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7 Best Places in Indonesia To Visit Which Are NOT Bali

By Mike Jensen

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Without a doubt, Julia Roberts’ runaway hit and its namesake book “Eat, Pray, Love” shone a bright spotlight on the best places to visit in Bali. However, with over 18,000 islands to its name, the sprawling archipelago of Indonesia has a lot more to offer. While Bali is a beautiful place, its popularity has created challenges brought about by hyper-tourism.

Solo female looking out across Komodo National Park in a beautiful blue dress which matches the colour of the sea

Welcome to the best places in Indonesia which are NOT Bali!

There are 300 ethnicities and vast natural landscapes in the country, so visiting places in Indonesia will be quite an adventure. With its culture still deeply rooted in tradition and religion, this Southeast Asian gem is very intriguing to explore.

7 best places in Indonesia which are NOT Bali

In my opinion, the 7 best places in Indonesia are:

  • Lombok
  • Yogyakarta
  • Borobudur
  • Komodo National Park
  • Mount Bromo
  • Tana Toraja
  • Bandung

If you’re up for an adventure beyond the Instagrammable spots of Bali, read on to find out more about the seven best places in Indonesia for your next trip.

This is a guest post from Mike at The Adventourist! Find out more about him on Facebook.

Lombok

Not as popular as Bali but perhaps even more beautiful is the neighboring island of Lombok. It’s usually the next stop after a Bali tour, but this island escape can hold its own and is one of the best places to visit in Indonesia. From stunning picture postcard beaches, world class surfing, to the mighty mount Rinjani and dramatic waterfalls, this island is a must see for any outdoor enthusiast.

A beautiful tall waterfall deep within the jungle of Lombok Indonesia

There are many beautiful stunning waterfalls to experience in Lombok Indonesia

Lombok currently sits in the sweet spot of becoming more progressive and still mostly unexplored. This means travelers can expect common creature comforts but still enjoy a sense of serenity that only island-living can bring.

The national government is promoting Lombok as the next big tourist destination though, so it’s only a matter of time until tourists start arriving in droves. It also helps that Lombok is probably the best place to surf in Indonesia, so the surfing community is also growing.

Mount Rinjani in Lombok Indonesia at sunrise

Stunning sunrise views from Mount Rinjani in Lombok Indonesia

The most dominant landscape in Lombok is Mount Rinjani, which is an active volcano that towers to 3,725 meters. It’s possible to do an overnight trip to the top with a guide. Off the coast is Gili Islands, a collection of three of the best islands to visit in Indonesia.

Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three and was considered the party island until a powerful earthquake hit the area in August 2018, which destroyed many hotels, restaurants and local homes. This was both here and also in neighbouring Gili Air and Gili Meno.

Crystal clear blue waters and golden sands on Gili Meno island in Indonesia

Gili Meno in Indonesia is well worth a visit

Reconstruction is slowly but surely happening with reports from travelers to the islands in October of this year saying that, although there is still work to be done, several businesses are up and running. This includes some dive shops.

The islanders are eager for people to return and help boost the local economy so please do visit. The Gilis (meaning ‘islands’) are stunningly beautiful, the locals are friendly and vibes are positive, this more than ever is the time to add this tropical paradise to your Lombok itinerary.

If you’re after more jaw droppingly beautiful beaches, head south to the town of Kuta (not to be confused with Kuta, Bali). This is a good place to base yourself for exploring the area. If you’re into surfing, head here between November and March for some of the best waves Indonesia has to offer.

So next time you’re on a Bali journey, hop on over to Lombok and hit two birds with one stone on the best holiday destinations in Indonesia.

Discover the best activities to do in Lombok here

The back of a surfer walking through the water with his board on to Kuta beach

Head to Kuuta in November and March for some of the best waves Indonesia has to offer

The best places to stay in Kuta Lombok

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

How to get to Lombok

I love using 12GoAsia to find the best times and prices for my travels in Asia. Use the search box below to input your departure point and discover the best way to get to Lombok.

Powered by 12Go Asia system

Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta is considered to be the soul of Indonesia and the center of culture and artistry. With the country’s culture and identity so diverse, Yogyakarta seems to be the closest anyone can get to a full picture and its often referred to as one of the best cities in Indonesia by travellers.

A tuk tuk driver in the busy streets of Yogyakarta Indoneis

Welcome to Indonesia's soul of culture and art - Yogyakarta!

The city is very lively and modern while upholding expressions of ancient culture and tradition. It’s a great place to visit for anyone, even for solo travelers. People are very warm and helpful, the city is not in any way intimidating, and there is a wide range of things to do. It’s also an ideal jump-off point to other destinations such as the temples of Prambanan and Borobudur.

Some of the best places to visit in Yogyakarta lets visitors immerse in culture and history. The Royal Palace and Water Palace are an oasis of peace in a chaotic city. In both spots, visitors can view exhibits of the lives of past sultans, as well as displays of tradition in the form of architecture, artwork, textile, and music.

A close up of an artisan's hand creating Batik designs in Yogyakarta Indonesia

Learning about and watching Batik being created is definitely one of the top things to do in Indonesia

Yogyakarta is also one of the top places in Indonesia for batik – a technique to create textile made by applying wax-resisting dye to whole cloth and creating beautiful patterns. Batik is both art and craft and buying (or learning to make) one is definitely one of the top things to do in Indonesia. There are many workshops in Yogyakarta to learn to make batik and locals are more than eager to pass on this centuries-old tradition.

Other than batik, shopping in Yogyakarta is also quite interesting. Jl Malioboro is a popular shopping street lined with souvenir shops and clothing stores and is the perfect spot to watch local life go by.

Discover the best activities to do in Yogyakarta here

An old lady wearing pink and selling her goods in a very busy Beringharjo Market, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Discover some shopping treats in Beringharjo Market, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The best places to stay in Yogayakarta Indonesia

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

Komodo National Park

To see some of the best islands in Indonesia, take a trip to Komodo National Park. It’s comprised of Rinca, Padar, and the Komodo Islands as well as countless smaller islands around the park. This makes it a popular tourist destination in Indonesia.

Solo female looking out across Komodo National Park in a beautiful blue dress which matches the colour of the sea

Welcome to the best places in Indonesia which are NOT Bali!

Located In Nusa Tenggara as part of the Lesser Sunda Island Chain, the soil in the park is rich and volcanic. As suggested by the name, it’s home to prehistoric-looking animals called the Komodo Dragon, the largest, heaviest lizards in the world. It’s best to keep your distance as these animals are known to eat 80% of their body weight in a single feed. They’re also one of the few lizards that are extremely venomous!

But the Komodo Dragons are hardly the only reason to visit the park. Each of the three main islands boasts breathtaking sceneries filled with lush tropical hills, beautiful coastlines, and thriving marine life. In fact, the Komodo National Park is world-renowned for having the best scuba diving in Indonesia and the world. Divers make the trip to the park to swim with whales, sharks, manta rays, and a large variety of marine life.

The park also has some of the best beaches of Indonesia and is a showcase of the strength of Indonesia tourism. This will also be a great time to book an Indonesia tour agency to maximize your day and get to the different islands and beaches in the park.

Aerial view of a solo female traveller lying down on the pink beach in Indonesia

Check out the Pink Beach in Indonesia

A beautiful beach in Indonesia is Pink Beach. The beach glows pink especially when the sun is high, and is one of only seven beaches in the world with this unique hue from sediments of red coral washed up on shore.

Other beaches to visit are those on Taka Makassar Island, Mauwan Island, and Snake Island.

Best places to stay near Komodo National Park

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers. Since there’s no real accommodation in the park, most people base themselves in Labuan Bajo, Flores.

How to get to Komodo

I love using 12GoAsia to find the best times and prices for my travels in Asia. Use the search box below to input your departure point and discover the best way to get to Komodo National Park.

Powered by 12Go Asia system

Mount Bromo

A trek to the crater of Mount Bromo only takes around an hour, making it an ideal hike for adventurers of all levels. Perhaps one of the most sought-after excursions in central Java, Mount Bromo is one of the most beautiful places in Indonesia at sunrise. It’s surrounded by smoke and flanked by a multi-colored sky at this time!

The spectacular Mount Bromo in Indonesia at sunrise covered in pinks, reds and orange colours from the sun

Mount Bromo at sunrise in Indonesia - definitely one of the best places in Indonesia

Mount Bromo is quite accessible as well, easily reached by land from Surabaya, Banyuwangi, Yogyakarta, or Jakarta. The ascent to the crater is lined by a steep set of stairs, and the crater is dotted with steam emanating from beneath.

Despite the lack of public transport, many tourists visit the volcano because of the easy trek, making it one of the top things to do in Indonesia. Weekends can definitely become quite stressful, so opt for a weekday trip.

To make the trip more worthwhile, you can also take time to explore the scenic lands around Mount Bromo. Since it’s seated at the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, you can take excursions to explore vast deserts, lush mountains and hills, waterfalls and flower fields. If you have enough time, going through and around the park can be done in two days.

Book your Mount Bromo Activities here

Best places to stay for Mount Bromo

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers. Accommodation is in Probolinggo and Malang.

Tana Toraja

The Tana Toraja Regency is one of Indonesia’s best kept cultural secrets. Discovered only in the 1920s by the arrival of Dutch missionaries, this reclusive community in the highlands of South Sulawesi had absolutely no contact with the outside world for centuries. With its almost mystical origins, Tana Toraja is definitely an Indonesia must-see.

One of the most distinct characteristics of Toraja is their view on death, which is the most important stage in one’s life. The Torajans engage in a very complex burial ceremony known as Rambu Solo, with the belief that one’s life is all in preparation for death.

Once a person dies, he or she is only considered “sick” and is kept in the home of the loved ones until the funeral season. This can take anywhere from days to even years until all aspects of the Rambu Solo are enacted. Relatives and friends continue to visit the body to talk to, to give gifts to, and to essentially keep company until the actual funeral.

There are several aspects to the ritual, including a dance and a sacrifice of pig or buffalo for the burial feast to be shared by the village. Sometimes there’s a cock fight. In the end, the deceased body is interred into an ancestral site carved out of a cave. Life-sized effigies called Tau Tau are placed in viewing boxes to guard the entrance of the burial site.

The Rambu Solo is undoubtedly one of the most ancient practices still observed anywhere in the world. That is the main charm of Tana Toraja – the village’s commitment to keeping tradition alive. In Ke’te Kesu, one will experience living in a traditional Torajan village.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site has six Tongkonan (traditional house), 12 granaries, an open ceremonial ground and a burial cave nearby. This village is not just for display, however. One of the Tongkonans houses a museum, but the surrounding rice paddies are still being farmed and the houses and grounds are still used for traditional ceremonies.

Other areas of interest are Batutumonga, known for its elevation where one can see the clouds covering the hills. Sesean Mountain is a popular trekking route. The Pasar Bolu market is where traders come together to exchange goods.

Best places to stay in Tana Toraja

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

Bandung

For travelers looking for a more modern and cosmopolitan experience but not keen on jumping into the frenetic energy of Jakarta, Bandung is a great alternative. It was once called the Paris of Java, but Bandung experienced a level of uncontrolled development. It’s still one of the top cities in Indonesia and is comprised of winding alleys amidst big suburbs.

Trader cycling through the streets of Bandung in a market with fruit and vegetables

Welcome to the vibrant streets of Bandung in Indonesia! Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

Bandung is most popular for amazing shopping and even better restaurants. Prices are always at an affordable level since competition is very high. Jl Riau and Jl Dago are favorite spots for shopaholics with all the factory outlets from hundreds of brands at half the price.

The restaurant scene in Bandung is also quite exciting. There are the common local haunts like Dusun Bambu, situated on a hill with its own amusement park on the grounds. Then there’s Kampung Daun, surrounded by a bamboo forest where guests dine in small huts with eating platforms. There will never be a shortage of amazing restaurants and kiosks to try out, but one thing is for sure – the food will always be good.

Local lady sitting on a bench chilling out in front of a shop on the streets of Bandung

Local lady chilling out on the streets of Bandung Indonesia

Bandung is also nicely located near many other tourist attractions. Two hours away is Kawah Puti, a crater with a sulphuric lake in the highlands and can be explored in half an hour.

About 30 km north of Bandung is another crater called Tangkuban Perahu, which takes two hours to explore.

Needless to say, Bandung is one of the cities in Indonesia to visit to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life without getting too far away from urban living.

Book the best activities in Bandung here!

The best places to stay in Bandung

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

How to get to Bandung

I love using 12GoAsia to find the best times and prices for my travels in Asia. Use the search box below to input your departure point and discover the best way to get to Lombok.

Powered by 12Go Asia system

Top Indonesia Travel Tips

Now that you have an idea of the places in Indonesia to include on your bucket list, here’s some information about Indonesia to keep in mind!

Getting around Indonesia

Whether you choose to travel by air, car, taxi, train or your own moped, here is my advice.

By Air

While there are ferries connecting Indonesia’s main islands, flying is usually always faster and more reliable. Major cities and even some remote islands are always connected by domestic air service.

Check internal flight routes here

By Rental Car

There are many places in Indonesia where travelers can rent a car. It’s particularly popular to see the top places to visit in Bali, Sumatra, or Java. Most rental places allow tourists to drive with their home country driver’s license, but Indonesia officially requires an international driving permit.

When pulled over by the police, be ready to pay a bribe. If you don’t want to drive, you can also book Indonesian tour packages that include a chauffeured car.

By Taxi or Ride-sharing

Most major cities will have Uber, Go Jek, and Grab that offer both four-wheel vehicles and motorbikes.

It’s the most convenient way to get around the city, but some areas don’t allow ride-sharing apps to make way for city taxis.

By Train

The national railway called Kereta Api can be scenic, especially when heading towards Java and Sumatra. Overnight trains operate between Jakarta and Yogyakarta and between Yogyakarta and Surabaya.

Find train times and routes here

Best time to visit Indonesia

May to September is the best time for sunny days in Indonesia. During the wet season, rainfall can get quite heavy.

High season is July to August, Easter Holidays, Christmas, and New Year. These are the times that Indonesia tourist spots will be the busiest and most crowded, especially in Bali.

Security in Indonesia

Indonesia is safe to travel. Most places are used to having tourists around, and locals are generally warm and friendly. However, as with any place in the world, vigilance is always key.

Indonesia has recently had challenges with drug usage, and local governments have become more strict about imposing penalties. While casual drugs may be rampant in party islands like Bali, it’s best to avoid the situation as police are always on the lookout for tourists abusing the law.

Perhaps the most unpredictable safety challenge is of the natural kind, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and thunderstorms. Always heed travel advisories before making a trip to Indonesia.

Need more ideas for the best places in Indonesia?

Check out these awesome Indonesia activities

What do you think are the best places in Indonesia?

Share your thoughts and Indonesia travel tips in the comments below!

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About Mike Jensen

Mike Jensen
Mike is addicted to both adventure and travel, so decided to combine the two to form TheAdventourist. There he shares his journey from one adrenaline rush to another, always exploring new places as he goes. You can find him sharing his travels on Facebook!

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