Beaches, Bars, Bodies & Bliss
- 2 Weeks
Mix the offbeat with the sublime in Indonesia's heart of tourism.
Head north to immerse yourself in the ‘other’ Bali – the culture, temples and rich history of Ubud. Visit Gunung Kawi, an ancient site worthy of Indiana Jones, and the nearby craft villages. Take a cooking course, learn woodcarving and revel in Bali's famous traditional dance. Then escape to the misty mountains for treks to waterfalls amid coffee plantations in and around Munduk.
Next is Lombok. Ferry from Bali’s beachy port town of Padangbai to Lembar, Lombok’s launching pad. Head to Kuta for mellow vibes amid the wonderful beaches of south Lombok. Then potter through the rice fields and Hindu temples around Mataram.
Ferry from Bangsal to the deservedly celebrated Gili Islands, where seamless beaches, translucent water and vivid reefs beg for snorkel-clad swimmers. Or if time's short, catch a fast boat directly to the Gilis from Bali.
The Java Jaunt
- 3 Weeks
Indonesia's most populous island mixes the nation's future, past and natural beauty.
Begin in Jakarta and wrap your senses around the dizzying smells, sounds, sights and people of Indonesia’s teeming capital. Linger long enough to binge on Bintang beer and shopping, then head to Batu Karas for classic laid-back beach vibes or go for the resorts of nearby Pangandaran.
After you’ve worshipped the sun for a week or so, catch the train to Yogyakarta, Java’s cultural capital. Dabble in batik, amble through the kraton (walled city palace) and part with your rupiah at the vibrant markets. A day trip to majestic Borobudur is a must.
From Yogyakarta, journey to the laid-back city of Solo, via the enigmatic temples of Prambanan. Head into the clouds at awesome Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, spending a night on the lip of Tengger crater. From here head to the southeast coast and Meru Betiri National Park. You just might see the amazing giant squirrel. Finally follow the coast to Alas Purwo National Park, where there are leopards and amazing surfing at G-Land.
Indonesia’s Island Core
- 8 Weeks
Explore two of Indonesia's greatest concentration of islands in these little-visited regions.
In Makassar, pause amid the pandemonium for excellent seafood. But don’t overdo it, as you want to be fully alive for the elaborate funeral ceremonies in Tana Toraja, a nine-hour bus trip from Makassar. From here, another long bus ride (13 hours) takes you to the transport hub of Poso. Break your journey at the tidy lakeside town of Tentena. A five-hour bus ride from Poso gets you to Ampana, where you take a ferry to the amazing, beguiling Togean Islands for days of island- and hammock-hopping between iconic beaches.
Tearing yourself away, boat to Gorontalo, then bus it or fly to Manado and take a boat to laid-back Pulau Bunaken. Fly from Manado to Kota Ambon on Maluku’s Pulau Ambon. Pause only briefly, then take the new fast ferry to the crystalline seas, multicoloured reefs and empty beaches of the historic Banda Islands. Make your way back to Ambon and fly to Ternate, which is as pretty a tropical island paradise as you'll find. Finally make the jaunt southeast to the Kei Islands, for one perfect beach after another.
The Great East
- 4 Weeks
Papua is the launching pad for this route through some of Indonesia's most exotic and beautiful territory. You can do it in 30 days with judicious use of flights, otherwise take your time for the full land and sea adventure.
Start at the transport hub of Jayapura. But you’ll only be there long enough to charter a boat to visit the magnificent Danau Sentani, a 96.5-sq-km lake with 19 islands perfect for inland island-hopping.
Back on dry land, take to the air to get to the beautiful Baliem Valley, rich in culture and trek-worthy mountain scenery, and home to the Dani people, an ethnic group whose members have eschewed most modern things and live a traditional life. Enjoy mountain views from a thatched hut.
Fly to Nabire and spot whale sharks off the coast – you can even swim with them. Now fly up for some idle island time on Pulau Biak. Next it’s a flight to Sorong, a base for trips out to the Raja Ampat Islands – a paradise for divers and snorkellers with Indonesia’s most abundant and varied marine life. It’s also good for birdwatching and sublime tropical-island scenery.
Postcards Come To Life
- 6 Weeks
Mysterious rivers of unfathomable length are the avenues to discover Kalimantan's incredible diversity of life, including orang-utans.
Unassuming Pangkalan Bun is the entry point to this excursion – it’s the launching pad for trips into glorious Tanjung Puting National Park, one of Indonesia’s best orang-utan haunts. Scan the canopy for their amber bodies from the top of a houseboat as it ambles down the beautiful Sungai Sekonyer.
Rejoin reality in colourful Banjarmasin. Dabble in Kalimantan’s most beguiling city – brave a 5am call for the animated floating markets, then cruise the canals and meet the locals at dusk. Begin another classic river adventure by navigating up the Sungai Kahayan to Palangka Raya, a hub for yet more orang-utan watching. Your boat choices range from the simple to the luxe.
From Banjarmasin, travel overland to Samarinda and make an expedition along the Sungai Mahakam. Several days upstream will land you in the river’s western reaches, which are peppered with semi-traditional Dayak villages and preserved forests. Travel back to the coast and head north to primitive, teardrop-shaped Pulau Derawan and its offshore underwater wonders.
- 6 Weeks
Lombok is well-known to visitors and Flores is the new darling, but the island province of Nusa Tenggara holds many more surprises.
Head east from Lombok. Admire the beautiful coastline and surf breaks that dot Sumbawa such as Maluk and Pantai Lakey. Catch the ferry to Labuanbajo on Flores, the fast-growing hub for exploring nearby Komodo National Park. Enjoy dragons and beautiful little island beaches. Note that you can also journey from Lombok to Flores by liveaboard boat.
Flores is a rugged volcanic island with thriving ancient cultures and dramatic terrain which more and more travellers are exploring via the fast-improving Trans-Flores Hwy. Stop in Bajawa to explore volcanoes and villages, then use mountainside Moni as a base for visiting the vivid waters at Kelimutu. Stop off at the lovely beaches near Paga.
Now take ferries south to isolated and timeless Sumba, where some superb beaches are just starting to attract visitors. Ponder this at beautiful beaches around Waikabubak and Tambolaka. After indulging in sun and isolation, fly to Kupang in West Timor. Visit entrancing ancient villages like None, Boti and Temkessi in the surrounding areas to the east, then jump over to Rote for relaxed beach vibes.
- 6 Weeks
Sumatra is quite huge and you'll have to hustle to fully appreciate its myriad natural charms within visa constraints.
Start your explorations in Medan, which has great transport connections. Then get right out of town and head to Bukit Lawang, where you can see the island's most famous residents, the orangutans. It's a short jaunt from here to Berastagi, a laid-back hill town set amidst volcanoes.
Head northwest to Ketambe for some jungle trekking in Gunung Leuser National Park, then on to the large sea creatures at Pulau Weh Marine National Park off the coast. Head back south and travel off the west coast to the Banyak Islands, a surfing and beach paradise. Back ashore, follow the Trans-Sumatra Hwy south to Bukittinggi, a good base for exploring the cultures and beauty of the Harau Valley and Danau Maninjau.
More surf, sand and underwater joy await at the Mentawai Islands. Next, head inland to the volcanic Kerinci Valley and Kerinci National Park for remote jungle villages. Finally head far south to Way Kambas National Park, where the highlights include elephants. From here it's easy to catch the Java ferry.