Indonesia Beyond Bali (Part 2): Where to Go and What to See in Indonesia (That Are NOT Bali)

Hi everyone! 😀

FYI, I had to postpone my Java-Bali-Gili trip due to some family matter to September. And for those who don’t know, ironically I’m an Indonesian who’s never been to Bali. So yes, the trip is going to be my first time touching down on the island of gods. Or Pulau Dewata, as we Indonesians dub the island.

Anyway, you’ve probably read my previous post that was published last week in Indonesia’s 74th Independence Day. Well, this post is gonna be the second part where I’ve compiled the list of recommended places to visit in Indonesia… Those that are NOT Bali.

I mean, as an Indonesian myself, I’m so sick of ignorant travelers who think of Bali as the whole country and not just a small province in a country called Indonesia. So, what kind of places do we have this time? Let’s check out!

Indonesia Beyond Bali (Part 2): Where to Go and What to See in Indonesia (That Are NOT Bali) - The BeauTraveler

What’s in Indonesia Other than Bali?

The answer to that question is so many things. I remember once I saw a thread posted by some random traveler who went something like this, “I’m going to Asia in a few months. I’ve got 2 months in total and I’m going to Indonesia for 2 weeks exploring Bali and Gili. Could you recommend any other countries in the region that I could visit within the period as I think 2 months will be too long to stay in Indonesia?”

Nothing has ever triggered me so much more than this question. LOL. I told this person sarcastically that I’ve lived in Indonesia for almost 30 years and I still didn’t get my way to explore the central and eastern part of Indonesia so nope… 2 months are nothing but short when it comes to exploring the country.

Anyway, all is forgiven but not forgotten. That’s why I decided to curate this content with awesome collaborations from all these fellow bloggers. So, what are their recommendations?

Places to Visit in Indonesia (That Are NOT Bali)

I’m Indonesian, but I’m not an expert when it comes to destinations in my home country. I’ve only explored some small parts of it, although I for sure have the intention to explore more and more places in the future.

As I’m on my way to visit Bali for the first time, I honestly can’t wait to share my insights when it comes to Bali and other places that I’ve been in Indonesia. Meanwhile, let’s talk about some other places in Indonesia that are NOT Bali! 😉


1. Aceh Province

As recommended by Sophie of Lifestyle Queensland.

 

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If you are looking for a less-traveled spot in Indonesia to visit I could not recommend the Aceh province of Sumatra highly enough. The very northern point of the island does not see many tourists other than the few dedicated surfers during the season.

The area was hit by the devastating 2004 tsunami which tragically killed a large number of the population. There is a museum dedicated to remembering the event in the city of Banda Aceh and a ship swept inland 3km can still be seen.

The food is delicious and locals are incredibly friendly and we were greeted with warm smiles wherever we visited. Hiring a moped and taking a drive up the mountains into the smaller villages is an absolute must.


2. Lagundri Bay, South Nias (North Sumatra)

As recommended by Ale of Universo Viajero.

 

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Indonesia is so much more than just Bali… Traveling to Nias was one of the most amazing experiences in our trip. This small island is located west of Sumatra and accessible by slow ferries or by plane.

The island is quiet and very few visitors get there, so it’s the perfect place to explore the more “real” Indonesia. They keep some traditional villages which you can visit and see their culture and traditions up close. Also, there are some pretty cool waterfalls around the island and the sceneries are just perfect. We recommend you rent a scooter and go explore on your own, asking the locals for pretty places. More than one would be happy to take you to hidden spots for a couple of dollars in exchange.

The most popular place is in the south, Sorake Beach. In addition to that, Lagundri Bay is also listed as one of the best surfing sites in the world.

Here you can find one of the best waves of Indonesia, and the world. For surfers, it’s like a dream come true, a perfect right wave that almost every day of the year can be surfed. There are also some pretty cool spots around that beach. During low tide, the reef can be walked and you can find natural pools to take a calm bath.

If you are looking for a place to get away from the crowds and getting to know more about the culture and traditions of the country, then Nias is the perfect place to visit.


3. Berastagi, North Sumatra

As recommended by Charlotte of Our Taste for Life. 

 

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If you are looking to go off the beaten path in Indonesia, Berastagi is a great place to start. You’ll find this charming rural town on the island of Sumatra. And all things considered, Berastagi is a worthy addition to any Sumatra Itinerary.

At first glance, Berastagi seems like a sleepy, undeveloped town; however, beneath the surface lie some exciting adventure antics. Here you can hike a smoldering volcano, chase impressive waterfalls, or marvel over the agricultural scenery. Furthermore, you can experience a raw and traditional side of the local culture.

Many visitors come to Berastagi to hike Gunung (Mount) Sibayak. With just a short 2-3 hour hike to the peak, it is said to be one of the most accessible volcanoes in Indonesia. This hike is especially popular at sunrise; Although the dormant sulfur lake at the summit, is sure to impress at any time of day.

Then you have Sipiso-Piso Waterfall. This was the highlight of our time in Berastagi and one not to be missed. This 120m high plunge waterfall is said to one of the tallest in Asia. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of the most powerful too. It’s a bit of a trek to reach the bottom, but it’s worth it to experience the full force of the falls.


4. Lake Toba, North Sumatra

As recommended by Nina of Where in The World is Nina.

 

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Lake Toba is a massive lake hanging out in a caldera of one of the many supervolcanoes on the archipelago of Indonesia. The lake is so big, it’s bigger than Singapore!

You can explore all around the lake, hike trails, and meandering through small villages. But most people who visit Lake Toba choose to take the ferry to the big volcanic island, Samosir Island, that’s right in the middle of the lake.

Most tourists stay in the Tuk Tuk area of Samosir. Here is where you can rent motorbikes to delve further into the beauty of the island and lake. Learn about the Batak culture at the museum, visit the old tombs, and take a hike up Holbung Hill for a nice view.

Otherwise, just riding around getting lost is great too. Make sure to get accommodation on the lake itself, it will be worth waking up to!


5. Bangka, Bangka-Belitung Islands

As recommended by me. 

 

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If you’ve read the previous post last week, chances are you’re probably already familiar with Belitung. Well, Bangka is its neighboring island, only less popular among travelers. Unfortunately, it’s not without reason that Bangka isn’t as known as its neighboring island. Since 1700s, Bangka has been one of the world’s principal tin-producing centers. The exploitation done by the Indonesian government led to the crisis once the natural resources finished in the area.

The island was known more for its industrial purpose rather than tourism, even though Bangka also has so many beautiful beaches that are actually less crowded than Belitung. It is a great place you could go if you fancy relaxing around the beach in silence.

Pretty much like Belitung, there’s also Danau Kaolin in Bangka which is an abandoned mining site. The ironic thing is that since the damage done on the island was way worse than its neighboring island, the lake turned out to look even more beautiful than the one in Belitung.

Apart from all of those, don’t miss their local delicacy from martabak to their signature chicken noodle. So delicious!


6. Pangandaran, West Java

As recommended by Wendy of The Nomadic Vegan.

 

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Pangandaran is a pretty coastal fishing village on the south coast of West Java, Indonesia. Its beaches are popular with locals, particularly on weekends and during national holidays. However, it’s completely off the radar for most foreign tourists and offers a very authentic Indonesian beach experience. There are plenty of economical guesthouses here, making it a good choice for travelers on a small budget.

In addition to Pangandaran itself, there are a few natural beauty spots nearby that are definitely worth visiting. One is the Green Canyon, a jungle-clad gorge that is filled with water and can only be reached by boat. The canyon is passable for about 100 meters, and then you have the option of jumping from a five-meter-high stalagmite into a deep pool of water. It’s a bit scary but is exhilarating once you take the leap!

Another place you should seek out is Citumang Dam, a pretty little waterfall about 15 kilometers outside Pangandaran. This peaceful watering hole sees fewer visitors than the Green Canyon and is a wonderful place to go for a swim in fresh water.

And then there’s the beach, of course. The waves are not too strong here, making it suitable for beginner surfers or families with kids. And the sunsets are spectacular!


7. Dieng Plateau, Central Java

As recommended by Erika of Erika’s Travels.

 

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The Dieng Plateau is a caldera that sits high in the mist-shrouded mountains of Central Java. Located four hours from Yogyakarta and accessible as a day trip, the plateau is an off-the-beaten-path gem that showcases some of Indonesia’s most beautiful natural and cultural landscapes. Terraced potato and tobacco plantations blanket the area’s lush mountains like a patchwork quilt.  Interspersed in this mountainous wonderland, lie colorful lakes, sulphuric craters and ancient Hindu temples.

The Dieng Plateau is a sacred place for the Javanese Hindus. In Sanskrit, the word ‘Dieng’ means abode of the Gods. The plateau houses over 400 temples that date back to the 8th and 9th centuries. The structures at the Dieng Plateau’s Ajuna Temple Complex are some of the oldest in all of Indonesia. 

Located near the temples of Ajuna, the Kawah Sikidang Crater affords the opportunity to walk around the Dieng Plateau’s smoking fumaroles and bubbling mud pots. 

The scenic hike around Mirror Lake and Color Lake is the Dieng Plateau’s undeniable highlight. The hike—accessible after paying a $7 tourist fee—reveals spectacular vistas of the twin lakes and their emerald backdrop. On sunny days, Color Lake boasts vibrant shades of green, turquoise and blue, while Mirror Lake’s glassy surface reflects the colors of the sky.


8. Karimunjawa Islands, Central Java

As recommended by Gigi of Beach Addicted.

 

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The Karimunjawa Islands are a true hidden gem of Indonesia. The Karimunjawa islands are a group of 27 tropical islands in the Java Sea. It’s a bit of struggle to get to, but once you are there, you won’t be disappointed.

It has one of the most beautiful beaches and tiny islands that you will see in your lifetime. Karimunjawa has a very relaxed atmosphere without many tourists around which we really appreciated after spending some time in busy and overcrowded Bali.

Make sure to rent a scooter and drive around the island and enjoy stunning views along the way. Our absolutely favorite beach on the main island is Ujung Gelam Beach. Get there in the morning and you might have a beautiful cove all to yourself.

We do recommend an island hopping tour around Karimunjawa Islands, especially going to Gleyang Island. We had an authentic lunch on the island: Fresh fish (caught by the captain himself), a peanut sauce and rice. And you can look forward to stunning sunset views from the boat.

Once you decide to go to Karimunjawa make sure to reserve at least 5 days to truly experience this paradise.


9. Mount Bromo, East Java

As recommended by Penny of GlobeTrove.

 

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One of the most exciting places that I have been to in Indonesia is a place called Bromo. Located in East Java, this spot of land houses an active volcano. The beauty about it is unlike many other active volcanoes around the world, this one can be climb very easily. A lot of people make the climb up to the rim of the crater every day. It is a mind-blowing experience.

One of the reasons why I really loved Bromo was because most volcanoes even if they are active just feel like hills or mountains. This one on the other hand huffs and puffs smoke from its belly giving you the real volcano feel that most others seldom do.

Since it is situated within a caldera, there are a number of places around that you can hike up to get a view of the landscape below. One of the popular activities is to head up the hills to catch a glimpse of the sunrise before heading back down and towards Bromo.

If you loved Bromo and want to do something a bit more adventurous, you should also consider heading from Bromo to Ijen to see the volcano there. It is a more strenuous hike but definitely worth the experience.


10. Gili Meno, West Nusa Tenggara

As recommended by Campbell of Highlands2Hammocks.

 

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The tropical paradise of Gili Meno is an underrated and undiscovered location around Bali, Indonesia. This tiny island is the smallest of the most popular Gili Islands, sitting snugly between Gili Trawangan and Gili Air, on Lombok’s western shore. Despite being largely by most backpackers, Gili Meno has a huge variety of activities, hidden treasurers and amazing sights that should not be overlooked.

Perhaps the most magical sight that you will find on Gili Meno sits on the western coast of the island. Hidden beneath the sapphire blue waters of Gili Meno are the extraordinary Gili Meno statues. This monument to the ocean features a circle of human molds, all individually cast and uniquely different. The purpose of this feature is to provide a catching point for new coral to grow, promoting the sea life of this beautiful part of the world.

If you do visit this hidden Gili island, make sure you rent a snorkel and some find and head out to discover true beauty for yourself.


11. Sumba, West Nusa Tenggara

As recommended by Mar Pages of Once in a Lifetime Journey.

 

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Nihi Sumba has been voted the best hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure (2016+2017) and a stay at this exclusive property on the island of Sumba will have you salivating for more.

The story of how this property landed up on one of Indonesia’s less populated islands has humble beginnings. It started out as a surf camp in the 80s as one of the best surf breaks is on the island. The property was sold in 2012 to Chris Burch, the husband of shoe mogul Tory and started to become what it is today.

It is a far-flung destination where you take plane from Bali to Tambolaka to get there. Once you land you really get the true Wilderness experience.

The traditional Sumbanese huts and untouched nature reminds one of what Bali used to be before tourism landed. Besides the resort, there are hikes to azure waterfalls, horse riding, and of course gorgeous oceanic coves and beaches to explore. The spa at the hotel is absolutely perfect as well. You will not find much else on the island than pleasant service at the hotel, unspoiled nature and a feeling of relaxation.


12. Mount Rinjani, West Nusa Tenggara

As recommended by Katalin of Our Life Our Travel. 

 

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Hiking to Mount Rinjani was one of our best experiences in Indonesia. Lombok island is neighboring Bali, and it is absolutely worth to visit it as well. You can take a flight or if you have more time, travel by a local ferry.

The highlight of Lombok is the 3,726 m tall Mount Rinjani volcano that dominates the island. We took part in an organized 2-day-long hiking trip to the top of the volcano during our stay. The trail is wide and easy, but due to its length and elevation gain, the whole hike is rather demanding. One advantage of the organized tours that you don’t need to carry a tent and sleeping bag, only enjoy the views and the wildlife during the trek.

The trail first led through the rainforest and our guide was preparing delicious, fresh food to keep us well fed during the adventure at every resting place. After you leave the forest behind, the best sights appear. The volcano has a little crater lake and a smaller crater next to it which makes the place even more special. We didn’t have time to approach them, but if you take a longer tour, it is possible as well. Taking photos from the top are spectacular nonetheless.

We slept in a tent on the rim of the crater, above the clouds, and the next day after admiring a sunrise we started our long descent.

Make sure you add Mount Rinjani to your bucket list!


13. Tanjung Puting National Park, East Kalimantan

As recommended by Slavi of Global Castaway.

 

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One of the most underrated parts of the country, the Indonesian Borneo offers truly unparalleled experiences. Home of Tanjung Puting National Park, the island is one of the only two places in the world where you can spot orangutans in their natural habitat (the other one is Sumatra).

It was, in this very same National Park, where Dr. BirutÄ— Galdikas started her orangutan research, back in 1971. And she is still there, trying to teach humanity how amazing and advanced those red-haired apes are.

But don’t you think Tanjung Puting has nothing else to offer beside orangutans. The 416,040 hectares rainforest is home to two other endemic primates – the proboscis and red leaf-eating monkeys. You can also spot around 230 species of birds, two species of crocodiles and the highly endangered “dragon” fish (known as Arwana). If you’re really really lucky, you may even spot some river dolphins!

Make yourself a favor and book a plane ticket to Pangkalan Bun. While the other tourists are stuck in traffic in Bali or trying to avoid the scams in Komodo, you’d be resting on a houseboat, lazily sailing through Tanjung Puting National Park, searching for some of the most incredible creatures in the world!

See how to incorporate Borneo into your Indonesia adventure with Global Castaway’s detailed Indonesia itinerary guide.


14. Wakatobi, Southeast Sulawesi

As recommended by Stephen of A Backpackers Tale.

 

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There is a good chance that you’ve never heard of Wakatobi. This group of islands has a reputation among hardcore divers. But it remains off Indonesia’s major tourist trail. Which is one of the biggest strengths as you won’t have to share all the beauty with thousands of other tourists.

The major island and capital of Wakatobi is Wangi-Wangi. This island has uncrowded beaches, epic day trips, and remote villages to explore. For you morning go-getters there are dolphins sightseeing tours. With a good chance, you’ll also see dozens of flying fish.

One of my favorite experiences in Wakatobi was taking a day trip to the Bajo Village. The Bajo people live on stilted houses in the water, and they never touch the land.

Personally, my favorite island in Wakatobi is Hoga Island. This island puts nature at the forefront with pristine beaches untouched by tourism and pollution. There is also limited technology on the islands (There is no wifi on the island). Hoga is all about letting you get in touch with nature.

Of course, Wakatobi is popular among divers with good reason. There are over 40 dive spots around the area. Underwater legend, Jacques Cousteau referred to Wakatobi as the finest dive site in the world.


15. Flores, East Nusa Tenggara

As recommended by Luke of The Coastal Campaign.

 

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The island of Flores has boomed in recent years due to the growing popularity of Komodo National Park. While this part of Flores is incredible we think that the interior of the island is just as good.

We spent 6 days riding a scooter on an overland trip through Flores. This entailed riding along the Trans-Flores Highway, the main road running through the heart of the island, traveling from Labuan Bajo to Kelimutu and back again. It was an unreal trip!

The interior of Flores is stunning with spider web-shaped rice fields, traditional villages, hot springs and blue crater lakes all a part of the beautiful landscape. It felt like around every corner and the crest of each hill held a different amazing view for us to enjoy.

As beautiful as this trip was, it was the sense of adventure that really made us fall in love with the island of Flores. Across our 6-day trip, we saw a handful of other tourists and had so many of the places to ourselves. We chatted with the local people, found ourselves getting lost on dirt roads in the middle of nowhere and stumbled upon hidden gems we had no idea even existed.

The overland trip through Flores remains as one of our best adventures ever and we recommend you don’t miss out on this seriously epic road trip.


16. Raja Ampat, Papua

As recommended by Michelle of Cheeky Passports. 

 

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There’s little doubt that Raja Ampat is one of the most spectacular places in all of Indonesia, and although travelling to the archipelago located in West Papua is usually expensive, it is surely possible to travel to Raja Ampat on a budget with a few hacks.

The gorgeous, remote islands are a marine-lover’s dream with fantastic diving and snorkeling opportunities. Raja Ampat forms part of an area with the richest marine biodiversity in the world. You can travel to Raja Ampat on an all-inclusive multi-day liveaboard or, with some careful planning, you can island-hop as we did.

Typically, visitors to Raja Ampat will spend their time underwater, but if you’re just looking for some relaxation, it is perfectly possible to relax on hammocks at the local homestays on the beach, or in the company of some books.

Luxury accommodation is also available around Raja Ampat, so if you don’t mind splurging a little, the resorts are sure to give you a taste of paradise!

Keep in mind that Raja Ampat is a remote destination with few connections to mainland Papua so it is important to plan accordingly. Raja Ampat will easily become one of your favorite destinations in Indonesia!


Some Additional Tips on Traveling Around Indonesia

Look, it’s not like I’m literally clueless on why most people focus on Bali when it comes to Indonesia. There are so many flaws in our tourism industry, especially when it comes to the lack of access to information outside the main and well-known travel destinations.

Honestly, it was quite difficult to get information online when I tried to find the most convenient way to travel from West Kalimantan to Sarawak in Borneo. Mind you that I speak Indonesian as it’s my mother tongue. I can’t imagine how difficult it could get to find information in English if that’s the case.

Not to mention with the drama of domestic airfares rising due to the suspect of a duopoly with the hegemony of our national carrier Garuda Indonesia and Lion Group. So many restrictions to actually explore the whole country in general, because people are hesitant to travel around the country due to how expensive the flight ticket could get.

The Dos and Don’ts Traveling in Indonesia

The Dos

  • With all the drama mentioned above about the access of information as well as the rising of domestic airfare, you can always rely on websites like Skyscanner and Traveloka to compare prices in order to get the most reliable bargain. FYI, Airasia decided to annul their partnership with Traveloka, so you might as well want to have an account on Airasia’s official website as they start opening more domestic routes, including those in the eastern part of Indonesia.
  • Always follow the local customs, it won’t hurt to give yourself a little knowledge about the place you’re going to visit. Indonesian culture is so diverse that what’s common in one place could be considered rude in another. E.g. Now that we mentioned Aceh as one of the recommended places to visit in Indonesia, just know that Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that applies sharia law.
  • Connect with the locals through Couchsurfing. More often than not, they will be excited to help you plan your trip and give you information when needed. They may not be able to take you around when you’re there, but their information matters to avoid any common scams.

The Don’ts

  • As much as I hate to admit this, the way you dress actually matters in Indonesia. Outside Bali, Indonesia is not really a place where you could wear a tank top and a mini skirt to get around. Catcalling is really common, even if you think that you’re wearing a dress modest enough to avoid it.
  • Avoid talking about religions. It’s a really sensitive topic here, that you don’t wanna start the fire through a debate about their faith or whatever.

Got Any Other Place in Indonesia that You Would Like to Recommend?

Drop your comment below, and tell us a little story about how you enjoyed your stay there. Meanwhile, I’m trying to write more and more about my home country to avoid any misunderstanding thing that may happen from the foreigners’ point of view.

But first, by the time this post is published, I’ll be in Dieng on my way to Bali. So, cheerio! 🙂


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