Believe it or not, many of the best places to visit in Indonesia are still practically unknown to tourists. There are more than 17,000 Indonesian islands and most of them are still waiting to be explored!
Everyone goes to Bali, which is a wonderful island (don’t get me wrong!), but it’s been suffering from overtourism and overdevelopment for years.
If you branch out to the other islands in Indonesia, you can see smoking volcanoes, sulfur lakes, pink sand beaches, tropical rainforests, exotic wildlife, and so much more.
Since Indonesia is my second home (and my wife’s actual home!), we’ve been privileged to do a bunch of exploring in this beautiful country, including some of the most far flung Indonesian islands.
Here’s my complete list of the best places to visit in Indonesia!
Of course, Asia’s favorite island! I have to mention Bali. It’s heaven for luxury seekers and budget travelers alike. There’s something for everyone here.
Adventure lovers in Bali will have easy access to waterfalls, jungles, cliffs, volcanoes, and more. Or, if you’re the more laid back type, Bali has beaches, temples, and rice terraces for you, along with an endless supply of good restaurants and massages.
If any of that sounds nice, then you’ll fall in love with Bali and its people, just like I did. The only con is that it’s overtraveled. The small island got more than 6 million tourists in 2019.
Nusa Penida Island
The beautiful, exotic island of Nusa Penida lies just 25 kilometers from Bali, and it’s considered part of the Bali province.
It’s a much smaller island than Bali, but it has some of the most incredible scenery anywhere in Indonesia. We’ve visited Penida at least a dozen times over the years, but it never gets old.
This island can be visited on a day trip from Bali (same day return), but I think it’s better to spend at least a few days seeing things here.
Lombok is Bali’s neighbor island. It’s the same size as Bali and way less traveled by tourists, but you could argue it’s just as scenic.
The main attraction in Lombok is Mount Rinjani, which towers over the whole island. It’s the second tallest volcano in Indonesia, and you can trek it in a few days.
Lombok is also known for some stunning beaches and waterfalls scattered across the island. Unlike Bali, most of these places are still crowd free!
- Things To See: Mount Rinjani, Tiu Kelep Waterfall, Tanjung Aan Beach
- How To Get There: Fly to Lombok International Airport (LOP)
Java, the most populated island of Indonesia, is home to some of the most incredible volcanic landscapes in the world.
The smoking craters at Mount Bromo and Kawah Ijen have become famous tourist destinations in East Java, and the center of the island has ancient temples that look like something out of The Jungle Book.
Meanwhile, West Java has surreal crater lakes like Kawah Putih, and dozens of big waterfalls to discover. It’s easily one of the best places to visit in Indonesia!
Flores is wild and wonderful, and there are a lot of good things to see and do, but it’s a very long island, so a road trip is the best way to take it all in.
The main tourist attraction would have to be the Kelimutu Lakes, a pair of turquoise colored volcanic lakes in central Flores, and you can see them without doing any hiking.
In spite of the lack of publicity and infrastructure, Flores is definitely one of the best places to visit in Indonesia.
- Things To See: Kelimutu National Park, Koka Beach, Mount Inerie, Labuan Bajo
- How To Get There: Fly to Ende (ENE) or Maumere (MOF) from Bali (DPS)
Komodo Island is famous for being home to the beastly Komodo dragons (the world’s biggest lizard), and it’s full of other ‘bucket list’ travel experiences.
The UNESCO designated Komodo National Park has dozens of islands with white and pink sand beaches, scenic mountains for trekking and coral reefs for diving, and it’s the only place in the world where you can see Komodo dragons up close in the wild!
We’ve visited Komodo a bunch of times over the years and it’s always amazing. One of the great things about its gateway town, Labuan Bajo, is that it’s not far from Bali and it’s easy to reach with a short flight from there.
Sulawesi is one of my favorite islands to explore in Indonesia. Many of the strangest things we’ve ever seen have been on this island.
You can see volcanic hot springs and megalithic stone faces, karst mountains, bug-eyed tarsiers, prehistoric cave art, and extreme meat markets.
Sulawesi is also home to one of the most bizarre cultures on Earth (Tana Toraja), where they dig up their dead relatives every year to wash the corpses and change their clothes.
Labengki Island (and its exotic neighbor Sombori) might be Indonesia’s best kept secret. This untouched tropical paradise in Sulawesi is impossibly beautiful. It’s one of the most enchanting places we’ve visited in our travels.
Labengki and Sombori haven’t been spoiled by tourism yet, and English documentation for these places is still almost non-existent on the web. We half expected to see dinosaurs as we explored the lagoons, caves, and jungle covered beaches.
It’s pretty remote, so the process of getting there takes a bit of effort, but this is one of the most fantastic Indonesian islands we’ve seen.
- How To Get There: Fly to Kendari (KDI) from Makassar, then take a 3 hour boat ride to Labengki island
- More Info: Labengki Travel Guide
Sombori Island has to be one of the most wonderful places we’ve seen in Indonesia. The hundreds of paradise islands and lagoons have earned it the nickname of ‘the Raja Ampat of Sulawesi’ because it looks just like the famous islands in West Papua.
This is a very remote island, but getting there is worth the hassle! We discovered several hidden lagoons and beaches that hadn’t even been named yet, and saw wildlife ranging from giant sea clams to hornbill birds.
- How To Get There: Fly to Kendari (KDI), take a 3 hour boat ride to Labengki, then a 2 hour boat ride to Sombori
- More Info: Sombori Travel Guide
Bunaken is a small island north of Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi.
The Bunaken Marine Park has some of the most popular Indonesian islands for snorkeling and scuba diving, and there’s even a big sandbar you can walk around on when the tide is low.
We visited Bunaken on a day tour from Manado, but you can also come with a public ferry if you plan to stay longer. The main island has lots of accommodation so you can stay close to the action.
How To Get There: Fly to Manado (MDC) + 1 hour boat ride
Siau is a small volcanic island north of Manado, but it’s more remote than Bunaken and not as well known, even though it should be.
The reason I’ve listed it as one of the best places to visit in Indonesia is because of its nature and scenery. It’s outstanding, but still pretty much unknown to international tourists.
Siau island is home to one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes (Mount Karangetang), and the island also has its own unique species of tarsier.
This is definitely one of the more obscure islands to visit in Indonesia, but that means you’ll be the only tourist around!
- Things To See: Mount Karangetang, Mahoro Island
- How To Get There: Fly to Siau (NAH) from Manado (MDC), or take the 4 hour fast ferry
Selayar is a long, skinny island south of Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi.
This is another good place for snorkeling and island hopping, or you can stay directly on a private white sand beach at Selayar Eco Resort.
Sadly a lot of the beaches in Selayar have been completely ruined by plastic trash (common in many Indonesian islands), but if you look around you can still find some good ones that are cleaned regularly by the resorts.
It’s easy to reach Selayar nowadays. You can get there from Bali by flights with a short transit stop in Makassar, and the last leg of the journey is only 45 minutes.
How To Get There: Fly to Selayar (KSR) from Makassar (UPG)
Sumatra is the biggest island inside of Indonesian territory, and it has the biggest volcanic lake in the world (Toba). It also has some of Indonesia’s biggest waterfalls.
This is definitely one of the best places to visit in Indonesia. We spent 2 months in North Sumatra and barely scratched the surface of this island.
There are so many amazing things to see and do, but the critically endangered rainforests and wildlife would have to be at the top of the list.
On a short jungle trek you can see orangutans, gibbons, leaf monkeys, rare birds and lizards, and many other animals.
Belitung is a Bali-sized island off the coast of south Sumatra, and just like Bali it has so many amazing things to see and do. It’s even been recognized as a UNESCO Geopark for its unique landscapes.
We spent two weeks here and were blown away by the picture perfect islands and white sand beaches with granite boulders. This is island hopping paradise at its best.
The main thing to do here is the island hopping boat tour in northwest Belitung. You’ll see perfect white sand beaches, turquoise water, rocky granite islands, underwater coral reefs, and even a Dutch lighthouse from the 1800s.
The Banyak Islands are a group of barely inhabited paradise islands northwest of Sumatra.
For accommodation, you have a basic bungalow on an almost private island, with white sand beaches and crystal clear water in all directions.
It’s pretty remote, but if you’re looking for the Robinson Crusoe lifestyle, it doesn’t get much better than this!
- How To Get There: Fly to Medan (KNO), drive 8-10 hours to Singkil, then ride a boat 1-3 hours to Pulau Banyak
- More Info: Pulau Banyak Travel Guide
This is a small, cone-shaped volcanic island in the North Maluku province of east Indonesia.
A long time ago, the island of Ternate was one of the most important kingdoms in the precolonial “Spice Islands” of North Maluku, and it’s still one of the main gateways to the province today.
It only takes an hour to drive around the whole island in a circle, but there are several neat things to see. You can climb the active volcano in the center of the island (Mount Gamalama), or visit the scenic lakes on the banks of the mountain.
- Things To See: Ngade Lake, Mount Gamalama, Tolire Lake
- How To Get There: Fly to Ternate (TTE) from Jakarta, Makassar, Ambon, etc
This is the biggest island in the Maluku Islands, and it’s loaded with rainforests, volcanoes, and hidden beaches.
The main reason to come to Halmahera, though, is for the spectacular active volcanoes, Mount Dukono and Mount Ibu. You can visit either one on a day hike, but it’s more popular to spend a couple days on each mountain since they’re tough to reach and the views are incredible.
It’s the closest you will ever get to an erupting volcano! Think Mount Bromo, except more intense and without the tourist crowds.
- Things To See: Mount Dukono, Mount Ibu, and Kahatola Islands
- How To Get There: Fly to Kao (KAZ) or Galela (GLX) from Manado, or take a speedboat from Ternate
This is another uncharted paradise island in Maluku with fantastic mountains and rainforests, including the highest point in the Moluccas (Mount Binaiya).
Seram Island is best known for Ora Beach, a secluded private resort with views like Bora Bora. The island also has Manusela National Park, where you can see lots of unique tropical birds and the deepest cave in Indonesia.
Seram Island is a bit hard to reach, but it’s definitely one of the best places to visit in Indonesia!
- Things To See: Ora Beach, Mount Binaiya, Manusela National Park
- How To Get There: Fly to Ambon (AMQ) + 2 hour ferry from Tulehu to Amahai
Ambon is the capital and main gateway of Maluku province.
It’s not a great island in and of itself (too rainy, dirty, and noisy), but it does have some nice scenery and you’ll be passing through here anyway if you plan to see some of the best Indonesian islands in Maluku, like Seram Island.
My favorite thing we saw in Ambon was the turquoise colored Telaga Pange Waterfall, which is an easy hike located just 15 minutes from the city.
- Things To See: Telaga Pange Waterfall, Pintu Kota Beach, Liang Beach
- How To Get There: Fly to Ambon (AMQ) from Jakarta, Makassar, Ternate, etc
More Indonesian Islands To See
I hope you enjoyed this list of some of the best places to visit in Indonesia!
We’re still missing Sumba, Borneo, and Raja Ampat. I realize those are easily some of the most beautiful islands in Indonesia, but we haven’t had a chance to visit them yet.
Hopefully soon! Check back for updates.