Rantepao owes its existence to the Dutch who tried (with moderate success) to bring the family-centred rule of the Toraja highlands under centralised administration, creating two new seats of government: Rantepao and Makale. While that control shifted back and forth – or dissolved completely at times – Rantepao did grow into a small centre of trade and commerce for the northern Torajan communities.
Still something of an overgrown village, Rantepao is an easy-to-manage town that lies within striking distance of the region's major sites and offers a good range of accommodation and restaurants. The centre is a tad scruffy, but traffic isn’t too heavy and the streets quickly merge with farmers' fields on Rantepao's outskirts; you're never far from the crow of a rooster. Nights can be cool and there is rain throughout the year, even in the dry season.