Indonesia is a country located in Southeast Asia. It is made up of a vast chain of islands that stretch from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, and this is known as the Indonesian archipelago. The country has a rich history that goes back to ancient times. Home to numerous empires, the island country is well known for its culture and traditions. In addition to this, the country is today an important hub of trade and tourism, as well as commerce, industry and shipping. With our list of what to do in Indonesia, you’re never going to wonder about places to visit in Indonesia, best things to see in Indonesia, or even where to go in Indonesia!
1. Check Out the Local Markets
Not all aspects of your trip to Indonesia have to be planned out head to toe. In fact, you’re more than likely to stumble upon a local fruit market busy with locals buying goodies or weekly necessities. In the shopping district of Yogyakarta, visitors will join locals in checking out the clothing and food selection for the day. The market may be packed, but this way you’re sure to get the full effect of city life in one of the city’s biggest markets.
If you visit Jakarta and wondering what to do in Jakarta, visit the early Sunday morning market just beyond the Islamic University of Indonesia, the first Islamic university in the country. You’ll get a whole new appreciation for early morning markets, which begins around 6 or 7 in the morning before the temperature really starts to heat up. We think early mornings, though, are the best time to shop here since it’s quiet and calm. Local markets are one of the unique things to do in Jakarta Indonesia.
2. Take a Bajaj Around the City
When many people think of Indonesia, their minds automatically wander off to the white sandy beaches and water adventures so famously a part of Bali, Indonesia island life. In fact, the nation of Indonesia is made up of over 17,500 individual islands—a number that can seem hard to believe. Each of these islands, while set in a tropical climate, is home to unique cultural and historical nuances, and some of the richest landscapes found round the world. Although many travelers may pass right through the city of Jakarta with a simple layover at the airport, the truth is that the city is booming with energy, the 11th largest metropolis in the world.
When you first arrive in Jakarta, you’ll be immediately struck by the sheer size of the city, the huge skyscrapers, commercial fronts, and the frenzied traffic. After seeing the timesaving benefits of whizzing around on a motorbike, you might be tempted to give it a try. But driving a motorbike in Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta with a population of 10 million people is not for the faint of heart. A convenient, cheap, and entertaining method for the whole family to enjoy is in a Bajaj or the Indonesian equivalent of a Thai tuk-tuk or Indian rickshaw service. This three-wheeled motorbike with a passenger compartment in back allows travelers to beat the traffic and get a closer look at the winding side streets that make up downtown Jakarta. Bajajs can be hailed from nearly every street corner. They’re incredibly inexpensive—less than a dollar to many places around the city. This is one of the top things to do in Indonesia.
3. Explore The City of Jakarta
Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia, located on the island of Java. It is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, and an important hub of travel and tourism. Exploring this one city will be more than enough to get a glimpse of Indonesia, and know more about the wonderful people who call it home. From historical places to theme parks and everything in between, the city of Jakarta has something to offer everyone. In addition to this, it is also a great place to use as a base to explore the rest of the island as well.
Some of the top places things to see in Jakarta include the National Monument, an iconic structure dedicated to Indonesian independence; Ragunan Zoo, one of the best zoos in Asia and is set up like a rainforest; The National Museum, a history museum existing since 1868; Jakarta Cathedral, a beautiful neo-gothic cathedral that you should visit even if it’s just for the history and architecture; The Taman Wista Alam Mangrove, a mangrove forest that has a huge diversity of wildlife; Fatahillah square, the place you want to be for great museums, foods, and ambience; Indonesia Museum, a Balinese cultural exhibit; and many other sites. If your children are into theme parks and water parks, Jakarta has more than enough to keep them busy. Don’t miss Dunia Fantasi, Taman Impian Jaya Ancol, SnowBay Waterpark TMII< Atlantis Water Adventures Ancol, Kidzania, and Waterbom Pantai Indah Kapuk – these six parks will get you started and there’s plenty more. If you’re in Jakarta, there are plenty of things to do here.
4. Snorkel Off the Coast of Bali
Once you’re ready for a break from city life, it’s time to see what life is like on some of the smaller islands. Bali is an island located east of Java. The island is famous for its vast landscapes, stunning hills and mountains, and last but not the least, its beautiful cultures. The place has been an important tourist destination for a very long time, surpassing many other regions in and around the country. In addition to this, there is also an abundance of adventure activities to engage in while at Bali, from trekking and hiking to bungee jumping. And of course, enjoy the top family beaches in Bali! While Bali has gained a reputation as one of the top places to visit in Indonesia, full of beauty and mystic, it’s also brought along lots of loud partying and hordes of tourists. If you’re looking for something more tranquil for the family to enjoy, there’s lots of surrounding islands to choose from, each with its own natural beauty and plenty to keep you entertained.
One such island is Nusa Lembongan, about a 30-minute boat ride away from the main island of Bali. There’s a long list of private boat tour companies that will take you to the island, including Scoot Cruise, Tamarind Jaya Express, Island Explorer Cruises, Bounty Cruises, and Lembongan Island Fast Boat. One-way tickets usually cost between $10-20.
As you scoot along, it’s hard not to “ooh and aah” at the crystal clear water. Of course, what better an opportunity to dive in and see what’s swimming down below? The island itself offers unique snorkeling packages. Manta Point, Mangrove Beach, and Gamat Bay are some of the best snorkeling spots on the island with clear waters and the largest numbers of stingray, seaweeds, and fish species. Many hotels offer reasonably priced day-long snorkeling expeditions. So, if you are looking for things to see in Indonesia, this island is a great place to start.
5. Discover Hidden Temples
A big part of what makes Indonesia such a distinct nation is its rich religious history. While the country today is majority Muslim, historically, the nation has also experienced waves of Hinduism and Buddhism. That’s why, on most of the major islands, you’ll see the intricate reminiscence of these ancient temples. These temples fall within Balinese, Javanese, and Indian major ethnic groups. Some of the oldest temples date back to the 5th century, until the 14th and 15th centuries. Though Indonesia is home to thousands of Hindu and Buddhist temples, there are some that just can’t be missed on your Indonesian travel.
Some of the most famous temples include Prambanan, the largest Hindu temple compound in Indonesia; Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple located in Central Java; Plaosan, dating back to the mid-9th century by Sri Kahulunnan in Central Java; Ceto Temple atop Mount Lawu between Eastern and Central Java; and Sewu, north of Prambanan in Central Java. Admission prices vary, but hover around $10 for entry. Many temples also offer packages of admission to multiple temples with a shuttle bus service between them. This is a great way to experience the Indonesia culture while visting some of the best places to see in Indonesia.
6. Dig into Some Local Cuisine
When you’ve built up an appetite, you’ll have your options laid out for you. Cuisine in Indonesia is varied and fresh because of its tropical climate. Most dishes will include varieties of rice, steamed vegetables, chicken, and a side soup or salad. The national dish, nasi goreng, includes rice cooked in a thick sauce and garnished with pickled cucumber and carrots. Indonesian satay (juicy meat skewers), fried rice, sop buntut (oxtail soup), and siomay (fish dumplings with steamed potato, cabbage, egg, and peanut sauce) are all must-haves.
Restaurants such as Sana Sini Restaurant and Salt Grill by Luke Mangan, both in the center of the city and just minutes from the beach, stay true to this rich cuisine and fill you up with some of the region’s most diverse flavors. So plan to enjoy Indonesia food while visiting.
Sana Sini Restaurant is open 5:30–10:30 a.m., 12–3 p.m., and 5:30–11p.m.. It’s located in the Pullman Jakarta Lantai Lobby, Jalan M. H. Thamrin No. 59, RT.9/RW.5, Gondangdia, Menteng, Jakarta. Reservations can be made on qraved.com or chope.co.
Salt Grill by Luke Mangan is open 12–11p.m.. and is located in the Plaza Lt. 46, Jl. M. H. Thamrin No. 28 – 30, RT.9/RW.5, Gondangdia, Menteng, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah KhususIbukota Jakarta. Reservations can be made on qraved.com or chope.co.
7. Go Birdwatching in Western New Guinea or West Papua
Located on the eastern end of Indonesia is the island of New Guinea. The island is divided between two countries, namely, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The Eastern part of the island is the independent state of Papua New Guinea while the western half has two provinces – West Papua and Papua, is part of Indonesia. One of the most famous places in West Papua is Raja Ampat Islands, which is known for the most diverse marine life in the world. To a very large extent, the islands are uninhabited and covered by thick jungles, with the exception of the coastal areas.
These dense jungles make for an excellent adventure. Most people chose to take a guided tour of the jungles to be on the safer side. There are many animals, birds, and marine life to be seen in these jungles, but among the many wonderful creatures that call the island home, one of the most iconic is the Bird of Paradise. Known for its stunning looks, unique feather patterns and more, these birds are a spectacle. Bird of Paradise can easily be seen in Sawinggrai Tourism Village that is located in Raja Ampat Regency. The tourism village has less than 40 families inhabiting the area, so if you do visit, you’ll get an authentic feel of Indonesia’s West Papua. This is one of the best things to see in Indonesia.
8. Explore The Ruins of Borobudur
The Ruins of Borobudur are one of the most beautiful archeological sites in all of Indonesia. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this was built as a place of worship in the 9th century by the Mahayana Buddhists. Located in central Java and a short drive away from Jakarta, it is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. It has nine platforms stacked and then topped by a central dome. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha structures, while the rest of the temple has 504 Buddha status.
Borobudur, just like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, ranks as one of the most magnificent architectural structures in Southeast Asia. It is still visited by thousands of tourist all over the world and remains in use for pilgrimages. It is one of the most popular and best places to visit in Indonesia and frankly, coming to Indonesia and not visiting here is like missing a big piece of a puzzle. And to make it more spectacular, Borobudur is elevated and surrounded by two volcanoes and two rivers, making it a highly strategically placed piece of history. There are two other Buddhist temples in the area, Pawon and Mendut and along with Borobudur, are all positioned along one straight line.
9. Get Lost in the Jungle
A trip to Indonesia would not be complete without a trip to the jungle. Though you’ll get plenty of that adventure adrenaline running when you step out into the wilderness, it’s best to save a more-than-anticipated adventure and go with a tour guide or group. And you’ll find that this will top the best things to do in Indonesia on your visit.
One such company that offers tours into the Indonesian jungle is Sumatra Jungle Adventure. Located just northwest of Jakarta, the island of Sumatra is rich in animal and plant life, and is frequented by tourists hoping to get an inside peek at life in the jungle. Tour companies such as Sumatra Jungle Adventure advocate for the protection of flora and fauna, while also promoting sustainable tourism (hiring local guides, etc). Jungle treks range from 1 to 9 days where groups venture off into deep vegetation and catch glimpses of some of Indonesia’s most varied animal species, including monkeys and rare flora such as the rafflesia flower. Day trips can cost around $60. Most treks also include airport pickup.
10. Go River Rafting in Ayung River, Ubud
Ayung is a river in the region of Ubud, Bali. In recent times, the river has become an important center for rafting activities, due to its unique cliffs, choppy waters and more. All of this has made the site an excellent destination for people, young and old alike, to enjoy the great outdoors. It is considered the best location for whitewater rafting in the area. It is easy for beginning rafters and children of the right age to navigate. The river is about 70km long, start from a mountain and ends on Sanur Beach, Bali.
During the rafting experience, you’ll see the Bali rainforest as well as wildlife. You’ll also see the famous rice fields. There are several companies that offer white water rafting here and generally, you pay for what you get. So, do some price and amenities comparison to make sure you’re getting the best for your money. Make sure simple things like restrooms and changing rooms are included in your excursion or readily available. Also verify if food is included or not with each pricing. You’re probably better off researching online ahead of time, so you’re more prepared as you begin your rafting experience. But this is an adventure not to be missed when visiting Indonesia, and if there is one place in the world to go rafting, it would be in Ayung. That adrenaline rush alone makes this one of the best things to do in Indonesia.
11. Meet Some Unfamiliar Animals
Want to do one of the coolest and best things to do in Indonesia while visiting? Then, calling all animal lovers to head north of Jakarta City, to the island of Borneo. Holidays in Indonesia offer opportunities to see dozens of species native to the region. Kalimantan, Borneo is home to the Tanjung Puting National Park, which boasts the largest orangutan population in the world. The sanctuary also houses primates, birds, and reptiles.
The park stretches over 416 hectares of forest and swamplands. Since 1997, NGO Friends of National Parks Foundation has been striving to restore portions of the park where natural habitat has been lost and animals in that area are now in danger. Klotok boats which are traditional boats are the only way to access the park and they allow travelers to see gators, monkeys, and bird species from a new perspective. Many of the houseboats even allow for overnight, 2-3 day stays. Usually, Klotok boat tours include all meals onboard, boat and fuel, captain, camera fee, tour guide, and entrance fee. In total, visitors can partake in this wild adventure for around $150.
12. Climb to a Whole New Perspective
This island nation isn’t all about jungle life, though. In fact, the islands sit on top of the Ring of Fire, making it a hotbed of volcanic activity. Things to do in Indonesia without a doubt include climbing some of its most impressive peaks, many of which have recently erupted.
Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in East Java includes five volcanoes: Mount Bromo (2,329 m), Mount Batok (2,470 m), Mount Kursi (2,581 m), Mount Watangan (2,661 m), and Mount Widodaren (2,650 m)—among some of the top Indonesia tourist spots.
Visitors to the park can check out such scenic landscapes as the Madakaripura Waterfall and The Tengger Sand Sea. The park is also home to 137 species of birds, 22 species of mammals, and four species of reptiles. Travelers interested in making their next visit can contact the East Java Tourism Office or the Office of the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park for more information.
13. Get Cultured
Tana Toraja in South Sulawesi Province is an opportunity for international travelers to learn more about traditional cultures. This particular tribe is famous for its burial rituals in full music, dance, and costume, as a way to honor dead and celebrate life. They also have other customs and traditons you might enjoy seeing.
A flight from Hasanuddin Airport in Makassar, at around $55-60, gives visitors the chance to check out different styles of traditional homes, customary burial sites, and galleries of ancestor statues. Visitors can rent a motorbike to get around the island, although for trips to more secluded parts, visitors should hire a guide to accompany them. This is by far a unique yet fun thing to do in Indonesia.
14. Wander Around the Rice Fields
See all those classic pictures of Bali come to life when you visit its electric green rice fields, freshly moistened from the day’s rain. The terraced farming style so famous in Indonesia, built into the sides of mountains, has been considered a UNESCO Cultural Landscape and a must see for Indonesia travel.
The Jatiluwih Rice Fields of Bali, for example, includes of 600 hectares (1,483.6 acres) of rice along with the Batukaru mountain range. Terraced farming known as “subak” allows for water conservation, dating back to the 9th century. Vantage points are breathtaking, including views of mountains, jungles, and small farmhouses off in the distance. The entrance fee is 15,000 IDR, or just over $1.00. There are nearby accommodations and restaurants for a pleasant overnight stay if you want to spend more time that just a day trip to this amazing place.
Indonesia is one country we hope you visit with your kids and it ranks as a best Asian country to visit this year! With a wealth of experiences and memories to make, and a rich and vibrant culture to enjoy, this is one tourist destination that you should be on anyone’s bucket list!
This article is part of our popular series, Place To Go With Kids!