Indonesia is a large country made up of around 13,000 islands. The islands offer diverse landscapes – from the volcanic Java and Sumatra, to the dense forest of Kalimantan, to the coral island of Sumba. If you are looking for a beach holiday with plenty of other activities – including ancient cities, orangutans and Komodo dragons, and great trekking – then Indonesia is a perfect holiday destination.
Beach Holidays in Indonesia
Indonesia has great beaches – from the party resorts of Bali to secluded beaches on lesser known islands. The size of Indonesia means that you will be able to find a beach and hotel that matches exactly what you are looking for.
Bali Beach Holidays
Bali is the main island for beach holidays in Indonesia. There are lots options – from areas with a lot of nightlife, to quiet and secluded resorts, and from white sands to darker volcanic beaches.
Seminyak is a popular area for luxury holidays. It is close enough to the main nightlife centre of the island – Kuta – that you can easily head there for a night out, but far enough away to avoid the negative impacts that come with a party town. Seminyak itself has plenty of bars and restaurants.
Sanur is another popular destination, although it is quieter than Kuta and has calmer waters due to a protective reef – making it a popular destination for family beach holidays in Indonesia. The beach at Sanur is long and good for water sports – including kitesurfing and paragliding. There are lots of restaurants as well.
There are lots of other beach options on Bali, including the more secluded areas of Candidasa and Lovina.
There are good dive sites all around Bali – there are some popular ones very close to the shore, or you can go further away to find quieter sites. Bali is host to a diverse range of fish including barracudas, parrot fish, trigger fish as well as turtles.
Bali is a popular surfing spot and there are beaches to suit all levels. There are also lots of surf schools, nearly all have courses aimed at beginners.
Boat trips are easy to organise from Bali and are a great way to explore the island, smaller islands around Bali and find the best snorkeling spots.
Lombok Beach Holidays
Lombok is a quieter alternative to Bali. There is only one main resort, and even there the beach is very quiet in comparison, if you are looking for beautiful beaches without the crowds and nightlife then Lombok may be the best option.
The main resort on Lombok is Senggigi. The long beach has a number of hotels and beach bars on, but they are more spaced out than on Bali, and around the rest of the island you can find some very quiet beaches.
The water around Lombok is filled with turtles – and as the water is so clear you often don’t need snorkelling equipment to see them, and can even spot them from the beach. The diving is also amazing and the dive sites are quieter than those nearer Bali.
Gili Islands Beach Holidays
Three islands make up the Gilis. Gili Trawangan is the largest and most developed, and has the best range of hotels and nightlife. The other islands are much smaller and quieter. Motorised vehicles are banned on all three of the islands – the only way to get around is walking, cycling or on traditional horse drawn carts.
The area is great for island hopping, and getting boats between them is easy. Gili Meno – the smallest island – has a path around its coast that can be walked in under 2 hours, although that doesn’t involve stopping at any of the beaches or restaurants on the way round, or stopping to see the island’s iguanas.
As with the other islands, the Gilis have great dive and snorkeling sites.
Where to Go in Indonesia
Indonesia is a large country and there is a lot more to see and do than lie on the beach. Each island has a distinct look and feel so it’s worth visiting a few if you have time.
Bali is best known for its beaches – but it has much more. The island has over 10,000 temples, dramatic volcanoes, colonial hill towns, endless rice paddies and forests. You can see the island as part of a multi-destination trip or as day trips from a beach resort.
Mount Batur is a large volcano on the island that you can climb. Climbing before dawn is popular so that you can watch the sunrise from the top. On the way down there are hot and cold springs where you can swim.
Of the island’s thousands of temples Pura Batukaru and Pura Ulun Danu Bratan are two of the most attractive. Pura Batukaru is a large temple complex surrounded by forest on the slopes of Bali’s second highest mountain, whilst Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is a beautiful 17th Century temple on a small island in the middle of Lake Bratan.
Ubud is the cultural centre of the island. The city has lots of art studios and galleries, with a particular focus on carvings. It is also a good place from which to explore the other central sites of Bali including Mount Batur, Lake Bratan and the Sumatran Elephant sanctuary at TARO Elephant Safari Park. A lot of activites can be organised from Ubud – trekking and white water rafting are particularly popular.
Java and Jakarta
Java is the most populous Indonesian island, and the most populous island in the world. It has had a tumultuous history: around 800 years of Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms gave way to the rise of Islam in the 15th Century, before the Dutch colonised the island.
Jakarta is the largest city on the island and the capital of Indonesia. The city is very good for shopping and nightlife. And whilst it may not be the most attractive or historic city on the island, it has some great museums on the country’s history and some well-preserved colonial buildings.
Yogyakarta is an ancient city and seen as the cultural centre of Java. The city is built around the Sultan’s Palace, where you can still see attendant’s in their customary dress. Yogyakarta is famous for its arts – including carving, painting and the Ramayana ballet.
Surabaya is the second largest city in Indonesia. The city is very lively and has a mix of cultures that makes it unique. The city has a large China Town and lots of Chinese temples; an historic Arab quarter that contains maze like streets leading to mosques; and remnants of its Dutch colonial history.
Bandung is a hill town near Jakarta that is used as a weekend getaway due to its cooler climate. From the town you can easily explore the hot springs and geysers of the Tangkuban Prahu crater.
Bogor is a small town on Java surrounded by mountain villages. The town was originally built as a Dutch hill station and has popular botanical gardens.
To the east of Java is the city of Malang, which is surrounded by volcanoes. The city centre has a Colonial feel and a cooler climate, but the main draw is the volcanoes – and in particular Mount Bromo.
Borobudur is an amazing collection of ancient temples often compared to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Bagan in Burma. The temples were built in the 8th and 9th Centuries but fell into disuse and were covered by ash from volcanic eruptions for hundreds of years. The complex is built in a concentric pattern surround a central Stupa. There are hundreds of Buddha statues decorating the complex.
Prambanan is a Hindu temple complex that was built around 50 years after Borobudur in the 9th Century and is also worth a visit.
Java has a number of volcanoes (many of them still active). The most famous is Krakatau, which is in the sea off Java. Krakatau’s fame is due to its 1883 eruption that is said to be the loudest sound ever made – it was heard as far away as Australia. The volcanic ash remained in the sky for 3 years, and was seen all over the earth, whilst the Tsunami it created had an impact as far away as the English Channel. A new volcano ‘Child of Krakatau’ has now been formed that neighbours the original. You can visit the island – there is no wildlife or plants, but it provides a unique swimming opportunity.
Sumatra is a large island to the north of Java. The island is less densely populated than Java and is heavily forested. These forests are home to the island’s most famous inhabitants – orangutans. Sumatra is one of the last places that you can see the primates in the world and the island is a great choice for nature lovers.
Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of Borneo Island. It is home to the best national park in Indonesia – Tanjung Puting. The park is a mixture of forest, mangroves and rivers. The best way to see it is by boat, travelling along the quiet backwaters, where you can see crocodiles and lots of birds. The main draw of the national park is the orangutan – it is one of the best places in the world to see them.
Komodo National Park
The Komodo National Park covers 29 islands – including Komodo itself and its neighbour Rinca. Komodo dragons live on many of these islands – although Komodo Island is the most popular place to spot them. There are around 3000 dragons alive in the wild today, and the national park is the only place you can see them.
Apart from seeing the famous lizards, the islands themselves are beautiful and have dramatic scenery. The best way to reach Komodo island is from the island of Flores (which itself is home to some of the dragons).
Sumba is one of the least visited islands in Indonesia. The island sits to the south of Indonesia, and is formed from coral reefs and sedimentary rock, in contrast to the volcanic origins of the most of the Indonesian islands.
Colonialists didn’t take much of an interest in the island as it was seen as too inhospitable for their purposes. This means that the culture of the island is more traditionally Indonesian, and has had less western influence than other islands.
The west of Sumba is the best area to visit and experience the traditional animist belief system, including visiting its many tombs.
In addition to quiet beaches, Lombok is a good place for trekking and cycling. The most popular trek is up Mount Rinjani – an active volcano that can be seen from anywhere on the island. The trek to the top takes around 7 hours and starts in thick forest, which thins out as you reach the top and are rewarded with fantastic views. Many people camp at the top (with a guide) and wake up to catch sunset before descending.
Cycling around Lombok is a great way to explore the island, and in particular the indigenous Sasak villages that have survived its tumultuous history.
Sulawesi is one of the larger Indonesian islands and has a densely forested and largely untouched interior that makes it great for wildlife. The island is home to pig deer, dwarf buffalo, and the world’s smallest primate – the tarsier.
The sea around the island also has the best diving in Indonesia.
Indonesia is such a big country, has so many different islands, and so many different things to see that the itinerary possibilities are endless. Below are some suggestions, but we can tailor any itinerary to your specific needs.
Bali Beach and Culture
If you are mainly after a beach holiday but want to see some culture, we suggest a trip to Bali. You could stay in the resort of Sanur on the south coast, before travelling to the cultural centre of Ubud, and then onto the quieter northern coast for some more time on the beach.
Java and Sumatra
If you want to understand and explore the culture and history of Indonesia then a trip around Java and Sumatra could be perfect. Start off with a few days in the capital Jakarta to understand the history of the country and visit Krakatau, before heading to the ancient city of Yogyakarta. From here you can explore the amazing temple complex of Borobudur, before heading onto Melang in the east of the island. From Melang head to Sumatra to see the orangutans.
Best of Indonesia
If you want to see as much of the country as possible then you can start in Jakarta, and head to Yogyakarta and Borobudur. From here you can fly to Kalimantan to go on a safari through the Tanjung Puting national park to see crocodiles and orangutans.
After Kalimantan you can head to the beach – either Bali or Lombok depending on if you are looking for nightlife or something more peaceful. From either of these you can explore the Gili Islands, and then head over to Flores – the gateway to the Komodo National Park – to see Komodo dragons.
Where to Stay in Indonesia
Java, Bali and Lombok all have a good range of luxury hotels and resorts. Outside of these islands, and outside of the main tourist destinations on these islands, there is less choice but there are some good eco-resorts on lesser known islands.
When to Go to Indonesia
Indonesia is a good place to go from May to October, with July and August having the best weather. Temperatures are hot all year round, but from November to April there is frequent rain and it is often cloudy.
Getting Around Indonesia
For longer distances (between islands or cities on a big island) a flight is the most practical to get around, whilst shorter distances between islands can be done by boat. If you are visiting sites or travelling between cities on a smaller island, the best way to get around is using a car and driver.
Getting to Indonesia
There are no direct flights at the moment from the UK to Indonesia, however there are lots of connecting flights with short stopovers.