It is known for its spectacular beaches, jungles, volcanoes and animals such as the tigers, elephants and, of course, Komodo dragons. The capital is Jakarta, and its vibrant vibe will make you want to come back again and again. But one of the most visited places in the country is none other than the island of Bali. In this article, we have compiled 8 top unique places to visit in Indonesia. Besides that, we’ll discuss some of the must-do activities while you are exploring the country. Yes, these places are not the typical ones you usually read about, but they are the less-known tourist spots for hipsters like you.
Table of Contents
Places to Visit in Indonesia
Indonesia is such a beautiful country. It exists of thousands of volcanic islands; some of which are still active. The people are very friendly, and the country is home to hundreds of ethnic groups. They speak different languages, and no two dialects sound the same. The currency is the Indonesian Rupiah. When you compare it to the American dollar; you will probably feel like a millionaire once you convert your money to the local currency.
1. Ijen in East Java
Ijen is a group of stratovolcanoes with the highest point of the compound being Gunung Merapi. Located in East Java at Banyuwangi Regency, you can also hike the Ijen Crater. It is one of the most spectaculair places to visit in Indonesia. If you love natural phenomena and are not afraid of the unpredictability of nature, then hiking Ijen Crater is one of the must-do things in the country. One of the things you will see while hiking is the real life sulfur mining operation.
However, if you have any existing breathing conditions or a pair of extremely sensitive eyes, then this climb is not meant for you. Be prepared to experience some unpredictable change of plans. Sometimes, the wind will change its direction, and all of a sudden, you will be surrounded by massive sulfur clouds. If this happens, it will be too dangerous to go down on the same day.
2. Kelimutu in East Nusa Tenggara
Kelimutu is also another volcano, and one of the most spectaculair places to visit in Indonesia. The location is in the province of East Nusa Tenggara, about 50km to the east of the capital of Ende Regency. The last eruption occurred in Kelimutu was in 1968, and this national park is the smallest among six national parks between the Nusa Tenggara and Bali islands. However, don’t let the size fool you because Mount Kelimutu National Park has one of the most breathtaking wonders you will ever see. “Kelimutu” means “the boiling lake, center” and there are three lakes on the mountain which have their distinct colors and local names.
If you are visiting this place, make sure you highly respect the surroundings. This is because locals believe that the lakes are the final resting place of the departed souls of the local people. Travelers are typically advised to go very early in the morning because thick fog will usually cover up Mount Kelimutu throughout the day. The best months to visit would be in July and August.
3. Candi Prambanan in Special Region of Yogyakarta
Candi Rara Jonggrang or commonly known as Candi Prambanan is a Hindu temple compound from the 9th century. Situated at Central Java, it is the largest temple complex in the country which is dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma, the three great Hindu divinities. The opening hours of the temple are from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. The word “candi” means “temple, around” and Prambanan is extraordinarily spectacular with detailed construction and designs. The temple lies in a beautiful park, about 17 kilometers away from the city center. There are so many things you can discover in Candi Prambanan such as exploring the panels of relief, describing the life story of Ramayana and when you are tired from walking around, you can simply relax at the park.
The city of Yogyakarta, a part of the Central Java province, is the region’s artistic and cult center and thus one of the main tourist attractions in Indonesia. And it is also among the best places to visit in Indonesia. Even though in the past years Yogya has been changing into a modern city, it’s still the hub of traditions and folklore. Walk through the narrow valleys, and you’ll find small shops with puppets, batik (a fabric decorated with the use of wax-resist dyeing), silverware, traditional clothes and other gems.
Religions and rituals are still alive in Yogyakarta, and nothing will make it as clear as a visit in an ancient candi temple dating back to 8th or 9h century. A few of them are within the city, and you can reach some of them by car in less than an hour. You should see the famous Borobudur or Prambanan, both of them are important archaeological sites nearby Yogyakarta. A must-see in Yogya is the Kraton Palace where you can learn about the local myths, rituals, and stories. The Kraton is a large complex and consists of Sultan’s residential, Gamelans (a traditional orchestra) playing strange, mysterious rhymes on their old instruments, a beautiful pavilion, and numerous artworks.
5. Ratu Boko in Special Region of Yogyakarta
Ratu Boko is another fantastic archeological site lies on a plateau in the Special Region of Yogyakarta. Located just about 3 kilometers south of the Candi Rara Jonggrang Prambanan, Kraton Ratu Boko is one of the must-see places to visit in Indonesia. However, this palace is unique compared to other archeological sites in the country. Most of the visitors would assume that this castle looks quite similar to the other temples, but truthfully, Kraton Ratu Boko has the characteristics of a dwelling place. It is an actual luxurious palace complex built in the 8th century. Its construction and design took place during the reign of the descendant of the Sailendra dynasty, Rakai Panangkaran. Ratu Boko is massive, and it takes a while to explore all four parts of the compound. Other than that, you can expect to see one of the most beautiful sunset views on earth at this complex.
6. Indrayanti Beach in Special Region of Yogyakarta
It is quite clear to see why most of the unique places to visit in Indonesia are in the Special Region of Yogyakarta. This part of the country has one of the oldest histories and legends. If you like beaches, but hate the crowded areas in Bali, go to Indrayanti Beach in Gunung Kidul. It has lovely white sand with blue crystal clear sea water that is perfect for a honeymoon location. Along the beach is you will find a row of inns, cafes, and restaurants. At night, you will see gazebos at the beach with beautiful flickering lights to create a romantic vibe. Unlike the other beaches in the nation which tend to look rather dirty, the shoreline is free from waste and looks pretty clean.
7. Blanco Renaissance Museum in Ubud, Bali
Ubud is well-known as one of the best areas to wind down in Bali. But if you have more than just a few days to spend on the island, go for a two-hour detour in the Blanco Renaissance Museum. The art showcased in the museum is wildly creative, sexy, humorous and eccentric. Don Antonio Blanco created it with only one intention; to reflect his creative, raucous and raunchy inner life. As you enter the museum, you will quickly recognize the European and Balinese blended designs that filled the entire interior of the Blanco Museum. There are three floors, all of which houses different artworks by Blanco throughout his life. If you enjoy arts, this is a perfect place!
8. Weh Island in Sumatra
Commonly known as Pulau Weh or Pulo Weh, this spectacular small active volcanic island is a perfect getaway. Its untouched natural beach and healthy coral reefs will amaze you. The island is a favorite spot for most cruise ships and yachts. One of the most common activities to do in Weh Island is diving. There are professional dive masters and dive instructors who are ready to bring you to explore the dive sites. You will find many delightful sea creatures, such as sea turtles, dolphins, whale sharks and manta rays. When you’re a diver, this is definitely one of the best places to visit in Indonesia. There are also many restaurants throughout the small island. Some of the most popular places to eat include Chill Out at Iboih, Mama’s Jungle, Bungong Sakura at Ujong Kareung and Naguna.
9. Bunaken Island in North Sulawesi
Finally, we are going to North Sulawesi for one of the most beautiful places to explore in the whole nation. The Bunaken National Marine Park is a paradise for all snorkeling and diving lovers. The island of Bunaken resembles the shape of a banana, and the marine park includes the neighboring islands of Nain, Nain Kecil, Mantehage, Siladen and Manado Tua. It was officially established as the country’s national marine park in 1991 and Bunaken boasts some of the most stunning biodiversity in the world. Flora and fauna include five species of sea turtle, no less than 70 different genera of coral, extraordinary dugongs, and you can even see the saltwater crocodiles.
10. Baliem Valley
The Baliem Valley, situated in the remote Papua region, is one of the world’s few truly traditional areas. Among the misty mountains, down in the valley, you can find small, tribal villages in which for ages people have been wearing traditional clothes, growing animals and vegetables on the same grounds and practicing old rites and ceremonies. When a natural history expedition got to the valley in 1938, the Dani people were still using tools made of bones and wood. Even though the Dani were discovered by the world and had welcomed some new methods and beliefs, they’re still living in their own way. The Baliem Valley can be reached by plane, flying to its small airport. The best way of moving around the region is just trekking around. You can spend days or even weeks walking, surrounded by scenic views, passing mountain rivers and visiting one tribal village after another.
11. The Temples
There are countless beautiful temples all across Indonesia. Two of them, Borobudur and Prambanan, have already been briefly mentioned. Borobudur is a spectacular Buddhist temple set amongst bright green rice fields and volcanic peaks. Numerous relief panels and Buddha statues decorate the temple. Prambanan is Indonesia’s largest Hindu temple. They honor the three great Hindu divinities and has lots of gorgeous examples of Hindu art. Another site that is worth visiting is the Great Mosque of Demak in Cental Java. This site reminds how diversified the religious history of Indonesia is. If you’re traveling to Bali, don’t forget about visiting the Pura Besakih. This is an extensive complex of Hindu temples built on the slope of Mount Agung. Those beautiful temples are some of the most remarkable tourist attractions in Indonesia, but they’re even more than that, a spiritual experience and a possibility to explore various cultures and beliefs.
12. Tana Toraja
Time passes differently in Tana Toraja or, in some ways, it doesn’t pass at all. This highland region lies in Southern Sulawesi. This area is called one of the most unique tourist attractions in Indonesia. Intricately decorated, particular houses and their strange, upward-sloping roofs, and lush rice terraces fill Tana Toraja. But most importantly, bamboo graves, cave graves, hanging graves, cliff cemeteries and tau-tau effigies serving as their guards.
Even though many residents of Tana Toraja are currently Christians, some things did not change with the arrival of Dutch colonists and the new religion they brought. Tana Toraja is famous for its slightly scary, but fascinating funeral ceremonies that they practice for centuries. The area also has beautiful views and charming, welcoming locals. In the summer months, especially July and August, have to move trough the crowds. But for the rest of the year, only a few tourists head to Tana Toraja.
This bustling city with vibrant nightlife and crazy traffic also has its secrets, little spots of peace and quiet. As a capital city, Jakarta is modern, fancy and international. Jakarta is definitely one of the best places to visit in Indonesia. But if you look at it, you’ll find the remains of traditional life. Several museums are offering great history lessons, most of them located in the old town, Kota Tua. During organized meetings in the culture centers or in the evenings, you can enjoy a drink in a bohemian café. While doing so, you can have a chat with Indonesia’s artists, thinkers, and philosophers. Many of them live in the city and others, visit it frequently. In Jakarta’s luxurious shopping galleries you’ll find nearly everything. If you don’t, search for it in the antique and handicraft shops.
Go Home with Beautiful Memories
It is one of the most diverse and beautiful countries in the world. Despite its weak currency, the tourism industry helps the economy a lot. From white sandy beaches to the thick rainforest and vibrant city life in Jakarta, it has so many things to offer to all visitors. With so many places to visit in Indonesia, you will probably need more than just a few days of the tour. We suggest considering a backpacking trip across the nation because you will need more time to see as many places to visit in Indonesia as you can.