10 Best Travel Destinations in Indonesia

Skiing at Carstensz Pyramid (Image courtesy of Olof Sundström & Martin Letzter)

Traveljunkieindonesia.com – Where to go on holiday this year. Back to work, back to making holiday plans. Travel Junkie Indonesia scours the globe to find you this year’s 10 greatest destinations.

Carstensz Pyramid
Carstensz Pyramid is the highest mountain, not only of the New Guinea Island, but also of Australia and Oceania. It lies in the Snow Mountains of the Indonesian province Papua. The ascent to the summit of the Carstensz Pyramid is possible only using experienced climbing techniques.There are several routes leading to the summit. The simplest one is the “normal” route, which was taken in 1962 by Heinrich Harrer, the first conqueror of the Carstensz Pyramid. You can even go skiing and unforgettable.

Wasur National Park
In Papua province of Indonesia. This park is the joint project of the Indonesian Directorate of Forest Protection & Nature Conservation and the indigenous people (mainly the Kanum and Marind) who contribute to, and benefit from, the park and its management. The 4138-sq-km park (Taman Nasional Wasur) backs onto the PNG border, and features termite mounds, wetlands, traditional villages and extensive bird life (74 endemic species). Wildlife includes cuscus and kangaroos (including 27 endemic species), but animals are often very difficult to see. The best time to visit is during the dry season (July to January); access during the wet season (February to June) is often only possible to Yanggandur and Onggaya villages.

The Mentawai Islands
West Sumatra, Mentawai Islands have consistent surf year-round at hundreds of famous and notso-famous breaks. But the best of the good waves can be found roughly between April and October (give or take a month). In the past, charter boats were the primary means of reaching the top surfing spots, but beachside camps (many of which are affiliated with charter companies) have set down roots on the islands. Surf resorts also offer cultural tour treks into the interior of Siberut.

The Kei Islands
The Kei Islands most famous tourist draw is Pasir Panjang, 3km of white sand so powdery it feels like flour. Coconut palms curve across it obligingly for your photographic delectation. Yet despite the brochure-cover beauty, the beach is almost entirely deserted except at weekends. Amid the palms around 400m north of Ngur Bloat (aka Pasir Panjang village) are a handful of Saturday-night karaoke shacks, two offering accommodation.

Crab at Taka Bonerate (Image courtesy of alex popescu)

Taka Bonerate Marine Park
Southeast of Pulau Selayar, and north of Pulau Bone Rate, is the 2220-sq-km Taka Bone Rate, the world’s third-largest coral atoll. The largest, Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, is just 20% bigger. Some of the islands and extensive reefs in the region are now part of Taka Bonerate Marine National Park (Taman Laut Taka Bone Rate), a marine reserve with a rich variety of marine and bird life. There is no official accommodation on the islands, but if you manage to get here you can stay with villagers if you ask the kepala desa (village head) at Bone Rate on Pulau Bone Rate. Alternatively, take a tent and camp on a beach. Boats leave irregularly from Selayar. Most visitors are divers travelling on liveaboard trips.

Morotai Islands
Off Halmahera’s northern tip, this sparsely populated island became a minor Japanese base during WWII. It leapt to importance when it was captured by the Allies and used to bomb Manila to bits – the sad fulfilment of General MacArthur’s ‘I will return’ pledge to retake the Philippines. Among the Japanese defenders that retreated to Morotai’s crumpled mountain hinterland was the famous Private Nakamura: only in 1973 did he discover that the war was over. Bunkers and rusty bullet-cases are visible at overgrown WWII battle sites near Trans Dua. That’s 35 muddy minutes by ojek from Morotai’s village capital Daruba where a rusting US amphibious lander (amfibi) lies hidden in a coconut plantation. Daruba fishing smacks can take you to Pulau Sum Sum, a beautiful desert island that was MacArthur’s temporary WWII command base. It has delightful spongy, white sand and is littered with giant clam shells and the odd WWII bullet.

Set in plunging craters at the summit of a volcano, the coloured lakes of Kelimutu are undoubtedly the most spectacular sight in Nusa Tenggara. Astonishingly, the lakes periodically change hue – on our visit the largest was an iridescent turquoise, its neighbour chocolate brown and the third lake dark green. A few years ago the colours were blue, maroon and black, while back in the 1960s the lakes were blue, red-brown and café au lait. It’s thought that the lakes’ colours are in constant flux due to dissolving minerals, a process that can accelerate in the rainy season. The moonscape around the summit gives Kelimutu an ethereal atmosphere, especially when clouds billow across the craters and sun shafts add luminescent pinpoints to the lakes. Kelimutu’s relative isolation means that surprisingly few visitors make it here outside of the July–August high season, and even then it’s not too hard to find a peaceful spot to enjoy this natural wonder. Visit in the rainy season or in the afternoon and you may even have Kelimutu, in silence, to yourself. Pray for a sunny day – sunrise is stunning and the turquoise lake reaches its full brilliance in the sunlight. If the weather is not good, come back the next day – Kelimutu is really worth seeing at its best.

Kalimantan’s Rainforest
Kalimantan’s most celebrated inhabitant is the unbearably human-esque orang-utan. These rich amber–coloured primates with their soulful disposition are an undisputed highlight of the islands fauna and an obvious magnet for tourists. And, Kalimantan has some spectacular jungle journeys for travel junkies. The following require resilience, respect, Bahasa Indonesia and a keen sense of adventure; the reward is glimpses of ancient rainforests that may not be around for much longer.

Banyak Islands
The Banyak (Many) Islands are a cluster of 99, mostly uninhabited, islands, about 30km west of Singkil, Aceh. The islands are very remote and see few casual visitors. The 2004 Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami, followed by the 2005 Nias quake, destroyed many coastal dwellings and contaminated freshwater wells. The main island of Pulau Balai was permanently see-sawed by the quake, causing the west coast to rise by about 70cm and the east coast to drop below sea level. The main town of Balai now experiences flooding at high tide. Malaria has been reported on the islands, so take suitable precautions. Inquire at the pier about accommodation on Pulau Balai. Lodging may also be available on Pulau Palambak Kecil, Pulau Rangit Besar, Pulau Panjang and Pulau Ujung Batu with local families; ask about meals when arranging a room.

The dry, undulating island of Sumba has the richest tribal culture in Nusa Tenggara, centred on a religious tradition called marapu. It’s one of the poorest but most fascinating islands to visit, with a decidedly off-the-beaten-track appeal courtesy of its thatched clan houses, colossal carved megalith tombs, outstanding hand-spun ikat and bloody sacrificial funerals. Physically it looks quite different from the volcanic islands to the north, its countryside characterised by low limestone hills and fields of maize and cassava. Sumba’s extensive grasslands made it one of Indonesia’s leading horse-breeding islands. Horses are still used as transport in more rugged regions; they are a symbol of wealth and status and have traditionally been used as part of the bride-price.

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Happy Green Travels!

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