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10 off the beaten track destinations to discover in Indonesia

Tana Toraja 3

Probably the first destination that comes into your mind when you hear of Indonesia is Bali, but Indonesia is way more diverse and has around 16,999 more islands to explore. Long white sand beaches, virgin rain forest jungles, unique diving spots with 100 species of corals, friendly and smiling locals are just a few reasons why Indonesia should be on your bucket list! To fuel your wanderlust and start packing right now, I’d like to share the next 10 absolutely unique and hidden places in Indonesia…

The Togean Islands

Togean Islands 3

Have you seen “The Beach”? If you did, do you remember that hidden tropical paradise only chosen travellers managed to discover? Well, Togean islands are just the same. Lost in the Gulf of Tomini away from Central Sulawesi coast, the archipelago is hard to reach, yet it is absolutely worth it!

White sand beaches that can over rank the Maldives, a variety of corals and underwater life as diverse as at the Great Barrier Reef and plenty of deserted islands where you can experience the real castaway life for a few days.

No wi-fi, no cell phone recipient at most islands, no electricity at day time, simple meals and water brought in barrels.  But, you live in a wooden bungalow right on the beach; can get your coconuts for free from the nearest palm, dive and snorkel all day long or sunbathe on a beautiful beach all on your own.

Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat 2

Another fantastic destination for all diving geeks. The archipelago’s based northwest from New Guinea coast and consists of four main islands:  Misool, SalawatiBatanta, and Waigeo with over one thousand tiny deserted islets around. The tropical landscapes here are stunning and life flows slow and simple just as it used to be decades and decades ago. The best diving spots are Manta Rindge, Cape Kri and Cross Wreck, a Japanese Patrol boat that sank during World War II all beautifully covered in sponges and corals. It’s just 18 meters away from the shore and a perfect place to choose for newbie divers.

The Village of Kabalutan

Bajau Village

A tiny settlement lost on one of the numerous islands of Togeans inhabited by the Bajau people known as the sea gypsies. Till recent times this community lived on numerous wooden houseboats that still can be seen roaming around Indonesia. Brought and raised in the sea, kids learn to dive from early ages and can go as deep as 12 meters without any gear at all! I’ve dropped my snorkelling tube by accidence and the kid just jumped from the board and fished it out from 8 meters deep. Being amazingly skilful fishers the Bajau catch around 200 species of marine life and you can buy a huge crab or some sort of exotic fish to be cooked afterwards for you. Yet, most of the profit comes from selling sea cucumbers to Chinese exporters who consider it to be a powerful medicine.

Una-Una Volcano

Una-Una Volcano

Another amazing spot to check out while on the Togean Islands. After the last eruption in 1983 the island is quite deserted with just a few people living on the East Coast. Hike to the very top for the most amazing scenery ever and check out the nearby Apollo Reef and the Pinnacle that are mainly inhabited by octopus and large fish and if you’re lucky enough you can swim with the local dolphins!

The Baliem Valley, Papua Indonesia

Baliem Valley Village,jpg

The place stayed absolutely undiscovered to the rest if the world till 1940s. The first expedition took place in 1938 and it was the first time when the local Dani tribe has seen an outsider. In 1945 a plane crashed here with military on board who went on a fun trip over the valley. The survivors have spent a few month with the tribe till they were finally rescued. You can get to know more about the accident in Lost In Shangri La book written by Mitchel Zuckoff.

Today, the place us still remote and rarely visited by foreigners. The local lifestyle is pretty much the same as it used to hundred of years ago. With Manual labour used for manufacturing household items, simple agriculture and pigs being the most valuable items and main currency. Most locals still cover themselves in a mixture of ash and mud to protect skin and men wear really peculiar traditional outfits. Come to visit during the Warrior festival in August when the Dani, the Yali and the Lani tribes choose their best warriors to compete.

Tangkoko Nature Reserve

Tangkoko

A huge reserve park based around Mount Tangkoko 70 km away from Manado. You can see the black macaque monkeys, little fluffy tarsiers hiding in the tree hollows, cuscus and a variety of colourful birds.

Kakaban Island

Jelly Fish Lake 2

Another hidden gem of Indonesia with stunning golden beaches and coral reefs is part of the Derawan Archipelago in East Kalimantan. The local specialty here is the Non-Stunning Jelly Fish Lake which can be found right in the middle of the island. A fun diving experience is guaranteed.

Lake Sentani

Lake Sentani

A huge tranquil lake hidden deep in the island of Papua. Located in a few hour drive from Jayapura it’s absolutely worth to take the ride! Surrounded by sloppy green mounts and think jungles it is the home to around 24 tiny villages inhabitant by local tribes. Each one having unique tradition and peculiar lifestyle.

Londa, South Sulawesi

Londa caves 1

So, the Tana Toraja people have quite a variety of burial ceremonies to offer. Around 50 years ago it was still common to bury children in special trees with special hollows used as graves. Londa is another burial site with special caves made to let the loved ones rest in peace for good. Gouged in rocks these twisted narrow caves have coffins places here and there all covered in money, cigarettes and candies – traditional gifts to bring. Outside the caves are decorated with wooden statues of its inhabitants that seem like be watching you from every angle you look at them.

Ijen Volcano

Ijen

Though the place’s listed in most guides I have seen just a few reckless travellers here who took the courage and went down the slimy rocky paths down to the crater lake. The sulphur vapour here makes it hard to breath and you should keep your nose covered with mask, but the scenery is out of this world!

Written by Elena from Travelgram. Elena is a twenty-something girl from Kyiv, Ukraine who loves getting lost in different parts of the world. Currently, she’s an expat in France and explores the world of wine, cheese and art on a daily basis.

23 Comments

  • Imelda

    14 December, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Great article showing the more extraordinary places in Indonesia rather than the ‘norms’. A good place to start your tour of Indonesia is actually through Singapore, it’s only a short (40 minute) boat ride to Batam and from there you can get flights to all these destinations from the local Hang Nadim airport. Even for a days excursion it’s a great opportunity to sample the special Indonesian culture.

    Reply
  • Meilan

    23 August, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Nice list! I plan to go to Raja Ampat for diving, after my diving at Bunaken ( Manado) . Raja Ampat is one of the heaven for the divers. Anyway, I am Indonesian, and I do enjoying this list. I must say thank you, because by sharing this you already promoted my country. What a positive thing! Keep writing and blogging, and share the spirit for traveling. Please keep warm regards from Indonesia.

    Reply
  • Chinmoy Lad

    5 August, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Love the list! I should check some of these places out. Great call on Raja Ampat – Alila and Aman both have private cruises that head that way…it would be a dream to go on one, though I’m not a diver. Maybe I should get that sorted first…perhaps also consider an inclusion for Borobudur (not ‘off the beaten track’, but oft forgotten!)

    Reply
  • Jonny Duncan

    4 August, 2014 at 3:09 am

    Good list. I have spent 10 months in total over the past 17 years exploring around Indonesia and it is one of the most diverse countries I have been to. When I visited the Togean Islands in 2006, a lot of the coral was damaged by dynamite fishing, so by the sound of this post the reefs seem to be doing better which is good too hear. About the traditionally dressed men in the Baliem Valley though, when I was there several years ago the vast majority wore modern clothes, even when getting out of the valley itself and going hiking between villages up in the mountains, most of the people still had clothes on, and not the traditional dress.This was largely in part to missionaries bringing clothes donations in from Australia.

    Reply
  • Mike

    30 July, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    Raja Ampat is definitely my selection for this go-around, Becky! I’m not a diver (I tried that and it didn’t work too well with my claustrophobia but I could always snorkel around or heck maybe even give diving another try after many years 🙂 I would also like to check out those cool non-stinging jellyfish 🙂

    Reply
  • Sand In My Suitcase

    30 July, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    We recently cruised on a deluxe dive boat around Komodo National Park, which also sails Raja Ampat. We saw photos of the scuba diving there – awesome! And we were told by the dive guide that Raja Ampat is one of the last true unspoiled dive destinations in the world. We can always dream :-).

    Reply
    • Elena

      31 July, 2014 at 2:13 pm

      Absolutely true! 98% of the world’s corals and marine species can be seen in Raja Ampat and around the Togean Islands. A pretty awesome diving location I’d say!

      Reply

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