There’s A LOT more to Indonesia holidays than beautiful beaches, water sports and cheap colourful markets — but there doesn’t have to be. If Indonesia holiday-makers look past these tropical treats they’ll find a lush jungle wilderness in Sumatra, the gateway to a rich ancient culture at Borobudur, and communities with thriving traditional lifestyles. And that’s all without having to leave the main island, Java.
Each of Indonesia’s 17,000 smaller island has its own treasures beyond the surf and sand, and most Indonesia holidays allow for some time ‘off shore’, staying on perennial favourite Bali, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Lombok, or one of the Gilis or other small resort islands.
Most international flights land in Jakarta, so most Indonesia holidays begin on Java, an island of still smoking volcanoes rising out of fertile jungles and and ancient culture. Or course the coastline has many likely looking beach resorts if that’s what your Indonesia holiday is about, but Java’s highlights are more for culture vultures than beach bums.
If you’re on a tight schedule, hop a plane straight to Yogyakarta, which has temples peeking out from between its more modern Dutch forts and older Muslim architecture. This is the best place to stay when visiting the beautifully preserved, ancient Buddhist temple of Borobudur, and nearby Prambanan, a huge Hindu complex. These two religious monuments deserve at least a day of your Indonesia holiday each, Prambanan, in its prime, was almost a city of smaller temples and religious buildings, and though many of them remain only as ruins there’s still a lot to see. The Telaga Warna Colour Lake and Sikidang Crater are a drive out of town towards Dieng Plateau if you’d be interested in seeing another Hindu temple complex, and one of the best surfing spots in Indonesia, G-Land is also reached by jungle trek out of Yogyakarta.
If you have more time for your Indonesia holiday, travel overland from Jakarta to Yogyakarta via Bandung for the Bogor Botanical Gardens, tea plantations, the Lembang Fruit market and the Tangkuban Perahu Volcano and Ciater Hotspring. From Yogyakarta heading further inland leads into the heavy teak forests and moist rice paddies, and eventually to Mount Penanjakan, which is said to have one of the most beautiful sunrise displays in the world. If you make it up for the sunrise you should continue on, over an unusually placed sand sea, to Bromo Volcano. From there Surabaya Airport is a few hours drive and from there you can catch a flight to Denpasar, Bali.
Indonesia holiday Extras
If your Indonesia holiday is about seeing the jungles and meeting some of the unique wildlife, and not just the colourful marine life, then Camp Leakey, a rehabilitation facility for orphaned orangutans, built into the Tanjung Puting National Park, or the Komodo Dragon island may be worth factoring into your Indonesia holiday itinerary.
Indonesia’s Traditional Cultures
If stories of the old cultures and lifestyles still thriving in Indonesia’s highlands have beguiled you in National Geographic, then visit the long houses around Lake Toba, or spend some time in one of the communities in the Baliem Valley – also a prime hiking destination, the Mentawai Islands or the Jayawijaya Mountains, during your Indonesia holiday. Some of these communities you can visit for a day by walking in to their villages, but some you can arrange to stay in: a pretty unique experience when compared with the city lifestyle of Jakata’s population.
All these highlights cam be blended with hours or days on the beach for the perfect, individualised Indonesian holiday cocktail — one of those exotic, colourful ones you drink out of a whole piece of fruit like they serve in the beach bars here.