Indonesia is one of the world’s most vibrant countries, an archipelago that is as diverse as it is scattered. And while many of us have succumbed to Bali’s undeniable charms, there’s plenty more to Indonesia than the typical sun, sea and sand resort experience. We take a look at six of the country’s most under-the-radar destinations for travellers with serious wanderlust.
East Java: Mount Bromo
Unrepentant thrill-seekers should lace up their walking boots and pack a sense of adventure. Around three hours’ southeast of Surabaya, Mount Bromo, part of the breathtaking Tengger massif range, welcomes intrepid travellers from around the world. Aptly named for the Hindu creator god Brahma, this active volcano last erupted in 2015, showering the surrounding area with smoke and ash. Situated in the middle of a plain known as “The Sea of Sand” that can be crossed on horseback, Bromo is accessed from the nearby village of Cemoro Lawang. From there, you can pick up a guided jeep tour to the volcano, before summiting its slopes on foot for a truly unforgettable – albeit sulphur-scented – experience.
Flores Island: Kelimutu
In a nation as geologically active as Indonesia, it’s hardly surprising that we have another volcano on our list! Although Kelimutu last erupted back in 1968, this volcano has a unique and different appeal, with three crater lagoons formed at its peak. Two of these lagoons, known as the “Twin Lakes”, are separated by a single crater wall, and regularly change colour depending on their current composition of minerals and volcanic gases. Their hues vary dramatically, from bright red to an almost fluorescent green; both lakes change colour independently of their twin, making for spectacularly photogenic contrasts. It is well worth an early start to catch the awe-inspiring sunrise from atop Kelimutu before exploring this fascinating natural oddity.
Here be dragons… Komodo dragons, that is! Get up close and personal with the island’s most famous resident at Komodo Island National Park, a UNESCO Heritage Site. As the world’s largest living lizard, these mythical-looking creatures can reach almost three metres in length and have a deadly reputation; the 300 or so that live in the park are generally pretty relaxed though, with tour guides on-hand to keep you safe, dispense dragon facts and even help you take a selfie with one. Further spectacular sights await at Padar, another of the three islands that make up the park; hike to its summit for a seriously wow-worthy view that’s almost surreal in its beauty – three different bays, each a different colour (white, pink and black), separated by the island’s craggy terrain and surrounded by crystal-clear blue seas. Once you’ve seen it from above, it’d be remiss to leave without visiting Pink Beach in-person; the dreamy blush-coloured shores on Mawan Island, a result of crushed coral mixing with sand, are nothing short of magical – especially at sunset.
Raja Ampat Islands
Just off the tip of Indonesian Papua, you’ll find the 1500 tiny, mostly uninhabited and almost impossibly beautiful islands that comprise Raja Ampat. Although undeniably challenging to reach, most would argue that Raja Ampat’s isolation is a huge part of its appeal – forget ubiquitous hotel chains, and instead enjoy authentic island life at a welcoming homestay, or simple dive resort. What the islands lack in five-star amenities, they more than make up for in jaw-dropping scenery – Bounty Island beaches of white powder meet cerulean seas, while sheer jagged rocks jut dramatically from the water. Diving here is amongst the best in the world, with extensive, largely untouched coral reefs teeming with diverse, vividly coloured marine life. For the ultimate retreat from the outside world, Raja Ampat is impossible to beat.
Samosir Island: Lake Toba
The fact that Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world isn’t even the most extraordinary thing about it; this oceanic expanse is also home to Samosir, a huge island roughly the size of Singapore in its centre – a beautifully unspoilt place to base yourself and soak up the stunning surrounding scenery. Make like the locals and hire a motorbike or bicycle to explore, circumnavigating your way around the island to catch majestic vistas of its towering mountains, tranquil waters and epic sunsets. Staying in Samosir also offers the opportunity to learn more about the fascinating culture of the Batak, one of Indonesia’s indigenous tribes; a visit to the Batak Museum in Simanido village or the ancient ruins in Ambarita (where there’s also a great traditional market) are both well worth your time.
Say hello to your newest diving paradise – Bunaken’s incredible level of marine biodiversity has to be seen to be believed. Famed for the clarity of its waters, Bunaken National Marine Park is home to hundreds of types of colourful coral and species of tropical fish, with steep underwater walls covered in the kind of creatures that make the seascapes of Finding Nemo seem dull in comparison! Seahorses, starfish, sea turtles, dugongs, black-tip and white-tip reef sharks… this place has it all and then some; even snorkelling in the shallows at Bunaken’s balmy beach resorts should reap rich rewards. For days where you’d rather keep your feet dry, try booking a boat tour – excellent fishing or dolphin and whale-watching options are available.
Speak with one of the experts at Flight Centre and plan your next adventure in Indonesia.