Love Bali? (Who doesn’t?) The Indonesian government is working to create not one but 10 other equally magnificent tourist destinations for those looking for a break from the overcrowded Kuta neighbourhood. These top 10 contenders for Indonesia’s ‘New Bali’ may not be as famous now, but they will be after the government-led major makeovers and developments enhance their raw, natural charms.
Lake Toba, North Sumatra
Lake Toba is not only Indonesia’s largest lake and the world’s largest volcanic lake (it covers an area bigger than Singapore!), it also has intriguing features that make each side worth exploring. On one side, it has a majestic rock formation with a legendary hanging stone that looks like a man. The eastern side offers a stunning panoramic view of lush hill formations that surround the clear blue lake. The views are preferably enjoyed with scrumptious local delicacies from nearby warungs.
Lake Toba is likewise known for Samosir Island, a small island at the heart of the lake where the view is great and the arts and culture scene is thriving. The island is home to the art of making ulos, North Sumatra’s prized traditional fabric.
Belitung, Bangka Belitung Islands
It’s not difficult to see how this island won tourists’ hearts as an up-and-coming tourism gem of Indonesia. The coveted sunsets, virgin beaches, iconic granite boulders and colonial lighthouse certainly paint a wonderful picture to keep in memory. But in between sunrise- and sunset-catching, relaxing all day by the beach, and exploring the many small offshore islands, Belitung’s charm lies in its culture and history. As a formerly important economy during the colonial period, the island features Dutch colonial architectures such as a charming old harbour in Tanjung Pandan and the nation’s first literary museum, the Museum Kata Andrea Hirata.
Tanjung Lesung, Banten
Tanjung Lesung’s potential is in its 15-km unspoilt coastline, which is occupied only by shady coconut trees, powder-soft white sand, lively coral reefs and vibrant marine life. Soon, the natural charm will be met with accommodation development and fun activities to complete the tourism experience. Even now tourists from across the island are already captivated by the calm seaside atmosphere and preserved local culture. In nearby villages, tourists can interact with local fishermen and learn their ways of life, feed the seabirds, and watch the traditional dance performance of Rampak Bedug by the local community.
Thousand Islands, Jakarta
An archipelago of 110 islands just off the shore of the capital Jakarta, Thousand Islands offers a quick and convenient urban getaway. To date, only 11 of which are fully developed with resorts and tour operators. The usual island pastimes — snorkelling, diving, water sports, beach activities and more — are available, but some of the islands also serve as historical parks where tourists can explore colonial ruins, natural reserves, or conservation and educational centres.
Each island has its own unique character and features: Tidung Island with the extensive Love Bridge, Pari Island with the seaweeds farm and research centre, Pramuka Island with the sea turtles population, and more. Further development will add dozens more to the list.
Borobudur Temple, Central Java
This vast temple compound is more than its architectural beauty reflected through magnificent mandalas, 504 Buddha statues, and thousands of relief panels. The world’s largest Buddhist temple is also a centuries-old reminder of Indonesia’s ancient past, bearing a cultural, historical, and religious significance unmatched by any other spot in the archipelago. The stone walls of this temple are carved with relief depicting ancient sagas and the Buddhist principles, like a giant two-mile textbook to walk through in an attempt to achieve enlightenment.
Whether you are looking for spiritual enlightenment, satiating cultural fascination, or snapping a coveted picture of an ancient temple with a magnificent view of nature as its backdrop, Borobudur Temple has got it all. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is already one of the most-visited tourist attractions, but further development will make it easier for tourists to reach and stay near the area.
Mount Bromo, East Java
Many people can immediately recognise the iconic view of Mount Bromo from the faintest pictures. But not that many tourists are even aware of the volcano’s under-represented cultural charms compared to its obvious natural allure. Beyond the breath-taking sunrise views and landscape wonders, tourists can also experience the captivating Hindu sacrifice festival of the local Tenggerese people called the Kaskada ceremony. The name Bromo itself was derived from the local dialect of Brahma, the creator god of Hinduism. Developing a cultural centre or tours around the nearby village will give tourists a more authentic and meaningful experience at this magical destination.
Mandalika Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara
Mandalika Lombok reminds many people of the neighbouring Bali decades ago, before the island became a global sensation welcoming millions of tourists yearly. But Mandalika is more than just a time machine to bring back the pristine and unspoilt Bali of old. The lineup of idyllic beaches comes with a different set of cultures and legends. Magnificent mosques are almost as plentiful as the Hindu temples in Bali, as the majority of the local community have Islam as their religion. Tourists can also attend different festivals, buy various handmade souvenirs, and eat a wide range of food. Between the superior natural beauty and lively culture, Lombok surely has what it takes to be the next Bali.
Komodo Island, East Nusa Tenggara
The magnificent natural landscape of hills and coasts alone qualifies Komodo Island as the next hip destination. Throw in the thriving wildlife and the island becomes an ultimate tropical gem. Home to the ancient komodo dragons and much more exotic species living in a beautiful island habitat, this destination is quickly gaining popularity among tourists seeking both adventure and tranquility in one place. In recent years, more resorts and tours have begun operating in Komodo and surrounding islands, but it will be decades before it become too mainstream.
Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi
Cherished for its vibrant underwater life, Wakatobi holds hundreds of diving spots, each inhabited by different sets of corals, fish, seaweeds, and other marine biodiversity. Located in the Coral Triangle, it is said that the marine beauty of Wakatobi Islands has led Jacques Cousteau to call it an “Underwater Nirwana (Nirvana)”. And while the marine front is top notch, Wakatobi also has the indigenous Bajo Tribe, an ancient community of seamen with immense local wisdom and customs. The relatively remote location may have led to some hesitation to visit this paradise in the past, but upcoming developments will make this national park much more accessible.
Morotai Island, North Maluku
Located in the less-travelled eastern Indonesia, not many eyes have seen the raw natural prowess of Morotai Island. But those who have had the privilege would’ve sworn they’d been in paradise. Hidden virgin beaches, remote small islands, and countless diving spots add up real nicely in this tropical heaven. But perhaps a more defining aspect of this island is its history as a strategic base during World War II. That episode of Morotai’s story leaves behind numerous historical sites that double as charming tourist attractions. From a sunken aircraft wreck and old jeeps and warships, to even fortresses and bunkers, various war relics educate tourists about the paradise’s past as a decisive battleground.