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. Take a cooking course, unwind at a spa, wander the rice paddies and see 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. Take the ferry from Bali’s port town of Padangbai to Lombok’s launching pad of Lembar. 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 snorkelling. 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 and past with 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 splurge in the city's shops, 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. From there, visit Malang and its cluster of nearby Hindu temples. Then head into the clouds at awesome Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, spending a night on the lip of Tengger crater. Finally, hike to the magnificent turquoise sulphur lake of Kawah Ijen on the Ijen Plateau
Indonesia’s Island Core
- 8 Weeks
Explore two of Indonesia's greatest concentrations 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 (10 hours) takes you to the mountain-lake town of Tentena, from where you can access the ancient megalithic statues of Lore Lindu. A four-hour shared-car journey whisks you from Tentena 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 board a bus or plane to Manado and take a boat to laid-back Pulau Bunaken. Fly from Manado to Pulau Ternate, which is as pretty a tropical island paradise as you'll find. From there, fly onto Kota Ambon on Maluku’s Pulau Ambon. Pause only briefly, then take the fast ferry to the crystalline seas, multicoloured reefs and empty beaches of the historic Banda Islands. Finally make the jaunt by boat 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 hike-worthy mountain scenery, jumping-off point for treks into the little-explored Yali Country, 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 via Jayapura and spot whale sharks off the coast – you can even swim with them. Then 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. They're also good for birdwatching and sublime tropical-island scenery.
Postcards Come to Life
- 6 Weeks
Mysterious rivers of unfathomable length that wind through the jungle are the avenues via which travellers can 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 the prime places for spotting orang-utans. Scan the canopy for their amber bodies from the upper deck of a klotok (houseboat) as it drifts down the beautiful Sungai Sekonyer.
From Pangkalan Bun, fly or take the overnight bus to colourful Banjarmasin. Make sure to visit its animated floating markets, one of the most photogenic sights in Kalimantan. Detour for some hiking and bamboo rafting in the remote hills around Loksado. From Banjarmasin, travel overland to Samarinda and make an expedition along 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 also popular, but the island province of Nusa Tenggara holds many more surprises.
Head east from Lombok. Admire the beautiful coastline and surf breaks such as Maluk and Pantai Lakey that dot Sumbawa. Catch the ferry to Flores, where Labuan Bajo is the fast-growing hub for exploring nearby Komodo National Park. Enjoy dragons and small, beautiful 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 is increasingly explored via the fast-improving Trans-Flores Hwy. Visit Bajawa to explore volcanoes and villages, then use mountainside Moni as a base for visiting the vivid waters at Kelimutu. Savour the lovely beaches near Paga.
Now take a ferry south to isolated and timeless Sumba, where superb beaches such as Waikabubak and Tambolaka are starting to attract visitors. 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 big 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 head out of town to Bukit Lawang to see the island's most famous residents, the orang-utans. It's a short jaunt from here to Berastagi, a laid-back hill town amid volcanoes.
Head northwest to Ketambe for truly wild orang-uatan encounters in Gunung Leuser National Park. Then take a long-haul bus ride to Banda Aceh, from where it's a short boat ride to world-class diving at Pulau Weh. Take a bus along the coast south (or even better fly) and venture off the west coast to the Banyak Islands, a surfing and beach paradise. Back ashore, follow the Trans-Sumatran 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 Seblat 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.