49 Reasons to visit Indonesia
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Updated: 22nd January 2016
Indonesia is too damn good to put into words. Ok, I lie. I’ve managed over a thousand here. By far my favourite country out of the 43 I have visited, I have also been lucky enough to see another side to Bali from loosely calling a tiny village there ‘Home’ for four months.
The country is so vast, vibrant and dynamic you could spend a year exploring it and feel like you have been across a whole continent. Which, to be fair, given the size of Indonesia and the 17,000 + islands you have to choose from you can understand.
So many people simply head to Bali, declare it as heaven or hell and then sadly don’t venture on. It might not be as well documented or have the travel infrastructure as some of its neighbours but that is why I fell for it so hard.
49 Things to do in Indonesia
 Find Paradise You know when marketing departments come up with blatant lies. When Raja Ampat says ‘The world’s last paradise’ you can’t help but believe them. Think two flights and two boats. Think the world’s most bio-diverse diving site. Think no phone signal, a handful of people and sharks swimming under your feet on the pier. Think Paradise.
Read More: A journey through Paradise: Raja Ampat
 Swim with Jellyfish Head to Kakaban Island off the coast of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) and dive into a lake of bright Jellyfish that blissfully sting free. Go pro ready?
 Meet the Dragons in Komodo National Park and Gili Laba, home to these giant lizards. If the bite doesn’t kill you, their poison will. Luckily though, the trusty local guides will keep you safe to marvel at these beasts.
 Experience a day of pitch black silence The Nyepi festival takes place in March on the island of Bali. It is a day of silence, even the airport closes and you are not allowed outside or light to show. The night before is the magic, everyone goes crazy with drums, noise, fire and flames to scare off and call all the evil spirits. The next day, when they realise it is silent and no one is there the spirits leave for other places. A unique experience followed by a very boring (hangover?) day.
 Eat Nasi Goreng This staple rice dish is best enjoyed for under a dollar at a local Warung (snack restaurant). Ideally, on the side of a road sticking out of someone’s house and eating with your fingers. But seriously, the food scene across Indonesia is incredible in all its forms. Even if you just stick to the Island of the gods, there are so many amazing places to eat in Bali.
 Complain about the traffic, pollution or anything at all in Jakarta But seriously, I have no idea why Jakarta gets such a bad rap. I kinda warmed to it after a week. But traffic complaining here is like weather moaning to the brits. So get ranting to anyone who will listen, especially your taxi driver… He won’t have heard it before.
 Visit the home of the Flores Man The Homo Floresiensis were a small type of human who dates back 12,000 years. The Liang Bua cave on Flores was the discovery site in 2003. I have no idea how I didn’t know this until last year.
 Decide if you love or hate Bali It’s a big debate on the travel scene. I love it, but know it is far from perfect. Check out my post for the full story and give it a chance.
Read More: Is Bali beautiful or beyond repair?
 Visit Borobudur temple… Why? It is the world’s largest Buddhist temple.
Read More: Visiting the temples of Yogyakarta
 … and Prambanan temple You get two UNESCO world-class temples for your buck in Yogyakarta, this is the Hindu one and can be done on the same day if you like to overdose on religious sights.
 Discover ‘colour changing’ lakes The National Park in Dieng Plateau is home to this glistening lake. Head there early, pay a ‘hey hey’ fee to the staff and explore it before anyone else gets day access.
 Another lake, this time with blue fire Ijen, at the east of Java is a sulphur mining lake that has hellish working conditions for the underpaid guys who mine it. But when the sun sets, blue ‘flames’ dance out of the lake in the most eye-popping and lung-destroying of ways.
 Hang out with Orangutans Whether it is in Sumatra or Borneo, wild or at a rehabilitation centre, this is one of those moments you won’t forget. Spend a few days seeing Orangutans in Tanjung Puting National park and completely switch off from the outside world in remote Kalimantan, this really is natures playground
 Catch sunrise at Mount Bromo Bromo can be crowded and a bit shit. The horses don’t get it good. Everyone can try to scam you OR you can not set your alarm, not make it to the viewing point, not go on a tour, manage to not pay the entrance fee and follow the botched job I did and really enjoy it…
Read More: How to do Mount Bromo without a tour
 Have a date in the Mall If you are in Jakarta then you are likely to be in a Mall, near a Mall or potentially have moved into a Mall. The food courts serve up fresh and cheap food leaving plenty of dollar for the incredible sky bars and expensive cocktails you will head for in this mega city.
 Go to Ubud and be all hippy Because it was all the rage in the 80’s and you need to get a Yoga Barn selfie apparently these days to prove you have made it to Bali…
Read More: Where to stay in Bali (Clue: Not Kuta)
 Go to Ubud and complain about the monkeys They will steal everything not pinned down. But you are also likely to get caught up in the moment, be a knob and put a banana on your head before screaming you have rabies. Don’t be a knob, then you will be fine.
 Go anywhere and complain about the monkeys They will take your D&G sunglasses anywhere and everywhere. Pretty sure your insurance doesn’t cover monkey theft.
 Spend three days trekking Mount Rinjani I bailed because I became super unfit after too many Bintangs, but if you manage the three-day trek to the top of Rinjani you are a superhero and get rewarded with beautiful lake vistas, your head in the clouds and serious bragging rights when you head to the Gili islands to relax afterwards.
 Be (un)impressed at the Sultans Palace Yogyakarta, or Jogja locally is historic and a laid back place best just enjoyed at a slow pace. It is a special region for its Royalty and if you want to see the sights you might stumble upon the Sultans Palace. I found it mighty underwhelming but others rave – so check it out and make a call.
 Dive the Liberty Wreck in Bali If you have dived before get there early before people start stomping about in NASA style suits. If you are a newbie and taking a course, it can be strolled into from the ocean and makes an easy starting wreck dive. The ship was a US cargo ship, now, thanks to the Japanese taking it out, it is home to Nemo and co.
 Then hang out on the black sand beaches If you want that chilled out, reggae playing, hammock hanging vibes then Amed is a great place in Bali to get away from those touristy spots we all love to hate.
 Stay in a homestay in Wonosobo, master sign language and then use it at every house your driver takes you to so they can have a selfie with a white person I kinda enjoyed it after the awkward reality of what was happening set in. I also made heaps of new friends. Though, they did look petrified of me in every photo. So, maybe more acquaintances.
 Visit a volcanic plateau with the locals Once you are done playing Bule exhibit A in Wonosobo, get your driver to take you on and explore the Dieng plateau for temples, rice fields and that so sexy egg smell as the whole joint is volcanic, misty and maybe slightly dangerous. Winning.
Read More: Five reasons to discover Dieng Plateau
 Have a Bemo ride with a load of livestock Unless you have crammed yourself into a converted van with 37 people, 18 chickens, 6 storefronts and a completely blank look on your face of how or when you pay for it then you haven’t experienced the finest transport in Indonesia. Bonus points if young girls giggle at you and you can coax a free orange out of the overly excited granny chatting Bahasa next to you.
 See the Sumatran White Rhino Most people skip Indonesia when it comes to Safaris and rare wildlife. Don’t underestimate it.
 See the Sumatran Tiger See above point. Except, palm oil and deforestation is destroying this habitat. So let’s get visiting and get some conservation efforts going. Singapore will love you for it…
 Take a Balinese cooking class Why? Because it is some of the most awesome flavours you will ever eat and trying to get all of those Balinese spice bags out of the country afterwards always makes for an interesting customs check. Especially the ones without labels…
 Totally unique funeral In Sulawesi, the Torja community hold some of the longest and most elaborate funeral celebrations in the world. They can take months to fund raise for after the passing of someone and will include up to 1000’s of people. I haven’t visited this, mainly because of the slaughter of animals involved which all though I respect their choices, it’s not a tourist attraction in my eyes.
 Try not to get shipwrecked Boats in Indonesia have a pretty shifty record, Adventuress Kate got shipwrecked whilst on a press trip reviewing one a few years ago. I did the same trip last year and survived, but keep your wits about you. If you take one of the big shipping boats then… well, you are in for an entertaining ride!
 Try not to land too early The airlines of Indonesia aren’t much better. In fact, they make up most of the ‘un-safest in the world’ list. Beyond the crashes, that time the plane just missed Bali’s runaway, snapped in half and everyone swam on to Kuta beach as well as when the flight took off but had to stop as it drove into a load of cows both stick in my mind.
 Help save a pure doggies life The Bali Dog is one of the purest bred in the world due to the laws of import and export, however, they are often murdered in mass approved culling due to the belief of Rabies. Spend some time or money with one of the dog foundations there and help save these rare and loving guys.
 Explore all the islands around Labuan Bajo Many will head to Komodo, Laba and the mainland but there are heaps of beautiful Islands to stay on here. If Raja Ampat is a little far this is the next best thing. Kanawa would be my top tip to get a hut on and chill out.
 Get lost in the Jungle Borneo. Trees. More Trees. You can’t get much more remote and lush landscapes than this.
 Do NOTHING in the Gili Islands and be grateful for it Literally nothing. I forgot the day of the week and missed my transfer. Perfect, peaceful Island life. One size doesn’t fit all, so pick which of the three works best for you.
 Discover tribal life Indonesia has various tribes, but Papua is still one of the most untouched parts of the country. Cannibalism is believed to have phased out, but you still get the odd conflicting report…
 Get detained in Papua’s immigration offices Rock up. Get detained. Eat some Ritz Crackers. Have the policeman talk about Oxford United. Then he might scream ‘Rich’ at your friend. You assume he wants a bribe. Then he clarifies he met her brother Rich when he was a taxi driver in Bali a year before… as far as the most unbelievable travel situation and the story go, that wins. Maybe you’ll get lucky and detained too!
 Try and get a shot of Tanah Lot with no one else in it. It’s a temple, it’s a rock, it’s kinda far out and it will be heaving with people. I couldn’t believe how un-inspiring it was, but it is apparently a ‘must visit’ – Personally, Uluwatu temple is more deserving of your time.
 Queue up for your photo on the Gili T sunset swing Or don’t, if you are lazy like me and would rather sit drinking beer and taking photos of boats instead.
 Check out the Writers Festival in Bali Every October Ubud hosts a readers and writers festival which is actually pretty cool. It attracts authors from around the world and the whole of Ubud comes alive with free yoga (for that barn selfie) and free spirits.
 Cruise up the river in Borneo Because who the hell doesn’t want to casually slip into a conversation they have done that?
 Escape the city to the 1000 islands That crazy polluted city of Jakarta we were saying everyone loves to hate on? Take a boat an hour out of that and you reach perfect sand islands with those Maldives over water style huts. One Island even has an underwater tunnel, a real sea style aquarium.
 Swim with Mantas One of the most incredible moments of my life. There are a few spots you can do this, but jumping into a clearing station in Komodo and being circled by 12 adults is something you might need luck and patience to help you achieve.
 Take way, way, WAY too many sunset photos I think they are the best in the world. Daily, no filter moments of beer sipping joy awaits.
 Debate the ethics of Surabaya Cigarette factories If you wind up in Surabaya you will usually end up on some kinda tour as you ask the question ‘What is in Surabaya’ – to be fair, you might still be asking it at the end of the tour too. You know those funky clove smelling Ciggies smoked over here? The House of Sampoerna is a museum dedicated to the brand, what I didn’t expect to see however was a window looking down on 100’s of women hand rolling them like an ant factory on crack…
 Go caving in Java Java is full of Caves but the Jomblang caves are easily reached from the capital and some of the better known. An awesome day out and you can capture epic photos as the light hits the caves and comes down.
 Find an empty island and claim it There are over 17,000 of them. Surely they have a spare one you can call your own.
 Don’t drink the cruel coffee You will come across Kopi Lawak whilst over here which is from coffee cherries that have been shat out by the Civet animal. The price should put you off on face value, but the force feeding of these guys to keep up demand is just another animal entering the farming and abuse chain. Read More.
 Laugh with the locals I love the vibe of the people of this country. They laugh from the bottom of the hearts regularly. Usually at you, but join in!
 Discover incredible Sulawesi This lesser discovered part of Indonesia is full of incredible culture, unbelievable beaches and as of yet, is not too discovered at all. My friend Kayla has the full low-down on the best things to do in Sulawesi.
Read more – Indonesia travel guide
Wow. you created the best blog about my home island. I used to live In Bali, but I came home to help my local people of Flores Indonesia, so now I can help my local village get tourism and tell people around the world from online now. Thank you and hope you visit! thank you
Thanks for sharing Dan! Indonesia is indeed so much more than Bali, great overview and many useful tips you have provided here!
Oh man great article you have mentioned every point.You have written very well about Indonesia. Thanks for sharing this.
I am from STC Indonesia Jakrta. I like this article so much.
Just stumbled here when I try to find information of Dieng Plateau. Great pictures! And love to see a different perspective of Indonesia, I’m Indonesian born and raised try to travel here an there as much as I can. Great content, love it!
Awesome! I love this. The photos, the suggestions, and the opinions. Drives me nuts when people say they don’t like Indo cuz of a week in Kuta! No wonder you didn’t like it, Kuta sucks!
I’ve been here 7 years so it was fun to see places I love, but also new suggestions!
Thank you. Just back from 6 weeks in Indo and still love it :)
I just came across this. Oh man, I love it! I’ve lived in Indo for 7 years and it’s fun to see your take on this amazing, crazy country.
Hey! We’re heading to Indonesia late July after Singapore for about 10 days. Impossible advice I’m sure but we’d love your help setting up a solid itinerary for this :-) the help would much appreciated!
Check out our blog
Hey, Wow – it’s a toughie as so much choice. Feel free to email me if you want some tips and advice but narrow down some ideas first, Indonesia is like it’s own continent :)
Nice blog! Next time try visit Banda the spice island in Molucca province. Went there two years ago and it was fantastic!
Sounds great, added to my never ending Indo list :)
You missed Pulau Nias and again Maluku and Maluku Utara. Furthermore, you miss what Indos call the “next Bali”. I’ll tease you with that remark to get you searching but you better go there now
So glad to hear that you loved it! I have a trip planned for this year and super anxious about Bali belly, but I’m glad it didn’t ruin your trip or feelings about Indonesia!
I think it has got a lot better in recent years in general hygiene, so hopefully, you’ll be all good. Have a great time :)
The photos are gorgeous! And it’s a goal of mine to visit an Orangutan center one day. They’re such incredible animals.
Thank you so much. And yes, it’s something that needs to be done and to support them also.
Fantastic! Very well said! I love Indonesia too and think this country has more to offer than any other in the world!!!
It is my favourite country for that reason. Glad you agree :)
Thank you. We have just found out we are on the move from UK to Indonesia for 3 years. You have inspired us and given us hope for the adventure ahead. Thank you
Oh wow. Honestly it is one of my favourite countries in the world and all so different. Which part are you going to? Good luck with the move!
Love your pictures and comments. Thank you.
Looks amazing and with 49 reasons it’s not definatly added to the top of my list of places to go to. I can’t wait to start planning this trip so thanks for sharing
Give yourself plenty of time there – so much to see and do :) Safe travels!
Wow, I never knew there was so much to do in Indonesia. How long were you there? I wrote about Nyepi day earlier this year. Sounds like a great festival for napping all day ;)
That’s a rather extensive list but my, my, I certainly want to do all of them!!!! Visiting the dragons is COOL. Full stop. Would definitely visit Indonesia soon and get back to this list!
Haha. This is the small list :) Such an amazing country – when you visit feel free to ask for any tips and yes the dragons are AWESOME!
Just got back from Indonesia yesterday and am extremely jet-lagged as I write! I, too, absolutely fell in love with Indonesia and wish I had more than three weeks to dedicate to the 17,000+ islands that the country has to offer. Still, I was able to visit the temples of Yogya, experience Bromo and Ijen, visit temples around Ubud, do nothing on Gili Air and hike with komodos/swim with mantas (I agree…totally indescribable experience!).
Glad I went to Bali and got to experience the land of 1,000 temples. Even happier that I didn’t spend time in Kuta.
Thanks for letting me relive the adventure and reaffirming my firmly held notion that Indonesia is just about as good as it gets.
That sounds like an incredible trip – I was so upset I missed Ijen, bet it was super beautiful.
Mantas – wow. I hear so many people don’t see them so I guess we are very lucky. So pleased you enjoyed it, more people should hear there for sure :)
I read this hoping to narrow down what I wanted to do… did not help. I want to see and do it all. So little time :(
Haha – it’s true, i still have so much I want to see here as well. Hope you can find heaps in. Safe travels :)
Hi! If you want to see more beautiful Indonesia spots you can follow my Pinterest. My account name is QUEENYO.
Amazing photos :)
Thank you so much! Love this country. Safe travels!