Indonesia rewards visitors in many ways. Whether you worship beaches or temples, walk museums or active volcanos, you’re certainly in for a treat.
Komodo National Park
Within the Lesser Sunda Islands, this park and UNESCO Site is truly one of a kind. It is filled with over 5,000 giant lizards. Often called komodo dragons due to their appearance and behaviour, they exist nowhere else in the world. Instead, they have thrived on these islands for millions of years. These beasts can reach 10 feet in length and weigh over 300 pounds – that’s around the same weight as 150 large pizzas. Mmm, pizza. Aside from the dragons, there’s also pristine beaches and corals to enjoy.
Ubud Monkey Forest
Found in the village of Padangtegal, Bali, this nature reserve houses around 600 long-tailed macaques. The forest acts as a sanctuary for the monkeys, who are considered sacred by the villagers. There’s even a temple within the grounds where people come to pray. You have the option to buy bananas to feed them, although we recommend that you don’t. Despite looking cute, the cheeky monkeys have learnt many things from the passing of tourists, and manners aren’t one of them. All they see is food and interesting things, so keep your pockets empty and you will have a fantastic time.
This ancient Hindu shrine is set on a rock formation off the island of Bali. Known for its spectacular sunsets, it is the most visited and photographed temple on the island. As the legend goes, a high priest called Dang Hyang Niratha was spreading Hinduism throughout Bali in 1489. He stumbled across this idyllic area and decided to dedicate a site to the sea god, Baruna. His sashes are said to have transformed into snakes to guard its base.
In Central Java, Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. The second UNESCO Site on our list, its origins date back to the 8th and 9th-centuries when it was built during the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty. It consists of three tiers with a monumental stupa at the top and 72 smaller stupas below – each of which contains a statue of Buddha.
Not far from Borobudur, Prambanan is well worth a visit if you’re in the area. It is interesting to see Hindu temples within such close proximity to a Buddhist one. Built in the 9th-century, it is the third UNESCO Site on our list. The compound consists of the Prambanan Temple, Sewu Temple, Bubrah Temple and Lumbung Temple. Prambanan Temple is a complex consisting of 240 temples alone.
Soaring 2329m high, Mount Bromo is the most hiked mountain in Indonesia, despite it still being an active volcano. It sits within the huge Tengger caldera in East Java, encircled by a sea of fine volcanic sand. Tours usually begin at the nearby village of Cemoro Lawang. From here, either take a guided hike up the volcano, which takes around 45 minutes, or hop in a Jeep to cheat your way to the top.
Mount Rinjani is the second highest volcano in Indonesia. At 3,726m, it virtually dominates the landscape of Lombok. Most visitors start at the village of Senaru on the northern side of the mountain. There’s no way of cheating this one, you’ll have to explore by hiking. Few actually reach the summit, although the views from the crater at 2,700m are rewarding enough. Just try and pick a day where it doesn’t decide to erupt.
In eastern Bali, Tirta Gangga translates as water from the Ganges. It’s most famous for its stunning water palace – a network of spring-fed pools filled with huge koi fish and an eleven-tiered fountain as its centrepiece. Surrounding the pools are gardens and carefully-crafted statues. This is one of the few places that still has an air of ‘old Bali’.
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
On the shores of Lake Bratan, this scenic water temple was constructed in honour of Dewi Danu, the water goddess of the Balinese Hindus. When the lake’s water level rises, the smooth surface creates a floating effect and offers fantastic photo opportunities. You can also choose to see the temple by traditional jukung outrigger or motorized boat.
Also known as Elephant Cave, Goa Gajah is near Ubud in Bali. This intriguing cave was built in the 9th-century and is carved into a rock face. Upon entering it through the mouth of a demon, you are not met by a herd of elephants, as the name suggests. Instead, you descend into a courtyard filled with rock carvings, bathing pools and fountains.