7 Indonesian Islands You Need to Explore

7 Indonesian Islands You Need to Explore

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With over 17,000 islands spanning across three time-zones, two continents and two oceans, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. Covering a distance equal to that from London to Moscow, the nation is home to over 200 ethnic groups, 580 languages and countless religions and cultures. Indonesia is as diverse in its landscape as it is in its people; straddling the equator, the country boasts a unique geography formed of active volcanoes, tropical rainforests and white sand beaches (to name just a few). The sheer size and diversity of the archipelago means there’s always something to discover. Yet it remains one of South East Asia’s more mysterious nations, known mainly by the small tourist hotspot of Bali. But what about the other thousands of islands? 

We’ve put together the best hidden gems the Emerald of the Equator has to offer!  

 

Bali

Internship in Bali Indonesia

By far the best-known of Indonesia’s many islands, 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 group of paradise islands offers just that and is the perfect place for a quick island getaway.

The Gili Islands are made up of three tiny islands on which motorised vehicles are prohibited, and horse and cart, or ‘cidomos’ as their known locally, are the main mode of transport. Gili Trawangan, is the largest, most popular and developed island. Though quiet spots can be found, its coastline is somewhat dominated by restaurants, bars and hotels catering to the hordes of foreign crowds that pour onto the island. 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 turn heads. 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 is home to over 50 million people, 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 as diverse as its landscape; people from various ethnic groups and religions have lived peacefully side-by-side for centuries. This multi-culturalism is reflected in 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

The third largest island in the world, Borneo is separated into 3 main areas and owned by 3 different countries; Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. Covering 73% of the island, Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of the island which sits on the equator. Owing to its location, Kalimantan is one of the few Indonesian territories untouched by the risk of volcanic eruptions or tsunamis. Though 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. It’s home to various wildlife species including orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and crocodiles, and rare indigenous tribes. Few venture to this off the beaten path destination, though those who do are rewarded with breath-taking scenery and fascinating culture that you won’t find anywhere else!

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, Java is 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 features cultural and architectural relics from various eras that combine for a fascinating insight into the nation’s past and present.

Culture isn’t all Java has to offer; almost entirely volcanic, the island is inundated with mountains, volcanoes, plateaus and craters waiting to be explored. If adventure isn’t your thing, fear not; cities like Surabaya and Yogyakarta offer the chance to explore some of the islands history, the iconic Borobudur Temple, or simply relax and take in the hustle and bustle of modern-day Indonesia whilst sipping on a cup of the world famous Luwak coffee.    

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

 

Wakatobi Islands

While the Gili’s provide an easily accessible island getaway, the Wakatobi Islands are where to go for a real escape from the hustle and bustle. 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 it. 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 unbeatable dive sites make Wakatobi the perfect destination for some rest and relaxation.

If you’re into diving, Wakatobi is the place to go; it’s the second largest coral reef in the world and home to 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. Be aware though, Wangi Wangi (the busiest of the four islands) is the only one that’s equipped with amenities like ATM’s.

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

 

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