Indonesia is the largest archipelago that consists of more than 16,000 islands. That is a lot! These islands offer many beautiful destinations and places to visit in Indonesia.
So, if you are a first timer planning your next visit here or a frequent traveller who confuses where to visit next, then you will LOVE this post!
I make this list of 10 destinations and 51 best places you can choose from. Some I’ve been to and some I haven’t I’ve been to some of the places. But hey, I am Indonesian so I know which places to go. How else you can get the Best Guide Ever than from a local perspective ^.^
What you can find here is a destination that tourist visit, either local or foreigner. The destination to visit in Indonesia is referred to the name of the province or big island. While the best places to visit in Indonesia is referred to the name of places (area, tourism spot) in that province or big island.
I also keep the Indonesian name of each destination and places, because when you visit the places outside Bali, it would be better to pronounce it in the Indonesian language. Indonesian is not difficult to pronounce. It sounds like Spanish or Japanese or sometimes Dutch.
So here goes the list:
#1 - BALI
If we do a survey, Bali is more exist than its own country Indonesia. Some people even don’t know that Bali is in Indonesia. First I go to Bali, it is magical and I am in love with this island. It’s like my second home.
This island of God can cater what a foreign tourist needs. The beautiful view of rice paddy field, friendly locals, nice food from the cheapest one to fine dining, and of course beautiful beach and underwater. That is why I put Bali as the top of my list. It’s suitable for you when travelling solo, with friends or family.
These are the best places to visit in Bali Indonesia.
This is an area where you can enjoy a green view of the forest and rice paddy field. Many art galleries if you are into art. Many nice foods if you are foody. I would recommend joining a daily tour or simply renting a bike to explore this area. You must visit Tegalarang Rice Terrace for awesome rice paddy view, Monkey Forest for green forest or play with the monkey, Ubud Art Market for souvenir shopping.
This tourism spot is perfect to get a sunset view spot. There is a cave in the small island nearby where there is a giant snake inside the temple. There are souvenir shops along the way to Tanah Lot Temple which surprisingly cheaper than the one in Kuta or near the airport.
This is the hype area. I can say the exclusive/elite area to stay in Bali. What you can do here is to visit Petitengget temple or to enjoy the lovely sunset from beach club in W Hotel, Potato Head, KuDeTa, or to eat nice yummy food from the restaurant like Ultimo, or to enjoy the nightlife in the local clubs like La Favela or Hu’u.
This island is about 1-hour boat ride from Bali. Many nice places to take an amazing photo. This one also offers beautiful underwater. I cannot wait to go back here and snorkelling in Crystal Bay or Gamat Bay. This island also one of the best diving place for ‘professional divers’. I honestly don’t recommend you to try scuba dive here as the current is tricky and strong. Snorkelling is highly recommended though!
This island is next to Nusa Penida. I am lucky enough to be able to visit this island more than once. The main reason is that my boyfriend works here. Next one is because this is the second island that gave me an ‘awe’ moment when first coming here. It is so beautiful. Sooooo laid-back. You should try exploring this island and visit the mangrove forest, yellow bridge/love bridge, and Nusa Ceningan.
This area is perfect for honeymooners or family or first-timers who want to stay near all the nice western restaurant but still get to feel how the local life. I stayed here once in Pucuk Bali Guest House and had a nice green rice paddy view from the balcony. It’s nice to see this view when you wake up. Then few minutes walk from here, there are nice Batu Bolong beach plus restaurants and bars to hang out and spend your evening, like Old Man or Deus Ex Machina.
I’ve been to Lovina once as a place to stay when I had my diving in Menjangan island. The beach is usual but I saw many tourists here. Most of them are diverse, elderly, or tourists who want to see the dolphins. Yes, this area is known for their dolphin tour. You should wake up at 4 am because you have to be in the ocean by 6 am to see the dolphins.
If you need a complete explanation on things to do, beach, or food in Bali, you can check out one of my blog posts, The Best Travel Guide to Bali Ever!
#2 – YOGYAKARTA
This province is a special territory in Indonesia because they are ruled by a governor and a King. I have been to Yogyakarta many times. I’ve explored their cultural heritage, shopping places, the beach, etc. If you want to see and experience the real Javanese culture, then this is the right destination to visit in Indonesia.
These are the best places to visit in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Candi Borobudur (Borobudur Temple)
This temple is located in the border of Yogyakarta with Central Java but mostly tour departs from Yogya (short for Yogyakarta). It is one of UNESCO World Heritage Site and used to be in the list of 7 Wonder in the World. I’ve been here many times with schools and friends. It’s the largest temple for Buddha religion in Indonesia. There is actually a story behind the reliefs carved in the stone wall. Please beware of the touts. Better not bargain if you don’t want to buy anything from them.
Candi Prambanan (Prambanan Temple)
This temple is the largest temple for Hindu religion in Indonesia and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia. It is one of UNESCO World Heritage Site. I like this temple because there are no many stairs. There area about 240 temples in the compound but some have been destroyed by an earthquake a few years ago.
Kraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat (Yogyakarta Palace)
Yes, Yogya has a palace dedicated for Sultanate family who still rules this province. In this palace, you can see how a typical Javanese house looks like their traditional music and Javanese culture. If you are lucky, you can watch their dance performance. I myself like hearing the music of Java. It’s calming.
If you want to see the beach around Yogyakarta, I have it in this post, Exploring the Beach around Yogyakarta
#3 - LOMBOK
This island is part of West Nusa Tenggara Province (#9) but I put Lombok in #3 because this is the first island that gave me an ‘awe’ moment when visiting it. Even Bali is undertaken by this one. The view is just amazing here and difficult to describe in words. You should visit and see it with your own eyes to understand what I say.
Unfortunately, the recent catastrophe hit this island recently with an earthquake. Many places and roads are destroyed. But the island is rebuilding it so I still put this one in my top destination list.
The Gili’s (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, Gili Air)
These are the most visited islands in Lombok. Each has their own characteristics such as Gili Trawangan for divers, beach party lover, and other Gilis for you who wants to relax or on honeymoon. The beach is beautiful here as well as underwater. Make sure you join a snorkelling trip to the 3 islands.
Senggigi is one of the laid back places I’ve been too. I thought it would be crowded but it’s not. It has a beautiful beach, Senggigi beach, with crystal clear water. I love spending my time here. I stayed in this area as transit from Gili to Airport. Make sure you go to Gili or Airport in the daytime so you can have the ‘awe’ moment as I had. It was an extremely beautiful view of beach and forest.
Gunung Rinjani (Mount Rinjani)
If you are into nature, then this mountain is the best place for you. You can climb up to the top and enjoy the beautiful view of East Lombok.
#4 - JAWA TIMUR (EAST JAVA)
Gunung Bromo (Mount Bromo) in Pasuruan
This mountain is famous with the awesome view in the morning. It’s best for you to be here by the time the sun rises. That is why the tour usually starts at 3 am in the morning but it’s worth it! If you are into adventure, it would be better to walk to the viewpoint instead of taking a jeep-ride.
Kawah Ijen (Ijen Crater) in Banyuwangi
Located in the middle of Ijen Volcano, this crater is actually in a conservation area. The crater is well known for its blue fire phenomenon. You can only see it during 2 am to 4 am. That is why the tour starts at 1 am.
Gunung Kelud (Mount Kelud) in Kediri
Another mountain trip in East Java. This volcano offers beautiful nature and you can enjoy a hot spring here.
#5 – SULAWESI UTARA (NORTH SULAWESI)
North Sulawesi is located in the northern part of Indonesia. Christian is the main religion in North Sulawesi and this province offers the best above and underwater scenery.
Manado is the capital of North Sulawesi and this is where I was born. Yep, I am from Manado. I was born there but grew up in Jakarta. My last visit to this city is in 2017. It is smaller than Jakarta and just by the ocean.
Apart from the yummy delicious seafood and pork meal, you can find a 50-meter-tall statue of Jesus Christ. The statue looks like flying because it’s tilted at 20-degree angle that made it became the first tallest flying statue in the world.
Bunaken National Park
Bunaken island is a marine park and home to thousands of fish and corals. If you like underwater, you should visit this island and snorkelling or diving. The trip here is about 40 minutes car ride from Manado and 30 minutes fast boat ride. I’ve been here for snorkelling, one in Manado Tua and one near Bunaken, and yep, I can assure you that the underwater view is amazing!! I even see a giant turtle.
Tangkoko National Park
This national park is conservation to rare species that you can only find here, such as mammals like Tarsius. It’s about 60km from Manado. You can explore the forest here or even stay a few nights to enjoy the nature. It’s beautiful here. Use light clothes if you want to explore this park. Don’t forget to bring enough foods and drink.
#6 – SULAWESI SELATAN (SOUTH SULAWESI)
This is the regency where you can see the culture of South Sulawesi. It has its own tribe, Toraja Tribe, and its own customs. When I heard of Tana Toraja, it took me to history lesson where they have a unique burial grounds in cliff-dug graves.
Kete Kesu Village
This village in Toraja has its own custom where they buried the dead in wooden caskets and hanging it from the side of cliffs.
To Tombi Lolai
This village in Toraja is known as “country above the clouds” since you can see yourself standing above the clouds here. It has a beautiful view during sunset.
#7 – SUMATERA UTARA (NORTH SUMATERA)
It’s the biggest lake in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. The view is amazing.
It’s an island in Toba Lake. You can see the traditional houses here and visit Desa Tuktuk Siadong-adong where you can swim or canoeing or fishing.
Taman Nasional Gunung Leuser (Leuser Mountain National Park)
This national park is listed in UNESCO World Heritage. If you walk through this mountain, you will go crossing this North Sumatera province to Aceh province. It is that huge. From this mountain, you can enjoy the nice view of beach, mountain, river, lake, and it has a hot spring.
#8 – SUMATERA BARAT (WEST SUMATERA)
If you like Rendang, that is Padang food and you can find many nice ones here.
There is a famous Jam Gadang in the area, a big clock tower built by the Dutch.
Istana Basa or Istana Pagaruyung (Basa Castle, also known as Pagaruyung Castle)
The shape of this castle is a typical luxury traditional house of Padang tribe. Beautiful to explore.
#9 – NUSA TENGGARA
Pulau Komodo (Komodo island)
This island is located in East Nusa Tenggara. Tourist visit this place to see Komodo, the giant lizard. Apart from that, the beach is a breeze to look at. It’s beautiful and crystal clear.
This island is located in West Nusa Tenggara, same province as Lombok. You can enjoy awesome mountain view and crystal clear water.
These 2 islands in Nusa Tenggara are ‘happening’ for local tourists, as in many people visit the theme on a single trip.
#10 - JAKARTA & Nearby
I know Jakarta is a hectic city to visit. But what if I told you that you can visit all the provinces and see their culture when you visit Jakarta? Check out number 31 below!
Safari Park Zoo
It’s located outside Jakarta, about 2 hours ride when no congested traffic. You can see Indonesia animal from your own vehicle and enjoy the theme park at the end of the safari. They provide night safari too.
Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Indonesia Miniature Park)
As the name goes, Taman Mini offers you the trip to all 34 provinces, enjoying the culture, and if lucky, watching a traditional dance performance. You can also see the history of Indonesia in the museums, Indonesia’s animals (preserved and live) and nature. All of this you can do in 1 day! Simply rent a bicycle or a car because it is a huge park to explore. For more info visit at http://www.tamanmini.com/.
Still confused which places to visit in Indonesia?
Here is a brief travel guide from me.
- The best places to visit in Indonesia for the first timer: Bali (Ubud, Uluwatu, Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, Lovina), Lombok (Gunung Rinjani, Gili islands), Yogyakarta (the temples, The Palace)
- The best places to visit in Indonesia for an underwater lover like me: Bali (Amed.Tulamben/Menjangan/Nusa Penida/Nusa Lembongan), North Sulawesi (Bunaken National Park), East Kalimantan (Derawan), Southeast Sulawesi (Wakatobi), and Irian Jaya (Raja Ampat)
- The best places to visit in Indonesia for hiking lover: East Java (Bromo), Lombok (Rinjani), North Sumatera/Aceh (Gunung Leuser)
- The best places to visit to see Indonesian culture: Bali (Balinese culture), Yogyakarta (Javanese culture), North Sumatera (Batak-nese) and West Sumatera (Padang-nese).
- The most beautiful place to visit: all of the above.
- The best places to visit Indonesia in one day: No.31 - Taman Mini Indonesia Indah in Jakarta
That’s it. I hope this list will help you in deciding which best places to visit in Indonesia for yourself or your family and friends.