I’ve been to Indonesia twice, the first time I had a bit of a rough introduction: I was stabbed in Kuta, Lombok. But I also fell in love with Bali and Gili T – they are like paradise to me. I’m so excited about taking Ben to Bali in April, so decided to share some of my favourite places in Indo. Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, consisting of 18,100 islands.While only 6,000 of these are inhabited, this doesn’t narrow things down much for prospective travellers to this wondrous country. Read on for a few starting points for tackling this expansive nation.

©Dony Prasetyo

©Dony Prasetyo

1) Bali

One could write a novel on Bali alone, extolling for pages the bounties awaiting the visitor to this Island of the Gods. Physically lush and beautiful, culturally spiritual and vibrant, Bali is a tourism dream. The surf beach town of Kuta is the destination for those seeking pumping nightlife. Those seeking quieter sands should explore the quiet upscale resort town of Sanur, popular with older visitors, or the white sands of the small island of Nusa Lembongan. As attractive as the beaches, nightlife, and shopping of this island paradise may be, don’t neglect to spend some time exploring the unique cultural life thriving here. A lone pocket of Hindu culture in Islamic Indonesia, the rich spirituality of the Balinese pervades every day life in countless beautiful ways. Be sure to explore the temples – there’s an opportunity to do so around every corner, though most prominent are the nine directional temples, meant to protect the island from dark forces. Ubud offers an abundance of artistic, cultural and spiritual exploration opportunities- with the bonus of the Monkey Forest close by.

2) Borobudur and Prambanan

Yogyakarta serves as the gateway to these extraordinary Central Java temples. Prepare yourself to be awed by the sheer scale of Borobudur, the largest Buddhist structure anywhere on earth. Marvel at the reliefs telling the story of Buddha over the course of six square terraces, finishing with the main stupa’s 72 Buddha statues at the top of the climb. More tales wait at the magnificent temples of Prambanan, this time of the Hindu persuasion. The three main temples in this complex, dedicated to Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu, feature reliefs of the story of the Ramayana as well as the story of Vishnu’s avatar Krishna. I actually preferred this temple complex over Angkor Wat – not that you should compare such beautiful works of art, but Borobudur was quieter so I enjoyed it more.



3) Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park

A visit here is like a visit to another world. The otherworldly landscape of smoldering volcanoes is breathtaking and eerily beautiful. Most predominant is the smoky Mount Bromo, surrounded by the volcanic landscape of the Sea of Sand, set on the background of Mount Batok and Mount Semeru. The Tenggerese Hindu temple The Poten is also worth a visit, as is taking the time to explore the unique culture of the people who call this strange landscape home.

4) Kalimantan

Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, is the destination for adventurous souls. Journey here to explore untamed jungle on a trip along the village spotted rivers of this province. Tourism here is definitely not a cushy journey, but those willing to put in the effort will be justly rewarded. Don’t miss the floating markets of Banjarmasin or the chance to meet orangutans at Tanjung Putin National Park.

5) Sulawesi

Famous for it’s funeral rites, Sulawesi’s highland region of Tana Toraja is worth a visit for anyone seeking a unique cultural experience, though not one for the weak stomached. The spiritual life here is an unusual mix of devout Christianity and indigenous magic and mysticism, and visitors are welcomed to witness the ceremonies born of this blend. For nature-lovers, a visit to Tangkoko Reserve is rewarded with the possibility of spotting adorable tarsiers.

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