The best Indonesian Islands, want to see them?
If you’ve reached this article, you’re no doubt planning a visit to Indonesia. Maybe because you’ve been here before and want to explore new places, or maybe it’s your first visit and you’re still planning your travel route.
If you’d like more information about Raja Ampat, we recommend that you read our article on Raja Ampat, where you will find everything you need to know about this Paradise on earth.
In this article we are going to list the most famous Indonesian islands, the ones most worth visiting. In fact, there are thousands of Indonesian islands, and we could talk endlessly about them. We’ve chosen the few that are must-sees because of the wide array of options they offer tourists.
Indonesia is the sixteenth largest country on the planet and the fourth most populous. Given its large size and its division into territories, it’s imposible to see it all on just one visit. That’s why we’d like to guide your visit to the most spectacular tropical landscapes in Oceania, and perhaps in the world. Out of the 17,000 islands that make up the archipelago, we have selected the best Indonesian islands, those that you must see on your trip.
Indonesian Islands: Fairytale Islands, Islands of Paradise
1. Islands in the Archipelago of Raja Ampat
[For more complete information, see the article on the Islands of Raja Ampat.]
This archipelago made up of 1,500 islands is located to the Northeast of Western Papua, on the border with New Guinea. Its surface makes it the largest archipelago in Indonesia and nestled within it are places so marvelous that they seem fantastic.
In Raja Ampat you’ll find the largest National Marine Park in the country, which includes infinite marine species of marvelous diversity: whales, tortoises, dugongs, sharks, etc. Located at the center of the “Coral Triangle,” Raja Ampat is the best place to practice diving in Indonesia. More and more scientists, photographers and expert divers are being captivated by the riches of these islands. And that’s because Raja Ampat, in addition to its spectacular beaches, with their white sands and turqoise waters, is home to more than 1,000 different species of fish in its waters, along with 600 species of coral and 700 species of mollusks.
The Indonesian islands of Raja Ampat stand out as tranquil islands where many tourists come to carry out diving expeditions and spend their vacations. One of their greatest advantages is the relatively small number of tourists, compared to the islands we will discuss now.
Raja Ampat is also one of the few areas in the world where manta rays and sharks are protected. Also, this is the only place in the world where you will find the Dugong.
If you’re in search of a peaceful place to rest, unplug and feel like you’re in a different world, surrounded by nature and far from civilization (except for the tribes native to the región), then Raja Ampat is your destination. Also, since it is a protected zone for both fauna and corals, more and more divers are choosing it as the destination for their dives.
2 Western Papua
It makes up the western half of the island of New Guinea and, among its indigenous tribes, more than two thousand different languages are spoken, making this the richest linguistic region of the world.
The region of Western Papua and, in particular, the Valley of Baliem, manages to transporting each of its visitors to a primitive, prehistoric place, a fabulously valuable site for those who love history and anthropology. Archaic houses made of bamboo and mud, agricultural techniques that have practically disappeared, and Stone tools are a few of the characteristics that make up this unique place.
Maintaining its own life style for the past 5,000 years, despite scorn and indifference, the warm smiles and welcome provided by the villagers can be felt in the atmosphere. Countless towns brimming with curiosity, whose customs and ways of viewing the world will enchant you. Their chants to the gods and the elements of earth are rituals well worth experiencing.
If you want to unplug 100% from reality, to submerge yourself in a totally parallel universe to the one you know, to learn unknown languages, legends and cultures of prehistoric peoples, and to let yourself be guided by the symphony of landscapes, mountains, and low-hanging clouds, then come visit Western Papua!
3. Island of Bali
Bali is the most visited Indonesian island and one of the most densely populated, with more than 3 and a half million inhabitants. It makes up part of the minor islands of Sonda, with its mixture of nature, beaches, lakes and mountains, turning it into one of the preeminent Indonesian islands.
This Indonesian island is made up of kimoneters of white coastline surrounded by a rocky system extending from east to west. One of the best known active volcanoes, and one of the highest, at 3,142 meters, Agung Volcano erupted for the first time in 1963.
But this island has much more to offer. Bali is the capital of Hinduism, as is reflected by its numerous and impressive temples, allowing you to submerge yourself into the culture and religion of this historic people. It is also a favorite destination for surfers, and in recent years, its popularity among divers has grown, since in northwest Bali you find one of the best conserved corals in all of Indonesia.
Beyond tourism, the economy of Bali is based on its rice plantations. It is the island of rice fields par excellence. There you can observe expansive, striking plantations, harvested and picked based on rustic, traditional techniques.
Although visiting and staying on this island can cost three times as much as any other place in Indonesia (given its high level of tourism), it’s worth visiting Bali to swim on its beaches, with their white sands and turquoise waters. If what you’re after is serenity and entertainment in a chameleon-like environment that invites exploration, that will allow you to see active volcanoes, practice aquatic sports (surfing, snorkeling, diving), and even relax and drink a cocktail on a cliff, while enjoying some exceptional views, then come to Bali!
The main problem with the island of Bali is that it is so famous, which has made it one of the most frequently visited islands in Indonesia, and therefore one of the most populous.
4. Gili Islands
Facing the Northwest coast of Lomok are three little tropical islands sheltering a storybook Paradise: Gili Meno, Gili Air and Gili Trawangan. This complex of islands (the Gili Islands) makes up one of the least developed landscapes in Indonesia. This is precisely what makes these Indonesian islands so special.
On any one of these three Indonesian islands you can find ocean bottoms brimming with coral and many-colored fish, an irresistible attraction for divers and snorkelers. The charm of the Gili Islands allows you to connect with nature in its purest state, the one least known to mankind. You can stay, for a very resonable price, in one of the cozy wooden cabins, and feel as if nothing exists beyond this marvelous place.
Here you will never hear a car horn or motorcycle engine; they are so disconnected from reality, that it’s forbidden to drive motor vehicles here. You can, of course, get around easily by bicycle or on foot. Though the atmosphere of this place is totally relaxed, there are certain areas of this Indonesian island that are more festive.
At sunset you can delight in the great variety of delicious fish and shellfish, for sale in the food stands along the ocean shore.
For reaching the Indonesian islands there are small boats, also very inexpensive, which leave the capital of Lombok and Mataram. Lombok is only four kilometers from these Indonesian islands.
The Gili Islands are the perfect place to spend a few days in a tropical Paradise, far from the irritating noise of the city or the tourist beach, where the only sounds surrounding you will be those of the sea.
5. Island of Java
The island of Java boasts the title of the most densely populated island in the world, with more than 60% of the inhabitants of Indonesia (141 million). Java is the historic, political and economic capital of the country, the cradle of Hindu and Buddhist empires.
In the central region of Java you will fin done of the most prized jewels in the Buddhist world, the Temple of Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple on earth. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it is the destination of thousands of religious pilgrims. More than 1,300 panels make up this mountain-shaped temple, and its designs inspired by the figure of Buddha reflect the sacred spirit that envelops this religious site.
Another outstanding feature is the crater of Kawah Lien, an active volcano more than 2,000 meters high, situated on the east of the island. Its smoking image attracts thousands of curious people seeking the best photographs to record their visits.
To explore Java, losing yourself in its neighborhoods and its people, to observe their customs, rituals, religion and language, is a cultural experience not to be missed.
But if you are the adventurous sort, this island also offers you activities packed with adrenaline and unique sensations. In Java you can climb to the peaks of any of its 121 active volcanoes, go hiking or rafting. It isn’t one of the best places for diving, but there are diving classes offered there.
Whether by land, sea or water, Java offers a unique charm. It is a territory where the rapid pace of city life coexists with the relaxation of those seeking the serenity offered by its beaches and turqoise waters. All of this makes Java one of the best of the Indonesian islands.
6. Komodo Island,
This small volcanic island, located in the minor islands of Sonda, barely has 2,000 inhabitants. What it is best known for is the National Komodo Park, the habitat of the famous Komodo Dragon. A lizard in danger of extinction, between 2 and 3 meters long, weighing 70 kilos, it is considered the largest lizard on earth. This national park was created precisely in order to protect the 5,000 or so dragons that live there and that constitute a unique species not found anywhere else on earth.
It’s easy o reach this park by boat from Labuan, the most Westernized town on the Isla de las Flores. There are one-day tours or tours lasting several days, covering various islands, with stops in Komodo. Since there is no resort there, you must have your home base elsewhere.
One of the natural attractions of this area are its white beaches and cristal clear waters, with high visibility, making it the perfect environment for diving. The location of Komodo Island in the middle of the ‘Coral Triangle’ gives it an impressive array of marine life. Since there are strong currents in some parts of the island, those areas are only recommended for experienced divers. Another option is to go muck diving; the area around Horseschoy Bay is one of the best places for that.
Muck Diving, in case you don’t know, is a type of diving done in turbulent waters with mud.
In 1991, this setting was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and in recent years tourist attraction to the area has continued to grow. In 2011, this Indonesian island was included among the seven natural marvels of the world, and with good reason, since Komodo is an ideal destination for those intrepid adventurers seeking to explore a virginal tropical Paradise with fauna and flora found nowhere else on the planet. Komodo island is one of the best Indonesian Islands.
7. Sumatra Island, the biggest of the indonesian islands
It is the sixth largest island in the world, about the size of Sweden. Its population of 50 million inhabitants is stretched over its territories in towns of various sizes and characters.
If you travel to Sumatra you can accomplish countless things: relax on its beautiful beaches or surf on them, see the rice fields, go on trips to volcanoes and lakes (like Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake on earth), or get lost in the heart of the tropical rainforest.
Sumatra has storytale corners and scenes that will transport you to the Amazon Rain Forest. It will amaze you with its marvelous wealth of fauna and flora, the main reason most tourists visit it. Sumatra is home to an immense variety of native plants and trees, evoking a world of color and fantasy. One example are the two largest flowers in the world (Rafflesia arnoldii), which can grow to weigh 11 kilos and to stretch a full meter wide.
As for the animal world, in Sumatra it’s easy to find unique species of mammals and birds. One example is the orangutans, especially in Bukit Lawang, on the northern part of the island.
A good diving experience is another star attraction of this island. Many undersea explorers are seduced by the clear, deep waters of the island of Pulau Weh, where you can rent bungalows with some amazing views at a very reasonable price.
This Indonesian island is a nearly deserted gem for lovers of nature, the animal kingdom, and photography. Here you will certainly find some unforgettable images that you won’ find anywhere else on earth.
8. Sumbawa Island
One of the least known of the Indonesian islands and that is also well worth considering. It is located between the islands of Flores and Lombok. Since it is located in the Circle of Fire in the Pacific, it is a vocanic zone including Tambora Volcano, which is 2,857 meters high. This volcano is famous for having caused the best known eruption in modern times (1815). In fact, that eruption affected world climate so much that the year of 1815 was known as ‘the year with no summer.’
Among the island’s prime features are its extensive rice fields and its beaches and coves. Its outstanding beaches include the southewestern beaches, which are famous in the surfing world.
While this is interesting, one of this Indonesian island’s greatest beauties derives from its authenticity, since it has been little explored by Westerners. As a result, a tourist might find it difficult to reach and travel around this island.
An island highly recommended for adventurers!
9. Nías Island
Known as the island of surfers, Nías is the largest Indonesian island near Sumatra. Situated to the northwest of the large island of Sumatra, it makes up part of the archipelago of 131 islands, out of which Nías is the largest and most populous.
In the Sixties this was one of the Indonesian islands included on the Hippie Trail, mainly because of the surfers wanting to reach Bali who discovered this remote Paradise. The island of Nías, devastated by the tsunami of 2005 but now recovered, is a pilgrimage site for surfing aficionados in search of the perfect wave, since its geographical situation and the movement of its waves are perfect for this sport.
Still, Nías is known for more than its surfing. Its indigenous culture is among the best preserved, because of its isolation, and it is one of the few megalitic cultures on the planet. On Nías two languages are spoken, both difficult for Westerners to understand, and don’t miss the traditional war dances, if you visit this island.
Without a doubt, Indonesia hides away many exceptional, unique and marvelous corners The Indonesian islands are well known worldwide and many tourists visit them every year. In this article we have tried to give you a brief introduction to the best Indonesian islands. Are you still mulling over whether or not to visit the Indonesian islands? Do you know of another Indonesian island that we haven’t mentioned and should?
Spectacular, wouldn’t you say? If you still can’t decide where to go, we’ll be happy to help you decide while showing you around Raja Ampat and our resort. Just press play and see this Paradise for yourself!
Fuentes de las fotografías:
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