After our 13 month trip through Southeast Asia, India & Sri Lanka, we went home with a clear idea of what our favourite country was… Indonesia. Despite the extreme difficulty of travel and the constant bargaining (and getting ripped off), there was just something about this wild and exotic country that stuck with us.
Although 2 months wasn’t nearly long enough to see everything that Indo has to offer, we did get a pretty good image of the country and its people. Here are 5 of the highlights of travelling in the world’s largest archipelago.
1. Lake Toba
Imagine an island, on a lake, in a volcano crater, on a bigger island in the middle of Indonesia. Lake Toba is without a doubt one of the most naturally striking places we’ve ever visited. Here you can stay in funky Batak style homes right not the lake shore.
You can wake up each morning and dive head first into the crystal clear water of the volcano lake, spend the morning doing yoga, then explore the Batak villages that surround the lake before eating delicious Indonesian food for dinner and watching the sun set behind the crater walls.
Add to the natural beauty and cool villages a contiguously laid-back vibe, and you have one of the most intoxicating travel destinations on Earth. You really can’t beat Lake Toba.
2. Bukit Lawang
“Jungle trek, jungle trek, in Bukit Lawang. See the monkeys. See the birds. See orangutan! Hey!”
This is the jingle bell tune that the proud local guides sing around the jungle village of Bukit Lawang and they’ve made up the tune for good reason. This small Sumatran community is best known for the surrounding jungle and rainforest where visitors can do an overnight hike to spot wild orangutans in their natural habitat.
Seeing one of the orange haired apes up close and personal (and not in a zoo), is definitely a highlight of any visit to Indonesia.
3. Komodo Island
Who doesn’t want to walk around an isolated, Jurassic Park-style island inhabited only by enormous scaly dragons? A trip to Komodo Island is probably the most exhilarating experience you can have in Indonesia.
The enormous dragons seem sedated at first glance, but any sudden movements and the giant beasts will remind you of just how quickly they can move.
The guides will walk you around the island and tell you tales of different rangers and tourists who have been bitten, killed and eaten by the prehistoric lizards. Just keep your distance from them and you should be safe enough, although may not feel so safe when you realize that your guide’s only weapon is a slender bamboo pole.
4. Gili T
The perfect hangout for backpackers, stoners and party animals, Gilli T is the epitome of a Southeast Asian tourist trail hot spot. Here you can buy mushrooms at the bar, smoke joints and watch TV or just lay on one of the picture perfect beaches all day and drink beer.
If you’re not into the more hedonistic activities, consider hiring a bike and riding it around the sandy paths that circumnavigate the tiny island.
There’s a good chance that your first impression of Bali will be its tourist capital, Kuta. Don’t let the dirty streets, noisy bars and overcrowded beaches of Kuta ruin your impression of the rest of the island.
In fact, Bali still holds some of the country’s best kept travel secrets, including the volcanic landscapes of Kintamani and the beautiful beaches of Nyung Nyung and Gunung Payung.
Also don’t miss a visit to Ubud. Despite a recent increase in tourism after the 2010 Elizabeth Gilbert novel – Eat Pray Love, the tiny yoga and meditation town still has its charm.
The streets can be quite crowded in the high season, but you can rent a beautiful Balinese-style home on the outskirts of town for less than $500 / month or $35 / night! If you’re looking for a hotel or a beautiful resort, check out Traveloka.com.
There’s So Much More…
After two months in Indonesia, we really only scratched the surface, but we’re hoping to return one day soon to explore more of this culturally and geographically diverse archipelago. Sulawesi keeps hidden tribes secret, the ring of fire bursts with colorful corals and the far north of Java has a wonderfully Islamic feel. Indonesia is a place you could explore for a lifetime and it’s still one of our favourite countries in the world.
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