With Jakarta being the entry point to the country for the majority, it's easy to include a city tour of the capital into your itinerary. I've definitely been to capital cities offering much more, but there still a few worthwhile sites to check out. The National Monument in Merdeka Square, The Grand Presidential Palace, and Kota Tua which is the old town area with colonial architecture.
Malang is a city in East Java and one that doesn't tend to regularly appear on lists of top cities to visit in Indonesia. However, I thought it was a real gem! There are two clear reasons to visit. The former slum of Jodipan has now turned in a colourful village following a makeover. A small group of students at Malang University came up with the initiative to gather local artists together and completely transform the village. There's also some great street art throughout.
Coban Rais is the second spot worth visiting, which an outdoor nature area offering waterfalls, Batu Gardens, floating hammocks, and stunning viewpoints from various platforms around the nature reserve.
Without a doubt, the most popular travel spot in the entire country. Despite the droves of tourists, you still can't miss out on a visit to Bali. Dubbed one of the most Instagrammable places on earth with spots including Ubud Monkey Forest, Tegallalang Rice Terrace, Tirta Empul Temple, endless waterfalls, and Besakih Temple, which is home to the iconic Bali gates to heaven.
Lombok is an island East of Bali, which can easily be reached via a short hopper flight or ferry. The first thing I noticed was a lack of tourist crowds compared to its neighbour. The island has a chilled laid back vibe and has an abundance of green forest in every direction. The beaches are beautiful, especially Selong Belenak Beach. You can visit Tetebatu Village for an authentic experience with locals, but for me, the island of Lombok is perfect to just relax and chill out away from the Bali crowds.
There's a very special experience waiting for you on Komodo Island. Take an internal flight to Labuan Bajo, which is actually a sleepy fishing town at the western end of Flores Island, but from here you'll be able to take a boat to Komodo Island. The views en route to Komodo Island are a treat also with lush green landscapes on the horizon. The Komodo Dragon is a rare species of lizard. You can find them in Komodo National Park and also on Rinca Island. They can grow up to 10 feet in length and weigh over 200 pounds. They're also canibals so eat their own species. This truly is a magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site waiting to be explored!
An easy stop to combine with Komodo Island if you choose to do the overnight boat stay rather than a day trip. Still to this day, Padar Island offers one of the most spectacular views I've ever seen in my life. I would recommend arriving before sunset and hiking up to the view point to admire nature at its finest. The hike is fairly steep and takes around 30 minutes, but it isn't difficult as the trails are well maintained.
Indonesia has many world class dives sites on offer for both experts and beginners. The most popular are Bali, which is great for wrecks and marine life, and then Komodo, which is great for turtles and manta rays. Raja Ampat is the holy grail of Indonesia scuba diving, although gets far less visitors due to its remote location.
I chose to do diving and snorkelling in Komodo as I was in the area at the time. I encountered many turtles and manta rays, which was an amazing experience, but I was left a little disappointed due to the plastic problem in the ocean.
I stayed in some great accommodation during my time in Indonesia, but Jivana Resort in Lombok is my recommended choice. This is such a beautiful property located in the heart of Kuta in a very green tranquil setting. If you've ever wanted your own private pool, this is the place to do it an an inexpensive cost.
When you're in the Jakarta, there's a great rooftop restaurant on top of Kosenda Hotel called Awan Lounge Rooftop Bar. It's more bar snack food, but the place offers superb views across the city. The chicken satay sticks and vegetable spring rolls were a winner!