Like so many of Indonesia’s islands, Belitung is rightly known for its beaches. These aren’t ordinary beaches though that have emerged off the coast of Sumatra. All around its famous northern shores, giant smooth white stones reminiscent of glaciers adorn the beaches and sea. A boat can be hired from the local fishermen for an entire day’s worth of snorkeling, swimming, exploring the rocks, and visiting all the other tiny unpopulated islands around Belitung.
Created from the largest volcanic eruption in the last 25 million years, Lake Toba sits in a caldera on the island of Sumatra. It is Indonesia’s largest lake and in its epicenter lies the small island of Samosir, which is the cultural center for the Batak people in Indonesia. Its epic vastness and dramatic surrounding mountains have people comparing it to Switzerland and Norway, with Indonesians making it a favorite trekking destination to breathe in its wondrous scenery.
Off the coast of West Papua, Raja Ampat is on every Indonesian’s bucket list. This special archipelago is famous for its hundreds of tiny islands that are covered in thick jungle and has quickly become a major destination for scuba diving, with its bright blue water and colorful reefs teeming with marine life. On land, ancient cave paintings can be explored, while the fortunate and adventurous few might even be lucky enough to spot the fabled Crimson Bird of Paradise.
Whilst the island of Komodo and the endemic giant lizard of the same name is the main draw here, the National Park actually spans 29 diverse and unique islands. Best explored by chartered traditional wooden ships, the numerous highlights of this UNESCO heritage site include a trek up to the highest point of Padar Island, taking in the colors of Pink Beach, meeting schools of Manta-rays at Manta Point, and, of course, observing the enigmatic Komodo Dragons in their natural habitat.
Every year, a new travel destination in Indonesia seems to get discovered and hyped. This year, Karimunjawa is the latest group of islands to have garnered plenty of attention from local tourists especially. Still rather difficult to get to, Karimunjawa is the small archipelago that makes up a marine conservation area north of Central Java, boasting thick mangrove forests, bright white beaches, and virgin atolls and reefs full of all colors imaginable.
These twin cities are Java’s enduring centers of culture. For those more interested in Javanese history, these ancient capitals of the ancient Hindu, Buddhist, and Mataram Kingdoms still contain temples, palaces, and practices. Yogyakarta is home to the largest Buddhist temple in the world in Borobudur, Indonesia’s largest shrine to Shiva in Prambanan, and the Sultan’s Palace of Keraton, Indonesia’s heritage is collected in one city. You can also observe and participate in traditional Indonesian crafts, such as batik, puppetry, and jewelry making in their famous silversmiths.
Meaning Aromatic Water, Banyuwangi is Java’s easternmost city. Spanning an area that includes secluded beaches like G-Land (where the locals will claim to have the best waves in the world), this large and diverse regency also contains the famous Ijen Crater, which is known for its stunning colors as blue flames burst from the cracks in the mountain to lick the yellow sulfur rocks.
Indonesia’s second tallest peak, Rinjani is an active volcano that towers over Lombok, Bali’s sister island. At 3,726 meters, peaking this mountain is no small feat but when it offers arguably Indonesia’s best view, it is truly worth it. Most trekkers and hikers begin late in the night in order to avoid the stifling heat and, most significantly, take in the view as the sun rises over the island, revealing the breadth and scope of Lombok’s lush greenery.
Indonesia’s largest reef (and only second in the world after the Great Barrier Reef), Wakatobi is actually known among divers as having the most ecologically diverse range of coral and marine life. Spanning 1.4 hectares, this National Marine Park in Sulawesi is home to 750 out of 850 coral species and 942 fish species, as well providing a home for turtles, dolphins, and whales.
Indonesia has big plans to develop Morotai Island as an international tourism and diving destination and it is no wonder why. Located in Northern Maluku, Morotai is as interesting historically as it is geographically. As a a major battleground of World War II, sunken ships and airplanes litter the shallow clear waters among the white sand, reefs, and fishes.
Known as the home of the Orangutans, Tanjung Puting is a national park in the thickest of jungles of Kalimantan, Indonesia’s part of Borneo. To explore the rainforest and visit the Orangutan conservation area and sanctuary, a boat must be hired where you’ll live and sleep for a few days as you make your way around. The forest is a cacophony of life as rescued and wild Orangutans will come down to feed on fruit and Proboscis monkeys gather daily by the waterside every day at dawn as you float by. And at night, your boat moors in the middle of the jungle as you lay on the open deck, only a mosquito net between you and the wilderness.