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Indonesia Travel Guide

Bali’s Overcrowded. We Recommend These 12 Destinations Instead

These 12 destinations are just as beautiful as Bali, minus the crowds.

The Indonesian province of Bali has earned worldwide acclaim thanks to its lush landscapes and high concentration of luxurious villas, but as tourism continues to surge, the island is grappling with the ramifications of its ever-growing popularity. From skyrocketing real estate prices to tourists behaving badly, Balinese residents have been feeling the burn of over-tourism for years—yet fortunately, there are about 17,000 alternative islands to explore across the country.

From the orangutan-rich depths of North Sumatra to the lush volcanic landscapes of Java, Indonesia is rife with spectacular tourist destinations that offer ample insight into the diverse array of cultures all united within one archipelago. As you plan your next Southeast Asian adventure, give Bali a break and spend your time exploring one of these less-frequented Indonesian destinations.

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Fascinating museums, spectacular architecture, and a vibrant food scene can all be experienced firsthand in Medan, the largest city on the island of Sumatra. For first-time visitors, local institutions like the State Museum of North Sumatra shine a spotlight on the rich biodiversity of the surrounding nation, while massive landmarks like the century-old Grand Mosque and 1800s-era Maimun Palace serve as tangible reminders of the city’s rich cultural diversity. Though Medan is no stranger to top-tier accommodations, with properties like the JW Marriott Hotel Medan gracing its downtown area, visitors can also find fascinating outdoor adventure destinations a few hours outside the city, with options ranging from the idyllic Lake Toba to Bukit Lawang, a scenic village that’s teeming with wild orangutans.

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Liang Bua Cave  

In the western reaches of Flores, a treasure trove for anthropology enthusiasts exists in the form of Liang Bua Cave. Popularly known as “Hobbit Cave,” this cavern earned its moniker back in the early 2000s thanks to the discovery of skeletal remains belonging to Homo floresiensis, a pint-sized hominid that thrived on the island long before the arrival of modern humans. During a visit, guests are welcome to bask in the beauty of the massive limestone formations throughout the cave, then head into the nearby museum for some added insight on Homo floresiensis, as well as long-extinct Flores fauna, including dwarf elephants and giant rats.

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Banda Neira  

Located in the remote depths of Indonesia’s Banda Sea, the Banda archipelago forms one of the most isolated island chains in Maluku province—and for some insight into the region’s fascinating history, Banda Neira is an essential destination. Just beyond the airport, the massive Fort Belgica serves as one of the area’s most intriguing attractions, first constructed in the 1600s by Dutch colonizers to protect the local nutmeg industry. While it’s certainly the most famous attraction in the archipelago, it’s far from the only one, with other destinations including the snorkeling haven of Pulau Hatta as well as Gunung Api, the tallest peak in the island chain.

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Perched on the northern tip of Sulawesi, Manado serves as the gateway to some of Indonesia’s finest underwater ecotourism opportunities. Diving reigns supreme across the region, with the massive Bunaken National Marine Park playing host to colorful coral reefs and native creatures like butterflyfish, giant clams, and dugongs. In between excursions, visitors can spend their day sampling Minahasan cuisine, one of the most famous culinary styles in all of Indonesia. Renowned for its bold, spicy flavors and high diversity of animal proteins, must-try dishes span from cured skipjack tuna to ayam woku, a chicken dish that’s slathered in traditional Manado spices.

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Batam Island  

If you’re in need of a little change of scenery during your next trip to Singapore, Batam Island is the perfect destination. Less than an hour away from the country by ferry, Batam serves as the largest city in Indonesia’s Riau Islands, equipped with gorgeous beaches and multi-story malls, all open for exploration. On a hot day, the massive Mega Wisata Ocarina Batam amusement park is a popular destination thanks to its wealth of water rides and shaded food halls, while the nearby marina is a top destination for go-karting and sampling fresh seafood sourced from the surrounding waters.

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Mount Bromo  

While Indonesia is no stranger to massive volcanoes, Bromo just might be its most iconic. Measuring 2,329 meters tall, this active volcano has been a sacred site for Indigenous Javans for eons, earning its name from the Hindu god Brahma. In the modern era, it serves as the crown jewel of Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, a massive preserve that’s equipped with vast swathes of montane forest and a massive array of endemic orchids. For those brave enough to scale Mount Bromo, Cemoro Lawang is a particularly popular starting point, with tour companies and cozy lodges scattered all across the village.

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Wakatobi Regency  

With roughly 150 individual islands found within its borders, Wakatobi Regency is one of the planet’s most dazzling diving destinations, even referred to as “underwater Nirvana” by scuba diving pioneer Jacques Cousteau. With close to one thousand different fish species calling the surrounding waters home, visitors can look forward to encountering dazzling specimens like the regal angelfish and clown triggerfish, while a wide variety of sea turtles can also be spotted during a routine snorkeling excursion. Back on dry land, outdoor adventure enthusiasts can keep the ecotourism going with a stroll around Wangi-Wangi Island, the provincial capital and home of rare birds like the aptly-named Wangi-Wangi white-eye.

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Belitung Island  

A favorite holiday destination for southern Sumatrans, the idyllic Belitung Island has gone largely unnoticed by foreign tourists, providing visitors with a perfect alternative to some of Indonesia’s busier destinations. While the main city of Tanjung Pandan is rife with cozy coastal hotels, visitors should be sure to explore the remote fringes of the island, where massive granite boulders and pristine white sand beaches can be found in abundance. For first-time visitors, Tanjung Tinggi is a particularly popular destination, showcasing the island’s stunning natural beauty just thirty minutes from downtown Tanjung Pandan.

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Renowned for its rich legacy of Javanese fine arts, Yogyakarta—or Jogja, for short—provides tourists with ample insight into the wide world of Indonesian puppetry. Designated a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008, the Wayang puppet theatre has been a central tenet of Javan entertainment for centuries, with elaborate figures crafted to act out tall tales and mythological epics from both local folklore and ancient Hindu scripts. After catching a performance at the Sonobudoyo Museum, visitors can stroll down the famous Jalan Malioboro promenade to search for handcrafted trinkets and flavorful street food, while the massive Borobudur Temple is a popular day trip destination located just about an hour northwest of the city.

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Tanjung Puting National Park  

Measuring 4,150 square kilometers, the sprawling Tanjung Puting National Park is a top destination for uncovering the rich biodiversity of Indonesia’s Kalimantan region. Due to its remote location, the destination is best explored via guided tour, with most visitors opting to fly into Iskandar Airport before setting off for a scenic jungle eco-lodge on the edge of the park. Once you’ve entered the preserve, the potential for wildlife spotting reaches incredible heights, with primates like orangutans and proboscis monkeys both calling the region home alongside fellow mammals like mouse deer, clouded leopards, and sun bears.

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Komodo National Park  

When it comes to endemic Indonesian species, it’s tough to find a more iconic creature than the Komodo dragon—and the aptly-named Komodo National Park is perfect for spotting these lengthy lizards in the flesh. While Komodo’s reptilian life is certainly its main draw, the region is no stranger to other types of animals either, with water buffalo, flying foxes, and a massive array of bird species all thriving within the surrounding area. Once you’ve fully explored the dry side of the national park, Komodo’s sparkling waters house a vibrant tapestry of underwater flora and fauna, serving as the perfect destination for a day spent kayaking and snorkeling.

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With roughly 30 million people living within the greater metropolitan area, Indonesia’s largest city offers a thorough deep dive into the archipelago’s rich cultural diversity. To kick off the festivities, a visit to the towering National Monument is essential, with the world-class Museum Nasional of Indonesia showcasing Stone Age tools, antique jewelry, and ornate statues just a few steps away. Once you’ve explored these iconic institutions, the nearby Kota Tua district showcases the city’s colonial heritage with its prestigious museums and traditional Dutch architecture, while those willing to brave the endless Jakarta traffic can hitch a ride to PIK, a polished airport-adjacent gated neighborhood that’s home to a wealth of high-end restaurants and bars.