7 Indonesian Islands You Need to Explore

7 Indonesian Islands You Need to Explore

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With over 17,000 islands spanning three time-zones, two continents and two oceans, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. It covers a distance equal to that between London and Moscow and is home to over 200 ethnic groups, 580 languages and countless religions and cultures. Indonesia's landscape is as diverse as its people; straddling the equator, the country boasts a multitude of unique geographical features, including active volcanoes, tropical rainforests and white sand beaches (to name just a few).

The sheer size and diversity of the nation means there’s always something to discover. Yet it remains one of South East Asia’s least explored gems, known best by the small tourist hotspot of Bali. Before you plan your next trip, be sure to check out some of the other breath-taking places the Emerald of the Equator has to offer!  

 

Bali

Internship in Bali Indonesia

By far the best-known Indonesian island, Bali has been drawing tourists from far and wide for decades with its warm and friendly population, rich and unique culture and varied landscape.  

Covering just over 2,000 square miles, Bali isn’t one of the nation’s largest islands, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting. There’s no shortage of things to see and do, and it couldn’t be easier to travel between towns and attractions. Temples, volcanoes, beaches, waterfalls, rice terraces, and party towns make it perfect for everyone; whether you’re seeking culture, parties or peace, you’ll find it here.

Despite the influx of foreign tourists and their influence, Bali manages to hold on to tradition; streets, houses and temples are decorated to celebrate Balinese culture and religion, and traditional music and dance is never far away. This lively island always has something going on, and it’s the perfect starting point for a trip to Indonesia.

Top destinations in Bali: Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple, Mount Batur, Tegallalang Rice Terraces, Kanto Lampo waterfall, Seminak and Kuta.

 

explore the gili islandsGili Islands

If you’re looking for crystal clear waters, soft silky sand and cloudless skies, look no further. Located just off the coast of Lombok, and easily accessible from both here and Bali, this cluster of paradise islands is the perfect spot for a quick getaway.

The Gili Islands are made up of three tiny landmasses on which motorised vehicles are prohibited, and horse and cart - ‘cidomos’ as their known locally - are the main mode of transport. Gili Trawangan, is the largest, most popular and developed island. Though quiet spots exist here, the coastline is dominated by restaurants, bars and hotels catering to the swathes of foreign tourists that pour onto the island each day. Smaller and more remote, Gili Air and Gili Meno offer visitors an insight into a more traditional way of life. These are the places to go for anyone hoping to escape the tourist trail and the 'hustle and bustle' of nearby Bali and Lombok.

Gili Islands: Gili Trawangen, Gili Air and Gili Meno

 

Flores

trips to floresLong overshadowed by neighbouring tourist hotspot Bali, Flores is a peaceful paradise home to breath-taking scenery and jaw-dropping natural phenomena. Though first put on the map by the infamous Komodo Dragon, the tenth biggest Indonesian island is rapidly becoming recognised for its stunning dive sites, unspoiled lakes, magnificent waterfalls, mysterious caves and gorgeous coastlines.

That’s not all that makes Flores special; the indigenous Manggarai people of West Flores maintain age-old traditions and rituals unique to this part of the island. Traditional dances, ceremonies and lingko rice fields are just a few enchanting cultural treasures that make any visit to the island memorable. It’s the perfect destination for anyone looking for culture, nature and adventure.

While it remains untouched by the hordes of tourists who’ve left their mark on Bali, Flores is beginning to make itself known. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes the next big thing, so what better time to go?

Top Destinations in Flores: Padar Island, Kelimutu lake, Komodo National Park, Manta Point dive site, Melo Village

 

Sumatra

One of Indonesia’s largest islands, Sumatra boasts a population of over 50 million, the world’s richest ecosystem, and some of the most biologically diverse habitats on earth. Its varied tropical landscape and mountainous terrain make Sumatra a true adventurer’s paradise; here you can climb active volcanoes, trek through lush rainforests, swim in crater lakes, explore limestone caves and explore underwater scenery just as beautiful as that on land. Head to the coast to find pummelling waves perfect for surfing, or inland to venture through lush rainforests home to endangered species like the Sumatran tiger, rhinoceros, elephant, and orangutan.

The Sumatran population is made up of people from various ethnic groups and religions, who have lived peacefully side-by-side for centuries. This multi-culturalism is reflected in the local architecture, language and customs, all of which combine to form a rich and interesting local culture that makes a visit here all the more exciting.

 

Top Destinations in Sumatra: Sibayak volcano, Lake Toba, Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre, Mentawi island, Karo villages

 

Kalimantan

visit Kalimantan

Borneo is the third largest island in the world, separated into 3 main areas and owned by 3 different countries: Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. Covering 73% of the island, Kalimantan sits on the equator and is the Indonesian part of the island. Owing to its location, Kalimantan is one of the few Indonesian territories untouched by the risk of volcanic eruptions or tsunamis. However, as suggested by the translation of its name “burning weather island”, its proximity to the equator culminates in year-round steamy temperatures.

Kalimantan’s landscape is dominated by tropical rainforests, high mountains and flowing rivers. Among these live rare indigenous tribes, as well as various wildlife species including orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and crocodiles. Few venture to this off the beaten path destination, though those that do are rewarded with breath-taking scenery and one-of-a-kind culture!

Sadly, Kalimantan’s abundant natural resources have made it a key target of deforestation, so go before it’s too late.

Top destinations in Kalimantan: Danau Sentarum National Park, Derawan Island, Meratus Mountains, Kutai National Park, Mahakam River, Sesayap River Protected Forest

 

Java

Home to around 11% of the world’s population, Java is the most populous island in both Indonesia and the world. Best known for the nation’s political and cultural capitals Jakarta and Yogyakarta, it's both the gateway to exploring Indonesia and the heart of the archipelago. Having played an important role in Indonesian history and been at the core of Hindu-Buddhist empires, Islamic sultanates and the colonial Dutch East Indies, the island is characterized cultural and architectural relics from various eras that provide a fascinating insight into the nation’s past and present.

Numerous mountains, volcanoes, plateaus and craters keep intrepid visitors busy, while cities like Surabaya and Yogyakarta offer the chance to explore in a more leisurely manner. Visit the iconic Borobudur Temple for a glimpse into the island's history, or take in the madness of modern-day Indonesia whilst sipping on a cup of the world famous Luwak coffee in the city centers.    

Top Destinations in Java: Jakarta, Mount Bromo, Mount Ijen, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Dieng plateau, Borobudur and Prambanan temples

 

Wakatobi Islands

While the Gilis provide an easily accessible island break, the Wakatobi Islands are where you'll want to go for a real escape. Located well and truly off the beaten track in Southeast Sulawesi, this cluster of islands isn’t the easiest to reach, but it’s certainly worth the journey. Following a couple of flights and a boat ride, you’ll wind up in what can only be described as paradise; turquoise waters, empty white sand beaches, and crystal clear waters make Wakatobi the perfect destination for a spot of rest and relaxation.

If you’re into diving, Wakatobi is the place to go. It’s the second largest coral reef in the world, where you'll find over 750 species of fish, 850 known types of coral, and 50 spectacular dive spots. Diving is possible from any of the four islands, though it’s best to go through one of the established dive resorts located on Tomia Island. If you are planning to venture here, note that Wangi Wangi (the busiest of the four islands) is the only one equipped with amenities like ATM’s. How much more remote can you get?

Wakatobi Islands: Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko

 

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