The largest archipelago on planet Earth and one that spreads across one-sixth of the earth’s diameter, Indonesia, is one of my favorite countries to explore just for the sheer diversity of riches that it offers to its visitors. From Sumatra to Papua and from Kalimantan to Sulawesi, this archipelago nation offers stunning sights that is missed by most mainstream holidaymakers. To most Indians, Indonesia is Bali. Others are slightly better and know Jakarta, Borobudur, Prambanan, Komodo National Park and Lombok.
Indonesia is so much more. From stunning rainforests to active volcanoes and from coral biospheres to an amazing tribal culture, wonderful Indonesia offers so many unbelievably vibrant and special experiences that you can spend a year in that country and still not scratch its surface.
Below are 9 of my favorite off-beat holiday locations in Indonesia that you could potentially explore on your next trip to Indonesia.
1) Tana Toraja
I love Tana Toraja for its unbelievably special tribal culture. Located in the central highlands of Sulawesi island, Tana Toraja is one place that celebrates death. There is more action during a funeral here than during a wedding. It’s lush green countryside, its rock-cut tombs and spirit guardians, its terraced rice plantations and its unique traditions make this place a stunner of a destination.
2) Kawah Ijen
The world’s most acidic lake, Kawah Ijen is the story of the sulphur miner’s hard life. Located on the eastern end of Java island, it allows you to experience one of mother nature’s amazing creations and get to experience the trying conditions where the sulphur miners of this region eke out a tough living for a measly sum.
An extremely popular destination with the locals, Bandung is much cooler than most other Javanese cities and is known for its universities and food circuit. Nicknamed as Kota Kembang or Flower city, it is home to many beautiful colonial buildings and the famous Burangrang Street Culinary that is a must-experience for all foodies. Lembang, located uphill is great for relaxation. More or less all the attractions are located close to the Grand Hotel Lembang. It is best to make easy online hotels booking before planning a holiday to Bandung. In addition to Bandung and Lembang, Kawah Puith crater, the tea plantations, Mt. Tangkuban Perahu and Kawah Domas make for great day trips, thus adding to the overall experience.
4) Karimun Java
Ever heard of a place where you can swim with baby sharks? Well, the small equatorial islands of Karimun Jawa is one such amazing place. Tucked amidst the rough waters between Java island (closest city being Surabaya) and Kalimantan, Karimun Jawa is home to powdery white beaches and beautiful coral reefs. This is the kind of place where you stay with a local family in their home and enjoy a relaxed holiday. Scuba diving and snorkeling are the most popular activities on the water, while jungle trekking is quite popular on the island.
5) Gunung Merapi
Ever climbed an active volcano and seen the hot lava bubble inside it? Well, Gunung Merapi, Indonesia’s most active volcano goes up every 4th year like clockwork and the eruption is usually so heavy that is drenches the UNESCO world heritage sites of Prambanan and Borobudur in a ton of ash. The trek to the top of this active volcano, negotiating the sea of slush, seeing the fast moving river of hot lava in the middle of the night and watching the amazing sunrise over the volcanic mountain landscape is an unparalleled experience.
Everybody knows Bali for its beaches and temples. Well, did you know Bali has a hill station called Kintamani that is located around the Batur volcano and caldera. This picturesque place is also home to the very beautiful Pura Ulan Danu Batur temple. Go here for nature, a rich temple experience, cool weather and a lush green countryside experience in Bali.
7) Gunung Sumeru
If you are planning a holiday to Indonesia, I am pretty sure that you might have looked up Mount Bromo, which is known for its burst open smoking caldera and its spectacular sunrise pictures. Towering over Gunung Bromo is Gunung Sumeru, another smoking volcano, but one that requires a trek deeper into the volcanic forest. Considered as Maha Meru or the ultimate abode of the almighty, this trek takes you through pristine rainforest and through scenes that you can’t see or experience anywhere else.
Bali is extremely popular among all vacationers for its surf breaks, but if you love surfing and wish for a quieter place than Bali, then Sumba and more particularly Sumbawa is the place for you. Just north of East Timor in the East Timor Sea, Sumbawa offers a heady concoction of beautiful surf breaks, deserted stretches of gorgeous beaches and an experience that Bali might have offered 50 years ago. This place is for the ultimate off-beat beach lover.
9) Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park
A tropical rainforest heritage of Sumatra island, the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park is home to endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger, the Sumatran elephant and the Sumatran Rhino. An UNESCO World heritage site along with Gunung Leuser National Park and Kerinci Seblat National Park, this national park is located in a very sparsely populated and very remote part of Sumatra. It is also practically unheard of as a destination in the tourist circles. Go here for stunning nature, endangered wildlife, a hike to Mount Kerinci, Sumatra’s highest peak and Muaro Jambi, the largest temple compound in the world.