Rice terraces and rainforests, bulging cities and barreling surf, every visitor to Indonesia comes with a different agenda. Bring a beach towel and snorkel gear, or jungle boots and a tent, meet spiritual healers in Bali and camp by crater lakes in Lombok. Home to ten thousand islands and hundreds of ethnic groups, you could return every year and still not see it all.
Emerald rice paddies and barrelling surf, crimson sunsets and spiritual ceremonies, there’s something special about this South Pacific island. Backpackers love the wave pounded beaches and nightlife of Kuta, where you can carry your surfboard straight off the beach and into the all-night bars. Others prefer the mellower vibe of Sanur and the stylish spas of Seminyak.
Each beach is unique, from the volcanic sands of Lovina to the glistening white grains of Nusa Dua. To experience more, travel inland past coconut trees and rice paddies to the art galleries of Ubud and long tailed macaques of the Sacred Monkey Forest. Before you leave, visit the hanging temple at Uluwatu, then crack open a Bintang and watch the sun go down on Jimbaran Bay.
A trio of glittering gems, these car-free islets are rimmed by coral and washed by turquoise waters. Reef regeneration projects mean that marine life is flourishing, so you’ll be sharing the sea with turtles and parrotfish, rays and reef shark. Everyone has a favourite Gili Isle and you can either base yourself on one or divide your time between all three.
Gili Trawangan is the place to party, known for its full moon festivities and scuba shops. In contrast, the romantic shores of Gili Meno have little after-dark entertainment and this castaway island is better known for its secluded sands and utter serenity. For a balance of both, choose Gili Air for its shoreline bungalows and sociable vibe.
Wild beaches, active volcanoes and dense jungle, this rugged island reveals an authentic and unpolished side to Indonesia. Hikers and surfers are in their element, with the awesome peak of Mount Rinjani looming over the island, while surfers ride the legendary southern breaks before ending their days barbequing fish over coconut husks.
The low-key tourist resorts and pristine beaches of Sengiggi are a good place to settle in before venturing inland to tobacco farms and forests. The capital city of Matram has markets stacked high with bananas and chilli, dried shrimp and salted shark and, if you take the time to chat to the locals, you can learn about the realities of living in the Ring of Fire.
The capital city and powerhouse of Indonesia, Jakarta is a bulging metropolis of soaring skyscrapers and gridlocked traffic. Visit the former Dutch enclave to discover Jakarta’s colonial history, work your way through the museums and join expats in the nightclubs. Experience the other side of Indonesia, away from the island idyll, in the city’s mighty malls and sprawling slums.
An hour’s bus ride away are the botanical gardens and tea terraces of laid-back Bogor, or you could venture inland to the temples and charming cities of Central Java. Many visitors fly straight to East Java, where the sacred peak of Mount Bromo rises from a sea of sands – for surreal photos, go for the sunrise excursion.