Everyone knows about Bali and it's no secret that I actually LOVED my time on the island. That being said, it is often easy to overlook all the other amazing places in the country that definitely don't get enough attention. In fact, I've always said that Indonesia is one of those underrated places that for anyone wanting to go off-the-beaten-path, this is the place to do it.
As you're planning your trip to South East Asia, make sure you pay attention to the whole country of Indonesia and everything it has to offer. I'm going to share with you a few places that you might not've heard of and why you should consider adding them to your itinerary.
Seeing Indonesia Beyond Bali
Bali is awesome but over the years has gotten over-crowded and over-hyped. We've seen the same photos over and over and it's become very touristy.
When planning a trip to Indonesia, I'm not saying you shouldn't do Bali but you should also take advantage of all of the other incredible places in the country that don't get a lot of attention.
One of Indonesia's lesser known islands is called Flores, named after “Flowers” by the Portuguese. Tucked on the west coast is Labuanbajo and is the perfect springboard for Komodo National Park where you can these rare prehistoric beasts and also charter local boats to cruise multi-day cruises around the park's waters for epic diving, beaches, and hiking.
Labuanbajo itself has also developed into its own charming harbour where you'll find great spots for food, and guesthouses etched into the hills.
As tourism has developed on the island, not only is this town perfect for Komodo, the rest of the island is accessible by a road that connects the west with the east. This makes it possible to explore untouched traditional villages, volcanoes, and spectacular vistas.
One of the highlights of my trip to Indonesia back in 2012 was my stop in Yogyakarta (pronounced ‘Jogja'). What made this city so special was how much this was the soul of Indonesia. I say that because it's where you'll find a high concentration of art, culture, and religion here.
The star of the show here is no doubt the archeological site and Buddhist temple in Borobudur where I highly recommend you do the sunrise entry ticket. The second large site that is worth visiting is Prambanan which is a jaw-dropping Hindu temple. Both of these sites give hints at the melding of Hindu and Buddhism art on the island of Java.
You'll also find here that there is a large presence of batik, an ancient traditional technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to cloth. Yogyakarta is a great place to learn about the process and maybe even make a purchase as a souvenir.
North of Yogyakarta is the bustling city of Semarang. It may not be known for its tourism but amidst its booming modern development, you'll find pockets of Dutch colonial architecture, Chinatown and traditional villages which are very interesting to explore.
Currently, I'd say that Semarang is off the primary tourist path but it is definitely a place to consider because they have an airport that provide easy domestic and international connectors to cities like Jakarta, Surabaya, Bali, and Singapore. This is important to note because land transportation in Indonesia isn't always the best so a quick hop could save you a lot of headache.
If you're looking for a cheap hotel deals in the city, you have plenty of budget friendly options. Whiz Hotel Semarang is a good choice if you want to be central and be walking distance from Paragon Mall and Lawang Sew.
Indonesia is a country of islands and Sumatra presents an interesting option for it's a place that's filled with adventure where wildlife and an unspoilt fierce landscape that is begging to be explored.
Medan is Indonesia's third largest city and as such, has all the trappings of a modern city. There are plenty of malls, motorbikes, restaurants, and temples to be seen here but the true reason to adding this to your itinerary is to use it as a launching pad to say, Bukit Lawang, which is next to the dense Sumatran jungle where you'll be able to see orangutans in their natural habitat. There's also Lake Toba which is the largest volcanic lake in the world. This is its own little paradise where Samosir Island emerges in the middle of the lake and offers everything from fishing, hiking, sailing, motorbiking, or sailing.
It's safe to say that you'll end up falling in love with this part of Indonesia is you're a fan of nature and adventure.
To say this is everywhere else in Indonesia that's worth exploring would be a lie. There's so much more to see and I haven't even gotten to the island Sulawesi which is east of Borneo but hopefully this gives you a few ideas to start thinking outside of just Bali and to the rest of this amazing country.
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