The Best Island Getaways in Indonesia

As the locals celebrate the annual rice harvest festival, it’s the perfect time to explore Indonesia’s diverse constellation of islands – from secret seabeds to the peaks of towering volcanoes

When we’re asked about Indonesia, the first thing that comes to mind are actually 17,000 things – its dazzling array of jade-green islands and sprawling archipelagos. Home to burly komodo dragons, svelte tigers, and stately orangutans, these often-untouched vistas offer endless opportunities to indulge your curiosity or simply to unwind. But we get it; that’s a dizzying number of options to choose from. So, without further adieu, here’s our insider’s guide to the best islands, the most dramatic volcanoes, and the tucked-away treasures that you won’t want to miss. At least, this time.

WHEN TO GO

Things hot up between May and September, giving life to a scintillating and full-bodied summer. To avoid the summer holiday crowds, we recommend traveling in September itself – toward the tail of the busy season. Things, however, are no less glorious for it.

Whether you’ve got an appetite for pristine white beaches or the heady sights, scents, and sounds of Indonesian city life, we guarantee bright skies and warm seas.

Arriving in May, you’ll also be in time for the annual rice harvest festival – a riot of food, colour and celebration, as the locals pay their respects to Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice. You can join the festivities and sample traditional food, as well as catch the Negara Bull Races, where water buffaloes are dressed-up, decorated, and raced along the streets.

THE BEST ISLANDS IN INDONESIA

Take a walk on the wild side on the islands that inspired King Kong – The Komodo Islands

Located at the eastern edges of Indonesia, the mesmerizing Komodo islands provided the inspiration for the original King Kong. The best place to drink all of this natural beauty in can be found at the peak of Padar island – making it perhaps the most rewarding trek in this part of the world. From the summit, you’ll gaze out upon the rising, rugged troughs and peaks of the surrounding islands, and the brilliant, blue waters in which they sit. It is truly out of this world.

Among these islands – you could spend weeks sampling them all – is the hidden curiosity of Bat Island (an island of fruit bats, quite literally), with its dense mangrove forests and the soft, rosy sands of Pink Beach.

In the Komodo Islands, you’ll have countless opportunities to practice your photography, whether searching for the great and long-lived Komodo Dragons who give the islands their name, or gazing out across the stunning Flores Sea. Close by, and back on Padar Island, you can encounter the truly unique experience of diving with manta rays. The sight of these silvery arrowheads gliding through the clear, crystal-sharp waters, is literally unforgettable.

Villages, temples and sunrises in the ‘last paradise’ – Java, Bali and the Ubdu highlands

While many of Indonesia’s islands can be crossed in moments, it’s worth kicking things off on one its largest. On ruggedly beautiful Java, breathtaking landscapes jostle for space with ornate temples and masses of history and vibrant cultural life.

You’ll have the opportunity to watch the sun rising over the island from the unmissable Borobudur temple, as thick clouds of velvety mist slowly reveal the shining landscapes and oceans below. Taking to horseback, you’ll watch local life slowly stir from its slumber, with the rest of your journey ahead of you.There’s also time to hit the richly cultured city of Yogyakarta. Striking inland, and you encounter the Jatiluwah rice terraces – easily, as our travel expert Milla explains, are the most impressive and down-right beautiful man-made landscapes she has ever laid eyes upon. And Milla has just about seen it all on this archipelago.

Bali, Java’s small but verdant cousin, has been adored by wide-eyed travelers, adventurous tourists, and enthralled artists for centuries. It’s also a feast for the senses. Yes, it’s famed for its rolling green hills and the endless white beaches that surround them, but it also plays host to bustling towns and mouth-watering restaurants; gigantic, stacked rice terraces; and countless historic temples from the many religions who live, and worship, on the island.

You’ll hole up on a stunning clifftop retreat on the island’s luscious south, before heading to iconic Uluwata temple to soak up the astonishing scenery that surrounds it.

Sail through the isolated archipelago that sits right at the heart of the coral triangle – Raja Ampat

This truly out of the way location, situated in the northeast of Western Papua, is at the very heart of the ‘coral triangle.’ Its waters are also thronged with whales, tortoises, dugongs, and sharks. This, combined with its immense tranquility – you’ll be far from the madding crowds of Bali – makes it one of the best untouched island getaways in Indonesia.

You’ll crawl through a maze of 1,500 islands, sleeping on a luxurious yacht while glimpsing the Red Bird of Paradise take flight on the island of Gam. Breakfast can be served overlooking the statuesque mushroom islands of Kabui Bay. Your week will end with the sun rising over the sprawling island harbor of Sarong. It’s good to get away, isn’t it?

WHERE EVERYTHING IS

It’s easy to give yourself up to tropical torpor in Indonesia, indulging long, languid days on the beach. Of course, if you want to hack your way through the jungle or clamber to the top of towering peaks the country has a lot to offer across its myriad islands.

How many islands are there in Indonesia?

With over 17,000 islands in Indonesia you could spend a lifetime exploring just one corner of this endlessly rewarding country. While we truly recommend bustling Java and historic Bali, one of the best island getaways is also just a stone’s throw away. We’re talking about luscious Lombok and the dive-happy Gili islands.

Lombok’s picture-perfect Medana beaches are the perfect launching pad to explore the ancient cultures and forgotten legends of the island. And, if you tire of the sand (and amazing surf), you can hike the imposing and beautiful peak of Gunung Rinjani.

Off the northwest coast of Lombok are the tantalizing trio of the Gili islands. Each has its own mini culture, but you’ll also find some of the best diving in the whole of Indonesia.

Volcanic adventures

Indonesia has some 76 active volcanoes spread across its many islands. From Peuet Sague in the far northwest to distant and mist-coated Awu in Sulawesi. Any number of our tours can bring you into contact with these tectonic beasts.

The Komodo Islands are a prime spot for some of the most rugged and dramatic volcanoes, with 29 of them rearing their shaggy mouths from the surrounding water.

Between the city and the sea

While Java, in the midst of Indonesia, is one of the largest islands (with one of the largest population concentrations in the country), its cities rub shoulders with a truly stunning and verdant hinterland – where ancient history, deep, fathomless forest, and eye-popping valleys lead on to white beaches and the splendour of its Buddhist temples.

The Amanjiwo Valley, in particular, has the sumptuous Borobudur temple at its crest. This area is also just a short hop away from the powdery sands of the Karimunjawa archipelago, and the luxury Kura Kura resort that caps this luxury experience off.

READY TO EXPLORE INDONESIA? TALK TO ONE OF THE EXPERTS TODAY

Whenever the time of year or the experience you’re looking for, our trips to Indonesia cover everything mentioned here and much more.

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