Indonesia is your Neverland. Heaven on earth, this tropical paradise lavishes you with its lush landscapes and encompasses you with warm turquoise waters wherever you end up. 5 minutes is enough time to turn your eyes into heart shapes and send you head-over-heals in love with this country from when you step off the plane in Bali, and you’ll forgive the draining heat and humidity the minute you step out of the airport and immerse yourself in the diverse and colourful cultures that Indonesia has to offer. One glance at the sweeping rice terraces in Bali or the tropical rainforests of Lombok and you’re dammed if you only have a few days here, because a dip in the warm Indian Ocean will surely leave you wishing for an extra day or month in this heaven on earth. Trust me, everywhere in Indonesia is in ‘The Top Ten,’ but for the sake of this post I have wracked my brain to find the 10 best places I have been to in Indonesia so far – the 10 places you should definitely schedule into your visit.
Might I add, I MISS INDONESIA SO MUCH!!!
1. Nusa Lembongan, Bali
This small island 30 minutes off the south-east coast of Bali was discovered by surfers looking for a secret surf spot away from the crowds of Kuta Beach. Fast forward a few years down the track and this secret paradise is not so much a secret anymore, but with some of the best snorkelling sites, in-land rainforests and mesmerisingly beautiful beaches, the cliff encompassed island still holds it’s place in the top position of my favourite places in Indonesia.
Hire a scooter and ride around the island, checking out Dream Beach, the Devil’s Tears and the high lookout at Panorama Cafe. Cross over the ‘Yellow Bridge’ to Nusa Ceningan, Lembongan’s neighbouring, less touristic and more natural island. Be sure to marvel atop the cliffs of the Blue Lagoon and, if you’re the type of person for it, jump into the warm Indian Ocean from the cliff tops or suspend yourself on a zip-line across the neighbouring bay. Finish your day with a dinner on the highest cliffs of Nusa Ceningan, looking out over the deep blue waters to Nusa Penida, another neighbouring island.
Read more on my adventures around the two small islands here.
2. Ubud, Bali
Next up – Ubud. Trading the beaches for the mainland isn’t such a big deal when you’re going to Ubud, even if you are as big of a summer buff as I am. Ubud is Bali’s own Byron Bay – home to hipster cafe’s, art markets, sweeping rice terraces and dense forests. Many tourists and travellers come here to find their inner zen and immerse themselves in the spiritual vibes this place rubs off on anyone who walks it’s paths. While I’m not so much into that kind of thing, you can really get your lazy shoes on here and vibe with the relaxed atmosphere in Ubud. Take a walk in the Tegalalang Rice Terraces, refresh your soul under the powerful Tegenungan Waterfall or learn about the Balinese culture at the Sacred Monkey Forrest. Whatever you do, no doubt you’ll be refreshed at the end of your stay in Ubud.
3. Gunung Batur, Bali
As the picture suggests, the feeling you get when you’re standing on the summit of Gunung Batur is walking on clouds. Hiking up this volcano in the centre of Bali is relatively easy for any fitness level, which means nearly anyone can witness the same views that I did as the sun rose from beneath the clouds and silhouetted Bali’s 2 taller volcanoes. There is a surreal feeling when you reach the top. Indescribable. All I can say is, despite the efforts of hiking up my first volcano, I felt so at peace and my soul was happy. A definite must do when in Bali.
The hike starts at around 4am and takes approximately 2 hours to complete. Read more about it here.
4. Tiu Kelep, Lombok
I have to confess that I am a waterfall freak. I chase them, I swim under them and I marvel at the power of nature every time I see one. I’ve also seen many in my life, but this is one that none can compare to. Situated in the dense rainforests at Rinjani’s foot, Tiu Kelep is a 2 hours drive from Mataram and a further 40 minutes walk through the refreshingly lush forrest. Standing 40 meters tall, Tiu Kelep truly demonstrates the beauty of nature as fresh water from Rinjani crashes down the fern lined cliff face and into the 2 metre deep pool below. Take a dip in the freezing waters and let nature give you a massage as you wade through the sheet of water and climb into the caves behind the falls.
5. Kuta, Lombok
Please don’t mistake this one for the Kuta in Bali. Same name, very different story. Lombok’s Kuta boasts some of the best beaches in Indonesia and is known for the surf breaks and exquisite scenery. Thanks to the relocation of Lombok’s airport, Kuta is the only place I know that has benefited from the increased tourism. Once an old, rundown village far away from the city centre, Kuta has become a laid back surf town, boasting it’s views of the Indian Ocean and amazing stretches of beaches. Each bay along the southern coast of Lombok has their unique forte’s, from rolling hills to powdery sand beaches and bright blue waters.
Be sure to catch the sunset at the top of Bukit Merese – I guarantee this will be the best one you experience. Other sites to check out are Seger Beach, Batu Payung and, of course, Kuta, the town itself.
6. Gili Air, Lombok
The 3 Gili Islands off the north-west coast of Lombok have always been high on my favourite places to visit in Indonesia. Substantially smaller than Nusa Lembongan, Gili Air lies to the left of Gili Meno, only 20 minutes away from Lombok by boat. On this island you will find no motorised transport, endless beach cafes, huts and resorts and only one ring road that takes you around the island. This is a true wonderland, so tranquil, exotic and relaxing. The place everyone lusts over out of a travel magazine, Gili Air redefines the meaning of exotic. A harmonious combination of it’s sister islands Trawangan – the party island, and Meno – the ‘island less travelled’, Gili Air is home to enough beach clubs for the wild at heart and enough of everything else for those looking to escape the frenzy.
The beaches are serene, the snorkelling incomparable and the vibes chilled. If you travel to Indonesia, put the Gili Islands high up on your priorities.
7. Gili Nanggu, Lombok
Above I mentioned the 3 Gili islands that tourists know about and love. But I’m all about the road less travelled and uncovering untouched beauties. The difference between the 3 main Gili islands and the Gili islands in the south of Lombok can be paralleled to that of Bali and Lombok. Everyone knows about Bali. It’s a tourist frenzy, a tourist trap and sometimes a bit too much. Lombok is Bali’s next door neighbour, yet the island is still unknown to many tourists and the atmosphere is drastically different. In the same way, the Gili’s in Lomboks south are largely unknown, untouched and certainly less travelled. But it is on these islands where you will find the best snorkelling sites in Lombok. The waters are clear, the reefs are thriving and there are no shortages of ocean life to swim with. The islands themselves are also beautiful.
If you decide to visit these Gili’s, take a day trip to 3 or 4 of them. Make a deal with any of the fishermen on the mainland to take you to, at the least, Nanggu, Sudak and Kedis.
8. Gunung Merapi, Jogja
If the ascent up to the summit of Merapi symbolises the journey of life then the summit is surely heaven. However you want to put it, hiking up Indonesia’s most active volcano was the highlight of the 3 months I spent in Indonesia. Picture yourself standing at the very peak of a volcano, 2,930m above sea level. Behind you smoke billows out of the 200m deep crater which was half blown out 5 years ago in it’s last eruption. From where you stand you can see the peaks of 4 other volcanoes in every direction. The air is chilly. The sun is rising. The colours in the sky are so beautifully indescribable, crisp, vibrant yet soft as the clouds floating only an arms reach in front of your face – enough to take your breath away for more than a few moments.
This hike isn’t for everyone. The terrain is steep, rocky and tough, not mentioning the sandy ascent to the summit. If you’re semi-fit you should be able to conquer this beauty, and if it is the only thing you get to do then be assured that it is well worth the physical battle you’ll face hiking up to witness the spectacular sunrise from the top.
9. Malioboro, Jogja
Malioboro is not a town, city or place. No, Malioboro is in-fact a street in the heart of Jogja. By day Malioboro’s sidewalks are jam packed with street vendors selling everything from fake branded shoes to bracelets and handicrafts. Some of the best street food in Jogja can also be found here. But it’s after the sun bids it’s farewell when this street comes alive. Take a walk down any of the lantern lit sidewalks and let your ears dance to the sound of live street performers making music on handmade instruments. Feast your eyes on the royal carriages drawn by horses and the seas of becaks carting tourists and locals down the street. And absorb yourself in the atmosphere of this lively street. Taste the local delicacies, immerse yourself in the crowds and live in the moment that you won’t get anywhere but Jogja.
10. Raja Ampat, Papua
Something else I must admit to is the fact that I have never actually been to Raja Ampat. However, before I arrived in Indonesia I had planned to spend at least a week in the heavenly realms of this place. Still largely untouched and unknown to tourists, Raja Ampat is a archipelago of about 1000 islands off the coast of Sorong. Here, mountainous, jungle covered islands emerge out of crystal clear waters, encompassed by scorching white beaches that are home to some of the worlds best diving and snorkelling spots. This place is pure. It’s authentic, natural and unadulterated, truly making it one of the most heavenly places in this world. Each island has a variety of local home stays, by no means luxurious, but fitting in with the environment and striving to stay away from the tourist trap that this place could so easily become. This is a place where no phone signal can reach. So simply natural, untouched and beautiful. When I get a chance to return to Indonesia, this place will be the first I visit.