The most wonderful thing about Indonesia is the incredible size of it. You could spend months there and still have thousands of places that you haven’t seen, 18,307 to be precise. That’s how many islands make up the whopping archipelago. Yes, Bali is amazing and will always be popular, but there are so many more treasures to be found in this paradisiacal pocket of the world that will have you feeling more “Eat-Pray-Love” than ever before. Here are my top 5 most unforgettable experiences in Indonesia.
1. SUNRISE AT BOROBUDUR
First on my list is the magical Borobudur, which is the largest and one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. Set in emerald green paddies outside of Yogyakarta, which is situated in the central island of Java, this temple truly is a sight to behold. From far away the colossal size of the two million block structure will blow you away, and from up close the exquisite detail in the richly decorated sculptural work will have you inspecting the walls of the place for hours on end, while from above, the temple resembles a beautiful tantric mandala symbol.
However the best perspective in my opinion is discovered by nestling yourself in between some of the serene buddha statues in the darkness of night and waiting for the soft light of sunrise to reveal the temple bit by bit, as the sun rises above the volcanoes in the distance. General admission costs 250,000rp (US $18), but I would strongly recommend paying a little extra for the sunrise experience at 380,000rp (US $26).
2. CHASING WATERFALLS IN SENARU
Tucked into the lush mountains of the Senaru region and near the base of Gunung Rinjani, Tiu Kelep and Sendang Gile waterfalls will have you mesmerised in awe. The entry cost to the grounds is pretty low and includes access to Sendang Gile, the smaller of the two falls which is only a 10 minute hike away. If you want to trek to Tiu Kelep you need to pay for a local guide, this walk will take you roughly 45 minutes, but is worth every second.
The best time to go is first thing in the morning or at the end of the day, the crowds are thinner and the first and last light of the day creates a spectacular effect in the water. Motorbike hire is pretty scarce around Senaru so your best bet is to get a taxi there, or walk if your accommodation is close enough. An amazing accommodation option in the area is Rinjani Lodge, complete with an infinity pool that overlooks the Senaru valley.
3. EXPLORING THE BEACHES OF SOUTH LOMBOK
The southern coast of Lombok consists of a series of white beaches peppered with palm trees and surrounded by deep green jungle and glistening turquoise waters. I’d recommend staying in the ramshackle, but buzzy town of Kuta (try the Lemon Tree Bungalows), which makes a great base for you to explore further afield. The best beaches to visit on the southern coast of Lombok are Kuta, Tanjung Aan and Mawun. Grab your moped, speed off into the distance and prepare to swoon…
4. SCUBA DIVING IN FLORES
An hours flight east from Denpasar lies the port town Labuan Bajo – the landing spot to the island of Flores and the gateway to underwater adventure, with world famous dive sites and marine parks just sitting off shore. Strong currents lure in huge pelagic fish and on any given day you are likely to spot pods of dolphins, schooling reef sharks, manta rays and mola-mola (sunfish), not to mention the thousands of colourful fish and coral beds that resemble rainbow-like gardens.
I booked my first full day of diving with Divers Paradise Komodo, which is a fantastic company to dive with no matter how experienced you are, as they offer tailor made experiences to suit you. As an experienced open water diver I was keen to spot some ocean giants and went searching for sharks at Castle Rock, The Cauldron and Tatawa Besar.
5. SAILING THROUGH KOMODO NATIONAL PARK
Although the scuba diving in this area is out of this world, there is plenty to see above sea level too. Book yourself onto a day’s sailing trip around Komodo National Park for a plethora of once in a lifetime experiences. The tours start extremely early which means you can catch the sunrise while sailing to the first destination: Padar Island. Surrounded by bright turquoise sea, this is a bizarrely formed island with several white sandy crescent shaped bays and a steep crest of mountain that runs through the middle with breathtaking panoramic views.
The next stop on our journey was Komodo Island. Everything about this place seems prehistoric, from the rusty red volcanic hills and jagged coastline to the gargantuan dragon like beasts that wander freely.
After our scaley encounter we headed to Pink Beach for some rest and relaxation. The sand gets its colour from red coral off-shore that breaks off and mixes in with the white sand, creating a beautifully soft pink coastline with a backdrop of green hills, blue skies and crystal clear turquoise seas.
Last of all on our day tour was a stop somewhere in the middle of the dark blue ocean to search for some manta rays, and as soon as we got our snorkels on and jumped in the water, we were surrounded! As if the day wasn’t already good enough, we then sailed back at sunset while a pod of dolphins raced alongside our boat. What a dream.
Have you visited Indonesia? Share your own favourite experiences in Indonesia with our readers in the comments below. Read Next > 5 Places To See In Yogyakarta