There's A LOT more to Indonesia than beautiful beaches, water sports and cheap colourful markets. If visitors to Indonesia look past these tropical treats they'll find a lush jungle wilderness in Sumatra, the gateway to a rich ancient culture at Borobudur, and communities with thriving traditional lifestyles. And that's all without having to leave the main island, Java.
Each of Indonesia's 17,000 smaller island has its own treasures beyond the surf and sand, and most visits to Indonesia allow for some time 'off shore', staying on perennial favourite Bali, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Lombok, or one of the Gilis or other small resort islands.
Most international flights land in Jakarta, Java: an island of still smoking volcanoes rising out of fertile jungles and an ancient culture. Or course the coastline has many likely looking beach resorts if that's what your holiday is about, but Java's highlights are more attractive to culture vultures than beach bums.
If you're on a tight schedule, hop a plane straight to Yogyakarta, which has temples peeking out from between its more modern Dutch forts and older Muslim architecture. This is the best place to stay when visiting the beautifully preserved, ancient Buddhist temple of Borobudur, and nearby Prambanan, a huge Hindu complex. These two religious monuments deserve at least a day each, Prambanan, in its prime, was almost a city of smaller temples and religious buildings, and though many of them remain only as ruins there's still a lot to see. The Telaga Warna Colour Lake and Sikidang Crater are a drive out of town towards Dieng Plateau if you'd be interested in seeing another Hindu temple complex. One of the best surfing spots in Indonesia, G-Land is also reached by jungle trek out of Yogyakarta.
If you have more time, travel overland from Jakarta to Yogyakarta via Bandung for the Bogor Botanical Gardens, tea plantations, the Lembang Fruit market and the Tangkuban Perahu Volcano and Ciater Hotspring. From Yogyakarta heading further inland leads into the heavy teak forests and moist rice paddies, and eventually to Mount Penanjakan, which is said to have one of the most beautiful sunrise displays in the world. If you make it up for the sunrise you should continue on, over an unusually placed sand sea, to Bromo Volcano. From there Surabaya Airport is a few hours drive and from there you can catch a flight to Denpasar, Bali.
Bali is probably Indonesia's most popular island as far as visitors are concerned, known for great beaches - off which you can surf, dive, snorkel or just relax - a lush, temple dotted interior, and active evening hours.
Bali is a very varied destination, with plenty of options when it comes to accommodation - from backpacker hostels to luxury resorts. It's not a big island and you can stay in one place and organise day trips out, or stay a few nights in a few different centres. Legian or Seminyak, which is also where all the good shopping is, are good alternatives to staying busy Kuta.
The Ulawatu Temple sounds fantastic, perched on a 250 foot cliff overlooking the ocean, and part colonised by a bunch of spirited monkeys, but the Temple of Pura Besakih is Bali's most famous temple, it has an ancient and impressive pagoda structure. The Ulun Danu Temple on a tiny island in Lake Bratan below Mount Beretan might be the most photogenic though.
Bali's cultural option is Ubud, which is a good place to stay a few nights. It's marketed as a cultural centre and is a good place to see traditional Balinese dancing, batik printing and other traditional arts. Ubud is also a good place to try out a Balinese spa, after wandering the rice terraces and visiting ancient sanctuaries like Yeh Pulu, with its vast carved relief, and Goa Gajah – 'The Elephant Cave'. The mistiest, most beautifully photographed rice terraces are those of Jatiluwih and around the temple of Pura Luhur Batukaru.
Bali has more than one beach option. Top of the list are Pemuteran, which offers divers easy access to the marine life living on Napoleon reef; Nusa Lembongan, with snorkeller's dream: glassy watered Crystal Bay and one of Bali's nicest beaches, or the car-free, turtle friendly, small hut resort dotted Gili Islands – Gili Trawangan being the most popular. All of these options offer soft coral sand beaches, clear water and a tropical island lifestyle.
If you're travelling to Indonesia to see the jungles and meet some of the unique wildlife, and not just the colourful marine life, then Camp Leakey, a rehabilitation facility for orphaned orangutans, built into the Tanjung Puting National Park, or the Komodo Dragon island may be worth factoring into your itinerary.
If stories of the old cultures and lifestyles still thriving in Indonesia's highlands have beguiled you in National Geographic, then visit the long houses around Lake Toba, or spend some time in one of the communities in the Baliem Valley - also a prime hiking destination, the Mentawai Islands or the Jayawijaya Mountains. Some of these communities you can visit for a day by walking in to their villages, but some you can arrange to stay in: a pretty unique experience when compared with the city lifestyle of Jakata's population.
All these highlights can be blended with hours or days on the beach for the perfect, individualised Indonesian holiday cocktail – one of those exotic, colourful ones you drink out of a whole piece of fruit like they serve in the beach bars here.
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