Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Indonesia
A Balinese Hindu site, the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is populated by some 700 long-tailed Balinese macaques that live in and around the forest. The monkeys are believed to protect the area and the three Hindu temples within—Pura Dalem Agung, Pura Beji, and Pura Prajapati—from evil spirits.
Not far from Ubud, Tegenungan Waterfall foams in a white cascade over black stone cliffs into a quiet pool. At around 66 feet (20 meters) high, it’s an impressive flow, and that’s not all the site has to offer. Besides climbable cliffs, a secret smaller waterfall, and simple food stalls, a charming grotto houses a sacred spring.
The stunning Tegalalang Rice Terrace, part of the Cultural Landscape of Bali Province UNESCO World Heritage Site, comprises cascading emerald-green fields worked by local rice farmers. Just outside Ubud, it has become a destination for travelers making their way between Bali’s sandy beaches, towering mountains, and steaming volcanoes.
Bali’s most popular sacred spring, Tirta Empul Temple dates back more than 1,000 years. Travelers from around the globe flock to its holy waters to bathe beside Balinese pilgrims; accept blessings from healers, priests, and shamans; or simply soak up the atmosphere. The temple is northeast of Ubud in Tampaksiring, not far from Gunung Kawi.
Bali’s first beach hotel opened back in the 1930s on Kuta’s epic sweep of golden sand and metronomic surf. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, Australian surfers popularized the place, and today Kuta Beach is the epicenter of Kuta, Bali’s liveliest and most touristic district. If great waves and beach boys float your boat, Kuta won’t disappoint.
Nusa Dua’s answer to Ubud’s art museums, Museum Pasifika, which opened in 2006, is dedicated to the art of Asia Pacific. Balinese artists and expatriates working on the island are well-represented, but galleries showcase art and sculptures from Papua, Vanuatu, Polynesia, historical Indo-China, and beyond.
When volcanic and seismic activity permits, 12,224-foot (3,726-meter) Mt. Rinjani is one of Indonesia’s great volcano climbs—even if you stop, as many climbers do, at the crater rim. The towering peak, complete with crater lake, dominates north Lombok, so even when the mountain is closed to visitors, hikes on the lower slopes appeal.
The Buddhist temple of Borobudur is recognized not only as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also the largest Buddhist structure on earth. Towering stone stupas stretch into the skies, and Indonesia’s breathtaking natural backdrop of volcanoes and lush landscapes lends an even more impressive air to this remarkable sight.
With a history dating back more than 1,000 years, one of Bali’s holiest Hindu sites (and most popular attractions) is a grotto covered in carvings of mythological creatures. While Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) has uncertain origins, it's believed that Hindu priests dug it out by hand to use as a hermitage.
Jakarta Chinatown, better known to locals as Glodok, was born after the massacre of 5,000 Chinese in 1740, when the remaining population were moved to a separate settlement outside the city walls. Today it’s a bustling hub where Chinese eateries, temples, street markets, and medicine shops nudge up against electronics stores.
More Things to Do in Indonesia
The Indonesia National Monument (Monas) towers 433 feet (132 meters) above Jakarta’s geographical center, topped with a gilded flame. Designed by Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, it houses a museum of dioramas and an observation platform.
Home of Ubud’s royal family since the late-19th century, Ubud Palace (Puri Saren Palace or Puri Saren Agung) sits in the heart of downtown Ubud near the traditional art market. Explore the pavilions and gardens. There are also traditional Balinese dance performances in the courtyard each evening, a must for any visitor to Indonesia.
Opened in 1868, in a grand building on Merdeka Square, Indonesia’s National Museum is one of Jakarta’s most fascinating attractions. A rich collection spanning hundreds of thousands of years covers everything from early hominids to the archipelago’s spectacular range of textiles, along with gold, statuary, and architectural models.
The classically Balinese combo of rice fields and river gorges is what makes Ubud’s landscapes so beloved, and the Campuhan Ridge Walk, the best-known walk in Ubud, is the perfect way to appreciate them. Starting at Pura Gunung Lebah, choose between a 2-hour circular route around Campuhan and Sanggingan or a longer hike to Keliki and Taro.
Bali is known for it beautiful beaches, but the interior has its own appeal. Here you’ll find one of the region’s most active volcanoes, Mt. Batur (Gunung Batur), rising 5,633 feet (1,717 meters) above sea level In the highlands of Kintamani.
Jakarta’s old port, Sunda Kelapa is a popular stop on any tour of historic Jakarta (or Batavia, as it once was). Wooden 2-masted pinisi sailing ships still moor here, while porters move goods to and fro as they have since the 13th century. Converted warehouses hold the Maritime Museum, and a watchtower and lighthouses stand guard over the bustling harbor.
In East Jakarta, Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Beautiful Indonesia Mini Park) showcases the sheer diversity of this archipelago of approximately 18,000 islands. The 247-acre (100-hectare) space houses full-scale replicas of homes from different cultures, plus museums, theaters, gardens, a waterpark, an aviary, an IMAX cinema, a cable car, and more.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Komodo National Park covers 669 square miles (1,733 square kilometers) of islands and pristine ocean. Its attractions are twofold: Komodo dragons, the world’s largest lizard, and lush reefs. Besides the dragons, wildlife includes boar, bats, deer, wild horses, and monkeys.
In the town of Ciater, north of Bandung, West Java, warm steamy waters rise from the earth, heated by the Tangkuban Perahu volcano nearby. A number of resorts and spas channel these hot springs into natural bathing pools, some with attractions such as waterfalls, and all offer admission to guests who would like to spend the day lounging.
Tanah Lot Temple is one of Indonesia’s most popular religious attractions. Commonly referred to as the “temple of the rock,” this temple off the coast of Bali is set upon a black-stone peninsula that juts into rippling waters. Incredible ocean views, clear mountain air, and a deep spiritual connection draw visitors to this unique sight.
After Borobudur, the 9th-century Prambanan temple complex is Yogyakarta’s most prized site. Like Borobudur, it’s been recognized with UNESCO World Heritage status. The Prambanan Archaeological Park is home to over 500 temples. Some 240 make up the Prambanan group; others fall into other groups, including Sewu Temple and Lumbung Temple.
One of a cluster of craft villages in Bali’s Gianyar regency, Celuk is known as the “silver village” for its jewelry production. Artisans here create silver and gold jewelry and handicrafts in their homes and workshops as they have for centuries. A visit to Celuk gives travelers a chance to see the artisans in action and buy direct.
Known for its distinctive painting style, the village of Batuan, outside Ubud, remains an artists’ community. Unsurprisingly, Batuan Temple is a classic piece of Balinese architecture, with split gates, stone guardians, thatched shrines, and detailed carvings. It’s one of three village temples dedicated to the gods of the Hindu trinity.
Situated just outside Kuta on Bali’s southwestern tip sits an ancient temple perched atop towering seaside cliffs. At Uluwatu Temple, one of Bali’s most important directional temples, Ganesha statues welcome visitors who’ve come to enjoy spectacular views, observe wild monkeys, or watch a traditional Balinese dance at sunset.