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Whether you love or hate Bali, one fact is undeniable. When it comes to Indonesia, this little island is by far the most talked-about (and most visited) place in the archipelago nation. However despite of the high tourism revenue it generates, Indonesia neither begins nor ends with Bali.
Below you’ll find five incredible Indonesia travel experiences that have nothing to do with Bali. Whether you’re in search of culture, ecotourism or downright relaxation, these Indonesia destinations show the dramatic extent to which the country transcends its most famous island.
KALAMANTAN ORANGUTAN (image credit: Robert Schrader)
The Orangutan Forests of Kalimantan
Indonesia has gained worldwide infamy due to the destruction of its rainforests and the orangutans that live within them, but not everywhere in the country has fallen victim to the palm oil industry. Located in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), Gunung Palung National Park is still home to wild orangutans, though you may have to trek for several days in order to see them.
HOW TO GET THERE: Fly from Jakarta to Ketapang, which requires a stop in Pontianak. Once you pay your fee at the park office, they’ll tell you when and where to meet your guide (as is the case with Kawah Ijen, independent visits to Gunung Palung are not allowed).
KAWAH-IJEN (image credit: Robert Schrader)
Kawah Ijen: East Java’s Blue Fire Volcano
Many of the “amazing places in the world” that go viral on Facebook aren’t actually real – or are heavily edited – but I can personally attest to the fact that Indonesia’s “blue fire” volcano, Kawah Ijen, is the genuine article. You’ll need to start your hike at midnight if you want to see this crazy phenomenon, (which is caused by high sulfur content in the volcano), so that you can arrive inside the crater before sunrise.
HOW TO GET THERE: The nearest city to Kawah Ijen is Banyuwangi, which is accessible from Jakarta (via plane), Surabaya (via train) and Bali (via ferry). Once you arrive, you’ll need to meet a local guide—you can’t hike Kawah Ijen without one.
YOGYAKARTA (image credit: Robert Schrader)
Yogyakarta: In the Sultan’s Domain
Indonesia is rapidly modernizing, but much of its ancient culture remains intact. Nowhere is this more evident than in the city of Yogyakarta, located in central Java in close proximity to the iconic sights of Borobudur and Prambanan. The most interesting thing about this laid-back, history-filled city? Its ruler is a sultan, whose Kraton Palace you can still visit!
HOW TO GET THERE: Take one of the frequent and cheap flights from Jakarta or Bali. Alternatively, travel by bus from secondary points in Java, such as Semarang or Solo.
TANA TORAJA (image credit: Robert Schrader)
Tana Toraja’s Festive Funerals
Would you believe I celebrated my 29th birthday at someone else’s funeral? It might sound macabre, but once you visit Tana Toraja, on Sulawesi Island, you’ll understand why I made this choice. Follow up your trip to Tana Toraja, which in spite of its pagan-style rituals is actually mostly Christian, in the raucous city of Makkasar or Manado, the dive capital of northern Sulawesi.
HOW TO GET THERE: Fly to Makkasar from Jakarta or Bali, then take an overnight bus to Toraja, or a short (but expensive) regional flight to Pongtiku, the closest airport to this funeral tourism hub.
RAJA AMPAT (image credit: Robert Schrader)
Raja Ampat: Paradise on Earth
One reason Bali disappointed me (yes, I’m one of those travelers) is that its beaches are mostly unspectacular. For Indonesia’s best ones—some of the best in the world, really—you’ll need to head further east, to the dreamy Raja Ampat archipelago. Even if you don’t partake in scuba diving this exclusive, ecologically protected paradise, you’re unlikely to find more perfect beaches anywhere else.
HOW TO GET THERE: Fly to Sorong, which usually requires a stop in Makkasar, even from Jakarta. From there, you’ll need to take a ferry (to the entrance of the park) and a speed boat (to your hotel or resort).
The Bottom Line
Indonesia’s got a lot more than Bali going for it, no matter your thoughts on Southeast Asia’s most famous island. Whether you trek up an otherworldly volcano and through an orangutan-filled forest, discover ancient cultures in locations convenient and remote or simply lounge on some of the best beaches in the world, the wealth of Indonesia destinations beyond Bali is sure to delight and impress you.
What you need to know
Flights to Indonesia are available with most of the major Asian airlines, as well as several low-cost airlines.
Air NZ flies direct from Auckland to Denpasar (Bali) from April to October, but indirect services are available year-round.
Peak season is July-August and around Christmas. Monsoon/wet season is November-March.
Most visitors to Indonesia can travel visa-free for up to 30 days. To check if your passport is on the approved countries list, click here.
For more information on flights to Indonesia, or to book your own Indonesia holiday package, email me your names and preferred dates of travel.
Robert Schrader | Leave Your Daily Hell
Robert Schrader is a writer, photographer and creator of the travel blog Leave Your Daily Hell. When he’s not exploring Indonesian destinations like the ones he’s listed above, you can find him in Bangkok, where he currently resides. Keep up with Robert on his blog, Facebook or Instagram.
DISCLAIMER: All opinions expressed in this article are the author’s. This post may contain affiliate links for products I love. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. All affiliate products and companies are recommended by Burgess Travel Co and may or may not be products used by the featured traveller. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.