Lonely Planet’s Indonesia Highlights

Mar 13th, 2010, in Travel, by

A discussion of Indonesia’s finest, according to Indonesia’s best travel guide, Lonely Planet.

Lonely Planet
The new ninth edition (published January 2010) of “Lonely Planet: Indonesia” recently hit Indonesian bookstores, retailing at e.g. Periplus for Rp378 800.

I will review other parts of the book in future postings, but in this article I will focus on the first few pages:

Highlights of Indonesia.

Here is a list, with links to more detail of each destination. For simplicity, they are split into different themes or sections, in order of west to east.

Parks/Scenery Cultural Diving/Beaches
  • Lake Toba
  • Ujung Kulon NP
  • Mt Bromo
  • Tanjung Puting NP
  • Loksado
  • Komodo NP
  • Mt Kelimutu
  • Ternate Harbour
  • Lake Sentani
  • Borobudur Temple
  • Sukuh Temple
  • Ubud
  • Tanah Toraja
  • West Timor
  • Baliem Valley
  • Clubbing in Bali & Jakarta
  • Pulau Weh
  • Batu Karas
  • Bingin Beach
  • Gili Islands
  • Pulau Derawan
  • Banda Islands
  • Pulau Bunaken
  • Pulau Morotai
  • Raja Ampat Islands
  • Or, if you want to explore a particular region, here they are again, this time separated into islands or provinces:

    Sumatra Java Bali
  • Lake Toba
  • Pulau Weh
  • Ujung Kulon NP
  • Mt Bromo
  • Borobudur Temple
  • Sukuh Temple
  • Batu Karas
  • Clubbing
  • Ubud
  • Bingin
  • Clubbing
  • Kalimantan Nusa Tenggara Sulawesi
  • Tanjung Puting NP
  • Loksado
  • Pulau Derawan
  • Gili Islands
  • Komodo NP
  • West Timor
  • Tanah Toraja
  • Pulau Bunaken
  • Maluku West Papua
  • Banda Islands
  • Pulau Morotai
  • Ternate Harbour
  • Lake Sentani
  • Baliem Valley
  • Raja Ampat Islands
  • Parks/Scenery

    Indonesia’s tropical climate and mountainous topography gives it a wide range of highlights; unique flora and fauna, along with some amazing landscapes and scenery.

    Lake Toba
    Lake Toba, North Sumatra
    Noteworthy as the world’s largest volcanic lake and one of the largest inland lakes in Asia, it’s surrounded by great views and the very friendly Toba Batak people.

    Ujung Kulon Rhino
    Ujung Kulon National Park, Banten
    Home of the increasingly endangered one-horned rhinoceros, and some of the little remaining rainforest in Java.

    Mt Bromo
    Mt Bromo, East Java
    Indonesia’s most visited volcano, if not it’s most (in)famous. A frequent stopover on the backpacker trail through Java to Bali.

    Tanjung Puting
    Tanjung Puting National Park, Central Kalimantan
    An eco-tourist destination where you can get up close and personal with some of Indonesia’s endangered orangutans.

    Loksado, South Kalimantan
    A protected rainforest where the preferred way to travel is by boat.

    Kelimutu Picture
    Mt Kelimutu, East Nusa Tenggara
    Inspiring and similarly noteworthy, a rare combination of three volcanic lakes, each a different colour.

    Komodo Island/Natural Park, East Nusa Tenggara
    Home to the most well-known of Indonesia’s many uniques creatures.

    Lake Sentani
    Lake Sentani, Papua.
    Sentani isn’t just home to Jayapura’s airport, but also this lovely and picturesque lake. I know one person with a middle name “Sentani”; his pilot father remembers how much he enjoyed flying over it.


    The people of Indonesia are certainly multi-cultural; they speak 726 different languages, 247 of them in Papua alone. So whether you’re an anthropologist, archaeologist or just interested in learning about different cultures, there is something for everyone in Indonesia.

    Borobudur, Yogyakarta.
    Indonesia’s most famous and deservedly World Heritage Listed Buddhist temple, visited by David Beckham in 2007 and soon to be visited by the Obamas. It also is regarded as one of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die.

    Sukuh Temple
    Sukuh Temple, Central Java.
    Arguably Central Java’s finest religious monument, near Solo.

    Ubud, Bali.
    Recently voted Asia’s top city as well as one of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die, Ubud is justifiably popular as a place to relax, learn/appreciate Balinese culture and handicrafts, or just a change of pace from the south of Bali.

    Tanah Toraja
    Tanah Toraja, South Sulawesi.
    Home to a unique culture where funerals are the biggest party. It also is regarded as one of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die, and the location of arguably Indonesia’s most unusual postcard.

    West Timor
    West Timor, East Nusa Tenggara.
    Included in the new edition at the expense of Sumba for its unique culture and bee-hive houses.

    Baliem Papua
    Baliem Valley, Papua.
    Undiscovered until 1945, it is surrounded by amazing mountain scenery and lots of great hiking opportunities. It also is regarded as one of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die.

    Clubbing in Bali and Jakarta.
    A somewhat more controversial choice IMHO (as it’s not really unique to Indonesia)… but if that’s your thing, then that’s another way you will also enjoy your time in Indonesia.

    Diving and Beaches

    These locations are all fantastic, so arguments over which one is the best are futile. Just visit and enjoy as many as you can!

    Pulah Weh diving
    Pulau Weh, Aceh.
    Enjoying a revival in tourist numbers. You can read and see more about it here.

    Batu Karas
    Batu Karas, West Java.
    Near Pangandaran, this volcanic sand beach is a lovely place to sit back and relax. Apparently, it is also a great place to learn to surf.

    Bingin beach, Bali.
    One of Bali’s many surf beaches, this one is for the more experienced surfer.

    Gili Islands, Lombok.
    Previously noted for its quiet beaches, the Gili Islands offer a respite from reality for a fraction of the cost of some of its peers next door in Bali. You can now travel there direct from Bali by Perama boat. Read more here.

    Pulau Derawan
    Pulau Derawan, East Kalimantan.
    If it’s Lonely Planet writer M. Cohen’s favourite place in all of Borneo/Kalimantan (including Malaysia and Brunei), then it must be pretty good. Read more in Best deserted beaches.

    Pulau Bunaken, North Sulawesi.
    Forms part of the famous Coral Triangle, and recently hosted an international conference on ocean protection. Former Miss Indonesia and current WWF Marine Conservation Ambassador Nadine Chandrawinata is apparently a fan, after learning to scuba dive there in 2006.

    Banda Islands beach
    Banda Islands, Maluku.
    It has some very nice and quiet beaches, possibly because it can be very difficult to get there in the first place. Apparently, the diving is spectacular too.

    Ternate Harbour, North Maluku.
    Home to such lovely sea views, which currently adorn the Rp1000 note.

    Around Morotai Island, Papua.
    The unique attraction of diving here is the many World War 2 relics that still dot the marine landscape. Some really nice beaches too.

    Raja Ampat
    Raja Ampat Islands, West Papua.
    A new addition to the Highlights of Indonesia this edition, deposing diving in Biak. Again, its relative isolation can be good (conservation and not crowded) or bad (difficult to go there), depending on your viewpoint.

    Do you agree with Lonely Planet’s choice of locations? Why/why not?

    Regardless, please also share your favourite places in Indonesia below.

    20 Comments on “Lonely Planet’s Indonesia Highlights”

    1. inuel says:

      Indonesia bener-bener indah,.aku bangga jadi anak indonesia 🙂

    2. bs says:

      Aku setujuh, benar indah sekali. Tapi kapan mulai bersih-bersih pantai?

    3. David says:

      On beaches, here was a picture apparently from Bali that I posted over here.

      That list, I’ve only been to three of those places, poorly travelled, I’m not including ‘clubbing’ though which I have unenthusiastically done but not in either Bali or Jakarta.

    4. timdog says:

      “Highlights” lists are, always, entirely arbitrary and of very little meaning. And as anyone who has, with four googling minutes to spare, ever had to come up with a gap-plugging box text of “ten interesting facts about whales” or “Bhutan – what you didn’t know” will tell you, they are not usually compiled with the most positive of outlooks…

      Still, some of the places should make it onto an “Indonesia highlights” list, and some are rather random.
      In Java, it would be wantonly contrary to omit Bromo and Borobudur. Batu Karas is a very nice little spot; very peaceful, but perhaps not a “highlight”. And Candi Sukuh? It’s got a fine location, and it’s a little unusual, but to put in on a highlight list is frankly bizarre. Um… Prambanan anyone? Or if you want “little known” temples try the Gedung Songo – much better. Or my current point of obsession in East Java, Jolotundo…

      And the Nusa Tenggara ones? I suppose the Gilis get on there by default, if that’s your thing, as, of course, does Komodo, but it should also go something like this:
      Mount Rinjani, Lombok,
      Traditional villages + Mount Inerie near Bajawa, Flores
      Kelimutu, Flores,
      Alor – beaches and traditional culture (and diving, apparently)
      Sumba – one of the most deeply traditional, little touristed islands in the country, but very easily accessible for an independent traveller.

    5. Oigal says:

      Your picture Patung pretty much sums up any “tourist” attraction including those listed by the Timdog. Unfortunately it is getting harder and harder to look past the filth when Indonesia’s neighbours have grasped the concept of clean = money.

      It is one of those weird contradictions that is Indonesia brings rampant unthinking Nationalists mobs popping into existence at a moments notice as they they stand “waste” deep in their own refuse and excrement.

    6. Q says:

      No Prambanan Temple on the list? I always thought it was more beautiful than Borobudur.

      Oigal: Yes, I agree. I am one of those flashpackers that people despise, and I remember once I cancelled a visit to Bromo just because my group couldn’t find a clean hotel. That was probably 15 yrs ago though.

    7. Chris says:

      Hi Q,

      I agree with you about Prambanan. It’s also World Heritage-listed, and to my way of thinking is more artistically and intrinsically interesting with its depiction of many different gods.

      It also has nightly performances of (an edited version of) the Ramayana, with multi-lingual programs to explain what’s going on.

    8. trane says:

      I agree very much with the choice of Tanjung Puting. And Bromo, Borobodur and Prambanan should be on any list also.

    9. ET says:

      Aku setujuh, benar indah sekali. Tapi kapan mulai bersih-bersih pantai?

      Imagine if Bali would be clean and unspoiled. It would be stampeded by hordes of foreign tourists, prices would skyrocket and what’s left of the sawah would be turned into parking lots.

      Every cloud has a silver lining.

    10. john says:

      INteresting how some people are blaming Toyota for the tragic loss of life of 3 youths in Menteng earlier this month. Can I suggest if it this sort of attitude that is also encapsulated in the population’s attitude to tourist resources. In short, it must be someone’s fault why the country is so dirty, certainly not mine.

    11. ET says:

      An original idea would be to organize in Bali sightseeing trips of unfinished and abandoned building projects. I believe they call them ‘white elephants’ and there are a lot of them. The one in the picture below is in Padangbai, overlooking one of the last pristine and clean beaches in Bali.

    12. Winmar says:

      Bali still gets its fair share of tourists despite its lack of cleanliness. I’m not sure too many people from Boganville NSW have decided going against there for their Bintang holiday for that reason.

      I heard Prambanan got damaged in the earthquake a couple of years ago. How’s it looking now?

      Indonesia’s brilliant. It’s only been two month since I was there, but I want to go back.

      On another note, check http://www.booko.com.au for the cheapest prices for the book in question. The Book Despository will post to different countries for free, so you can get it much more cheaply through them than in a bookshop in Melbourne or Jakarta.

    13. David says:

      Thanks for the tip on booko Winmar, great site, here’s the lonely planet book page – http://www.booko.com.au/books/isbn/9781741048308, first result for most books is usually Book Depository which claims

      Free shipping worldwide

      I could go nuts on that site presently…

      5 mins later……when you actually get to ordering a book it adds something extra

      Free shipping worldwide
      ….to these countries

      And of course Indonesia isn’t on the list…

    14. harynyc says:

      The Padangbai project was halted because of a lack of permits. Still a blight on the cliff.

      You can’t escape the plastics on the beach. Ask anyone who has visited pristine Pantai Bira
      ( kiriman Ujung Pandang) or beautiful Bunaken ( kiriman Manado). Sods.

    15. David says:

      About Book Depository, quoting myself

      And of course Indonesia isn’t on the list…

      It is now! I complained and they added it in on a “trial basis”, so we’ll see how it goes!!

    16. ET says:

      You can’t escape the plastics on the beach. Ask anyone who has visited pristine Pantai Bira

      Last time I went there – already some 5 years ago – it was still clean. But then access was much more restricted and only the brave and the fit managed the climb.

    17. ET says:

      Here is a picture of this beach in Padangbai 5 years ago. As you can see, still clean as a whistle.

    18. Winmar says:

      Looks lovely in that picture. I’ve never had the pleasure.

      Glad to hear you had some success with Book Depository, Patung! I always end up buying from them. Why are so many companies reluctant to ship to Indonesia? Unreliability of the Indonesian postal system?

    19. David says:

      I got two replies from Book Depository, first one said their shipping agent could not send to Indonesia, second reply a few days later from a different person, I think the boss, said they would now add Indonesia on a trial basis.

      I got my first order from them a few days ago, took three weeks from time of ordering, I think two of those weeks were shipping time, the first week ‘processing’. They’re often a couple of dollars more expensive than Amazon, but minus the $10 amazon shipping fee per book.

    20. Bro Rajawali says:

      I’m a Dayak photographer, by my handwritten, i would like to invite every one to visit West Borneo now and you could see thousand unique of the Indigenous life otherwise you’ll lost them forever because the uptown invasion especially from the Java islands, the invasion will wipe some most valuable the indigenous traditions and their life and would heard the story only. the long ear of Indigenous of West Borneo will disappear next several year, Visit it or lost it !

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