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The Ulun Danau Temple in Bali

Highlights of Indonesia

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The archipelago nation of Indonesia is comprised of over 17,500 islands and over 300 ethnic groups with some 700 languages are spoken. As one of the largest countries in the world, and heavily populated, it surprisingly still contains islands that remain unexplored. While it is difficult to pinpoint the most noteworthy places to visit, though some have certainly risen the ranks of popularity based on traveler feedback. See below some of the best places and most popular islands to visit on and Indonesia tour or cruise.

Bali Island

As the most popular tourist destination in Indonesia, Bali has quite a reputation to live up to for new travelers arriving who expect paradise. Though it can be “tourist-packed”, particularly in high seasons, this tropical beach paradise leaves very few with disappointed hopes. From its rainforest covered volcanic peaks to the white sand beaches, it is for a good reason that Bali is one of the world’s most popular island destinations. Guests can enjoy laid back coastal life at some of the best Bali beaches. If you enjoy nightlife, spend some time in hopping Bali clubs, or if you prefer to get outdoors, trek through the rugged volcanic landscape and hike around rice terraces created by the deeply spiritual Hindu people. Enjoy friendly people, great surfing and diving, and an island vacation you won’t quickly forget. See here for some of the Top Things to do in Bali.

Lombok & Gili Islands

Visit this area, located just to the east of Bali, for more opportunities to trek, surf, and enjoy beautiful beaches. Lombok has the similar white sands beaches as Bali, but tends to draw fewer tourist crowds. Visit the Gili Islands as well, just off the northwest coast of Lombok for an amazing diversity of island resorts. Choose from backpacker options to luxury resorts and enjoy trekking, surfing, and water sports. Mount Rinjani, an active volcano, draws an avid trekking crowd and offers a good challenge to even experienced hikers. Explore the island by motorcycle, visit Senaru village and waterfalls, or snorkel the blue waters around the island.

Komodo Dragon National Park

Explore this park and its claim to fame – the natural wild habitat for the world’s largest lizards. , Comprised of multiple islands, the park spans from Komodo Island to Rinca Island and allows visitors to come and witness the only remaining habitat where the Komodo Dragon still runs wild. Watch out for the poisonous saliva! The islands also offer some world class scuba diving. 


Explore the Papua province, the western and Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea. Spend time in Baliem Valley and observe tribes still practicing ceremonies today as they did years ago. Trek through the land and visit the villages of Lani, Dani, and Yali tribes here.

The Raja Ampat archipelago is another popular destination, located just off the northwest tip of New Guinea. 75% of the world’s coral species can be found here around the 1500 small islands that make up this grouping. 1300 species of fish, 530 species of coral, and 700 species of mollusk have been documented here, making these remote islands perhaps the highest recorded diversity of marine life on earth. The lack of human presence and its remoteness makes this a diver’s paradise.

Flores Island

Venture to this island in the East Nusa Tenggara province for a taste of traditional island life. Visit the volcano caldera lakes from Kelimutu volcano. These lakes have turned a deep turquoise due to the oxidation. Visit traditional villages, stay with local families, and enjoy birding and trekking.

Sumatra Island

As one of Indonesia’s largest island and 6th largest in the world, Sumatra holds quite a variety of attractions for travelers. Visit Lake Maninjau for an off-the-beaten-path volcanic crater lake. Enjoy the scenic and peaceful lakeside life here. Or try Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world. The quiet and serene backdrop provides the perfect setting to settle and unwind after a long trek in another part of Indonesia. Visit here as well Bukit Lawang, a small village near Gunung Leuser National Park. The park’s main purpose is to preserve the orangutan. Enjoys treks and whitewater adventures here, and possibly spot an orangutan in the wild. 

Sulawesi Island

Lying to the east of Borneo, this island boasts a rich cultural heritage and traditions still being practiced today. Visit Tana Toraja (or Torajaland), a highland in south Sulawesi where you can observe the ethnic group of the Toraja people. Observe traditional ceremonies and learn of their interesting funeral rites. You may even get to witness one of these unique burials! Visit also Manado, located on the northern tip of the island. This former Dutch stronghold is the cultural center for the Minahasa ethnic group. One of the few Christian holdouts of the country as well, it holds an interesting history in light of the Buddhist and Hindu ties of the rest of the country. Lake Tondano and Lake Linow are also popular destinations for travelers to Sulawesi.


Visit the island of Borneo, of which the Indonesian portion is named Kalimantan. In Central Kalimantan, visit Tanjung Putting Natinoal Park. This popular ecotourism destination allows for wildlife spotting boat tours. Gibbons, macaques, leopards sun bear, orangutans, and pythons and crocodiles can often be seen in this region. In West Kalimantan travel to the Kapuas River, winding through the jungles and providing valuable life source to the Dayak people. Living deep in the rainforest, these people have an incredible heritage and the rainforest offers a diversity of wildlife. Boat rides allow visitors a chance to explore this enchanting location. Fresh water dolphins and orangutans can be spotted.

Java Island

Most travelers will set foot on Java Island, if even for a few minutes as their flights layover in Jakarta, the country’s capital city. The bustling metropolitan area is congested but nevertheless an important hub to the rest of the country. Spend some time on Java and explore Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, Named after the Semeru people, Mount Bromo and Mount Semeru (the highest in Java and most active in Indonesia). Spend time trekking in the park or ride horses to the top. Enjoy trekking in Dieng Plateau, a caldera from a former eruption, and relax at the peaceful lake with breathtaking scenery and hot springs. Or visit Bandung, known as the “paris of Java”. Scenery lovers will find in awe here. Explore tea plantations, volcanoes, or Kawah Putih, a breathtaking lake. Enjoy the food in this region as well as the commercial shopping.

Another popular destination on Java Island is Yogyakarta. Explore this cultural and artistic hub of Java Island. As home to 500,000 the markets are filled with food vendors, street artists, performers, puppet makers, silversmiths and all kinds of craftsmen. Explore nearby ruin sites from here that also tell the story of the island’s religions and their development in Indonesia. BoroBudur is the oldest Buddhist temple and Prambanan, an old Hindu temple and both are accessible in a day from Yogyakarta. 

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Terraced rice fields
Tun Sakaran Marine Park, also called Semporna Islands Park
Two young monks read on the steps of a temple

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