Of the 17000 and then some islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago, the five best islands in Indonesia – Java, Sulawesi, Flores, Sumatra and Lombok – are proof enough that the country has much more to offer tourists than just the sandy beaches and energetic parties of Bali.
Home to more than half the country’s population, Java is the perfect example of contrast – a heady mix of tradition and modernity, the sacred and the profane. It has vast stretches of rice fields and red-roofed houses dotting the sides of volcanic mountains, over a 100 of which are still active. As the most populated island in the world and one of the 5 biggest islands in Indonesia, it is highly urbanized. Luckily, a network of rail and road transports makes it one of the five best islands in Indonesia beyond Bali. The capital city of Jakarta offers visitors a variety of malls, museums and a maddening nightlife. In a startling contrast, the ninth century Mahayana Buddhist temple at Borobudur takes you back in time and space. It’s Java’s most visited attraction and the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Its gargantuan proportions and the height of the latticed stupas and its hundreds of Buddha statues will leave you in awe. Take another trip to the ancient Hindu temple complex at Prambanan to marvel at the architectural genius and cultural heritage of a lost time. You could also hire a guide to take you on a cultural tour of Yogyakarta, where you will see the Sultan’s palace. And do not miss out on a game or two at the Merapi golf course.
Nature-lovers will think they have found heaven on earth with this giant crocodile-shaped island of Indonesia. Fly in to the largest city, Makassar, and travel to Tana Toraja to witness the local tribes’ famous ancient funeral rites that involve brutal animal sacrifices – not recommended for the weak-hearted. One of Sulawesi’s nine marine parks, Bunaken National Park, is a must-see for its unbelievable diversity of marine life, including dugongs, corals, reef sharks, sea turtles and even saltwater crocodiles. Although Bunaken also offers thrilling opportunities for diving and snorkelling, the more adventurous travellers may set out towards Togian Islands, which are considered the ultimate destination for a great dive or a nice retreat. All these allow Sulawesi to rank number two among the best islands in Indonesia apart from Bali.
Flores doesn’t provide you the luxury that Bali and the other more commercialized islands offer, but the pristine island gives you an authentic taste of Indonesia far from the bustling crowds. Hire a boat up to Komodo Island, the only place in the world where you can see the fearsome Komodo dragons. Learn fun facts about these prehistoric reptiles, like how they need to eat only once every two months! The underwater life in Komodo is awe-inspiring; you could spot a Manta ray casting vivid shadows on the shallow sands at Manta Point or play with glowing corals and fish at Kanawa Island. Head out next to Mount Kelimutu, with warm clothes and a picnic basket, and behold the beautiful Kelimutu Crater Lake from the top. The lake’s waters can display up to three colours at the same time, a breath-taking sight that also gives birth to local legends about the sacredness of the lake. A visit to Flores’ traditional villages can also be made on a rented two-wheeler to experience the day-to-day way of life on one of the five best islands of Indonesia.
The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, consists of three national parks, the most popular being Gunung Leuser where tourists can get close looks at the rare Sumatran Orang-utans swinging about in their natural habitat. One can also go for jungle treks and rafting. When tired from backpacking all day, relax and take a boat ride on Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world. It even has an island right in the middle of its vast expanse of water! As one of the five best islands in Indonesia, Sumatra also has more thrilling activities. Adventure seekers can head to the Mentawai Islands, a surfing haven, or visit Anak Krakatau to get a glimpse of the historic place where one of the world’s most devastating volcano eruptions took place in 1883. It is still an active volcano though, so visitors might want to be cautious.
Last but not the least, ranking 5th as a best islands in Indonesia apart from Bali is Lombok which is a largely untouched island with pristine beaches, waterscapes and a unique natural appeal that is a far cry from the swarms of tourists found elsewhere in Indonesia. The island has several waterfalls worth exploring, but the ‘Tiu Teja’ waterfall near Santong village wins first place with its astounding beauty. On a clear sunny afternoon, you might even see a rainbow appear at its bottom when sunrays shine down on the water. Trek to the top of the majestic Mount Rinjani, with its crater-lake and hot springs, for a particularly stunning view of the beautiful surroundings. Lombok is also known for its surf spots and clean white-sand beaches. A boat ride to the nearby Gili islands is another fun experience you wouldn’t want to miss while you’re there.
With captivating coral reefs, white sand beaches, dense forests, adventure activities and a stirring culture that is a unique blend of traditional and western elements, these five best Indonesian islands make for an enthralling holiday in South Asia. Shuttling between these five islands is easily accomplished by road or air. It is however advisable to carry along general sanitary necessities, medicines and mosquito repellents for it may get difficult to find these in rural areas. Raincoats or umbrellas may also come in handy as it rains frequently and sometimes unpredictably in some parts of Indonesia. For more information about best islands in Indonesia other than bali visit: http://www.shantitravel.com/en/indonesia-travel/ and connect with our Local travel experts in Indonesia for a themed stay, discovery travel and customized itinerary.