Indonesia Travel Guide
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Beyond Bali: 12 Awesome Places in Indonesia

Indonesia has a lot more to offer tourists than Bali. Check out a few of the reasons why Java is one of Indonesia’s best-kept secrets.

With 14,000 islands in the archipelago, Indonesia has a lot more to offer tourists than just Bali. Take Java, the island next door, for instance. Java is a rich tapestry of history, culture and natural beauty. Here are a few reasons why it’s one of Indonesia’s best-kept secrets.

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PHOTO: Him Saifanah
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Yogyakarta

WHERE: Central Java, Indonesia

Known as ‘Jogja’ by both locals and foreigners alike, Yogyakarta is a city filled with color and history. It’s widely regarded as the cultural capital of Java.  Some of the country’s oldest Batik artists are in residence here, where they create works of art and fashion. To soak it all in, take a wander down Malboro Street to enjoy a bite of fresh, local food at one of the many street side-warungs, or visit the Taman Sari Water Castle, home to a 17th Century underground mosque.

INSIDER TIPHead down to see the cars at Alun-Alun Kidul, the south square of the Sultan’s palace. This vivid, neon light-up car club was founded by Jogja locals. Like the Indonesian version of ‘pimp my ride’. Most drivers are more than happy to take a bule (foreigner) for a spin around the circuit.

 

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PHOTO: Him Saifanah
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Mt. Merapi

WHERE: Central Java, Indonesia

One of Indonesia’s active volcanoes, Mt. Merapi is known to locals and tourists alike as Fire Mountain. Multiple tours run there from nearby Yogyakarta, including an off-road jeep tour of the lava fields. The more actively inclined can book a guide to hike the peaks themselves. Sunrise hikes are the most popular and start under the cover of darkness so that you arrive at the peak just inside to see the sun  peek its head over the horizon. But be prepared to sweat. It’s around a six-hour journey from the base to the summit.

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PHOTO: Him Saifanah
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Borobudur

WHERE: Central Java, Indonesia

Work on the Borobudur temple began in 750 AD and was finally completed in the 9th Century. The temple, which is dedicated to the Mahayana branch of Buddhism, is still standing and visitors can walk throughout the buildings and grounds. There is something truly awe-inspiring about standing inside a structure built thousands of years ago, which is no doubt why UNESCO classified it as a world heritage site in the early 80’s.

INSIDER TIPDespite the hot weather, visitors to Borobudur need to cover their legs and arms out of respect for Buddhists who still make regular pilgrimages to the temple from all over the world. But don’t worry. If you forget and show up in your shorts, you can rent a sarong to wear at the front gate.

 

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PHOTO: Him Saifanah
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Prambanan

WHERE: Central Java, Indonesia

Also known as Rara Jonggrang, Prambanan is a Hindu temple is dedicated to the Trimurti constructed between the 7th-9th Centuries. It’s the largest Hindu temple in South East Asia, originally home to 240 separate temple structures. Prambanan can easily be considered a masterpiece of Siva art. The walls of each building are carved with intricate reliefs, the details of which are still visible today. This high-level of craftsmanship from 7th and 8th Century stone workers is part of what prompted UNESCO to list Prambanan as a world heritage site. Tourists are free to walk around the temple grounds and between the ruins, but unfortunately, many of the interiors of the buildings are off limits to visitors due to safety.

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PHOTO: Galih Yoga Wicaksono/Shutterstock
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Central Java Highlands

WHERE: Central Java, Indonesia

Whether it’s picking your own tea at the Tambi Tea Plantation, posing for photos in the picturesque Dieng plateau, or enjoying a dip in the 7 Pancuran hot springs after a trek through the Baturaden rain forest, If you love experiencing the great outdoors, then the Highlands in Central Java have something for you. This area is also where you’ll find the beautiful Telaga Warna lake, shrouded by an ethereal white mist. It’s the water that makes Telaga Warna so special though: it shifts in color from blue to red to violet depending on the time of the year.

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PHOTO: lucky vectorstudio/ Shutterstock
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Bogor Botanical Gardens and Rainforest

WHERE: Bogor, Indonesia

The Bogor botanical gardens is a hidden beauty surrounded by picturesque rainforest just half a day away from the bustle of Jakarta. Established in 1817, it’s the oldest botanical garden in South East Asia and home to almost fourteen thousand types of flowers, trees, and plants. The botanical garden itself is maintained by Indonesia’s Institute of Sciences, one of many organizations in Bogor dedicated to the study and preservation of Indonesia’s rainforests. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is open to the public and provides tours.

INSIDER TIPThe Orchid House at Bogor’s botanical gardens closes a little bit earlier than the rest of the park. If you’re keen to check out the 3,000 species of orchids on display, make it a morning trip!

 

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PHOTO: Him Saifanah
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Mt. Bromo

WHERE: East Java, Indonesia

Mt. Bromo is probably one of Indonesia’s most famous volcanoes, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and one of the main reasons that foreign tourists come to Java. “Bromo” comes from the Javanese pronunciation of Brahma, so the name of the volcano literally means ‘Mountain God.’ During during the Hindu Festival of Yadnya Kasada, petitioners hike up the summit with offerings of flowers, fruit, and rice to honor the legend of a noble Tengger Prince who sacrificed his life to save his family and village from Bromo’s wrath. If you’re looking for a more hands-on experience of Bromo you can check out some of the short, sustainability tours that offer opportunities to dine with locals, pick fresh apples in the nearby mountain town of Batu and enjoy a dip in the Cangar hot spring.

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PHOTO: Ilya Sviridenko/ Shutterstock
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Kawah Putih (White Crater)

WHERE: West Java, Indonesia

This visually stunning lake was created by the Mount Patuah volcano, and while it’s a local hot spot, it’s not widely known among foreign visitors. Kawah Putih means “white crater” in English because a high concentration of sulfur in the water has leeched the color from the rocks and sand, leaving everything white. Be warned, the smell of sulfur from the lake itself can be quite strong, especially around midday when the sun is at its hottest. But, although you can’t go swimming in this spot, it’s still well worth the trip. If you’re an animal lover, you’re in for a treat. A diverse range of animals make their home in the wilds surrounding Kawah Putih, including monkeys, Javanese mouse deer, and even panthers!

INSIDER TIPKawah Puti is about 2 hours out of Bandung and no public transport services the area, so it’s best to organize a guide who can help you navigate both the roads and forest to find the place.

 

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PHOTO: Krakatao/Shutterstock
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Anyer

WHERE: West Java, Indonesia

The town of Anyer was once one of Indonesia’s largest ports until the eruption of Mt. Krakatau in 1883 destroyed the seaside town. The restored Cikoneng Lighthouse is all that’s left of the once bustling seaport, and it’s also one of the few lighthouses in Indonesia which allows tourists inside. Today Anyer is known as one of Indonesia’s best diving spots. The warm temperatures of the water make it a hotbed of marine diversity, making it popular with local Javanese divers. Anyer is another great off the beaten track experience for foreigners. If you want to experience a pristine Indonesian beach with white sand and turquoise water, then Anyer is the place you’re looking for.

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PHOTO: AsiaTravel/Shutterstock
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Surabaya Street

WHERE: Jakarta, Indonesia

Jalan Surabaya is nestled away in Jakarta’s Menteng neighborhood. This bustling street is heaven for antique lovers, or anyone looking for a bargain. The open-air market is teeming with artifacts from Java’s past: hand-crafted Javanese puppets, blue and white china leftover from the Dutch colonial era, antique rotary phones, artwork, and Hindu, Muslim and Christian religious iconography. The fusion that has made Javanese heritage so rich is represented in Surabaya Street’s eclectic stalls. However, as with all flea markets, it’s buyer beware. Not everything on offer is genuine, so browse with a discerning eye and make sure to bring a friend. Spotting all the weird and wonderful treasures it has to offer is at least a two-man job.

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PHOTO: GeorginaCaptures/Shutterstock
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Pasar Rawa Bening

WHERE: Jakarta, Indonesia

Located in East Jakarta, Pasar Rawa Bening (also known as Jakarta Gems Center) is the place to go if you’ve ever wanted to let piles of uncut gemstones run through your fingers. This place sells everything —from semi-precious stones like garnets, amethysts, and agates, to raw and polished stones—in the millions. Purchase one and you can head to another section of the market to have your stone, polished and set into a silver ring by a jeweler. Or, have your stone sent away for testing at a gem lab locally, or at a laboratory in Singapore.

INSIDER TIPThe Gem Center is an old building, and the more crowded it is, the hotter it gets in there. The market opens at 7 am on weekdays, so if you want services like gem setting or jewelry polishing, get in early and beat the heat.

 

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PHOTO: saiko3p /Shutterstock
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Taman Mini

WHERE: Jakarta, Indonesia

On the outskirts of East Jakarta is the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah. Built in 1975, the 250-acre park is a mini version of the Indonesian Archipelago, with an area representing each of Indonesia’s 26 island cultures, traditions and the daily life of Indonesian’s back in the ’70s. Architecture, dress, dances, and language dialects are rendered with painstaking accuracy. The park also has a lake, complete with paddleboats and a miniature version of each island in the archipelago. It’s an ideal place to learn about the history and culture of not only Java, but the island’s beyond. Taman Mini is also home to sprawling green gardens and parks, which can easily be explored by hiring a bicycle. If you’re looking for something less active to do, the park is also home to several movie theatres. One even plays movies in 4D!