With over 17,500 islands that make up Indonesia, the country has much to offer visitors. The five largest islands, Sumatra, Java, Borneo (known as Kalimantan in Indonesia), Sulawesi, and New Guinea are all very popular, but my favourite of all the islands so far is Bali. My friend Auston from Two Bad Tourists has come up with 10 reasons to visit Indonesia that hopefully will encourage you to visit this amazing and diverse country.
Overall, Indonesia is culturally, gastronomically and geographically diverse. It boasts breathtaking natural landscape ranging from the dense jungles of Sumatra to the active volcanoes of Java and sandy beaches of Bali. This rich biodiversity is in contrast to the modern metropolis of Jakarta home to over 9 million inhabitants.
Indonesia is not the place to throw caution to the wind considering it’s the most populous Muslim country in the world. Like travelling in any Muslim country, it’s essential to be sensitive to the local culture, discrete and a bit cautious in the public eye to help ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.
Add in the incredibly wide array of food and drink along with relatively affordable costs, and you’ll start to see why we recommend travelling to Indonesia.
The 10 best reasons to visit Indonesia
Located on the island of Bali is the small but upmarket resort of Seminyak. It’s purported to be the spa and boutique capital of the island and attracts a more affluent crowd than nearby Kuta Beach. The area has undergone rapid development over the past 10 years but has retained a certain charm and avoided high-rise construction and an influx of large chains.
The area is also home to the largest gay scene in Indonesia. The country does have a concerning lack of legislation to support its LGBT citizens but you’ll feel welcomed and comfortable to be open here in the country’s most gay-friendly destination. You can even find a sailing company that offers gay tours in the area.
Indonesia’s capital is a seductive melting pot of people and cultures. It’s often disregarded by many visitors. While it’s not a destination worth visiting in itself, combined with a trip to other parts of the country, a night or two here can be an insightful and engaging experience. The old Dutch settlements are centered around Batavia. Today, you’ll find many of the museums here including the National Museum and National Gallery.
3. Wild Sumatra
Sumatra is the sixth largest island in the world – and is just one of the many that make up Indonesia. That should give you an idea of the size of this vast country. Sumatra is blessed with swathes of jungle and is home to the orang-utan. Many head to Bukit Lawang to catch a glimpse of this elusive animal. The majority of the island remains undeveloped and is a mecca for the intrepid traveller. Danau Toba is South East Asia’s lake and a serene place to spend a few days relaxing in the natural surroundings.
The currency used in Indonesia is the rupiah. The conversions can be a little tricky to wrap your head around at first. One $USD is equivalent to roughly 13,000 rupiahs and one £GBP is approximately 17,000 (correct at January 2020). To put this into perspective, a meal in a warung will cost you around 25,000 rupiah – around one to two dollars or pounds.
5. Active Volcanoes
Being located on the edge of several tectonic plates, it’s no surprise that most of Indonesia’s islands are volcanic. Luckily, most are closely monitored and considered safe to visit.
Mount Bromo is one of the country’s most iconic mountains and one of the most accessible, too. A trek through the night to catch the sunrise over the ethereal landscape is simply not to be missed. Other volcanoes on Java are Mount Merbabu and the Ijen Crater and there are plenty of other volcanic islands such as Mount Sinabung, Sumatra or Mount Batur in Bali.
Despite being one of the smaller islands, Bali is one of the most renowned Indonesian destinations. Ubud is famed for its spiritual dimensions as well as lush rice fields and temples aplenty. The setting of the Balinese section of Eat, Pray, Love should give you an idea of the unparalleled beauty of this place.
If you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the south, travel up to the north of Bali for a slower pace of life. Visit Lovina for seeing dolphins, relaxing in hot springs, visiting magnificent waterfalls including Banyumala and for the famous Instagram spot of Wanagiri Hidden Hills.
7. Visa-free Entry
Visitors from most countries can visit Indonesia visa-free. You will need to obtain a 60-day entry permit upon arrival for a small fee of around $30 USD/ but there is no need to visit an embassy before you set off on your adventure. They also charge a small departure tax so it’s worth keeping some money on hand if you want to avoid paying by card and charges incurred with this, though this may be included in your flight ticket.
Indonesia is famed for its cultural and religious diversity. Over 80% of the population is Muslim, with an array of other religions making up the remaining 20%.
Despite being only 2% of the population, the Hindu religion dominates the island and is visible in everything from architecture to sacred rituals – particularly in Bali.
Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of the breathtaking island of Borneo. The rainforest here is thought to be over 130 million years old and has an incredibly rich biodiversity and ecosystem. Adorned with over 420 species of birds alone, this island is also a refuge for endangered species including the Asian Elephant and the Bornean Clouded Leopard.
10. Food and drink
The diversity of food here is unrivalled anywhere in the world. Almost 18,000 islands all have specific, local dishes and variations on classics. As well as the more predictable curries and rice, other favourites are satay, fried noodles and fresh grilled fish.
Indulge in ayam goreng – fried chicken – or mei goreng or nasi goreng – fried noodles or rice, spicy sambals, and babi guling, Balinese roast port. Look out for street food like bakso, meatballs in a broth with noodles, gado-gado a vegetable salad with a peanut sauce or satay sticks of chicken or fish.
Vegetarianism is also commonplace here with many vegan restaurants popping up and their veggie burgers were very much ahead of the hipster curve.
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Auston runs the blog Two Bad Tourists and is also a freelance writer. His work has been featured in many publications including Attitude Magazine, Edge Media Network, The Houston Chronicle and ManAboutWorld Magazine.