Top islands and Places to visit in Indonesia that are not Bali

Written by
Juhi Chheda
March 29, 2021

Bali is the most popular island of Indonesia when it comes to tourism but one must not forget Indonesia has a lot more to offer. Explore a bit off the beaten path and you will be rewarded with pristine islands that seem almost virgin, making you feel like an explorer discovering new lands. 

You will see strange animals, awe inspiring natural elements and unique people in Indonesia. Read below and you will discover a new world waiting for you to come explore. 

Komodo National Park and Flores Island: A total wildlife fantasy! 

Padar Island, Komodo, West Manggarai Regency, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia
Padar Island, Komodo, West Manggarai Regency, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Komodo National park is known for its reptilian namesake the Komodo Dragons. There dinosaur like creatures are actually the world’s largest lizards and belong to the monitor lizard family and are only found on certain islands of this region. They roam around freely on the three main Islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar as well as the smaller islands that form the Komodo National Park. There are several other endemic species to be found here but what truly stands out here is the marine life. 

Go on daytrips or short 2-3 day cruises to explore the islands of Komodo National Park. We offer adventure as well as luxury boats to best enjoy these amazing islands. The archipelago offers unique geographical marvels like a pink sand beach, beautiful hikes like the view point on Padar Island and more than 100 top dive sites of the world. 

Because nature rules on these islands it is important to explore them safely and responsibly and book tours and dives with reputed operators. We work with only the best partners here so feel free to drop us a line to book a safe but very exciting holiday to Komodo National Park. 

Why Go: Only few other places on earth offer such unique animal and marine life in their natural habitat and that to at such good prices. Galapagos Islands come to mind when comparing Komodo Nationals parks unique offering!

Best Time to go: April to December is the best time to visit, January to March is the monsoon season and it gets very wet and windy.  

Getting There: Labuan Bajo on Flores island is the main hop off point for the Komodo National park. There are flights from Bali to Labuan Bajo. We also offer some amazing cruises starting from Bali and Lombok that don’t just explore Komodo National Park but even other amazing islands in between. 

Flores Island

Most people come to Labuan Bajo, explore Komodo National Park and leave. The island of Flores is big but relatively undeveloped with very limited tourist infrastructure and bad roads. Flores is famous for its amazing multi-colored crater lakes around Mount Kelimutu which change color from blue, green to red depending on the volcanic activity and gases in the lake, traditional village homestays, and remote national parks like 17 islands National park. 

Why go: If you want to live off the grid then this is the places for you, weird that it should belong to a country with the 4th largest population in the world don’t you think?

Best time to visit: Same as Komodo National Park

Raja Ampat National Park: The Amazon of the world’s reefs!

Raja Ampat, West Papua.
Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia

Surfers and divers tend to discover places first. These sublime islands located off the northern tip of Papua New Guinea which is the world’s second largest island are the ultimate destination for scuba divers. Located in the Coral Triangle, which stretches from Philippines to Timor and Papua New Guinea, this region is the most biodiverse habitat on earth. 

The water clarity is phenomenal, three-quarters of the world's coral varieties, 10 times that of the Caribbean and species here you won't find anywhere else make these islands ‘the’ scuba destination of the world. But does that mean these islands are only for scuba divers? Afterall Maldives and Fiji are known for their scuba diving and yet are visited by so many non-divers.  Well for the longest time there was nowhere for Travelers to stay. Committed divers and explorers, travelled around the region on liveaboard boats which cost a pretty penny. But now homestay type hotels are opening up and even some modern hotels are opening up and fortunately or unfortunately, we can’t decide which one, the word is spreading. 

Waigeo, Salawati, Misool, and Batanta, the four main islands of Raja Ampat which means four Kings – along with thousands of smaller islands can now be explored a bit more easily. Besides diving these islands are great for bird watching, lazing on white sand beaches, bathing in waterfalls and exploring ancient caves. 

Floating in Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Floating in Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Why Go: To dive!!! And if not scuba then to discover a remote part of the world before it becomes overcome with mass tourism!

Best time to visit: The dry season from October to April. 

Getting there:  You will need to fly from Jakarta to Sorong on Papua New Guinea and then take a smaller flight or boat to Waisai on the main island of Waigeo. While Bali does have flights to Sorong most are with stopovers where as Jakarta has direct flights. 

Island of Java: Indonesian Gem hidden in plain sight.

The island of Java is considered the commercial center of Indonesia what with the capital city of Jakarta and second largest city of Surabaya being located on the island. Most tourists give Java a miss which is a shame. 

Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia
Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia

East Java is visited by tourists more than west Java which is where locals holiday more. On the east of the island Surabaya can be your base to explore Mount Bromo, an active volcano with a lovely view and its neighboring Mount Semeru which is the most active and highest volcano on Java. Also nearby is  Seloliman Nature Reserve is Java’s ultimate jungle retreat where you can learn about local farming and wildlife by day and stargaze by night.

 The city of Yogyakarta forms a base to explore ancient temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. Apart from this Yogyakarta is known for its arts and crafts and is small enough to explore on foot. It is also a great base for exploring the surrounding villages locked in time by hardened lava on a Merapi Lava Tour, an activity that’s both sobering and captivating.

On the south west of the island is Pangandaran beach and Green Canyon where you can go cliff jumping and canyoning. Then there are cities like Bandung known for their shopping and many factory outlets located inland on west Java. Jakarta itself may not appeal to Indians as its as chaotic as one of our cities but the Thousands Islands group north of the city and Tanjung Lesung beach area south of the city are popular with locals and have great beaches and islands to explore. 

Blitar, East Java, Indonesia
Blitar, East Java, Indonesia

Why Go- Java would appeal to a repeat visitor to Indonesia or someone really keen on exploring the ancient temples found on the island. 

Best Time to visit: Visit in the dry season between April to November

Getting There:  Jakarta being the capital city of Indonesia, is well connected by flights. Jakarta and Surabaya also have frequent flights. If you have time you can even explore the island by road, but beware, distances are long and traffic is tedious. 

Orangutans & Jungles of Indonesia: Tanjung Puting National Park or Bukit Lawang

Orangutan in the forest in Asia
Orangutan in the forest in Asia

Because of its location on the equator stretching all the way from Asia to Australia, Indonesia is not only a tropical island country but also has many diverse species of these two faunal realms. Therefore it is only  obvious that nature and wildlife lovers will want to explore the jungles of Indonesia. 

One animal that can be found only in the jungles of Indonesia and Malaysia is Orangutans. These are found on the island of Borneo shared by both the countries as well as Brunei and on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The Sumatran Orangutans are critically endangered.  

Tanjung Puting National Park -On the island of Borneo you have an option to visit the primates from the Malaysian side or from the Indonesian side. On the Indonesian side the best place to see them is Tanjung Puting National Park. Tanjung Putting National park is predominantly a swamp and mangrove forest. You can go on 1night, 2night or longer cruises on local boats called Klotoks. Most of these boats are basic but the experience is amazing. The cruise through the jungle, seeing various animals like Clouded leopards, civets, Malaysian sun bears, mouse deer, barking deer, sambar deer, and the wild cattle known as banteng, various birds, crocodiles and ofcourse the man of the jungle- Orangutan with 9 other species of primates. 

The jungle experience, without mobile signals is humbling, the sunsets are magical and at night the sky is a marvel full of stars. There are some luxury Klotok boats where you get cabins with air-conditioning but the regular Klotoks offer all meals, a mattress on the boat deck with a mosquito net under the stars. There is no air-conditioning but the nights are pleasantly cool and breezy. On these cruises you will also alight on land to visit some Orangutan camps and trek through the jungle. 

Why Go: For an Amazon cruise type of experience much closer to home at a fraction of the cost!

Best time to go: Mid-June to September which is the dry season is peak time and taking a shared boat is more eco friendly. 

Getting there: Take a flight to Pangkalan Bun airport from Jakarta or Surabaya. Bali also has flight but with stops in one of these cities. 

Kapas Biru Waterfall
Kapas Biru Waterfall

Bukit Lawang: Located on the island of Sumatra, Bukit Lawang is a tiny village on the edge of the UNESCO Site of  Gunung Leuser National Park. The closest airport is about 140 kms away and still takes 5 hours to reach here as roads aren’t that great. Afterall if it was easy, everyone would do it. The benefit of visiting Urangutans from Bukit Lawang is that you can do if on land and don’t have to live on a boat. However do remember Bukit Lawang is a village and donot expect luxury accommodation. Power cuts are normal here and when it rains it pours! 

You can go on Orangutan treks in the jungle with guides. It is very important to hire ethical guides that follow guidelines. Some tend to feed the Orangutans so their clients can get a closer look or pictures. But this is not safe as there monkeys are big and can get aggressive. Also they can get infected by human diseases very easily. It also sets a wrong expectation and they tend to come close to next group of travelers and get aggressive if not fed. Hence responsible tourism is very important here which sometimes some locals tend to overlook for a little money. Always book with a reputable company. 

Why Go-To see Orangutans in their natural habitat by land and treks at a much more nominal cost compared to similar experiences in Africa!

Best time to go: April to September is the dry season and the best time to go. Avoid Easter weekend as it gets quite busy. 

Getting There: The only way to get here is by road. You can reach from Medan or Kualanamu Airport in about 5 hours depending on traffic. It is possible to even get here from Lake Toba, another famous attraction on Sumatra

Islands around Bali: To discover what Bali used to be like before mass-tourism! 

Bali is surrounded by many small and big islands. Some like the Gili Islands have become as commercial and busy as Bali, while others are getting there. After spending a few nights on Bali if you wish to go island hopping consider some of the islands below:

Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan: Till a few years back everyone flocked to Gili Trawangan and most gave these islands closer to Bali a miss or visited on a daytrip. Today Instagram has made these islands quite popular and every respectable blogger who have been to Bali will have a picture descending the scary path to Kelingking Beach which till a few years back was not even accessible. 

Today these islands are a lot more popular and many spend a few night on them. Nusa Lembongan is known for its underwater garden with many statues. Come here before they go the Gili way!

Nusa Penida, Indonesia
Nusa Penida, Indonesia

Why Go: For interesting cliff and cave formations and cleaner beaches and better snorkeling and diving  than Bali

Getting There: A short ferry ride from Bali brings you to these Islands

Lombok: Most tourists who visited came to climb Mount Rinjani, the second highest volcano in all of Indonesia. However the route was left littered with waste and human excretion and other rubbish as many outfits operating these overnight treks did not practice responsible tourism. However due to eruptions in 2015 and then earthquakes etc in following years activity to the volcano decreased and things look better now. 

Besides the volcano, there are hot springs, waterfalls, unspoilt beaches, a few hikes with nice views from top, local villages and island-hopping  tours to small nearby islands. There are areas of Lombok that are seeing rapid development and upcoming luxury resorts. Till then Lombok is a much bigger but way less developed brother of Bali. 

Why Go: For a quieter island getaway compared to Bali with cheaper prices and better beaches.

Getting There: A short ferry ride from Bali brings you to Lombok. There is also an airport on Lombok with local flight connections. 

Sumba: Put on the map of travelers by Nihi Sumba the first luxury resort of Sumba island, today more and more people are hearing about Sumba. The government of Indonesia plans to develop this beautiful island as a more eco friendly and sustainable option to Bali. Currently few tourists visit as Nihi Sumba is an exclusive luxury resort not everyone can afford  and there are handful other accommodation options. 

The island is known as surfers paradise as it has amazing waves. The beaches are unspoilt and white sand, inland the island is lush and green with many waterfalls and lakes. The island has no cities only a small town and villages. The local customs and houses here differ from rest of Indonesia and are quite interesting to discover. The island is known for its Ikat handicrafts. There are Megalithic tombs to discover where royal are buried. 

Why Go: An Island Paradise waiting to be explored before hoards of tourists descend. 

Getting there: Sumba already has 2 working airports both served by flights from Bali on a daily basis. 

Besides these beautiful islands Indonesia has a host of other places which we donot mention as we feel they are not ready for Indian tourists and vice versa. Places like Toraja, Manado etc are getting there but right now the above mentioned places should be on your Indonesia wishlist!

Java, Bali, Jakarta, Bromo, Komodo, Flores, Raja Ampat, Lombok
Asia, Indonesia, Bali, Island, Beach, Party, Paddy field, honeymoon, anniversary, unique, offbeat, luxury hotels, luxury resorts, diving, group trip, Java, Bali, Jakarta, Bromo, Komodo, Flores, Raja Ampat, Lombok, orangutans, wildlife
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