When thinking about Indonesia, people tend to think one thing: Bali. In fact, some people even think that Bali is its own country because it’s talked about so frequently as an affordable exotic location, or a digital nomads hub. When I think of Indonesia, I actually don’t think of Bali; I think of the remaining colonial architecture, the gentle lakes, the food, the palaces, the temples, the people, and the hospitality of those people. I was fortunate enough to experience Indonesia away from the burst of tourism that comes from Bali, and here are the 6 places to visit in Indonesia other than Bali that I discovered:
Despite the fact that Indonesia is comprised of 17,000 islands, there is still only one capital city – Jakarta. From a monument symbolizing their freedom to the biggest museum in Southeast Asia, to an Old Town that is still comprised of colonial Dutch architecture, you’re bound to get a taste of Indonesia’s strong cultural vibes while visiting Jakarta. If you’d rather experience Indonesia through its cultural cuisine, there’s no better place to do so than in Jakarta as you’ll have an array of cute cafés, restaurants, and fine dining experiences from which to choose. Click here to see the 5 things you must do while in Jakarta.
2. Lake Toba.
Escape the city! Hop on over to Lake Toba to experience the Batak culture. From wandering the TB Silalahi Center with its beautiful views, to watching locals make Ulos, and trying out some traditional dances, Lake Toba is perfect for those who want a simple getaway or are looking to delve deeper into Batak culture. We even learned that people from this region of Indonesia are said to be excellent musicians and singers!
Padang was a pre-colonial trading center, with a focus on the trade of pepper and gold. Today, Padang is most well-known for its food called – you guessed it – Padang cuisine. It is very spicy and simply delicious (if you love spicy food as much as I do)! While we were in Padang, we experienced Bajamba, a Padangnese communal dining tradition where you sit on the floor and eat with your hands. I couldn’t recommend enough the experience we had at Rumah Gadang Sawah Laman as it was the perfect place to experience Padang cuisine. Please excuse this ridiculous selfie…
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Nearby Padang, you will find Bukittinggi. From the beautiful views of the Sianok Canyon to the underground tunnels built by the Japanese to the Pagaruyung Palace, Bukittinggi is the perfect mix of culture, tradition, and the outdoors. 5FT Fun Fact: Pagaruyung Palace is run by a monarchy, but not by a king… by a QUEEN! In Bukittinggi, women clearly rule!
Get ready to set your alarm clocks for a 3am wake up because you certainly don’t want to miss the Borobudur Sunrise Tour in Indonesia! Borobudur is the largest Buddhist Temple in the world and would be spectacular at any hour of the day, but I couldn’t stress catching sunrise enough! Psssst… it’s even older than Angkor Wat 😉
Yogyakarta is home of the ancient Javanese monarchy, so it only makes sense that you visit the Yogyakarta Royal Palace using traditional transportation (becak) in Indonesia. For something a bit more unique, make your way to the Taman Sari Water Castle (the former royal garden of the Sultanate) and imagine what it would be like to be able to casually spend your days at the artificial lakes and bathing complexes surrounded by those you love (or are infatuated with in the Sultanate’s case). After spending the morning learning about the former royalty, I recommend going to the Batik Plentong Village. While at first I was weary since I’m not the slightest bit artistic, I ended up absolutely loving the experience.
And, even though I said it wouldn’t be included in this list, I'll give an honorary mention to…Bali.
If you’re visiting Indonesia and have the time, you should make your way to Bali. Known for its exquisite sunsets, healthy fruit bowls and smoothies, luxury hotels, epic waterfalls, floating temples, and wild jungles, I’m sure you’ll find something that suits your needs. Enjoy the rolling rice terraces, and relax as you soak in the laid-back nature that Bali exudes.
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Know of other places to visit in Indonesia? Let me know your favorites in the comments below!
**These destinations were part of the Trip of Wonders 2018 led by Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism. I’m incredibly grateful to have experienced Indonesia alongside them but, as always, all opinions are my own.**