Learning about the best things to do in Indonesia will elevate your experience in this South Asian country. Among the most popular countries in Asia, it’s often the most overlooked.
Made up of more than 17,000 islands, this hidden gem in South East Asia has surprises at every corner. Visitors will have plenty of chances to see and learn about the cultural heritage, diverse wildlife, and amazing beaches.
Although most people come to Indonesia because of Bali, this country offers much more. Let’s discover the adventurous opportunities you may not have known about in Indonesia.
1. Borobudur Temple
Borobudur Temple is made from two million stones and is glorious to behold at sunrise. Photo by Steffen B. on Unsplash
Borobudur Temple is a great archaeological complex dating back to the 8th century. The magnificent Buddhist temple in central Java is well-known for its artistic value and pilgrimage qualities.
More than the largest Buddhism temple in the world, the place is one of the marvellous places to visit in Indonesia. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage, covering more than 15,000 square metres and consisting of 72 stupas.
The Sailendra Dynasty started building the monument in the 8th century. It wasn’t until 1991 that the construction was complete due to massive religious shifts (from Buddhism to Islam) and historical events.
The temple has nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, with a massive dome or stupa on the topmost position. There are over 2,000 relief panels and more than 500 Buddha statues.
Some two million visitors come here every year to learn about the temple and its detailed stone displays. The opening hours are 6 am - 5 pm daily. The entrance fee is 350,000 IDR (~£18.5) for everyone.
2. Discover The Beauty Of Bali
Nusa Penida is a must-visit place in Bali for adventures of all ages. Photo by Nichapa - stock.adobe.com
Bali is undoubtedly the most popular and famous place to visit in Indonesia. From wonderful beaches and mountains to rice fields, it’s a whole package. It’s no wonder it’s the most visited destination in Asia, along with tourist-packed cities like Bangkok.
Besides natural beauty, there are opportunities for fun everywhere. As a shining gem of tourism, the island offers the Mount Batur trek, Nusa Penida day trip, Uluwatu Temple visit, etc. The fun activities are too many to count.
If a cultural trip is your cup of tea, don’t hesitate to partake in the traditional ceremonies and celebrations held throughout the year. There are gamelan shows, Mepantigan (mud wrestling), and Tirta Empul water cleaning rituals, to name just a few.
The list of things you shouldn’t miss in Bali goes on. The weather is nice, the travelling expense is budget-friendly, and the people are warm. There is no reason to pass such as wonderful Indonesian tourist attraction.
3. Visit A Volcano, Even Active Ones
A tour of the active volcanoes in Indonesia will leave you with unforgettable memories. Photo by Maxime LEVREL on Pexels
Due to being on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia has the most extensive collection of active volcanoes. So, of course, climbing one is the top thing to do in Indonesia, given a chance.
The natural phenomenon has become a popular tourist attraction thanks to its stunning beauty. The fantastic views from the top of the mountain can only be relished by those who have climbed it.
Mount Bromo, Rinjani, and Tambora are just a few among the countless choices for thrill seekers. However, not all mounts are safe to hike to the top; check the current news before embarking on a journey.
You can’t leave out the volcanic lakes and hot springs when you mention volcanoes. Bathing in these mineral-rich waters is relaxing and good for your health. You deserve a bath resort treatment after an exhausting day of trekking.
4. Observe The Dragons
Komodo National Park is one of the few places to find the world's most prominent and heaviest lizard. Photo by abimanyu photowork on Pexels
Do you want to see real dragons? They may not look like much, but the komodos are the closest thing we have to the mythical creature. Getting close and having a view of these endangered lizards is an unmissable Indonesia thing to do.
This large animal is called a dragon since Westerners learned about the rumours of a dragon-like lizard on the Lesser Sunda Island in the 1900s.
Although they can’t breathe fire or soar in the sky, the komodos are the biggest lizards on Earth. These carnivorous beasts’ average length is 10 feet, and they can live up to 30 years.
You can only see these apex predators in their natural habitat in five places in Indonesia: four islands within Komodo National Park (Lesser Sunda Islands of Komodo, Rinca island, Gili Montana, Gili Dasami), and the island of Flores.
Komodo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is located on the Komodo Islands, which you can access by boat from Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores.
Asides from the Komodo dragons, there are other natural wonders to explore, from Pink beach to Gili Lawa or Gili Laba Darat. The breathtaking sceneries and hiking trails are worth taking a chance to see at least once.
5. Learn To Appreciate The Silence
3-4 days before Nyepi, Hindu Balinese will perform a ritual near to beach to purify themselves and discard bad luck to the ocean. Image by evaychen from Pixabay
Nyepi, also known as the "Day of Silence", is a public holiday in Bali. On this Hindu celebration event, lights are turned off, traffic ceases, and the whole place is shut down for the next 24 hours.
You can’t go out to the street or beaches, but you can move around in the hotels or villas. You and the islanders become one as everyone rests and contemplates this occasion.
On the eve of Nyepi, the festivities known as Ogoh-Ogoh parades take place. Frightening giant dolls depicting demons are carried around the town. They will be burned away at the end of the day, signifying the purification of evil.
As no light and noise are allowed (or at least minimised), it’s an excellent chance to catch a breath and focus inwards. Thanks to the dim city lights, you can even do some quality stargazing on a cloudless night. This day is truly a thing to see in Indonesia for everyone.
6. Seeing Endangered Orangutans in The Wild
Observing Orangutans in their natural habitat is a rare and exceptional travel experience. Photo by Dan Dennis on Unsplash
The archipelago’s wildlife is nothing short of amazing. Indonesia is an excellent place for nature lovers who want to get close and personal with creatures in the wild.
Critically endangered, Orangutans are one of the top things to see in Indonesia. They are native only to Sumatra and Borneo; the islands are split between Indonesia and Malaysia.
The Bukit Lawang village in Sumantra provides sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres to see them swinging around. It is a more accessible way to view these great apes, but not a wild encounter.
It would be best if you trek into the deep rainforest, away from the tourist destinations. While it takes time and effort, the payoff is worth it.
The magical moments of viewing these creatures in the quiet jungles or on a klotok boat are unlike any other.
7. Explore “Paris Of Java”
Bandung is famous for its unique architectural style and atmosphere, similar to that of Paris and European at the time. Photo by Papilouz Studio - stock.adobe.com
Parijs van Java (Paris of Java) is what the Dutch used to call Bandung. It is called such owing to the European-influenced buildings that resemble Paris in the colonial ages. It is an unmissable place to visit in Indonesia in the Central Java region.
It’s super easy to get to this place as it has an airport. You can book a direct flight from Jakarta, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, or Solo. Travelling by train or bus is another option.
Bandung is a place to escape the bustling streets of Jataka. There are loads of activities for tourists, from wandering around tea fields to glamping in the woods.
8. Street Shopping For Indonesian Handicrafts & Arts
Along with coffee, Batik textiles are, without a doubt, one of the most famous products from this country. Photo by Mahmur Marganti on Unsplash
Indonesian handicrafts and artworks are masterfully crafted with unique styles and inspirations. Fortunately, you can take them back home to showcase or gift your loved ones at a reasonable price.
Learning about and collecting such items is a top Indonesian thing to do for every visitor. Owing to more than 500 ethnic groups and its own unique art and handicrafts, the nation has great cultural diversity and a lively market for such things.
Come to artisans' workshops, local markets, or shopping malls to get your hands on Indonesian handicrafts and souvenirs. Every tourist destination will likely have a souvenir shop. Some popular products include fabrics, pottery, wood carvings, jewellery, etc.
9. Go On A Shopping Spree In Jakarta
Jakarta, the capital city, is the melting pot of everything, from finance and politics to culture. Photo by jakartatravel - stock.adobe.com
Jakarta, or Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta, as the locals call it, is the largest city in Indonesia. The capital city is full of life, and spending a day or two here is the best thing to do in Indonesia.
It’s not extravagant to say it is one of the places for the best shopping experience of all South East Asia. You will get a shopaholic’s high exploring more than 150 shopping malls and markets dotted over the city.
There are many places to choose from: Grand Indonesia, Plaza Indonesia, or Glodok Chinatown. From local brands to international labels, you can find almost everything.
But that’s not all. There are various historical sites and tourist destinations such as the National Monument, Fatahillah Museum, Istiqlal Mosque, etc. you can also take a Jakarta day trip to the nearby Thousand Islands.
10. Swim In The Coral Islands At Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat’s coral reefs teeming with life and colour draws thousand of amateur and veteran divers annually. Photo by the Ocean Agency - stock.adobe.com
Islands and water activities are what Indonesia is made of. Located in the coral triangles centre, Raja Ampat Marine Protected Areas encompasses more than two million hectares of land and sea.
Its marine biodiversity is among the riches on Earth. 75% of all known coral species can be found in Raja Ampat. It is also one of the few places to get a closer look at manta rays.
You won’t get bored spending days in Raja Ampat. Some experienced travellers suggest planning a week or more in this paradise archipelago. Thanks to the locals and the country’s conversion effort, it remains one of the best places to visit in Indonesia.
11. Discover The Paradise In Gili Islands
Ombak Sunset Swing, one of many reasons wanderlusts are head over heels for Gili islands. Photo by mezairi - stock.adobe.com
The archipelago consists of Gili island triplets: Gili Trawangan (also known as Gili T.), Gili Meno and Gili Air. The hugely popular island destination is the ultimate Indonesian thing to do for a romantic and chill getaway.
Laying just a few miles off the Lombok coast, these idyllic islands are the highlights of eastern Java. Divers, partygoers, and photographers will all find something to satisfy their love for the crafts.
Gili islands are one of the safest and cheapest destinations in Indonesia. It is also a place with a laid-back vibe. If diving or beach bars are not your cup of tea, you can take your Instagram game to the next level with stunning sunsets.
There are no cars or gas-powered vehicles to disturb the peace. You can explore and move around the place on foot, bike, or on a traditional horse-driven cart.
12. Party The Night Away
Indonesia has various clubs and bars where locals and tourists both go to throw the best parties. Photo by Valeriia - stock.adobe.com
Sometimes you want something for a change after spending days in the jungle, on beaches and islands. That’s when you hit the night scene in Indonesia, which is as vibrant as Bangkok, the city that never sleeps.
Even smaller cities such as Gili Trawangan, Yogyakarta, or Malang also have lively nightlife scenes. That said, major regions/cities like Jakarta, South Bali, or Bandung are your best bet for a good time. All you have to do is choose among thousands of restaurants, bars, beach clubs and nightclubs.
But the fun at night doesn’t limit to just that. Partygoers can have fun with friends enjoying the casual atmosphere at night markets, rooftop bars, live music venues or cabaret shows. Even culturally insightful dance performances can be a fun Indonesian thing to do at night.
13. Learn The Culture Of Tana Toraja
Buntu Pune, Tana Toraja, is where you can find a collection of Tongkonan - the traditional ancestral house of the Torajan people. Photo by dmitrieval - stock.adobe.com
One hour's car drive from the Tana Toraja airport, in the far-flung province of South Sulawesi, is Tana Toraja Regency. The Ministry of Tourism, Indonesia, recognised it as the second tourist destination after Bali.
Due to being inaccessible for centuries, the highlands and its Toraja people differ from any neighbouring regions in the country. Most spectacular is how they celebrate life and death. The way they view and honour the dead is very different from ours, thus a worthy thing to see in Indonesia.
The traditional funeral ceremony is extravagant and lasts several days. The deceased body is kept intact for months, or even years, until burial. The people don’t mind keeping the dead sleeping in the backs of their houses.
Foreign tourists can also attend. You need to bring a gift, normally several packets of cigarettes, tea or candies for the family. Note that it can be gruesome as pigs and buffalo are slaughtered as a part of the ceremony.
The houses with traditional boat-shaped roofs are another major attraction. Visitors marvel at not only their beautiful architecture but also their history. The buildings are a part of ethnic identity, and they have plenty to tell.
14. Take A Tour To South East Asia’s Largest Lake
Chilling in solitude with your loved ones on lake Toba is a memory of a lifetime. Photo by Laurentiu Morariu on Unsplash
Toba's crater lake in Medan, North Sumatra, is the largest of its kind in the world. The surrounding mountain green and cool gentle breezes are just the right kind of relaxation most need after a full day in large cities.
This gigantic resurgent caldera resulted from a volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago. Covering an area of 1,707 km2 (170,700 hectares) and more than 500 metres (1,640 ft) deep, it is stunning, to say the least.
This Indonesian tourist attraction offers plenty of things to see and do. You can come to the traditional village of Samosir to learn about the Batak tribe’s way of life.
For more awe-inspiring sightseeing, Sipiso-Piso waterfall is the perfect place. After a short trek, you will be treated to the spectacular scenery of powerful water rushing down to the rocks below. It’s a must-see for every lake Toba road trip itinerary.
15. Come To Ubud For A Cultural Stay
Tegalalang Rice Terrace, a well-known tourist attraction in Ubud, Bali. Photo by Radoslav Bali on Unsplash
When you have enough of the sun and sea on Bali’s beaches, you visit Ubud. The Balinese town is the cultural heart of Bali and the best area to stay on the island.
The atmosphere here is completely different, with many temples, historical sites, royal palaces, and rice fields. It’s a place to visit in Indonesia if you want a base to explore Bali conveniently. Here’s a tip: stay out of town; the hidden gems are not there.
One of the top Ubub destinations is Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. As the name suggests, it is a nature reserve and temple complex where visitors can see and interact with wild monkeys.
Tegalalang Rice Terraces is a must-see due to its lush green fields and palms. Plus, there is an ideal spot for sunrise viewing and taking photos. The tranquillity of every Ubud attraction will surely grow on you.
16. Challenge The Tides
Riding the biggest waves has been the backbone of many surf pilgrimages to Indonesia. Photo by Jairo Díaz - stock.adobe.com
Whether you are looking for beginner-friendly or high-performance waves, Indonesia has it all. Regarding surfing, the nation is among the most prominent choices for this activity. Therefore, riding the wave is such an unmissable Indonesian thing to do.
There are many of Asia’s premier surf spots throughout the country, from Bali to Mentawai Islands, Java, Lombok, G-Land and more. Among those, Uluwatu and Canggu are the most popular.
The dry season between April-October is the ideal time for surfing in Indonesia. However, the wet season (November-March) is fine, too, as it is less crowded during this time of year.
17. Sample Local Dishes
Colourful and diverse, the feast of Indonesian captures and represents the wide range of the islanders’ culture. Photo by triocean - stock.adobe.com
Cuisine is an essential part of any travel, and it’s no exception when you set foot in Indonesia’s tourist attractions. Treating your taste buds to elaborate Indonesian cuisine is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
The foods typically use a wide range of spices and herbs. Satay (meat skewers), Rendang (beef stew), Nasi Goreng (fried rice), etc., are a few of the most popular dishes you have to try at least once.
Note that tap water is unsafe to drink. It would help if you stuck with bottled and filtered water. Remember to stay hydrated as the climate in Indonesia is hot and tropical.
Besides sampling the dishes, why not try cooking one yourself? Indonesian cooking classes are popular. Joining one of these, you will learn the art of making side dishes, main courses, and paste using local ingredients. What better way to engage in a country's cultural activity?
Things To Do In Indonesia: Incredible Exploration Opportunities
Choosing where to go in Asia is tough since there are such beautiful destinations like Vietnam and other equally inviting choices. But learning about the best things to do in Indonesia may help you make up your mind.
Every place has its beauty. For Indonesia, it’s rice paddies, active volcanoes, emerald beaches, tropical jungles and amazing islands. Bali is well-trodden, but there is more to Indonesia than just one popular tourist destination.
We hope the article has been helpful guidance for your planning to this beautiful country. All that’s left is to pack your things, hop onto the plane, and tick off everything on this list.