Top 10 tourist attractions in Indonesia

There are many tourist attractions in Indonesia – from majestic volcanoes and unspoilt beaches to ancient temples. But because of the huge size of the vast Indonesian archipelago many of the country’s best tourist attractions are still rather inaccessible or horrendously expensive to reach (think Raja Empat in Papua, Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi, or the Banda Islands in Maluku).

By contrast, the following is a list of some of the more accessible tourist attractions in Indonesia – places that can be easily reached and at little or moderate expense. Sure they aren’t exclusive but many of them are still worth a visit. Just as long as you don’t mind being in a large crowd of tourists! Hahaha!

1 Borobudur – Prambanan – near Jogyakarta, Central Java
Indonesia has a lot of temples but the Borobudur Buddhist temple and the Prambanan Hindu temple are truly awe-inspiring feats of human achievement by any measure. Built at around the same time – over 1,000 years ago – the two temples are located not fair from each other, near to the historic Central Javanese city of Yogyakarta. If the high ticket prices don't deter you (prices are an astronomical seven times higher for foreign tourists than they are for domestic tourists!), make sure to visit early– these two temples tend to get overrun with domestic tourists during the day, especially school kids who turn up by the bus load!

Prambanan Temple

2 Danau Toba – North Sumatra
This huge lake was created by a grade “eight” volcanic eruption (described as "mega-colossal") 69,000-77,000 years ago, making it the largest explosive volcanic eruption within the last twenty-five million years. Nearly all humans living at the time were killed – either directly or indirectly from the effects of the eruption. Perched up on higher ground overlooking the lake is a bizarre sight: a former seafood restaurant in the shape of a fish – as featured in the Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer’s tour de force about the 1965 communist purge.

3 Mount Bromo – East Java
Mount Bromo is not the largest volcano in Indonesia but it is famous for the vast sea of sand that surrounds the volcano and because of the ethereal, unforgettable spectacle it affords (the caldera is so impressive that when you walk up to the crater it really feels as if you are on the moon or something). The volcano is also sacred to the local Tenggerese people and every year they hold a sacrificial ceremony (called the Kasodo ceremony) in which they throw chickens and goats – among other things - into the crater to appease the Gods and bring them good fortune.

4 Taman Mini – Jakarta
Former president Suharto’s “toy town” project, Taman Mini Indonesia is a sort of “Indonesia in miniature” theme park where you can find all types of traditional houses from across the archipelago.

5 Tanah Lot – Bali
Despite being horribly over-commercialized, the sunsets at one of Bali’s most important temples are still magnificent.

Tanah Lot

6 Ancol – Jakarta
On Jakarta's North coast lies Ancol Dreamland, a huge marine recreational resort, which kids, especially, will love. Not, however, to be confused with the nearby Alexis, a tempestuous fantasy world for adults! Hahaha!

7 Kuta – Dreamland beaches – Bali
Originally put on the map by Aussie surfers, Kuta has been transformed from a sleepy Balinese village in the 60s into a chaotic tourist destination in just two generations. Yet for all its crassness, Kuta’s appeal is surprisingly far-reaching. Not only will you find the ubiquitous Aussie surfers but also backpackers from around the world, grossly tattooed chavs (of both sexes), beautiful bikini babes, well-heeled Japanese and Koreans and, perhaps a little surprisingly, quite a few conservatively-dressed Muslim tourists in their full religious garb. The nightlife, as you might expect, is raucous and raw – as are the skins of the many sunburnt tourists who have spent too long under the blisteringly hot tropical sun. Dreamland, by comparison is much much smaller. Up until only a few years back it was a pristine surfers’ beach, but is now, unfortunately, overrun with tourists.

8 Botanical gardens – Bogor
The brainchild of Sir Stamford Raffles, Java’s governor from 1811-1816, the creation of these expansive and lush tropical gardens was overseen by the German-born Dutch botanist, Professor Casper George Carl Reinwardt.

9 Bandung – Jalan Braga
Jalan Braga is a famous street in Bandung which harks back to the Dutch colonial era of the1920s and 1930s. I, however, remember the street fondly for the 1990s, and the good times to be had at the North Sea Bar, a traditional Dutch type bar, which – I hear – is still in operation.

10 Pulau Seribu – near Jakarta
Pulau Seribu, or the Thousand Islands, lie to the northwest of Jakarta. All in all, there are 105 islands in the chain of islands which obviously raises question about what happened to the other 895 – did they just sink? One of the more accessible islands is Pulau Tidung. Very popular among Jakartans seeking a weekend retreat from the mayhem in Jakarta. But be warned – getting there can be no fun at all!

Tidung Island


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