The Indonesia beyond Bali
As we step off the air-conditioned bus into a sun-drenched village we are immediately greeted by two things known well to Indonesia; its 30-degree heat and a group of smiling youngsters, viewing us with both curiosity and awe. Their faces make you feel invited, if you have been to Bali you are no stranger to the friendliness of its people but getting off the beaten track in the North of Sulawesi, is a whole different ball game.
At the end of April, I was invited by the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia to embark on a one-week adventure with a bunch of fellow travel writers.
We squashed 7 cities into 8 days, ran on little sleep, indulged in pristine waters, made life long friends and tapped into unspoilt sights.
Being half Indonesian, the fact that I had only been to Bali (before this trip) really annoys me. I am so grateful I can now share the true beauty my heritage has to offer. Indonesia is made up of over 17,000 islands making it the largest archipelago in the world.
Of the 17,000 islands, over 8,000 are inhabited, it consists of more than four hundred volcanoes, is home to astonishing biodiversity, and has the kindness humans ever! Culturally fascinating with a rich diversity of religion, temples, traditional music, rituals and ways of life, changing drastically from each island. Come with me and explore the Indonesia beyond Bali.
RELATED: 10 Amazing Things to do in Sulawesi
- 1 Nusa Islands
- 2 Komodo & Flores
- 3 Yogyakarta
- 4 Mount Bromo
- 5 Raja Ampat
- 6 Manado, North Sulawesi
- 7 Tondano Lake
- 8 Hill of Love
- 9 Bunaken Island
- 10 Tangkoko Nature Reserve
- 11 Where to stay in Manado?
- 12 Palu, Central Sulawesi
- 13 Talise Beach
- 14 Tanjung Karang
- 15 Where to stay in Palu?
- 16 Ambon, Maluku
- 17 Namalatu Beach
- 18 Ambon City
- 19 Saparua Island
- 20 Liang Beach
- 21 Where to stay in Ambon?
These neighbouring islands just off the Bali coast are definitely one of the best places to visit in Indonesia. Spend your days exploring by scooter, driving over the yellow bridge between Nusa Lembongan and Ceningan and visit all the amazing beaches.
About a 10-minute boat trip away you will find the famous Nusa Penida, which is home to one of the world’s most impressive cliff views ‘Keling King’ which you would have seen all over Instagram. Hot tip: try and spot a Manta Ray that swims off the shores.
Komodo & Flores
Komodo Island, part of the Lesser Sunda chain of Indonesian islands, famous for the Komodo dragon. The Komodo National Park covers the entire region and is home to more than 4,000 dragons, and made up of a mix of savannah, open grassland and tropical forests. Flores lies east of Komodo Island and west of Lembata Island. Its biggest appeal is the amazing Padar Island!
Grab your hiking shoes and being the summit to the peaks of Padar island for the most beautiful sight and one of the best things to do in Indonesia! The trek to the top only takes around 30 mins but the views are out of this world!
When planning what to do in Indonesia don’t look past Yogyakarta! Yogyakarta is a city located in the southern region of Java known for its traditional arts and cultural heritage. Your Yogyakarta Itinerary should include a visit to the ancients temples like Borobudur and Prambanan. This region is also located at the foot of the active Merapi volcano!
Also located on the island of Java, Mount Bromo is one of Indonesia’s most scenic places to visit which involves getting up in the middle of the night to hike to the summit for a stunning sunrise!
A few hours away is Mount Ijen the world’s largest highly acidic crater lake, it is also known for the mysterious blue flames that it produces making it one of the best places to visit in Indonesia. The views after the sun come up are really something! I recommend organising a tour, a lot of Indonesia is quite rural and not really built for tourism yet. This is both the charm and hindrance.
The Raja Ampat Islands are an Indonesian archipelago off the north-west tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula in West Papua. Comprising hundreds of jungle-covered islands, Raja Ampat is known for its beaches and coral reefs rich with marine life making it one of the best places to visit in Indonesia.
Raja Ampat liveaboards are a great option for both budget and luxury travellers as they take the stress out of organising the little details.
Manado, North Sulawesi
1.4748° N, 124.8421° E
Tondano Lake, the largest lake in North Sulawesi, sits 600 metres above sea level. It covers an impressive 4,278 hectares and with its lush vegetation and mystical mountain backdrop, it makes for a spectacular lunch stop. The lake, situated by the village of Remboken is around 30 km from Manado. Enjoy the local caught fish at one of the many food stalls and restaurants surrounding the lake.
Hill of Love
Bukit Kasih or Hill Of Love is located in the Minahasa Regency of North Sulawesi. On arrival, we were greeted by a mob of men with their owls wanting photos, thank goodness none of the group acknowledged this poor attempt at tourism. This sulphuric hill spans over 2435 steps to the top, and with active sulphur that has eroded parts of the track, the walk is eerie, to say the least.
This highland is called the Hill of Love because it is where people from different religions can gather and worship their own faith symbol in peaceful harmony. There are five houses of worship: a Catholic Church, a Christian church, a temple, a mosque and Hindu temple.
Bunaken Island is located in the bay of Manado in northern Sulawesi, Indonesia. Its main attraction is the incredible marine life. We took a ferry from the Harbour Marina port which took around 40 minutes. The translucent waters of the Bunaken seas allow for fantastic snorkelling, just be aware of the incredible albeit a tad scary cliff drop on the edge of the coral reef then plunges down more than 25 metres.
Tangkoko Nature Reserve
The Tangkoko Nature Reserve is a flora and fauna conservation area on Mount Tangkoko in the district of Bitung in the province of North Sulawesi, about one hour’s drive from Manado. The reserve is attractive for its unique wildlife, in particular, the Black Macaques.
Bonus: just on the other side of this jungle is Black Sand beach. We caught the last glimpse of light, perfect way to end the day!
Where to stay in Manado?
We stayed at the Mercure Manado Tateli Beach Resort, a 30-minute drive from Manado City and around 45 minutes from the airport. The grounds are beautiful, with exotic palm trees framing a huge lagoon-style pool or enjoy a game of tennis followed by a relaxing sauna. Loved the lobby at this hotel with its massive seat swings, the breakfast was decent also! Downside? It’s wifi, I had to sit at my door to access it.
Palu, Central Sulawesi
0.9003° S, 119.8780° E
Unfortunately, our flight was delayed for a few hours and we missed out on some planned activities in Palu. We arrived just in time to see the sunset over Talise Beach, a bunch of locals were around which made the experience all that more authentic. I love that side of travel that allows you to engage in a local community! It’s all about the people <3
We were welcomed by a maze of palm trees that lead to powdery white shores, pristine water, and rickety beach bungalows. Tanjung Karang Pantai (Beach) is located 40 minutes from Palu, it’s a great escape from the uninspired city life. We began our morning with a spot of snorkelling and Bintangs at 10 am, it was pure bliss!
Where to stay in Palu?
Strategically located in the centre of Palu, Hotel Santika Palu is just a 15-minute drive from Palu Airport. The rooms were clean and equipped with all the necessary amenities- the wifi even worked in my room! The hotel houses an outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre and full buffet breakfast.
Only a 10-minute drive from Talise Beach, make sure you venture down to see the sunset.
3.6554° S, 128.1908° E
We arrived at, Namalatu beach and were greeted by a bunch of school students, dressed in traditional performance clothes, an open-air stage, and a stunning backdrop. We took in the scenery and then sat back and watched a magical performance called the Sahureka-reka! We ended the morning with fresh young coconuts and selfies with the gorgeous children.
A beach with the perfect combination of coral and sand, located within just 30-minutes south of Ambon.
Ilmi Eco Tours will help to organise an experience like this, one which you won’t regret.
Ambon, the capital of MalukuIsland is one of the largest cities in Eastern Indonesia. We began our city tour with Ilmi Eco Tours, I can not recommend them enough! They looked after us during our time in Ambon and made sure everything was perfect!
Some highlights were:
-Ambon War Cemetery
-View from the top
We took a speedboat from our hotel and arrived at Haria Village Port. On arrival, we were greeted with a swarm of men casually observing our arrival.
We were first taken to Fort Duurstede & little museum and then wandered the traditional markets. With its friendly population, pretty villages, plentiful historical relics, stunning beaches and fine coral reefs, Saparua Island made for the perfect last day. I was hesitant to mention this spot as don’t want to spoil the untouched beauty of this secret island! Another island worth a visit is Pulau Macan from Jakarta, you can do a day trip as it only takes 2 hours from the mainland in a yacht.
After a day of exploring Saparua Island, we were taken to Liang Beach or White Sand Beach to see a traditional performance of sorts. The “Bamboo Gila” appropriately translates to Crazy Bamboo, and it is one of the strangest things I have witnessed. 7 or 8 men hold a piece of bamboo in their arms whilst being waved with a light flame. An enchanting ritual that still confuses me 😛
Where to stay in Ambon?
The centre of Ambon City is 30 minutes’ drive away, while Pattimura Airport is a 40-minute drive from the property. Offering stunning views of Natsepa Beach and the ocean, The Natsepa Resort and Conference Center definitely offers good first impressions!
My room was nice and spacious with a private balcony. The hotel boasts an outdoor pool, restaurant and a spa. The private beach was definitely the highlight! I wasn’t impressed with the lack of wifi, or my terrible room service experience!
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