14 Best Things to Do in Indonesia

First, Indonesia is a large area with many islands. It is made up of more than 17,000 islands, of which the main ones are Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Sulawesi and Bali. The most visited for their exoticism are the Maluku Islands, Papua or Lombok. Where in Indonesia do you want to go? Your question must be more specific.

Do you want to explore Lombok or only Gili Islands which are bordered by Bali?

If this is your first time and want a easy journey, go to Java, Bali or Lombok. Because the facilities and infrastructure on the islands of Java, Bali and Lombok are good and comfortable for tourists. If you have a long time for example 1 month, you can even visit all three.

Determine your traveling style. Java island is also wide. Start from Central Java to the east, from East Java cross to Bali by ship and from Bali cross to Lombok by fast boat or public boat. Between Kelingking and Wedi Ireng, Indonesia should get credit for its coastal scenery.

If you are planning a trip to Bali and Indonesia, you are likely to find that flight tickets are much cheaper during the monsterous monsoon in Indonesia. If you don't mind the inconvenience of getting wet every now and then, and would like to explore this stunning country on a budget, traveling to Indonesia before and after the monsoon can be a good idea.

It is hard to determine when the rain arrives, due to the changes in the gulf streams strength and direction in the past few years. It is almost impossible to predict how heavy the rain will be. Still, if you choose to travel between January to April or October to November, you will have to be prepared for some travel disruption and inconvenience. Once you know the risks and have made all the precautions, you can plan your vacation accordingly.

Best Things to Do in Indonesia

1. Raja Ampat Islands

Raja Ampat's remote islands in West Papua are a paradise for divers and nature enthusiasts. While not entirely uninhabited, some islands have minimal human presence, providing an opportunity for secluded camping amid lush rainforests and diverse marine life.

Raja Ampat literally translates into four kings, and it is an archipelago consisting of several small islands out of which some are open for visit while others are not. It is set against a scenic backdrop of steep forested landscapes, marshy lagoons, small atolls complete with glimmering turquoise water.

The island is so remote that there are no ATMs here so you can peacefully indulge in fun filled adventure water activities. It is perfect for people who love to spend time in nature, explore the rare corals and allow your soul to rejuvenate.

2. Torajaland

Situated in the south Sulawesi region, Torajaland is a unique place in Indonesia. Named after the residing tribal population, the Torajas, this place offers a glimpse into the life, traditions and culture of the locals of Indonesia. A culturally infused touring experience will make the Indonesian trip experience wholesome.

The most distinctive features are the houses that are shaped in a very quintessential traditional manner. If you are someone who loves learning about new cultures and possesses an open and accepting mind towards other faiths, then this is the place to be.

3. Yogyakarta

Located very close to the UNESCO world heritage site of Borobudur temple, Yogyakarta is a cultural destination. This place reflects the true soul of Indonesia. If you are looking for a spiritually active holiday in Indonesia and fill your life with positivity and love, then a visit to this largest group of Buddhist monasteries will be memorable.

The designs and architecture of Yogyakarta monument is truly a sight to behold. With fine designs reflecting the culture of Indonesia will keep you mesmerized for long. Watch the sunset at the UNESCO world heritage site or even indulge in river rafting near the temple; there is a lot to keep you busy for the whole day.

Make the city of Yogyakarta as a travel point in Central Java. Yogyakarta City is a small city, a city of students and culture. From there you can go to the Magelang area where there are many ancient temples and to the Gunung Kidul area to see some seas if you want. But the waves in the sea of Gunung Kidul are big.

See the craftsmen making Batik. Batik is a traditional Indonesian cloth. Each region has its own characteristics. Batik from Central Java is known to have a philosophy for each picture painted on fabric. In Yogyakarta you can rent a motorbike or take a pedicab because it is not far to the tourist site. From Yogyakarta to Magelang you can also ride a motorcycle.

Kedung Kandang is a real hidden gem. Would you dare to go down the Jomblang Cave? It takes a 60 meter vertical descend hanging on a single rope to get here, but these views were absolutely worth it. Make sure to bring an extra set of clothes, as things will get muddy in this cave. Karedok is local delicacy from West Java, Indonesia, although this delicacy is now available throughout Indonesia. Karedok has fresh and a bit umami taste. Karedok is made from raw vegetable ingredients such as cucumbers, bean sprouts, cabbage, long beans, sweet potatoes, basil leaves, and eggplants.

Karedok is always completed with a special dressing. The dressing for karedok is a peanut sauce made from red chili, garlic, kencur, peanuts, tamarind water, brown sugar, salt, and shrimp paste. Modern version of karedok often has kerupuk (crackers) and minced boiled egg as condiment.

Kirab Malam Satu Suro of Solo is the most auspicious event that plays an important role in the life of Solo Javanese people. “Kirab Satu Suro” marks the first day of Suro, the most sacred month of Javanese calendar. This is also when the king unleashed his buffaloes. Some Sundanese villages are still retaining its culture, such as Ciptagelar, Kampung Naga, and Baduy. They hold many kind of ceremonies including ruwatan bumi to celebrate harvest.

Grebeg is one of age-old traditions of Javanese. In Yogyakarta and Solo, Grebeg has become an annual agenda with a main purpose to show the gratitude to God Almighty for what He has been given to the them. Seren Taun of Banten is part of Sundanese culture, however the most authentic ones are still held in Banten such as Kanekes. Some exotic Sundanese villages like Ciptagelar also still holds such event annually to mark the new agriculture calendar.

4. Malang

Indonesia lies in what is called the Pacific edge of fire, which is just one of one of the most energetic volcanic locations on the planet. The nation alone has 150 volcanoes.

When Yadnya Kasada day arrives, the crowds throw offerings into the volcano’s crater. The sacrifices include vegetables, fruit, and livestocks are offered to the Gods.

One might think people come to relax, lay on the beach and do yoga in Ubud, but there’s so much more on offer!

5. Mount Rinjani

This is probably one of the most favourite destinations in Indonesia for water babies. The beaches here are divine and also boast of an incredible collection of marine life. Lombok is a majestic island whose beauty cannot be described in words. Located on the eastern coast of Bali, this island offers a peaceful and quiet respite from the bustle of the tourist crowd.

From the idyllic views and scenic beaches to the home of Indonesia's second largest volcano this island is a unique place for tourists. A day in Lombok will include exciting scuba diving, hiking around the volcano, rejuvenating spa and so much more.

If you go to Lombok for a holiday, consider going to touristy areas out of Mataram, the capital city. If you like going to bars, crowds, night party, boating, diving, and snorkeling, stay around Senggigi beach and Gili Trawangan. There are many four to five star hotels and resorts in Gili Trawangan. If you like to enjoy beautiful beach scenery, sunbathing, with less crowd, you can stay in southern beaches of Lombok around Kuta Beach.

The weather there is warmer with less precipitation, with white hot sand and bigger waves, and limestone cliffs along the beaches. It is now more convenient to go the this area since the new airport is nearby. However, you can also rent a car and go to explore other areas of Lombok. Lombok is unique in its cuisine such as ayam taliwang, plecing kangkung, etc.

It also a producer of pearls, which is abundant around Senggigi beach. Don’t forget to visit Sasak village, which shows the traditional house and life of indigenous Lombok tribe. If you are more adventurous, you can even climb mount Rinjani and see its crater called Segara Anakan. Or you can go further to east Lombok to see pink beach.

You're here for some beach time, so get to it as soon as you arrive. What to do? Visit Tangsi beach which is one of the only 10 pink sand beaches in the world. Then take your first surfing lesson at Tanjung Aan beach or Selong Belanak beach. Head to El Bazar Cafe and Restaurant for Mediterranean food bolstered by locally caught seafood.

Rinjani is an active volcano found on the Lombok island. At 3726 meters it is the second highest volcano in Indonesia after Kerinci, in Sumatra. Its crater, at 2000 meters above sea level, hides an immense turquoise lake, the Segara Anak, and another small volcanic cone, the Gunung BarĂº.

The main attractions are its spectacular landscapes, ranging from leafy forests with monkeys and waterfalls, to long fields in the purest Savannah style, the views of Bali, Gili Islands and the crater from the top, its thermal waters. It is very important to be warm. Although at the foot of the beach it is very hot, we must bear in mind that we will spend a night at 2670 meters high and temperatures go down a lot.

In addition, the strong icy winds during the climb to the top are a classic. It is also necessary to carry some money in cash, since in the camps there are small stalls where you can buy energy bars (much needed), cookies or a drink other than water. You can buy sachets of Extra Joss, a powder that when mixed with water turns into a Red Bull type, which can serve as an energy kick if your forces falter on the way to the top.

The 2-day route starts at the place where we hired the tour. They pick up and take to the small town of Sembalun, at 1100 meters high. There we prepare our backpack for trekking Mount Rinjani and leave everything unnecessary to go as light as possible. They give breakfast, which in our case was made of toast with cheese and jam. After breakfast, the route begins.

The first section consists of a gentle ascent along paths through infinite yellow fields. 3 breaks are made to eat and regain strength. All the meals were a combination of rice, noodles, vegetables and chicken, cooked in different ways, but the truth is that they filled a lot and were good enough to have been cooked in the middle of the bush.

About 3 hours later we arrived at the third hut, at 1700 meters high. There are 5 strong climbs with a small flat part between them. At the end we reach the edge of the crater, where we have spectacular views of it and the top. There, at 2670 meters, the porters set up camp. It is amazing how the temperatures fall as the sun sets. They serve dinner, a soup of noodles and vegetables very warm. It is best to go to bed soon because the next day we wake up at 2 in the morning to climb to the top.

At 2 they wake us up with breakfast, a hard-boiled egg and a toast with jam, and we prepare for the ascent. I had to use the flashlight of my cell phone across the cold wind and darkness. The first section is the one with the highest slope and the road is sheltered from the wind, which makes it quite affordable.

The second section is the most difficult with almost no places to shelter from the wind and worst of all, a sandy soil and volcanic ash. When we approach the top, the first rays of sun begin to appear. This is where the third section begins. The feeling when arriving at the top is indescribable. The effort is really worth it.

We can see the whole island of Lombok, especially the crater with the lake, the Gili Islands, and even the Agung volcano of Bali. The views of the sunrise are spectacular. The descent becomes much more distracted thanks to the views and some monkeys. It took us about 2 hours to return to the camp but it must be said that we take it easy and stop to take pictures and enjoy the views.

Once in the camp we prepare a banana pancakes for a second breakfast. Then we return to the town of Sembalun by the same road to end the trekking in the afternoon.

In case of the 3-day route, everything would be the same until the descent of the top. From there one goes down to the crater lake (2000 meters above sea level). Nearby you can find thermal baths where everyone bathes to relax and recover strength after the climb to the top. Then you have to go back to viewpoint at 2650 meters, where you can enjoy the views of the crater from another angle.

Next morning start the road to Senaru. On the way enjoy lush forests with monkeys and different types of birds and two beautiful waterfalls. Even if you do not reach the top it is totally recommendable since the views are impressive.

A small abandoned island Pulau Kanawa will welcome you if you have finished your marine adventure of Lombok and Komodo. The island offers an endless experience of snorkeling and the great vacation. where your days will be enchanted by the magnificent views of the nearby islands, the white beaches, the tranquility, and the nature.
With greater than 17,000 islands it is a certain wager that Indonesia has some gorgeous beaches to lay on. Whether you want to enjoy some sprinkle sporting activities like learning how to browse, go parasailing, trip a banana watercraft or simply lay out and obtain a nice tan, Indonesia is definitely a place where all this can occur.

You can socialize on the popular Kuta coastline in Bali, or the remote pink coastline as section of the Komodo islands, simply among others of the thousands of options.

6. Flores

If you like adventure and exploration of underwater beauty, visit East Nusa Tenggara province (there are Labuan Bajo, Komodo Islands and Lembeh Strait Marine Park in Alor. For culture you can go to Wae Rebo and to the traditional village of Bena). You can explore up to the island of Sumba even to the border of Timor Leste.

The island of Sumba is about an hour’s flight from Bali but very rarely visited. Its relative remoteness, lack of infrastructure and high prevalence of malaria all contribute toward this. However, it is also rated as having some of the most beautiful beaches and best surfing in all of Indonesia. Prainatang sits on a rocky hilltop overlooking the far off ocean and a very impressive landscape below.

The megaliths at Prainatang are certainly not the grandiose ones you find in other parts of the world, or even as large as those found at other parts of Sumba. Pasola war ritual is a mounted spear-fighting competition from western Sumba, Indonesia. It is played by throwing wooden spears at the opponent while riding horses. Pasola is also considered as a thanks giving ceremony to the ancestral spirit of Sumba.

To go to East Nusa Tenggara you can take a plane or even a public boat if you want to go in a backpacker style. There are also overnight packages on the ship that start from Bali or Lombok. Usually they will stop by small islands along the journey to Labuan Bajo. Ship prices vary depending on the facility. There are boats that provide private rooms with air conditioning. So the budget depends on your travel style.

Located on the border of Indonesia-East Timor, Atambua is midsized town that seems like an overgrown village. It is somewhat difficult to orient yourself in the sprawling town if you are not quite familiar with it. The streets in Atambua are winding, that go hand-in-hand with a lot of confusing intersections, fortunately Atambua is small enough to navigate around.

The most obvious way to position yourself in the busy town is by locating the Atambua cathedral (Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception) and the City Field of Atambua. Start your trip form the eastern parts of town because almost everything important is located nearby. The town never runs out of attractions. Just few kilometers to the north you can observe beautiful beaches. It also owns wide-array of traditional villages nearby and some savannahs that you can explore.

Visiting Atambua today is no longer traversing an off-beaten path, but you can still reach untouched regions if you are willing to explore deep enough. If you want to feel Atambua’s vibe, visit the town in the peak of dry season, around July or August, when Atambua usually celebrates Cross Border Festival. The night before Easter, Tuan Ma (Virgin Mary) statue will be taken out from her casket, bathed, and dressed in mourning clothes, and then every people on this town will come out quietly to the street holding candles, creating surreal scenes.

7. Sulawesi

Take a plane from Jakarta and fly over the Borneo island. From the plane it is possible to see perfect cuts in the landscape, endless lines where on one side you see jungle and on the other, desolation or dry land.

Explore Sulawesi Island. Sulawesi Island is broad, divided into several provinces. You can choose one or if you want to explore everything you might need one month. Taka Bonerate National Park, Togean, Selayar Island, Lembeh island, Bunaken, and for culture in Toraja.

Once you get to North Sulawesi, there are some places you can visit, such as the famous Bunaken Marine National Park, Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve, White Water Rafting Nimanga River, Manembo-Nembo Nature Reserve, Mount Lokon, Mount Mahawu Volcano Trek, The Bukit Kasih, Tomohon Market, Lake Linow, Lake Tondano, culinary trip, diving trip for whale-sharks, and so on.

The Bunaken island, or Pulau Bunaken is located a few kilometers from Manado, the most important city in northern Sulawesi. Manado is worth a visit on Northern sulawesi. There are beautiful beaches but they are not anywhere near as commercialised as Bali and mostly you have to take a boat trip to an island nearby. Manado has very little beach of its own.

Often, stunningly beautiful sunsets take place over the ocean and Manado Tua volcano rising from the ocean adds to the spectacle. Also world class diving available from nearby bunaken island if you are into that. Developers have spoilt manado itself a bit. But it is being improved in places. There are some good malls for shopping with decent coffee shops and restaurants.

There is a one way system all around the town and the little blue mini buses (ancots) make it cheap and easy to get around. Some are spectacular at night too. They seem to compete with one another to get the most decorative lights on the inside and outside of the bus. There are good restaurants with lovely views.

The volcano Mount Klabat is well formed and spectacular and you can book a trek to the crater staying overnight to see the sunrise. The jesus monument in citraland is also spectacular with some lovely views. We spend around five and a half months a year living just behind the monument.

If all you want is beach and nightlife it won't beat Bali but Manado does have something to offer too. And it has its own airport about a half hour drive from the city centre. Toraja has many exciting festivals such as Mane’ne and Matinggoro Tedong, but inarguably the most famous and grandeur one is Rambu Solo. It is a ceremonial activity to honor the souls of the deceased and bring them back to eternity.

Depart to Makassar to see one of the tribes with more chilling customs of the world, in the Tana Toraja.

Maluku and the surrounding islands Halmahera, Morotai, Ternate and Bandaneira have beautiful seas and underwater. You can get on a plane. There are also many backpackers who even take ships from Jakarta or Surabaya, East Java. Of course it will take a long time if using a ship.

8. Batam

If you are looking for a quick getaway from Singapore, Batam Island is the best option and both Indonesian and Singaporean people come here as there are many things you can do as a tourist here. It is currently a decent place to make a getaway with family or friends who want to have fun doing water sports, eating fresh seafood, going shopping or even enjoy a spa and a good massage.

The options for water sports are banana boat, parasailing, windsurfing, kayaking and jet ski. You can also find activities on the Nongsa coast or, if you want an option where there are not so many people, the Melur Beach on the island of Galang. On Batam Island you can also do scuba diving and snorkeling.

Batam is known by connoisseurs in golf for having some of the best golf courses in the world and is a very popular activity on this island. Here you will find the Tering Bay International Golf course, designed by Greg Norman, one of the best golf course designers in the world. Batam is one of the best places to go with a mountain bike and where you can pedal through a dense green jungle and end up facing the sea.

To do this you must take the road on your own through the Duriankang Reserve and the Nongsa Coast. It will take you about 30 kilometers by bicycle to go from Turi Beach/Nongsa village, through Teluk Mata Ikan, down the coast to Batu Besar until you reach Tering Bay. Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya temple is famous for its laughing Buddha statues.

The Barelang Bridge itself is a piece of spectacular architecture, consisting of a total of seven bridges

One of the best places to shop in Batam Island is the Nagoya Hill Mall. You can find local food products like the popular Kueh Lapis (cake), Indomie (instant noodles) and tidbits. You can find a great selection of seafood such as prawns, crabs, mussels and much more. If you come from Singapore then you will find that, in comparison, beer and alcohol in general is much cheaper.

9. Sumbawa

There is Moyo Island, although we don't hear much about it, but it is quite often as a holiday destination for world celebrities such as Mick Jager, David Beckham and even the Princess Diana.

10. Belitung

The seas in Bangka and Belitung have their own uniqueness. The waves are also very calm. You can go to orangutan conservation, or do diving and snorkeling in Derawan, Sangalaki, Nabucco, Kakaban (you can stay overnight on one of the islands and do island hoping) in Kalimantan. Dayak has lots of festivals but most of them now are crafted for tourists.

Some of the most authentic ones are “hudoq pekayang” that is often held near Indonesia and Malaysia borders in Borneo. Cap Go Meh in Singkawang is marked with the superstitious attractions of Singkawang Chinese in Tatung Parade.

11. Medan

Sumatra has the island of Weh which is also known among scuba divers. Or you can go to Toba Lake in North Sumatra. Popular cuisine in Indonesia during Ramadan is Shredded Cucumber Ice. Cucumber ice is originally from Aceh, Indonesia and consumed during iftar mostly in Sumatra Island. This simple beverage made from peeled and seed-removed cucumber. After the cucumber is shredded, it’s combined with simple syrup, lime, and ice cubes.

12. Jakarta

Museum Bahari (Maritime Museum) and Menara Syahbandar (Syahbandar Lighthouse) in North Jakarta is very close to old Sunda Kelapa harbor. One thing that will immediately strike you is how colonial period museums in Indonesia are not very well maintained. Many of the wooden structure were in dire need for repairs. Nevertheless, the surrounding area had some interesting locations.

To the south is a warehouse-turned-cafe called Galangan VOC which has an inner courtyard where you can relax from the heat. This area has a mixture of colonial period buildings and even buildings marked in Chinese characters that may have been ethnic Chinese centers of business in the late colonial period and early years of the republic.

Kota Tua (literally Old Town) area is most known for Museum Fatahillah, also known as the history museum of Jakarta, where you can find artifacts from the various periods of the city's history. Other interesting places to check out include Cafe Batavia, where you can find the local drink bir pletok (which is not actually beer, but a ginger-based beverage).

Further south is the Jakarta Kota train station. This structure is iconic for its circular arch roof, in many images and videos of Jakarta, but not many people who live in the city actually see it from the inside.

Museum Taman Prasasti (Inscription Museum) is a cemetery for Dutch, British, and Japanese colonial figures. Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Miniature Park) in East Jakarta is perhaps the closest equivalent to a Disney World in Indonesia (whereas Dunia Fantasi, or Dufan, in North Jakarta would be closer to Disneyland).

There are multiple specialized exhibit halls (such as history of telecommunications in Indonesia), complexes exhibiting the cultural assets of each of Indonesia's provinces, as well as the Keong Emas (Golden Snail) IMAX Theater. Many will see this site as a relic of the Suharto period.

In Jakarta’s city center, Istiqlal Mosque is the biggest mosque in Indonesia located across to Cathedral Church. These two house of worship represents religious harmony in Indonesia. Jakarta has traditional music originally from Betawi (native Jakartan) ethnic group named Keroncong Tugu and Tanjidor. These traditional music often play traditional songs in Betawi or Malay Language.

European influence could be seen on the use of trumpet, violin, viola, trombone, clarinet, cymbal, snare drum, bass drum, guitar, accordion, and oboe, that often used in Western orchestra. Besides National Monument (MONAS) and Hotel Indonesia roundabout, Jakarta has other freemasonry symbol located in Menteng, Central Jakarta. Certain areas in Jakarta like Melawai and Kota are famous for it’s bizarre nightlife activity.

Skouw is located in the easternmost part of Indonesia, in Jayapura Regency. Jayapura is also the capital of Papua Province. Skouw has become one of West Papua's iconic places. It is the best border in the Pacific. However, what makes Skouw interesting is the market. Skouw Market is known very well among the Papua New Guineans.

Sota is the second largest cross-border post after Skouw. The place has the Merauke Kilometer Zero Monument, the first statue of Indonesia's Founding Father Soekarno, and the cross-border gate. Once known as Holtekamp Bridge, the bridge spanning over the Youtefa Bay, Jayapura, now is known as Youtefa Bridge.

Like nearby Singapore, Jakarta is a foodies’ paradise. But in Jakarta there’s more food, more variety, and it is way cheaper. Consider it this way … Indonesia consists of 34 provinces with more than 1,000 recognized ethnic groups. Most have local cuisines or local variations of national dishes. And over the past 100 years people from all the provinces and most of the ethnic groups have flocked to Jakarta, bringing their cuisines and signature dishes with them.

Add to the mix an overlay of Chinese, Middle Eastern, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Malaysian, Singaporean, Dutch, Italian, Greek and just about every other category of international cuisine (yep, even the ubiquitous McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC). Unsurprisingly, the result is a food scene that absolutely spoils you for choice.

And Jakarta abounds in restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, food courts, and hawkers. Jakarta’s food vendors are famous. You will find them in the streets, in the shopping malls, in and around the hotels and in and around the markets. Many magically pop-up only at night in daytime parking areas. They are cheap, colorful, and friendly, and the food is typically safe, fresh, and delicious.

The prices, convenience, quality, and conviviality mean many locals don’t much bother cooking meals at home. For visitors just watching the wizardry of some of the street vendors in preparing their dishes can be enthralling entertainment. There is not enough space here for detail about food styles or eating places. If that’s too big a stretch, choose one of Jakarta’s many excellent and well-appointed restaurants. Ask the wait staff to recommend popular local dishes.

Jakarta has superb fine dining and casual restaurants offering a wide range of local, ethnic, and international cuisine choices. There also are stunning rooftop restaurants-bars with great food and fabulous views, and restaurants in garden settings. A quick consult with Dr Google will give you plenty to choose from.

But please, don’t be afraid to try basic local cafes or take-aways from the street food vendors. If you don’t, you will be missing out on something special. If you are still nervous, then perhaps take an introductory food tour. You will find plenty of food tours and guides listed and reviewed on the Internet.

They will help you navigate one of the foodie areas like the alleys of the Glodok Chinatown market in North Jakarta. It is renowned for its local cafes and street foods. You can do some market-place bargain hunting or check out the Chinese medicines and remedies while in the area.

As an international visitor you can expect to enjoy the atmosphere, the beauty, and the spectacular scale of this place, especially if you have an interest in history. Merdeka Square is more than five times the size of China’s Tiananmen Square, and 12 times the size of Place de la Concorde in Paris.

A plinth at the base of the column houses a history museum with dioramas depicting key moments in the story of Indonesia from ancient empires through to the struggles for independence. A meditation hall houses the text of the original Declaration of Independence and a (now threadbare) red-and-white flag flown at the Proclamation of Independence from Dutch rule on 17 August 1945.

The monument is topped with a 14.5 metre bronze flame coated with 50 kilograms of gold leaf. It is lit at night and is spectacular. There is an elevator to a viewing platform 115 metres above ground level, but the lift is small, and the queues are usually very long. The view is exceptional, but barely worth the effort. If you must go, then be early.

The museum is reached via an underground passageway entered from the north of the column. The entrance is not obvious – you may need to look for it. There are English-speaking docents on hand to explain the story of the exhibits. Entry costs about IDR15,000, and your time there will be well spent. A more ordered option is the Lenggang food court off the parking areas for Merdeka Square and the MONAS national monument.

It has some 300 vendors and a huge variety of offerings in clean, pleasant surroundings. MONAS is steeped in history and significance. Its exhibits are open every day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., except for the last Monday of every month, when it is closed for maintenance. Merdeka Square is open from 8 am to 6 pm.

Imagine a building for worship capable of accommodating almost 120,000 people in prayer. Jakarta’s stunning Istiqlal Mosque achieves that and more. This is the mosque from which you will often see crowds of worshippers during international TV news reports of religious festivals like Ramadan.

The main prayer hall and five levels of balcony spaces under its central dome can accommodate up to 61,000 worshippers. There is space for 58,000 more in an entry annexe and a second-floor terrace. That’s a total of 119,000. Overflow space in corridors and a beautifully crafted open courtyard can accommodate a further 81,000 to take the overall total capacity to a whopping 200,000!

The numbers make Masjid Istiqlal the largest mosque in Southeast Asia and the sixth largest in the world. It is the National Mosque and a source of pride to Indonesia’s 88% majority Muslim community, the world’s largest Muslim population.

Architect Frederich Silaban won a design contest in 1954 to be chosen to create the Mosque. He was a Batak Christian. But President Soekarno, who had a vision of a multi-faith nation, admired his work - Silaban also designed the nearby MONAS national monument.

Construction of the mosque began in 1961 and it opened to the public 17 years later in 1978. The design is modern and relatively simple, but the scale, the materials and finishes, the motifs and the Muslim decorations add much interest. Istiqlal is the Arabic word for ‘independence’ and the mosque, located next to Merdeka (freedom) Square, is another symbol of the end of the colonial era in Indonesia.

Silaban designed the building to be 17 meres high, the small domes to be 8 metres in diameter, and the main dome to be 45 metres - a nod to the declaration of independence on the 17th of August 1945. The minaret is 6,600 centimetres tall, symbolising the number of verses in the Koran, while the five levels of the building symbolise the five pillars of Islam.

Founding President Soekarno insisted the mosque be built across the street from the St Mary of Assumption Catholic Cathedral as a symbol of religious tolerance in Indonesia. The beautiful neo-Gothic cathedral opened in 1901 during the Dutch colonial era. It is notable for its tall spires, ornate altar, and a massive pipe organ.

Cathedral and Mosque work closely together to serve their respective flocks, the most tangible cooperation being the opening and sharing of each other’s parking space for religious events like Idul Fitri, Easter and Christmas. Visitors are welcome at both. For the mosque you need to wear modest clothing and avoid prayer times. There are guides to assist you (tips expected) and facilities for wrapping and storing the shoes you cannot wear inside (also a small tip).

Indonesians are rightly proud of their National Museum with more than 140,000 exhibits and precious artifacts displaying the history and cultural diversity of the nation from as long as 2,000 years ago. The museum is housed in a splendid building near Merdeka Square and its collection is the most complete in Indonesia, and among the finest in South-east Asia.

It includes graphic stone statues from the classical Hindu-Buddhist periods in Sumatra and Java and extensive collections of Asian ceramics. In the Treasure Rooms you can see the Royal regalia, ornaments and jewellery of the kings and sultans of old, crafted in gold, silver, and precious stones.

The museum is sometimes referred to as Gedung Gajah (the Elephant Building) after the bronze elephant statue in the forecourt, a gift from a former King of Thailand. More than 300 years ago Kota Tua was the City Hall and the headquarters of the powerful and highly profitable Dutch East India Company (the VOC). Then, later, the offices of the Dutch colonial administration.

That’s the early story of a striking 17th century Dutch colonial building down near the old port area fronting Jakarta Bay. After decades of decline and neglect some of the aging building’s former glory has been restored and as the Jakarta History Museum and is part of an area known as Batavia Kota Tua (Batavia/Jakarta Old Town).

The museum overlooks the expansive Fatahillah Square, a popular attraction for both international and local visitors. More than 300 years ago the square and the grand European-style buildings around it were the ‘CBD’ of an embryonic Jakarta, then known as Batavia.

Those early eras saw hangings in the square and the imprisonment of recalcitrant political activists in cellar dungeons below the VOC offices. You can view the dungeons when you visit the museum. During that time the colonists built surrounding walls to keep out the local Indonesian Batawi people for fear of a potential insurrection.

The square and its remaining old buildings are now designated a heritage area and are undergoing continuing restoration. There is almost always something happening in the square, especially on weekends and holidays. A main activity is museum hopping.

Buildings other than the History Museum house a highly regarded museum of fine arts and ceramics, and an Indonesian puppet museum (Wayang Kulit). A former bank building houses a museum of banking and money. It’s well presented and surprisingly interesting.

A short distance away, former 16th century spice-trade warehouses have been restored as a museum celebrating Indonesia’s long maritime traditions. The exhibits are fascinating and so are the buildings. The Kota Tua area is also studded with cafes and street food vendors and is the location of the Batavia Cafe, a famous historical landmark in its own right.

Built from 1805 the building first served as accommodation and offices for high-ranking VOC officers. It eventually became an art gallery and then, from 1993, a delightful old-world restaurant. Batavia Cafe has won awards for it food, its ambiance and its service, If your itinerary allows, it is an ideal special venue for a lunch, a dinner or a coffee break.

Sunda Kelapa Harbour, close by Fatahillah Square, is more than just a line of docks where vessels tie up. It’s the place where today’s Jakarta had its very beginnings. It was from here, at least 800 years ago (and maybe even as many as 1,500), that the people of the Sundanese kingdom shipped spices and other commodities throughout east Asia, and imported porcelain, fabrics, perfumes, dyes and even horses.

Then along came the Portuguese in 1522 to briefly take charge until kicked out in turn by the Indonesian Demak forces of King Fatahillah. He changed the name to Jayakarta - it translates as ‘city of victory or glory’. A hundred years later along came the Dutch and another name change – to Batavia. This lasted until the Japanese occupation during World War II when the name Jakarta was adopted, and then retained after Indonesian independence.

Like Kota Tua, the magic of Sunda Kelapa today is its living history. You can see rows of graceful, and traditional pinisi sailing ships loading and unloading cargo for and from Indonesia’s thousands of island communities. These majestic vessels carry seven or eight sails in traditional gaff-ketch rig and are still central to Indonesia’s seafaring traditions and the movement of inter-island cargo.

A few have been modified and re-fitted to serve as dive and offshore surfing boats, others as elegant luxury inter-island cruise vessels. They can be a big as 350 tons and building them is still a substantial traditional industry for the Bugis people in South Sulawesi.

Amazingly they build them from traditional handed down memory, without plans, blueprints, or drawings. UNESCO has listed these skills of the of the pinisi boat builders in its register of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

When under full sail these beautiful, alluring ships are guaranteed to bring out the armchair ‘old salt’ lingering in all who grew up with stories of Long John Silver, Robinson Crusoe and tales of Caribbean pirates and South Sea Island schooners.

They aren’t under sail when tied up in row upon row at Sunda Kelapa, but their graceful lines will arouse the adventure button of most who take time to view them. Indonesians love theme parks, preferably on a grand scale, and some of the grandest of them all are to be found in Jakarta.

Unless you are a theme park junkie, you will not have flown from afar to explore Indonesian versions of Disneyland, Dreamworld or Seaworld. But if your itinerary allows, there is one very different theme park in Jakarta you quite likely will find absorbing.

Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Beautiful Indonesia-in-Miniature Park) displays the essence of Indonesia shrunk into 100 amazing hectares. Replicas of traditional houses and pavilions in the architectural styles of 33 Indonesian provinces are on show in beautifully landscaped gardens. Don’t be confused by the word ‘mini’ – this refers to the park being a miniature Indonesia, not to the full-size scale of the buildings.

The structures are faithfully rendered, and many are quite beautiful. Along with displays of colorful and striking traditional costumes, artifacts, tools, and weapons, they bring home the rich diversity of the hundreds of ethnic groups who share this island nation. In fact, the Taman Mini displays have been ranked as possibly Indonesia’s best collection of artifacts and handicrafts.

Taman Mini Indah has 19 museums, seven nature parks (including a famous bird park), three cultural parks, and four recreational Parks. Religious buildings include a mosque, a Buddhist temple, a Catholic church, and a Confucian temple.

Its striking Keong Mas (Golden Snail) building takes its inspiration from Indonesian folklore and has a shell-like roof reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House. It houses an IMAX theatre screening films about the Indonesia’s natural beauty, history, and culture - including an animated version of the story of the Golden Snail.

Along with all the above comes a Disney-style kid’s castle, a cable car, rides, a water park and traditional dance performances – plus a variety of food and drink outlets. A large man-made lake has islands shaped to represent the major islands of the Indonesian archipelago (but you probably need to be in a cable car gondola to see them properly).

Taman Indonesia Mini Indah was the somewhat extravagant brainchild of the late Ibu Tien Soeharto, the wife of Indonesia’s second President, and opened in 1975. You may need to invest a lot of time to fully appreciate Taman Mini, but you probably will find it to be time well spent. If you have youngsters in tow or you want to lose yourself in a day of not so thoughtful touring, then Ancol Dreamland (Taman Impian Jaya) is the place to go.

This massive 552ha theme park, built on reclaimed bayside land in North Jakarta, opened in 1966. Over the years it has grown into the largest integrated tourism attraction in Southeast Asia.

It’s very much Indonesia’s answer to Disneyland with a water park, a sea world, a fantasy world, an eco-park, South-east Asia’ largest sea water aquarium, a zoo, rides to thrill the young and young-at-heart, a resort/hotel area, a beach, a bowling centre, a highly regarded art and crafts market, and even a golf course.

There are cable-car gondolas and becaks (bicycle rickshaws) to help you traverse the distances from attraction to attraction. Indonesian youngsters and families love this place.

Where possible it’s best to avoid weekend and holiday crowds. Jakarta is big, crowded, ugly, beautiful, messy, rich, poor, hot, hazy, crazy, enlightened, old, new, inspiring, depressing and more … all at the same time. Expats call it the Big Durian (as opposed to New York’s Big Apple label).

Modern steel and glass skyscrapers tower over squatter shacks. But it is one of the handful of unique cities of the world that we should try to visit at least once in our life because it is so different. Everyone who ever goes there takes home their own Jakarta story. It is packed with fascination and interest for those who do some prior research, are patient and make the effort explore.

You might feel irritated from time to time, but you will look back on your visit to ‘The Big Durian’ as a great adventure.

A Jakarta specialty to seek out is Martabak Manis. It has been described as ‘a caloric masterpiece of fluffy pancake’ stuffed with chocolate sprinkles, crushed peanuts, sesame seed, condensed milk, and cheese. It sounds grotesque, and it’s sweet, very sweet. But for anyone with even a hint of a sweet tooth, it’s truly delicious. Martabak Manis is popular throughout Indonesia. If sweet is not your thing, there are delicious and hugely popular savory martabak options with fillings of egg, cheese, and meats with herbs and spices.

An unusual snack to try is Kerak Telor, a dish of the original Betawi people of the Jakarta region. It’s a kind of omelette of duck eggs, sticky rice and spices. Part of its appeal is in the making. The ingredients are mixed in a pan over flames. Then the pan is flipped so the kerak telor has direct contact with the heat.

The result is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Another Jakarta favorite is Sop Betawi, also known as Jakarta Beef Soup. Chunky pieces of beef and offal are simmered in a spicy broth of coconut milk and herbs. It is topped with slices of tomato and green onion. Once upon a time visitors used to flock to Singapore and Hong Kong for shopping bargains.

Those days are long gone with those two cities now up there with Paris and Osaka among the world’s most expensive. But glory be, Jakarta has emerged as a dream shopping destination! Along with some other big Indonesian cities. On weekends boatloads of Singaporeans cross the Strait to nearby Batam to hunt for bargains. Or they take budget flights to Jakarta, Medan, Bandung, Jogjakarta or Surabaya for cheap weekend breaks, cheap eats, cheap pampering, and shopping savings.

Indonesia, and especially Jakarta, has a long-established tradition of markets, vendors and traders selling just about everything. So, it’s little wonder that today’s generations have wholeheartedly taken the next step and embraced the shopping mall culture. The big and modern malls are where you will find designer labels and luxury brands (some genuine, many faithful reproductions) in electronics, shoes, bags, cosmetics, clothing, jewellery, gold shops, phone shops, department stores, furniture, appliances, hardware and just about every imaginable kind of specialty store.

The shops are tucked in and around food courts, cafes, coffee shops, cinemas, children’s play areas and hair, beauty, and massage salons. The markets are where you will find great crafts items to take home - textiles, paintings, ornate wood carvings, leather goods, casual clothing, silverware, and antiques.

Favorable exchange rates mean bargain prices in both markets and malls, especially the markets. In the markets you will be expected to embrace the art of bargaining (tawar menawar). You are not expected to take the vendor’s first price, and you probably will be taken for a fool if you do. But you are expected to bargain with respect.

Only begin bargaining for items you want to buy and don’t insult the vendor by offering a stupidly low price. Respond with an offer of a third to half the price asked by the vendor and work up from there. And remember that if you make an offer and it is accepted you are expected to complete the purchase. Prices are clearly marked in the bigger stores and many specialty shops in the malls, a sign that bargaining is NOT an option.

However, in smaller specialty stores or electronics outlets you should routinely ask ‘Bisa nego?’ (can negotiate) or ‘Berapa discon?’ (how much discount). You may just snare a welcome saving. Many of the Jakarta’s multitude of shopping centres (there are around 200 of them) are massive.

The Taman Anggrek Mall (it means Orchid Garden) has more than 400 retail outlets and caters for more than 18 million visitors a year. It also has an ice-skating rink, a health club and one of the world’s longest LED signage displays. The Grand Indonesia Shopping Town (Alun-Alun Indonesia) has almost seven million square feet of retail space spread over eight floors in two buildings connected by a skybridge. It also has parking for a whopping 5,500 cars and a famous dancing fountains show (daily from noon until close).

Some older malls have developed into specialty locations like the Tanah Abang Market (rated by some as Southeast Asia’s largest textiles outlet) and the Thamrin City Trade Mall, famous for batik fabrics and clothing. If jewellery is your thing, then you might want to check out the Cikini Gold Centre (soft “c” in Indonesian so Chikini). It’s famous for its gold and gemstone jewellery, including custom made items. It’s also known as the ‘wedding mall’.

Close by the Cikini Gold Centre is the Mentang Antique and Flea Market, one of Jakarta’s most popular and absorbing markets, with half a kilometre of Jalan Surabaya (Surabaya Street) crowded with crafts stalls. For paintings, ceramics, carvings, art novelties and color try the Pasar Seni Ancol Arts and Crafts Centre. It’s an artists’ colony of small galleries and studios where you can view and purchase Indonesian artworks and craft pieces and see artists creating. Its part of the Huge Ancol Dreamland theme park complex in North Jakarta.

So, if you are a foodie and/or you like to shop then Jakarta should be written into your itinerary with enough time allocated to allow you to explore and enjoy both. Although Jakarta is well know for wide availability of Indonesian food an the melting pot of international cuisines, Jakarta do have a lot of local foods. Semur Jengkol are native Jakarta’s food made from jengkol, seasoned with sweet soy sauce, tomatoes, and brown sugar. Many people are fond of semur jengkol because it is sweet, tasty and resembles meat.

Soto Betawi was originally created by Chinese community in Jakarta. Soto Betawi consists of goat meat and various innards such as intestines, tripe, ears, throat, lungs, liver, even the brain and “torpedoes” (testicles) seasoned with coconut milk, milk, ginger oil, and various spices. Soto Betawi is also complemented with tomatoes and chips.

Sayur Babanci is a traditional food from Jakarta that is rarely found. Enjoying this food can be an interesting experience for local and foreign tourists because it is an exotic dish. Sayur Babanci or Ketupat babanci has no vegetables at all. The name Babanci is due to the fact that the shape of this vegetable is unclear or resembles banci, because it is considered not soto, not gule, and not curry.

Many also believe that the name babanci is taken from the words Babah and Enci because this food was once made by Betawi-Chinese Peranakans. The reason, only rich merchants and landlords can serve this food on big festives.

Sayur Babanci have become scarce because of their complicated manufacturing cooking processes. To make sayur babanci, 21 types of ingredients, herbs and spices including rare spices such as kedaung, botor, temu mangga, and bangle.

This is the widely local food from Jakarta that often served for breakfast. Nasi uduk literally means "mixed rice" in Betawi dialect, related with Indonesian term aduk ("mix"). The name describes the dish preparation itself which requires more ingredients (coconut milk, clove, lemongrass, cinnamon, and pandan leaf) than cooking common steamed rice and additional side dishes like tofu, fried tempeh, egg, shredded chicken and crackers. Nasi uduk often served with peanut sauce too.

Dodol Betawi is traditional sweet delicacy from Jakrta which made from sticky rice, brown sugar, granulated sugar and coconut milk cooked on a stove with wood firewood for 8 hours. Dodol Betawi is often used as a gift during Ied Fitri and Chinese New Year. Dodol Betawi somewhat looks like the traditional Chinese glutinous rice cake named Nian Gao.

Gabus Pucung is a Jakarta dish made from snakehead fish with a black broth. The black broth color comes from rowal fruit. The fish is steamed in various herbs, chili, and rowal fruit, and completed with several vegetables.

The name Tangkar itself is a term for beef rib in Betawi language. Soto Tangkar has long history. During the Dutch colonial era, when the Dutch masters throw a party, they usually slaughtered cows for the party. The masters will separate certain parts of the cow that are slaughtered to give to the workers including the head, the inside (lungs, intestine, tripe, etc.) and the ribs.

By these workers, the parts are processed into a variety of foods. The ribs then processed into a special food, the ribs are boiled or cooked for about two hours, after which seasonings or spices are added, such as turmeric, pepper, lemongrass leaves, bay leaves and coconut milk. Therefore the new food was created and named as Soto Tangkar.

13. Taman Nasional Tanjung Puting

The island of Borneo is inhabited by 3 nations - Brunei, Malaysia, and the bulk by Indonesia - and all throughout the jungles of Borneo you can find wild orangutans. Among the very best ways to see them in Indonesia is to rent a Klotok watercraft, take it down the Sekonyer River and visit the Camp Leakey Orangutan rehab reserve in Tanjung Puting National Park. Lonely Planet once dubbed this national park as the best outdoor adventure. It is best to travel in small groups (from 4 to 6 persons), instead of solo traveling or traveling in large group. To visit Tanjung Puting, you need to go to Pangkalan Bun, the last town as the gateway to this place. From Pangkalan Bun you will be able to arrange boat transports deep into Kalimantan rain-forest through River Sekonyer, the famous “black river” of Borneo.

The boat is called klothok and it looks big enough and well-facilitated. It takes at least three days and two nights to experience Tanjung Puting. Along the way you will meet several proboscis monkeys, orangutans, and several Kalimantan regional birds. Never dip your foot into the water, because there are a lot of crocodiles!

There are several famous stops along the way, such as Camp Leakey, Pesalat, and Tanjung Harapan (Bay of Hope). Expect to encounter many orangutans. At night, the boat will stop on either side of the river. Girls sleep with roofs while boys sleep under the amazing stars, we are lucky since it was not raining.

Or you can ask the national park ranger for night-walk into the jungle. But please be careful of leopards roaming around. If you are lucky you will meet a lot of fowls and tarantulas. Tanjung Puting is absolutely worth the trip.

14. Padang

About 160 kilometers off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia's largest and northernmost island, is one of the world's most popular destinations for flying on the waves. The Mentawai islands are a practically virgin small archipelago made up of about 70 volcanic islands.

Metawai Islands can be lived in a very different way. Equally the main objective of every surfer is to take those tubes that is seen in many videos, but between sessions you can see an incredible, surprising and virgin place, and one of the most ancient cultures that exist in harmony with nature. The closest airport is the one in the city of Padang (Sumatra).

The access point to reach these remote Indonesian islands is through the Padang fishing port, where fleet of boats are located to take surfers to the Mentawai islands.

The most recommended option is to spend at least one night there on the way out and another on the way back. The Mentawai boats leaves on Tuesdays and Fridays from Padang at 7 in the morning and makes a stop before reaching the main town of Siberut. Buy your tickets to get to Padang from Monday or Friday and leave on Wednesday or Sunday.

Nasi Padang (Padang-style rice) is a mini banquet of meats, fish, vegetables, and spicy sambals eaten with plain white rice; Sumatra's most famous export and the Minangkabau people’s influence to Indonesia and Malaysian cuisine.

Don't know about the rest of the world but here Indonesia there are many unique hotels that can offer you a different kind of experiences. These are some of them:

Skylodge Bale Swarga, Purwakarta: Located roughly 115 km Southeast of Jakarta its a hotel with a twist. Build on the cliff face of Mount Parang, it offers a stunning vista of the West Java countryside. Perched roughly between 400 to 900 feet from the plain bellow, it's a place for those who's not afraid of height.

Bambu Indah, Bali: It's a themed hotel tuck away in Bali's countryside. From a room with fish swimming under your feet to a lonely lodging in the middle of a serene paddy fields. It's definitely a place for those who prefer the weird and the wonderful.

Amanjiwo, Magelang: Positioned just a stone throw away from the ancient temple of Borobudur this resort offers a complete package of luxury, serenity and history. Even the architecture resembles the UNESCO world heritage temple.

Highland Park Resort, Bogor: Tent lodgings is gaining popularity here in Indonesia. This one is located South of Jakarta. It combines luxury and the pristine volcanic highlands of Bogor.

Amanwana, Moyo: If you have the money and looking for the ultimate luxury than this secluded resort is definitely for you. Its the only resort on the island of Moyo. Its very exclusive and private. The entire island is your playground. Regulars often included Hollywood selebrities and even the late Princess Diana spent her holidays here.

Savoy Homan, Bandung: When it comes to unique hotels in the country this historical masterpiece is a must on your list. It's an Art Deco marvel that often hosted world leaders through decades of its operation. From the leaders of India, China and other nations, there's a high chance that your room could be the same room that those leaders stayed on.

Misool Eco Resort, Papua: Ever dreamt of staying in a hotel in the middle of a shallow sea and accompanied by schools of sharks? If that is your dream than this Eco Resort in Misool is for you.

Sharma Springs, Bali: It's a hotel made of bamboo consisting of 6-story. It offers an authentic Balinese experience with a guilt-free Eco approach to service.

There are many more hotels, resorts and lodgings that offers unique experiences in Indonesia.

The best time to visit Bintan Island is from March to October when the island enjoys a pleasant climate. The temperatures in Bintan Island don't really vary much throughout the year, so the main seasons here include the Northeast monsoon season and Southwest monsoon season. It rains in Bintan Island almost all through the year, but the months that receive the least precipitation include January, February, and September.

In fact, the lowest chance of rain is during early February, so if you don’t enjoy the rain, this time of the year is your best bet.

The Northeast monsoon season in Bintan Island lasts from the end of October to May and receives the maximum rainfall in the year. Being the wettest part of the year, it is not a very popular tourist season. So, people visiting Bintan Island during this time can hope to get the island almost to themselves. The accommodation costs also drop, so budget travellers can enjoy a trip during this season.

Since the main reason for Bintan Island’s popularity is the amazing dive sites and the wonderful marine life that exists there, it makes sense to go during the non-monsoon period, so that none of the action is lost.

Tips: Make sure you carry rain covers for your bags. Wear quick-drying clothes and flip-flops to avoid getting wet rashes. Take along a change of clothes if you can.

The Southwest monsoon season in Bintan Island lasts from June to late October. This is the comparatively drier part of the year, although it still receives a considerable amount of rainfall. However, this is a good time to visit Bintan Island because of the chance to indulge in water sports activities.

This is also the best time of the year to go diving in Bintan Island. The water remains clear, and the marine life is more likely to remain closer to the surface. Besides, the water temperature is good enough to not warrant wearing a suit.

Tips: October is the best month to visit Bintan Island since the weather is amazing, the water is clear, and the sun shines bright all day long. It is also the month with the most festivals on Bintan Island, which tourists are sure to love being a part of it.
Kalyan Panja