Best of Indonesia Budget Travel

Where to go in Indonesia: Top 20 Places to Visit

In Country Guides & Itineraries, Indonesia by Sheena10 Comments

Volcanoes, beaches, diving, temples, rice fields, villages… Indonesia has so much to offer & in 60 days you can see it all. From Sumatra to Timor, find out where to go in Indonesia!

Where to Go in Indonesia

Indonesia is chock full of places to visit with unique attractions on every island. During our two month trip we island hopped along Sumatra, Java, Bali, West Nusa Tenggara, Flores, and West Timor. You can see the highlights below.

With the capital being moved to Kalimantan on Borneo we will need to see how it compares to Jakarta after it is built. Our next Indonesia trip will also take in all the amazing things to do in Sulawesi, and explore remote Papua.

* Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before any trip to Indonesia. We’ve been using World Nomads for over 10 years. It’s the best-value provider we’ve found but there are other important things to consider. Check out our post and find out which of our claims were successful or denied.

Places to Visit in Indonesia

1. Banda Aceh

It’s not one of the top places to visit in Indonesia but fly into Banda Aceh & go on a DIY tour of the major sites from the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami like we did here at DIY Travel HQ.

It may seem tasteless but seeing the impact with your own eyes helps to understand the scale of the disaster.

Don’t miss the Aceh Tsunami Museum – the huge building was built as a symbolic reminder & education center but it also functions as an emergency shelter incase of another catastrophe.

PLTD Apung 1 or the Floating Diesel Plant

Visit the PLTD Apung 1 or the Floating Diesel Plant in Banda Aceh

2. Pulau Weh

Take the ferry to Pulau Weh for a rustic island experience.

The cheap food & accommodation makes it a backpacker’s paradise – you may well find yourself here longer than you intended…

The diving is spectacular & the tours are a bargain on any Indonesia itinerary.

* Top Tip: If you have your own snorkel, you can jump right in from the shore & see interesting coral & fish.

Deedee's is the best restaurant on Iboih

Enjoy a rustic island paradise on Pulau Weh

3. Medan

There’s no reason to visit Medan except that it’s the biggest transport hub in Sumatra.

It’s fast-developing so you’ll find many modern comforts such as cinemas, malls & chain restaurants.

If sightseeing is your thing, you’ll find the Grand Mosque & some run-of-the-mill attractions to keep you busy.

Medan is also the perfect base for visiting Bukit Lawang, the best place to see Orangutans in Southeast Asia.

Grand Mosque Medan

Admire the architecture of the Grand Mosque in Medan

4. Bukittinggi

Bukittinggi is a short flight or multiple, long bus rides away… either way, it’s worth a visit.

Take in the views of the Sianok Canyon, explore the network of Japanese WWII caves & experience a Padang restaurant feast.

Head out to the Batang Palupuh Nature Reserve to search for the elusive Rafflesia flower & try organic Kopi Luwak on site.

Visit Bukittinggi Sianok Canyon

Take in the beautiful scenery at Sianok Canyon in Bukittinggi

5. Jakarta

There’s no need to brace yourself for Jakarta because it’s not that bad… the population & pollution is growing at an alarming rate but for now, it’s contained.

In fact, when we visited on a Sunday, Jakarta felt like a ghost town.

There are a number of interesting tourist attractions in this megacity: monuments, museums & the historic Kota (Old Town) district.

National Monument in Jakarta

Climb to the top of the National Monument (MONAS) for smoggy views of Jakarta

6. Yogyakarta

Most people base themselves in Yogyakarta to visit the ancient ruins of Borobudur & Prambanan, so it’s an extremely touristy city and one of the top places to visit in Indonesia.

There are markets, restaurants, accommodation & tuk-tuk drivers all hustling for the tourist dollar around Jalan Malioboro.

But Java’s 2nd largest city has more to offer…

It’s the centre of arts & culture in Indonesia, home to many local galleries & museums – don’t miss a free performance of a Javanese court dance at the Kraton Palace.

Tour options:

Street art on the walls of Yogyakarta

There’s plenty of art in the galleries & streets of Yogyakarta

7. Borobudur & Prambanan

Borobudur & Prambanan are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, located near Yogyakarta.

You can reach them via public transport but most people visit on a cheap tour.

Both temple complexes have similar histories but are different in architecture & style.

Buddhist Borobudur is one huge temple with 9 platforms whereas Hindu Prambanan is a collection of tall, vertical towers.

Tour Options:

Borobudur Sunrise

Watch sunrise at Borobudur, one of the top places to visit in Indonesia

8. Mount Bromo

Any visit to Indonesia must include a visit to Mount Bromo & its 5 volcanoes, 4 lakes & 50 rivers.

Take a jeep tour & watch sunrise over volcanoes, cross the Sea of Sand on horseback & look into the mouth of an active crater.

For the more adventurous types, high on spirit but light in the wallet, Mount Bromo can also be explored on foot and without paying the entrance fee – if you’re a little lucky or sneaky…

How to Climb Mount Bromo for Free

Look into the mouth of an active crater at Mount Bromo

9. Mount Ijen

Mount Ijen is another must-do experience, but it’s more strenuous than Mount Bromo.

The adventure begins with a steep & dusty uphill climb, in the middle of the night, alongside miners carrying 70-90kg loads of sulphur up & down the mountain.

Then you descend down into the crater of Mount Ijen, still in darkness. The reward is like nothing else – blue lava flames, something you’ll have to see to believe…

How to Climb Mt Ijen Without a Tour

Descend into a sulphuric crater lake at Mount Ijen

10. Ubud

Ubud represents idyllic Indonesia: rice terraces, temples & kind-hearted locals.

The best sights are outside the town centre – rent a motorbike for the day & explore the best of Bali’s countryside.

Ubud town gives you the opportunity to relax & indulge.

It’s very touristy, with hotels, restaurants, massage parlours to suit any budget.

Check out Lonely Planet for more travel inspiration!

Tour Options:

Ubud Rice Paddy Fields

Stroll or ride through rice paddies in Ubud

11. Kuta

Kuta lives up to its heady reputation but if you’re seeking a calmer holiday experience, it’s still got you covered.

That’s the appeal of Bali’s #1 destination, it has something to offer everyone from partygoers & surfers to families & couples.

Tour options:

Jalan Legian Kuta

Enjoy the good life on Jalan Legian in Kuta

12. Nusa Lembongan

Choose Nusa Lembongan for a perfect holiday getaway – this is island paradise at its best.

You can easily spend all your time at the relaxing on the beach or having cocktails in a hotel pool but there are plenty of things to see & do too.

Explore the island on foot or motorbike & you’ll come across seaweed farms, villages, mangroves, lookout points & more.

Tour option:

Nusa Lembongan Bali

Dreams come true on the island paradise of Nusa Lembongan

13. Gili Islands

The Gili Islands are a collection of three car-free islands, each with their own appear & identity:

  • Gili Trawangan is the largest, extremely popular with backpackers for its social scene
  • Gili Air is the middle island, with a mix of travellers & locals
  • Gili Meno is the smallest, calmest & most isolated

Tour option:

Gili Air Horse Cart

Horse carts can take you around Gili Air

14. Senaru & Mt Rinjani

Senaru is a relaxed mountain town, centered around two beautiful waterfalls.

It’s also the base for challenging hikes to Mount Rinjani, Indonesia’s 2nd highest mountain.

Hike it yourself of take a tour, either way make sure you spend a night camping at the crater rim, to catch an incredible sunrise over the crater lake the next morning.

Mount Rinjani Hiking for Free Without Tour Crater Lake Camp

Camp overnight on the crater rim of Mount Rinjani

15. Labuan Bajo & Komodo National Park

Labuan Bajo is not the most attractive town but it attracts loads of tourists – by necessity.

It’s the base for visits to Komodo National Park, one of the natural treasures of Indonesia.

On land, it’s the only place you’ll find Komodo Dragons, the largest lizard on Earth.

* Top Tip: Underwater, Komodo National Park offers some of the best diving in the world.

Komodo Dragons Rinca Island

Get up-close & personal to Komodo dragons on Komodo Island

17. Ruteng & Lingko Spiderwebs

Keep moving east across Flores Island, stopping at the Lingko Spiderwebs near Ruteng.

A short 10 minute climb takes you to a view of these unique rice fields, based on a traditional agricultural calendar of ceremonies & rituals.

* Top Tip: There’s nothing to see or do in Ruteng so try moving on as quickly as possible.

Ruteng Lingko Spiderwebs

Check out the unique rice field design of the Lingko Spiderwebs

18. Bajawa & Villages

Bajawa is a pleasant hilltop town that’s surprisingly developed, with cooler weather, lively markets & laid-back people.

It’s an excellent base town to visit traditional villages like Bena & Wogo & the natural attractions in the surrounding area – rent a motorbike & see where the day takes you!

Bena traditional village Bajawa Flores Island

Visit the traditional village of Bena, near Bajawa

19. Mt Kelimutu

Make the easy climb to the summit of Mount Kelimutu for an unforgettable sunrise over its three coloured crater lakes.

Admire the scenery & spot wild monkeys, while waiting for the haze & the clouds to clear.

Once the sun has risen high enough, you’ll really be able to see the different colours of the 3 lakes: green, turquoise & milky-blue.

Colored Lakes Kelimutu Flores Island

Be wowed by 2 of the 3 coloured lakes on Mount Kelimutu

20. Kupang

Take a ferry or flight across to Kupang, the charming seaside capital of West Timor.

Enjoy fresh seafood on the streets or at the night market, along with the usual Indonesian favourites.

Take a lively microbus ride out to Crystal Cave.

* Top Tip: If you’re heading into East Timor, you can apply for a visa in Kupang to cross the border.

Twilight Sunset Market Kupang

Try new food at the seaside market in Kupang

21. Tamkessi

You’ve reached the end of the line at Tamkessi, a remote tribal village in the middle of West Timor.

It’s one of the few attractions on the Indonesian side of the island, with it’s bee-hive shaped huts built into bedrock.

Tamkessi Village Beehive Huts

Explore around the beehive-shaped huts of Tamkessi Village

22. Dili, East Timor

It’s not Indonesia but it’s so close that we can’t leave it out of our list of where to go in Indonesia.

If you’ve made it all the way to West Timor, take a few extra days to visit East Timor & the capital of Dili.

There aren’t many attractions in the city except for a few museums & government buildings from the colonial area.

Do head out along the coastal road to Cristo Rei, for the 27m high statue of Jesus on top of a globe, on top of a hill.

Cristo Rei beach in Dili Timor

Enjoy the views from Cristo Rei in Dili, East Timor

Did you enjoy reading our list of Places to visit in Indonesia?!

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Indonesia Volcano, Beach, Monkey & Temple

*** If you’ve gotten this far in our Indonesia Budget Travel Guide, congratulations! *** 

You’ve just completed 60 Days On The Road in Indonesia (& East Timor)!

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Visited in September-October 2016


  1. Thanks for the lovely post.Indonesia sure sounds interesting.This blog is definitely going to help me when i plan a trip that side.

  2. What a long list of destinations in Indonesia…and people have usually heard of so few. My favorites are the volcano crater at Mount Bromo, Ubud and Mt Kelimutu. Had no idea there were so many craters there!

  3. Indonesia is beautiful though I have to admit I’m in a love-hate relationship with this country. Some of the most beautiful islands I’ve been to are in Indonesia. But super crazy to see how molested some of this places are.

    1. Author

      Yes, so many of the volcano trails were lined with rubbish. Many other issues I had with travelling there too but I did love the iconic experiences, such as the volcanoes, Rafflesia & Komodo dragons.

  4. We visited quite a few of those places when we visited in the past and they really were great! My one regret is we weren’t able to make it to Komodo National Park

  5. I am really looking forward to spending some time in Indonesia on my 2 years of travel. I have bookmarked your post as I know I will be wanting to read it again to remind myself where I must go. The two which have stood out to me from your post are the Gili Islands and then Komondo National park. Thanks you for such a great post.

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