Comprehensive Trip through Indonesia
Bali has always been this place of Instagram fame—lush beaches and jungle, beautiful people, tropical paradise. The Bali of today can sometimes be a stark contrast to the Instagram view, and therefore, it’s worth exploring some of the other places Indonesia can offer. Over a month and a half, here are some of my favorites.
Week 1-2 – Surf Bali
Canggu/Kuta: I always plan to surf if Bali is on the agenda. Despite having tried in many places (France, Spain, Costa Rica, Nicaragua.. I could go on..), this place has some of the most consistent stable waves I’ve experienced anywhere—and whatever your level, there’s something to surf and someone willing to teach you (for a price). I recommend going to Canggu, about 40 minutes north of the chaotic Denpasar Airport, where it’s still a bit laid back and hippie chill (although commercializing faster), and the culture is all about the beach. Old Man/ Batu Bolong is a great beach break for beginners, and board rentals and instructors line the beach.
Around Bali – Uluwatu/ Ubud: Bali can also be fun to explore on a scooter, although it’s not for the fainthearted. Narrow streets, heavy traffic and aggressive drivers make for a scary place to learn; whether you drive or grab a “Grab taxi” motorbike, I would suggest exploring some of the other towns, like Ulu watu in the south or a few days in the jungles and rice paddies of Ubud. Many travelers spend some on the Gili Islands; I’ve always opted to skip and instead head to Nusa Penida (below)
Week 2 – Nusa Penida
Nusa Lembongan/ Nusa Penida/ Nusa Lembongan: There are a series of smaller islands to the west of Bali—Nusa Lembongan (the closest), Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida. The latter is the largest, and most impressive—an excellent place to spend a few days, and perhaps exactly the Bali you were actually imagining.
Nusa Penida: Ferries run from the eastern coastal town of Sanur every day. Nusa Penida is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world: Kelingking, my personal favorite—a hidden cove a long traverse down a cliffside, Atun, and all the small coves you pass driving on a scooter. It is also home to some pretty impressive diving, with its own Manta Point and Crystal Bay, where Mola Mola can be spotted.
Week 3 – Komodo, West Nusa Tenggara
Komodo Island: This place is well worth a trip if you dive. The way in is typically by flight to Labuan Bajo, on neighboring West Nusa Tenggara (another possibility is taking a boat from Bali but I hear the waters are very choppy and people often get sick).
Liveaboard diving in Komodo: Many tour operators can organize diving trips or a trip to see the Komodo dragons on the island of Rinca, but to get to the really “good” dive spots, I’d recommend doing 4-5 days on a liveaboard boat. The water is cold (24 C), but the sea life is incredible—mantas galore, sharks, aquariums, turtles, rays. Also a great place for drift dives. Plan to spend a night in Labuan Bajo before heading out for an excursion.
Kelimutu Crater Lakes: You can continue on from here, flying from Labuanbajo to Ende, and exploring the rice paddies villages and surrounding forests. Keliumutu is home to a series of brightly colored volcanic crater lakes, and the area is dotted with natural hot springs. From here, continue on to the coastal city of Maumere, home to some lovey mangroves, quiet beaches and local streetfood.
Week 4 – Sulawesi
Tana Toraja: Sulawesi is one of Indonesia’s largest islands—a Muslim-majority—known for cultural rituals as much as its beaches. Tana Toraja, close to the capital city of Makassar, is famous for its colorful—if not gruesome—funeral rituals, which often involves the live sacrifice of water buffalo, pigs and other livestock in honor of the elders. It’s a beautiful and strange place to spend a few days on motorbike.
Gorontalo/ Bunaken: You can travel overland to Ampana or Gorontalo, and take a ferry to spend a few days on the Togean Islands. I personally heard reviews that they were missable, so flew from Makassar to Manado to spend a few days diving Bunaken Island. It’s a quick ferry away, although it seems like lightyears away from the bustle. The diving is fairly good, although sometimes the tide brings in trash from Manado. It’s a lovely place for a few days.
Week 5 – Raja Ampat
From Manado, there are direct flights to Sorong, Raja Ampat on West Papua. For personal reasons, I ended up never making this flight, but the beaches and diving on Raja Ampat are meant to be unreal. Would recommend a liveaboard for a week+