, bubbling hot springs, majestic waterfalls and hidden traditional villages – away from Bali-esque crowds – Nusa Tenggara is your wonderland. Spreading west from the Wallace Line dividing Asia from Australasia, this archipelago is 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.
As beguiling, beach-blessed and downright blissful as its near neighbour Bali, Lombok is now much more than just a surfers' paradise. Surfing It was Western surfers who first awoke to Lombok's great appeal, providing the germ of today's tourist industry. And it's the island's southern coast they were drawn to.
Ubud is one of those places where a holiday of a few days can easily turn into a stay of weeks, months or even years. The size of the town's expat community attests to this, and so do the many novels and films that have been set here, creative responses to the seductive nature of this most cultured of all Balinese towns.
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.
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.
One of the world’s greatest megalopolises, Jakarta is a dynamic and vibrant city. Its chaotic charm and juxtapositions can be found on every street. City of Contrasts From the steamy, potent streets of Chinatown and Glodok to Kota’s vestiges of a colonial past, the old city is the prequel to Jakarta's development.
The contents of Sulawesi are as beguiling as its shape. Just as this splay-limbed tropical island was formed by the complex and sometimes violent mashup of tectonic plates, its fascinating social fabric is the result of the complex and sometimes violent mashup of ethnic groups, religions and ecosystems.
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.
East Java (Jawa Timur) is a wild, rolling region of dizzying peaks, smoking volcanoes and unspoilt panoramas. Dotted across this landscape you'll discover ancient temples being swallowed by a riot of vegetation, national parks where growls, barks, and squawks echo from the undergrowth, and stunning beaches with world-class surfing.
Many tourists only experience the lush, volcanic panoramas of West Java (Jawa Barat) through the murky window of a lumbering bus or train, but this dramatic, diverse region has plenty to detain the inquisitive traveller who enjoys breaking away from the standard Java traveller circuit. Historically, it's known as Sunda, and its people and language are Sundanese.