4 DESTINATIONS TO GET OFF-THE-BEATEN-TRACK IN INDONESIA
While Indonesia encompasses thousands of islands (and is home to hundreds of different ethnic groups), much of its tourism centers around a single destination - Bali. This “Island of the Gods” is home to stunning landscapes, alluring cultures and exceptional resorts but you’ll have to share it with the millions of other travelers who visit each year.
However, there’s so much more to discover in this fascinating country, provided you’re willing to get a little off-the-beaten tourist track. Whether it’s pristine coral reefs, uncrowded waves or intoxicating culture and history you’re after, we’ve got you covered with our top four destinations for adventurous travelers to explore in Indonesia.
1. Raja Ampat
Translating as the “Four Kings”, Raja Ampat is a breathtakingly beautiful archipelago of jungle-clad islands and idyllic white beaches off the coast of West Papua. Its above water scenery is undeniably breathtaking but it’s once you venture below the water’s surface that the magic of this area comes into its own. Raja Ampat has been dubbed the “Amazon of the Underwater World” due to the sheer diversity of its marine species, with encounters that will leave you speechless. If that’s not enough, the islands are also home to brilliant Birds of Paradise that can be spotted on guided hikes through the lush forests.
"Looking across a coral reef in the magical islands of Raja Ampat"
2. Tana Toraja
If you’re after a unique cultural experience with scenery to boot, make a beeline for the island of Sulawesi. Nestled in its rugged interior is Tana Toraja, a picturesque region of terraced rice paddies and villages clustered with boat-shaped houses that have been intricately painted. The Toraja people are renowned for their rituals revolving around death, with an entire life led in preparation for an elaborate burial ceremony. Discover their ancestral animist beliefs in the tomb-like caves and hanging graves that are adorned with tau tau wooden effigies or experience the celebration of life first hand at a multi-day funeral.
"Family members pay their respects during a funeral ceremony in Tana Toraja"
Surfers looking for those elusive “undiscovered” breaks might just find all their dreams have come true in Sumba. It forms part of the Lesser Sunda Islands around 250km to the southeast of Bali and boasts one of Indonesia’s most consistent surf breaks - “Occy’s Left”. Sumba remains blissfully undeveloped except for a few select resorts, including Nihiwatu - a luxury surf destination that has fostered a strong community relationship. Spend your days riding endless (and uncrowded) waves, coupled with time spent volunteering at local schools and village visits to learn about life for the Sumbanese people.
4. Banda Islands
History buffs shouldn’t miss the opportunity to explore the Banda Islands - a cluster of around 10 volcanic islands in the Banda Sea. Up until the mid-19th century, they were the only source of nutmeg and mace in the world, with the British, Portuguese and Dutch battling over control of this valuable resource. Beneath the towering peak of Gunung Api, crumbling forts and churches are a lasting legacy of the archipelago’s importance, although it’s decidedly more sleepy today. Spend your days wandering the atmospheric streets, diving and snorkeling or discovering untouched islands that have to be seen to be believed.