Must see attractions in Sulawesi

  • Top ChoiceSights in Central Sulawesi

    Bada Valley

    Seemingly scattered haphazardly around the hills near Lore Lindu National Park are some 400 ancient stone megaliths of unknown origin that might be over 5000 years old. A fine assortment of these can be found – with a guide – in Bada Valley, 60km west of Tentena, including the 4m tall, anatomically correct, leaning Palindo. While you can see many of the statues in one long day from Tentena, several villages do have homestays or guesthouses including Bomba, Gintu and Tuare. To add even more adventure to your visit, consider a two-day trek over the mountains through the national park to Behoa enclave, where even more megaliths are found (as well as onward transport to Palu or Poso).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Togean Islands

    Taman Nasional Kepulauan Togean

    Togean Islands National Park was gazetted in 2004, and in 2017 was declared a tourism area of national significance. The park encompasses 3400 sq km of ocean and 250 sq km of land, and contains several of Indonesia's endemic and endangered plants and animals. The islands are home to 596 species of reef fish, 315 species of coral and even a few primates including the Togean macaque and Togean tarsier.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Tana Toraja

    Ke'te Kesu'

    The four stately tongkonan and many granaries that make up Ke'te Kesu' were moved to this picturesque site in 1927 when the savvy family head noticed the Dutch government largely ignored anyone too far from their administrative centres. Later, to share their heritage with the world while demonstrating the value of preserving traditions, Kesu'ers got their village designated as the first official obyek wisata (tourism site) in Toraja, and lobbied hard (with some success) for Unesco World Heritage attention. On the cliff face behind the village there are cave graves and very old hanging graves – some reportedly 500 years old or more. Deteriorating coffins are suspended on wooden beams under an overhang, while others have fallen into jumbles below full of bones and skulls. Shops near the car park sell intricate wood carvings – one way the locals hope to share Toraja with outsiders. The village is 4km southeast of Rantepao and gets busy with tour groups in high season.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Tana Toraja

    Tampang Allo

    Whether it's the tau tau, the cave itself, or the peaceful rice paddy setting squeezed between a maze of cliffs, this is one our favourite sites in Tana Toraja. The graves reportedly belong to the chiefs of Sangalla, descendants of the mythical divine being Tamborolangiq who introduced the caste system and death rituals into Torajan society. Their skulls all look the same as any commoner's, however. Take a Kijang from Makale to Sangalla; get off at Suaya, and walk the concrete path to Tampang Allo.

  • Sights in Central Sulawesi

    Behoa Valley

    The valley around Bariri village is littered with megalithic objects, including statues of human forms as well as massive kalamba (stone pots) and tutu'na (stone lids). The region is alternately called Behoa or Besoa. Trekking from here to Bada Valley (or vice versa) is popular.

  • Sights in Central Sulawesi

    Air Terjun Saluopa

    If you have wheels you can visit this impressive, powerful waterfall that drops in stages through rainforest, 15km west of Tentena. The falls are a spectacular place for a swim, and you can hike through the jungle and alongside a plunging river for a few kilometres – keep an eye out for monkeys and hornbills. Guides are available to take you on full day treks deeper into the rainforest. If you fancy spending the night here, simple wooden plank bungalows with a mattress on the floor are 110,000Rp.

  • Sights in Tana Toraja

    Londa

    Live out your Indiana Jones fantasies at this extensive (and very popular) burial cave below a massive cliff face. Its entrance is guarded by a balcony of tau tau, while inside piles of coffins – many of them rotted away – and bones lie haphazardly on almost every ledge. Members of the upper class are placed in hanging caskets on the cliff face, some at dizzying heights, while commoners are placed in the caves, often without caskets at all. A local myth says that the people buried here are the descendants of Tangdilinoq, chief of the Toraja; English-speaking guides with lanterns (50,000Rp) are eager to tell you all about it and more as you explore the depths of the caves. If you’re thin, and don’t suffer from claustrophobia, squeeze through the tunnel that connects the two main caves, passing some interesting stalactites and stalagmites. Rantepao–Makale bemo will drop you off at the turn-off 5km south of Rantepao. From there it's a 2km walk (or ojek) from the cave.

  • Sights in Tana Toraja

    Lemo

    A veritable village of tau tau stare down with unblinking eyes and outstretched arms from this impressive burial cliff riddled with tombs. The sheer rock face has a whole series of balconies for statues of the deceased who feel as much a part of the community as their living relatives. The site is located at the head of a terraced valley making the whole scene hauntingly beautiful, especially in the early morning. According to local legend, these graves are for descendants of a Toraja chief who built his house on top of the cliff into which the graves are now cut. The tombs cost around 40,000,000Rp to hollow out of the rock, and can take several months of labor. Nearby, expert craftsmen carve new tau tau for funerals throughout the region. They also have a few for sale (in convenient carry-on sizes) if you wish to take one home. A Rantepao–Makale bemo can drop you at the turn-off to the burial site, from where it’s just less than a 1km walk to the village.

  • Sights in Makassar

    Fort Rotterdam

    One of the best-preserved examples of Dutch military architecture in Indonesia, Fort Rotterdam was built on the site of a Gowanese fort, itself built to repel the Dutch East India Company. Having failed to keep out the orang belanda (Dutch people), it was reconstructed by the new masters of Makassar after their 1667 conquest, and includes many fine, well-restored colonial structures. You can walk the enclave's stout ramparts, see sections of the original walls and, inside, visit the Museum Negeri La Galigo. While foreign visitors tend to marvel at the architecture, local tourists remember the fort as the final residence of national hero Prince Diponegoro who led the rebellion in Java against Dutch occupation. He was imprisoned here for 25 years until his death in 1855. Local guides at the entrance charge 100,000Rp.

  • Sights in South Sulawesi

    Gua Leang Leang

    The Gua Leang Leang caves are noted for their ancient paintings and handprints. Recent studies of nearby caves have placed the art at over 35,000 years old, making them the oldest pictographs in the world. There are 60 or so known caves in the Maros district; the limestone karst here has more holes than a Swiss cheese. Catch a pete-pete from Maros to the Taman Purbakala Leang-Leang turn-off on the road to Bantimurung, and walk the last couple of kilometres. Alternatively, charter a pete-pete from Maros and combine it with a trip to Air Terjun Bantimurung waterfall.

  • Sights in North Sulawesi

    Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue

    About 9km southwest of Bitung, Tasikoki is an entirely volunteer-run organisation that rescues and cares for animals confiscated from smugglers. The aim is to rehabilitate the animals and release them back into the wild. You can make a day visit to the centre (donations appreciated) or sign on longer as a volunteer. Note: if you turn up unannounced, you will be curtly sent on your way. There are more than 200 animals of 40 different species (including sun bears and sea eagles) at the centre, and during a visit you'll learn about the illegal animal trade and the animals themselves.

  • Sights in North Sulawesi

    Muesum Pinawetengan

    Not just another roadside attraction, this complex is home to Minahasa houses, a history museum, a celebration of owls (the Minahasa Regency mascot), a weaving workshop, an anti-narcotics museum and a botanical garden. Also on display is the world's largest playable trumpet, the world's largest xylophone and the (formerly) world's longest silk sarong. It's all the work of Benny Mamoto, a Java-born police general who is passionate about Minahasa culture, and wants to put this region on the map. It's interesting, well-presented and definitely on our map.

  • Sights in Tana Toraja

    Pasar Bolu

    Heralded as the world's largest water buffalo market, this dusty, chaotic scene pops off every Tuesday and Saturday when stately beasts imported from around the world are put on display. Some of these animals cost more than a small car. Most are destined for slaughter at funeral ceremonies. There's also a swift trade in pigs and roosters, and the more traditional market nearby is a social feast for the senses. Mornings are the best time to visit. Pasar Bolu is 2½km northeast of town and easily accessible by bemo.

  • Sights in North Sulawesi

    Pantai Liang

    Suffering from erosion and rising sea levels, the beach at Liang has become a svelte, though pleasant, strip of white sand. At low tide, there's still plenty of room to toss a frisbee around. The beach is lined with resorts that crawl up the hillside behind. Food stalls and trinket vendors seem out of place until the mobs of day-trippers arrive around 10am. The beach just south of Pantai Liang is a protected turtle nesting ground, so keep off (even though it looks inviting).

  • Sights in South Sulawesi

    Pantai Bara

    Around 3km northwest of Bira village, this quieter crescent of white sand is fringed by low cliffs and palms. You can stroll here in 30 minutes from Bira along the coast with the sand between your toes (low tide only) and marvel at the turquoise water and tropical vegetation. At high tide, use the newly paved-but-crumbling road behind the beach, which cuts through woodland that's home to monkeys and large monitor lizards.

  • Sights in Central Sulawesi

    Museum Sulawesi Tengah

    This exceptionally good museum has cultural artefacts from the area's indigenous peoples. Unfortunately only half the signs are in English, but there are extremely informative English-speaking attendants who will happily show you around. Check in at the smaller building behind the main hall. At the time of research, the museum was still closed due to earthquake/tsunami damage.

  • Sights in Makassar

    Asmaul Husnah 99 Kubah

    On the reclaimed waterfront opposite Pantai Losari, this stunning bright-orange-and-white, 99-domed mosque was almost complete at the time of research and is destined to become a major Makassar attraction. Reach it by passing the dramatic 'Centre Point of Indonesia' globe sculpture and a new cable bridge shaped like a tongkonan (traditional Torajan house).

  • Sights in Tana Toraja

    Bori' Kalimbuang

    There are lots of places to see standing stones, but this is one of the nicer ones. With 102 stones – each representing a different funeral conducted at the site – this pleasantly arranged and well manicured collection of particularly large menhirs is attractive and peaceful. Nearby tombs as well as a tree bearing baby graves add to the sacred ambience.

  • Sights in Central Sulawesi

    Air Terjun Piala & Laumarang

    Two impressive waterfalls up the canyon northwest of Luwuk make a fine afternoon excursion. Piala requires ducking under a fence at the aqueduct which may not appeal to some, but the government is actively improving the muddy road to Laumarang, which they hope to develop into a tourism destination. It's a steep 3km hike from the edge of town.

  • Sights in North Sulawesi

    Pantai Pangalisang

    Forming much of the east coast of Pulau Bunaken, Pantai Pangalisang is a long stretch of walkable soft white sand tucked between a thick wall of mangroves and the land. Just beyond the thicket is some outrageous snorkelling, and most lodges have cut paths for boats and swimmers. The beach all but disappears at high tide.