Even thinking about adventures that await in over 18,307 islands already makes me want to go aboard the next flight to Indonesia.

You can skip “eat” and “pray,” and go straight to “love” in Bali.

If you’re tired of beaches, there are ancient temples, volcanoes, waterfalls, and nature parks waiting for you in 18,306 more islands.

Inspire your adventure in Indonesia with these must-visit places and top things to do for first-time travelers.

1. Bali

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (temple), in Bedugul, Tabanan, Bali, Indonesia

Why go — Bali has it all. Scenic mountains, sacred temples, rich culture, sandy beaches, surf-worthy waves, lively nightlife, exciting shopping… and the list goes on. It is no surprise that it is known as the island of the Gods. If you don’t have a lot of time to visit a wide area in Indonesia, Bali is the perfect place to spend your holiday.

How to go & top spots to see

Bali-Denpasar International Airport is one of Indonesia’s most well-connected gateways. In addition to an extensive domestic flight network, it serves flights from major cities in Asia & Australia.

Including Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney & Dubai. To as far as, Europe (Amsterdam, Istanbul, London) and Africa (Addis Ababa). Kuta Beach, the main tourist area in Bali, is within 20 minutes drive north of the airport. While Ubud may take an hour or more depending on the traffic.

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Top spots & things to do

Watch the sunrise or sunset from Tanah Lot or Uluwatu Temple.

Witness a Kecak “fire & trance” dance.

Take a walk around Ubud Monkey Forest.

See the cultural sights near Ubud including Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave), Tegalalang Rice Terraces, Gunung Kawi & Tirta Empul (temple).

Hike to the top of Mount Batur.

Eat seafood dinner at Jimbaran Beach and famous local dishes in Bali.

Enjoy Kuta, Legian & Seminyak’s surf, shopping & nightlife.

Go north. Visit Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (temple), Alas Kedaton Monkey Forest & Jatulawih Rice Terraces.

Tour the water palaces in east Bali including Tirta Gangga and Taman Ujung.

Take an excursion to Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (temple), Alas Kedaton Monkey Forest & Jatulawih Rice Terraces.

Explore the serene beaches in South and East Bali.

Visit Bali’s sacred temples including Pura Agung Besakih & Taman Ayun Temple.

Head farther east to the remote islands in Nusa Tenggara, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, Raja Ampat & Papua.

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Bali travel tipsNusa Penida

2. Yogyakarta

Sunrise at Borobudur Temple, near Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Why go — Don’t miss Yogyakarta if you love wandering around ancient temples & ruined cities. Here, you can find the temples of Borobodur and Prambanan. Both are UNESCO World Heritage sites & among Asia’s most beautiful landmarks. While you’re in the city, explore the 18th-century royal complex, the Water Castle (Taman Sari), and beautiful Dutch-era colonial buildings.

How to go & top spots to see

Found in central Java, Yogyakarta is just hour east of Jakarta & 1.5 hours west of Bali by plane. Yogyakarta-Adisutjipto International Airport is the primary gateway to the city. It’s located in the city center while the temples are within an easy drive away.

You can fly directly from Singapore (2.5 hours) on AirAsia as well as major airports in the country including Jakarta (1 hour), Bali (1.5 hours), Medan (3 hours), Bandung (1 hour), Surabaya (Surabaya). And, even from Lombok (2 hours), Balikpapan (2 hours), or Makassar (2 hours). All major domestic airlines operate flights to Yogyakarta including Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, Citilink, Wings Air, Silk Air, and Batik Air.

Top spots & things to do

Go on a sunrise tour to Borobudur Temple.

Explore Prambanan Temple and see the sunset at Ratu Boko.

Wander around the Water Castle and old city of Yogyakarta.

Shop at Malioboro Street (Jalan Malioboro).

Fort Vredeburg Museum and other Dutch colonial heritage sites.

Enjoy a countryside tour at Wanurejo Village.

Eat local food in Yogyakarta. Don’t miss the Ayam Goreng (fried chicken) at Ayam Goreng Suharti.

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3. Komodo Islands

Overlooking Padar Island, in Komodo National Park, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Why go — The Komodo Islands should be at the top of your list if you’ve been dreaming of visiting the remote islands of the World’s biggest archipelagic country. Located over an hour east of Bali by flight, Komodo National Park is home to the giant Komodo Dragons and stunning natural sights including a rare Pink Beach!

How to go & top spots to see

The fastest way is to fly from Bali to Labuan Bajo (1.5 hours), the gateway town to Komodo Islands. Then, join one of many speedboat or slow boat tours from Labuan Bajo to reach the stunning islands in Komodo National Park.

Top spots & things to do

Stalk Komodo Dragons, the world’s largest lizard, in Komodo Island and Rinca Island.

Sunbathe, swim and hike at Pink Beach.

Hike to the top of Padar Island.

Go on an island tour in Kelor, Kanawa, and 28 more islands in Komodo National Park.

Enjoy day trips on speed boat or go slow on a multi-day live-on-board (LOB) cruise around the island.

See spectacular snorkeling and diving sites.

Swim with Manta Rays at one of many Manta points.

Where to stay — There are no hotels & resorts in the Komodo Islands. You can either stay in a hotel or hostel in Labuan Bajo. Or, go on a multi-day cruise. Click below to see room rates and discounts you can book today.

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4. Gili Islands & Lombok

Gili Trawangan Island, in Gili Islands, Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Why go — Lombok Island is Bali’s less touristic and much larger neighbor. It is famous for the pristine Gili Islands and Mount Rinjani in the north, and Kuta (Lombok) Beach, a surfing haven, in the south. If you want to explore the country beyond Bali, go east to Lombok to enjoy nature, witness the distinct traditions of the Sasak people, and experience a different side of Indonesia.

How to go & top spots to see

Lombok is the next big island east of Bali. Lombok International Airport is the primary gateway to the island. It is easily accessible by flight from Bali (30 minutes), Jakarta (2 hours) and Surabaya (1 hour and 15 minutes).

You can also fly direct from Singapore (2 hours, 45 minutes) and Kuala Lumpur (3 hours, 15 minutes). Flights are run by AirAsia, Batik Air, Citilink, Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, SilkAir & Wings Air.

Another popular option is to go on a Bali-Lombok ferry. You can either take a fast boat and arrive at the Gili Islands, from Padang Bai or Sanur. The cheaper alternative is to ride a slow boat to Maratam from Padang Bai and go to your destination in Lombok by land.

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Top spots & things to do

Swim with turtles and go snorkeling in Gili Air, Gili Meno, and Gili Trawangan.

Ride a bicycle or go on horseback to the sea swings (Datu Swing) in Gili Trawangan.

Surf and enjoy peaceful Kuta Beach in South Lombok.

Eat Taliwang Ayam (grilled chicken) in Mataram.

Witness the odd traditions of the Sasak people in Sade or any of the Sasak Villages.

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Lombok travel tipsMount Rinjani

5. Nusa Penida

Kelingking Beach, in Nusa Penida Island, Klungklung, Bali, Indonesia

Why go — If you are in Bali and you want to go off-beat, go to Nusa Penida. This island and neighboring Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan islands are so close to Bali yet remain vastly untouristic. The highlights here are jaw-dropping cliffed coastlines surrounded by pristine waters. You can go on a day cruise from Bali. Better yet, spend a night or two in one of many amazing tree houses on Nusa Penida.

How to go & top spots to see

Nusa Penida is one hour away from mainland Bali by ferry. You can catch a ferry from Sanur Beach in Denpasar & Padang Bai in East Bali. From the ferry landing in Nusa Penida, the best beaches can be reached on a day tour around the island.

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Top spots & things to do

Day trip around the coast of Nusa Penida Island.

See the breathtaking views at Kelingking Beach, Atuh Beach, Angel’s Billabong & Broken Beach (Pasih Uug).

Snorkel at Crystal Bay.

Sleep in a tree house.

See manta rays from Manta Point.

Explore Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan.

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Nusa Penida travel tipsBali

6. Flores Island

Sunset at Paradise Bar, in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Why go — A night or two at Labuan Bajo completes a trip to the Komodo Island. This charming seaside town has beautiful sunset views and a surprising cosmopolitan food scene that you should not miss. The area of Labuan Bajo and the Komodo Islands is only one little corner of Flores. There are a lot of awesome adventures waiting farther afield.

How to go & top spots to see

Labuan Bajo is 1.5 hours east of Bali by plane. Komodo Airport is the main airport that serves Labuan Bajo and this side of Flores in East Nusa Tenggara Province. The drive to the town center usually takes 20 minutes or less. You can also fly direct from Jakarta. Travel time takes 2.5 hours.

Bali-Labuan Bajo flights are operated by Garuda Indonesia, Wings Air, Kal Star & Lion Air. Meanwhile, the Jakarta-Labuan Bajo route is operated only by Garuda Indonesia.

Top spots & things to do

See the sunset overlooking the bay, from Paradise Bar.

Eat your way around the town local and foreign restaurants.

Visit island, mountain and cultural sights near Maumere, Ende, and Ruteng.

Watch the sun rise over the multicolored lakes at Kelimutu Volcano.

Attend a traditional Caci “fight” dance.

Experience a traditional Manggarai village and go on a trek to Wae Rebo.

Catch a flight to Kupang located near the Indonesia-Timor Leste border.

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Labuan Bajo travel tipsKomodo Islands

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7. Mount Rinjani

View on the crater lake trek, Mount Rinjani, Lombok Island, West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Why go — At a height of 3,726 meters, Mount Rinjani is Indonesia’s second highest active volcano. Trekking here is a big physical challenge for most travelers, but the sunrise views of the crater lake and sea of clouds are well worth the effort. If you’re not up for the challenge, there are majestic waterfalls on the base of the mountain that are worth the trip as well.

How to go & top spots to see

Senaru village on the north side of Lombok Island is the main gateway for treks to Mount Rinjani. The waterfalls in Senaru are within an hour’s hike from the village center. By private car, the drive to Senaru from Lombok Airport takes 4 hours~ while it only takes 1.5 hours~ from Bangsal harbor, the ferry landing to the Gili Islands.

If you plan to summit, you might find Sembalun Lawang village a better jump-off point. Book a 2 days & 1 night trekking tour to see the sunrise at the crater rim of Mount Rinjani. Or, go on a 3 days & 2 nights Sembalun-Senaru traverse if you want to reach the peak. Mount Rinjani treks are among the most popular trekking tours in Indonesia. So, arranging a trip is really easy.

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Top spots & things to do

See the sunrise at the crater rim of Mount Rinjani volcano.

Bathe at the hot springs & hike to Mount Rinjani’s summit.

Cool down at the waterfalls in Senaru & other mountain villages in Lombok.

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8. Mount Bromo

Mount Bromo summit crater in East Java, Indonesia

Why go — Take the ultimate selfie, at the top of an active volcano’s crater rim. Mount Bromo is an easy place to do it. A lot easier than Mount Rinjani since the actual trek to Mount Bromo’s crater rim only takes less than an hour.

How to go & top spots to see

Mount Bromo can be found in Central Java. The most popular way is to travel to Probolinggo by land from Surabaya, Banyuwangi, Yogyakarta, Jakarta or other cities on the island. Then, ride a bus or shuttle to Cemoro Lawang village, the main tourist area in Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park.

A jeep or motorcycle taxi (ojek) ride to the base of the summit takes less than 30 minutes. And, a 30-minute to 1-hour ascent on steep stairs, takes you to the crater rim. You can also reach Cemoro Lawang via Malang, located west of Mount Bromo. Although public transport is quite limited, this can be a good option if you’re headed from Yogyakarta. The way to Cemoro Lawang passes through the scenic village of Ngadas, Mount Bromo’s savannah, and the sea of sand.

Top spots & things to do

Hike to Mount Bromo crater rim & see the sunrise from the viewpoint at nearby Mount Penanjakan.

Visit Madakaripura Waterfall near Cemoro Lawang.

Go on a homestay & see the slope farms in Ngadas Village.

Enjoy the cool views at Mount Bromo savannah.

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9. Mount Ijen

Dawn view of Mount Ijen sulfur mine & crater lake, near Banyuwangi, in East Java, Indonesia

Why go — Mount Ijen is one of Indonesia’s unique trekking destinations. It is famous for electric blue lava-like rivers of light a.k.a the “blue flames” that is best seen when it’s still dark. The trek starts before sunrise and passes through sulfur mines before reaching the crater lake. Along the way, you’ll see miners carry huge loads of sulfur rocks back to the base camp, and breathtaking views of the volcano.

How to go & top spots to see

Located on the far east of Java Island, Banyuwangi is the main gateway city to Mount Ijen. From Banyuwangi city center, go on a 1.5-hour drive up the mountain to Pos Palduting. And, a 1 to 2-hour trek to the crater lake and sulfur mines at Mount Ijen.

Most travelers reach Banyuwangi by ferry from Bali or by land from Surabaya or Probolinggo. You can also fly to Banyuwangi Airport from Surabaya on Garuda Indonesia or Wings Air. And, from Bali on Garuda Indonesia.

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10. Surabaya & East Java

Surabaya Dutch colonial heritage buildings in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia

Why go — Surabaya is known to Indonesians as the “City of Heroes.” This city is home to the country’s second busiest airport and a popular gateway to Mount Bromo. If you ever find yourself in Surabaya, the city center is an interesting place to wander around while on transit. There are also more sights to see on this side of East Java if you want to venture beyond.

How to go & top spots to see

Surabaya is 2 hours east of Jakarta by plane. Surabaya-Juanda International Airport is Indonesia’s second busiest airport. It’s one of the main flight hubs of Citilink, Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia AirAsia, Lion Air, and Sriwijaya Air.

You can fly direct from Kuala Lumpur (2.5 hours), Hong Kong (5 hours), Singapore (2 hours), Taipei (5 hours), Jeddah (10.5 hours), Brunei (2 hours) and Penang (3 hours).

Or, domestic from Jakarta (2 hours), Bali (1 hours), Medan (3 hours), Yogyakarta 45 minutes), Manado (2.5 hours) and many more airports in the country.

Surabaya is also accessible by train and bus from most cities in Java Island including Yogyakarta, Banyuwangi, and Jakarta.

Top spots & things to do

Tour heritage sites & historic monuments in Surabaya’s old city, Arab Quarter, and Chinatown.

Visit the House of Sampoerna.

Go mall hopping.

Witness the bull races on Madura Island, between July and August. Cross the Suramadu National Bridge on your way.

Explore the highlands and natural sights near Malang.

Meet wildlife in Baluran National Park.

Unwind at Taman Bungkul.

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11. Batam, Bintan & Riau Islands

Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya Buddhist Temple, in Batam Island, Indonesia

Why go — The islands of Batam and Bintan are the gateway to the Riau archipelago in west Indonesia. They might not be as impressive as other places featured on this list. But, they are very popular for quick getaways from Singapore.

How to go & top spots to see

Batam Island is a mere 1-hour ferry south of Singapore. Travel time to Bintan takes 30-minutes more. You can also fly to Batam Airport from a wide selection of airports in Indonesia.

Batam-Hang Nadim International Airport serves from Jakarta (1.5 hours), Medan (2 hours), Bali (2.5 hours), Surabaya (2 hours). And, other domestic airports including Padang (1.5 hours), Banda Aceh (2 hours), Jambi (1 hour), Palembang (1.5 hours), Solo (2 hours), Semarang (2 hours), Pontianak (1 hours, 45 minutes) or Pekanbaru (1 hour).

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Top spots & things to do

Enjoy the beaches and luxury resorts in Bintan Island.

Relax at cheap spa centers.

Shop at outlet stores in Batam.

Go father to the other islands in Riau.

Catch a flight from Batam-Hang Nadim Airport to other destinations in Indonesia.

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12. Jakarta

Monas (national monument), in Jakarta, Indonesia

Why go — Jakarta may seem like a daunting megacity, but it also has a couple of interesting places that are worth a stopover. Wander around the Dutch colonial heritage sites in Kota Tua (Old Jakarta), the old market in Pasar Baru and the historic port of Sunda Kelapa.

How to go & top spots to see

Jakarta’s Soekarno–Hatta International Airport is the primary gateway to Jakarta and Indonesia. This airport serves the country’s most extensive flight network. You can fly direct from most major airports in Asia & Australia.

Including Singapore (1.5 hours), Kuala Lumpur (2 hours, 15 minutes), Bangkok (3.5 hours), Manila (4.5 hours), Sydney (7 hours) & Melbourne (6.5 hours). Major airlines are AirAsia, Batik Air, Citilink, Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, Nam Air & Sriwijaya Air.

 

Top spots & things to do

Visit the sights in Central Jakarta including Monas (National Monument of Indonesia) at Merdeka Square, Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta Cathedral & National Museum of Indonesia.

Walk around historic Jakarta Old Batavia. Explore Fatahillah Square, Jakarta History Museum, Wayang Museum & Maritime Museum

Wander around Glodok (Chinatown) and go on a food walk in Pasar Baru (Jakarta’s oldest market).

Enjoy the nightlife at Kemang, Skye Bar, Ecobar & Jalan Jaksa.

Spend a day at Taman Mini Indonesia, Seaworld Ancol or Ancol Dreamland.

Go shopping at Mangga Dua, Blok M, Pasar Ikan and huge malls in Central Jakarta.

Head east to Medan, Lake Toba, Bandah Aceh & Sumatra.

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13. Bandung

Dusun Bambu, Bandung, Indonesia

Why go — Bandung is one of the best places to go if you are looking for a side trip near Jakarta. Located high in the mountains, this city is literally cool. Bandung enjoys comfy cool year-round temperatures, verdant pine forests & scenic highland views. It is also the country’s outlet shopping capital. This city is a must-visit for art & nature lovers, foodies, and shopaholics looking for cheap bargains.

How to go & top spots to see

Bandung is 3 hours southeast of Jakarta by bus or train. The Jakarta to Bandung train route is scenic. So, be sure not to miss it. You can also fly direct to Bandung-Husein Sastranegara Airport from Singapore (2 hours), Kuala Lumpur (2 hours), and Johor Bahru (2 hours).

And domestic, from Bali (1.5 hours), Medan (2.5 hours), Yogyakarta (1 hour), Surabaya (2 hours). And smaller airports, including Padang, Palembang, Pekanbaru, Bandar Lampung, Pontianak, Semarang, Balikpapan, Banjarmasin, Batam, or Solo.

Top spots & things to do

Go aboard the scenic Jakarta-Bandung Train.

Find inspiration at Nuart Sculpture Park.

Take a tour of Dusun Bambu.

Learn how to play an Angklung (Indonesian bamboo instrument).

Shop ’til you drop at outlet stores.

See Bandung’s colonial architecture.

Relax at trendy cafes & coffee shops in Bandung.

Enjoy Kawa Putih and nearby highlands.

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Note: Destinations featured above are not listed by rank.

Special thanks to Wonderful Indonesia & Trip of Wonders by the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia for bringing me to many of the places featured above.

Got places in mind that should be on this list? Share your photos and videos and tag #detourista on Facebook and Instagram.

Don’t stop here

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