When it comes to epic vacations, it’s hard to beat Indonesia for the sheer range of experiences it has to offer.
Whether it’s for a family-friendly getaway or a romantic trip for two, this destination never disappoints.
So if you’ve got a serious case of wanderlust this holiday season, here are three places in Indonesia to put on your radar.
If it’s a grand cultural experience you’re looking for, head to Yogyakarta (often called “Jogja” for short). The centre of Indonesia’s artistic and intellectual heritage, this is where Javanese traditions such as batik textiles, wayang puppetry, music and poetry are celebrated and carefully preserved. Unsurprisingly, it also home to Indonesia’s most important archaeological sites: the Borobudur and Prambanan temples.
No trip to Yogyakarta is complete without a visit to these two awe-inspiring attractions.
Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple that dates back to the 8 th century. Whatever your beliefs may be, the view from the monument’s summit at dawn will take your breath away. Prambanan is a Unesco World Heritage Site that comprises 244 Hindu temples dotted across a sprawling compound. A must-watch is the temple’s Ramayana Ballet performance in the evenings, where over 200 dancers and musicians perform with Prambanan as a spectacular backdrop.
Cultural attractions asides, visitors of Yogyakarta can also look forward to other adrenaline-fuelled experiences. Case in point: the Jomblang Cave. It is famous for its naturally formed sinkhole where intrepid explorers can rappel down to for an amazing photo-op inside the cave.
Surabaya is often overlooked in favour of Jakarta but this vibrant metropolis in East Java has its charms as an underrated holiday destination. As Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya was once a major Asian trading hub during the Dutch East Indies empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, it is home to over 3 million residents and many exciting sights for visitors to discover.
One of the city’s unmissable attractions is arguably the Submarine Monument (affectionately referred as “Monkasel” by locals). In this museum, visitors can go inside an actual decommissioned Russian-made submarine and learn about the nation’s maritime origins – making it a must-visit for kids and history buffs alike. Suramadu bridge is Surabaya’s architectural wonder: spanning 5.4km across the Madura Strait, it is Indonesia’s longest cable-stayed bridge and certainly a sight to behold, especially at night.
Culture vultures won’t be disappointed when visiting Surabaya as it boasts a rich diversity of traditions, crafts and food.
Take for example the Cheng Hoo Mosque: built in honour of a Chinese admiral who helped spread Islam in the country, this beautiful pagoda-style mosque is a harmonious blend of Oriental architecture and Muslim religious symbols.
Another must-see is Sanggar Agung Temple. This awe-inspiring site is an eclectic mix of Chinese, Javanese, Balinese, and Thai influences and features an impressive 20 metre-tall statue of Guan Yin flanked by dragons.
Sightseeing aside, don’t forget to sample some delicious spikoe (traditional layer cake) and bring home unique souvenirs that Surabaya has to offer, such as batik sarongs and handicraft ornaments.
Once you’ve had your fill of the city, consider using Surabaya as a base to explore other nearby regions in East Java, including the famous Mount Bromo (only 90 minutes away by car), Kawah Ijen and Madura Island.
It’s no secret that Bali is a terrific holiday destination, but while many visitors throng the touristy areas of Kuta and Seminyak, those seeking a serene getaway know of one place: Ubud. As the spiritual heart of the island, Ubud is where traditional Balinese culture imbues every waking moment, with lush rice field terraces, sprawling temples, gamelan performances and, of course, yoga practitioners in every corner.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or veteran explorer, Ubud has no shortage of experiences to enjoy.
At the top of the must-visit list is the world-famous Tegalalang Rice Terrace, where an awe-inspiring sight awaits you just outside the heart of Ubud.
If you are travelling as a family, the little ones will surely love a visit to Elephant Safari Park. There, get up close with nature as you enjoy a relaxing ride atop a majestic elephant through the jungle, before indulging in a leisurely meal with a view of elephants bathing nearby.
Prefer a little more action? Head to the Bali Treetop Adventure Park, where families and adventure-seekers can take part in a series of rope-walking courses among trees in Bali’s largest botanical gardens.
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