Indonesia is one of the world’s most beautiful and diverse countries, home to the second-largest tropical forest, endless unspoiled beaches, waves for surfing, calm clear waters for snorkeling, abundant wildlife and mouthwatering cuisine. There are more than 17,500 islands that make up this nation, so you’ll have a lot of choose from when it comes to destinations as well. These things to do might help make all those difficult planning decisions at least a little bit easier.
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Take a Walk Through the Monkey Forest in Ubud
What Is It?: The Monkey Forest is the natural habitat and a santuary for the Balinese long-tailed Monkey, housing nearly 1,050 of the animals.
Why Do It? It’s one of the top attractions in Bali, offering a walk through a lush forest filled with banyan trees and magnificent temples while providing close encounters with monkeys.
Good to Know: While the monkeys can be highly entertaining, they can also be aggressive thieves. Keep your cell phone in your pocket and don’t feed them or you’ll have monkeys crawling all over you which can lead to getting scratched or bit.
Relax on the Beach with Wild Deer and Monkeys
What Is It?: While relaxing on the beach, or right from your beach villa at The Menjangan Resort in West Bali National Park, you can watch the waves while wild deer and monkeys pass by.
Why Do It? Wildlife lovers will discover a paradise in the jungle, with some 160 bird species, many deer and monkeys along with a species of wild cattle called banteng, as well as rarely spotted leopard cats and wild boar.
Good to Know: Stay at the remote Menjangan Resort and you’ll be surrounded by the park’s wildlife – just be sure to latch your doors as monkeys are known to sneak in.
Watch a Balinese Performance
What Is It?: Balinese Dance is one of the most popular attractions in Ubud, with religious importance, mythological symbolism and elaborate costumes.
Why Do It? The dance is absolutely mesmerizingly beautiful with dancers trained as children, spending years and years perfecting their skills, moving their fingers, heads, and eyes in slight, slow, angular patterns.
Good to Know: Dances happen every night of the week in Ubud; many resorts hosts occasional performances too.
Scenic Hikes Among Lush Beauty
What Is It?: Indonesia isn’t just home to postcard-perfect islands but also incredibly lush beauty, including trails that wind along the shores of turquoise lakes through mist-enveloped mountains.
Why Do It? Get active while enjoying the breathtaking scenery, local birds and probably a few macaque monkeys hanging in the trees.
Good to Know: The Twin Lakes of Buyan Lake and Tamblingan Lake in northern Bali are best enjoyed by basing yourself in the village of Munduk, popular among hikers.
Discover Tumpak Sewu
What Is It? Indonesia is home to countless waterfalls, including Tumpak Sewu in East Java.
Why Do It? The nearly 400-foot-high waterfall with its name loosely translates to “a thousand waterfalls” is widely considered to be in the most stunning in the country.
Good to Know: It’s a 10-minute walk to the viewpoint, or if you’re wearing durable hiking shoes you can take the 30 to 40-minute walk down to the base via bamboo stairs and crossing some small streams.
Meet the Orangutans at Camp Leakey, Borneo
What Is It?: Borneo is famous for its orangutans and Camp Leakey in Tanjung Puting National Park is one of the best places to see the animals.
Why Do It?: A visit offers the rare opportunity to watch once captive orangutans that were returned to the wild but aren’t totally independent yet. The endangered animals can almost always be seen at the feeding platforms where staff supplements the diet of the free-ranging orangutans with fruit.
Good to Know: To reach Camp Leakey requires a two-and-a-half-hour trip on a riverboat up the Sekonyer River where you’ll see long-tailed macaques, proboscis monkeys and all sorts of birds along the way.
Head Underground at Gomantong Caves, Borneo
What Is It?: The Gomantong Caves are located in Sabah on Borneo, famous for their valuable bird nests, used in Chinese cooking for centuries, most often in Bird’s Nest Soup. They’re one of the most expensive animal products consumed by people.
Why Do It?: The Black Cave is open to the public and has a boardwalk that loops around its chamber. The experience is family-friendly and provides an interesting look at the cave’s history and geology.
Good to Know: A visit to the cave isn’t for the squeamish as the ground is covered with bat guano – and, there are all sorts of insects like centipedes, beetles and scorpions. While there is a wooden walkway above the approximately ten feet of guano, be sure to wear closed-toe shoes and cover them with plastic to keep them protected.
Summit a Mountain
What Is It? One of the most popular climbs in Indonesia, Mount Kinabalu is the towering granite mountain dominating the skyline in Sabah on Borneo. The highest point between the Himalayas and New Guinea, it rises over 13,430 feet.
Why Do It?: People come to scale the mountain for the spectacular views, particularly at sunrise, as well as for the sense of accomplishment. The view is often named among the most breathtaking in the entire Southeast Asia region.
Good to Know: It usually takes two days to complete the hike with only a limited number of hikers permitted each day. You’ll need to book at least six months in advance; accommodation is usually included in the package.
Witness the Changing Colors of the Crater Lakes on Flores
What Is It? The collection of three crater lakes on Mount Kelimutu is one of the most famous attractions on Flores Island, one of the Lesser Sunda Islands.
Why Do It?: The surreal shades of the crater lakes are constantly changing due to their mineral and chemical concentrations, one of the most jaw-dropping sights in all of Indonesia.
Good to Know: The Kelimutu lakes are situated in the east part of Flores Island, closest to Ende airport near the village of Moni.
Discover Sea Gypsy Life
What Is It?: The “Sea Gypsies: on Borneo are people who live in stilted villages above the sea after living a seafaring lifestyle for centuries.
Why Do It?: Learn about the ancient traditions of these mysterious people who’ve learned to dive for as long as 13 minutes without the use of any equipment.
Good to Know: One of the largest Bajau floating villages is Semporna.
Experience Unique Traditional Village Life on Sumba
What Is It? For delving into unique traditional village life, there are few better spots than Sumba Island. It’s home to many that have managed to preserve long-time customs like Rende, east of the City of Waingapu.
Why Do It? You’ll see residents go about daily life, including bare-breasted women carrying jugs of water on their heads, many traditional style buffalo horn adorned homes and massive carved stone graves.
Good to Know: In Rende, you can even meet a well-known king who will explain the meaning of symbolic ikat motifs to local children and see the high-quality traditional Sumba Ikat, a type of weaving.
Ride Horses on the Beach
What Is It? There are many places throughout Indonesia where you can go horseback riding right along the beach, from Bali to Sumba Island, an experience made even better at sunset.
Why Do It? Enjoying the scenery from the back of a horse is sure to be one of the highlights of your trip.
Good to Know: Some treks also include riding through small traditional villages, passing beautiful temples and lush rush paddies too. There are tours suitable for all riding levels from beginners to experts; some resorts like Nihi on Sumba include beach rides as part of their activities.
What Is It? Indonesia is the surfing capital of Asia for those who love to ride the waves and those who want to learn how.
Why Do It? This country offers some of the best variety there is when it comes to surfing, including long barreling waves, hollow breaks with emerald hue along with fast, fun reef and beach breaks for all skill levels.
Good to Know: Bali is the surfing epicenter, but you’ll find outstanding waves on Lompok, Sumba and other islands minus the crowds.
Visit a Pink Beach, Komodo
What Is It? Pink Beach on Komodo Island is one of the world’s rare true pink beaches.
Why Do It? The striking pink-hue of the sand is something you have to see to believe.
Good to Know: As it’s located in Komodo National Park, you’re likely to spot one of the island’s famous Komodo dragons too