Welcome to my article on the best islands to visit in Indonesia. This destination can only be described as a tropical paradise home to over 17,000 islands. The people of Indonesia are friendly and welcoming, the beach life and climate is stunning, and the food is simply amazing.
The first time I visited Indonesia was in February of this year. I was working on a project with a hospitality company from back home. However, my most recent trip was more of a personal one.
On both of my trips to Indonesia, I met the kindest people which gave me this feeling of acceptance and being welcomed. I guess this is what got me back a second time.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Gunj – I was born in a small town called Hasimara in the state of West Bengal, India. My dad is in the Indian Air Force, so we used to move to new cities in India every 3-5 years.
That’s how I got introduced to this fascinating life of travel and discovering new places. I always enjoyed getting to know a different culture (even in my own country) and living in a new city with a different way of life.
This led me to become curious about travel and documenting experiences. I’m now a freelance photographer and videographer who specialises in aerial content. I absolutely love creating shots that one simply can’t see with their naked eye. It gives me a sense of how small we are as humans and a whole new perspective on things we could never imagine.
My Itinerary Exploring the Best Islands of Indonesia
I started this year’s trip to Indonesia from the west part of Java island, the capital city of Jakarta. Then I visited a very small island called Pulau Macan which is a conservation island north of Jakarta. One has to take a 90 minute ferry trip to get there.
From Pulau Macan I made my way to central Java to the city of Yogyakarta. This city is famous for having some of the biggest Buddhist and Hindu temples in Indonesia. You can also explore some crazy magical caves that are more than 1000 years old.
Next I headed to the east of Java to a place called Surabaya as a transit to Mt Bromo. After visiting this incredible active volcano, I took a ferry from Banyuwangi on the east coast of Java Island to the west coast of Bali.
I travelled down to Canggu which is where I made my base for a month. The great part about Canggu is that it was the perfect base to explore neighbouring islands such as Nusa Penida, Lombok and the Gili Islands.
Highlights from this Wonderful Indonesian Journey
As soon as I landed in Jakarta, I set off to explore the city and tried some local food such as the delicious Bakso, Nasi Goreng and Heinen Chicken. Once I made it to Pulau Macan it was all about snorkelling, kayaking and paddle boating. There was a lot of opportunity to chill on the beach.
Yogyakarta was where I visited one of the biggest Hindu temples in the world called Prambanan Temple and one of the biggest buddhist temples named Borobudur Temple. These sites were incredible. The caves (as mentioned above) called Goa Pindul Caves were another highlight of this destination. Tubing and jumping from cliffs was a lot of fun!
Next was the city of Surabaya. Here I visited two Chinese temples called the Pagoda Tian Ti and the Sanggar Agung Temple. The following day I took an overnight taxi to Mt Bromo. I rented a 4×4 to go up to watch the sunrise and later climbed up to the volcano’s rim to see the crater.
That same day we drove to Banyuwangi in pursuit of climbing another (and probably the most beautiful) volcano called Kawa Ijen. Unfortunately, I received some bad news and found out that it was closed due to some forest fires that happened a week before. So I ended up staying the night in Banyuwangi exploring the countryside before taking a ferry to Bali.
I stayed in Bali for around six days exploring the rice paddies, riding bikes on the beach, chasing waterfalls and just watching the sun go down while sipping on Bintang Beer. It was pure paradise! On the seventh day I flew to Lombok to take the ferry to Gili Trawangan.
Life in Gili was pretty chill. The islands only have horse carts and bicycles as a means of transportation. So I rented out a bike for five days to explore everything the island has to offer.
If you start riding your bike from one point it only takes about 45-60 minutes to end up back to where you started. For this reason, it doesn’t take more than two days to explore the entire island. I stayed for five days to experience as much as I could.
Another fun thing about the Gili Islands was that we had a few parties in the hostel I was staying at. Every night of the week there would be a party at a pre-decided club. I also went on a boat party which turned out pretty wild. Along with the parties, snorkelling trips around all three of the Gili Islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air) were amazing.
My birthday was approaching (23rd of November) and I have a ritual of going to a new place every year and doing something I’ve never done before. So this year I treated myself with scuba diving in Gili to see underwater life.
The next day I headed to Nusa Penida to enjoy the island. I basically just relaxed and watched the sunset from the cliffs. It was the perfect finish to my trip visiting some of the best islands in Indonesia.
The Best Islands to Visit in Indonesia
To me the best islands to visit in Indonesia would be Gili Trawangan, Pulau Macan and Java (specifically for Yogyakarta). Each of them had something unique to offer. In Gili Trawangan, I had my first scuba diving experience which was amazing. The nightlife there was pretty awesome too – especially the boat party.
In Yogyakarta, we learned about the history of the biggest temples and about Hindu influence in the culture of Indonesia. Pulau Macan was where I enjoyed crystal clear waters right outside my room.
Waking up and jumping right in for a nice morning swim was the highlight of staying there. The island is so small that there is only one eco-resort and it can only accommodate 30 people per night.
For travellers who want to experience the authentic culture of Indonesia I would recommend going to the east of Bali and perhaps exploring some of the unexplored islands there. I also recommend staying in a homestay or Airbnb to experience how the locals live on the islands – getting more immersed with the local people, food and culture away from mass tourism.
What you Need to Know Before you Go
I made a lot of friends in Indonesia. The people here are really happy and nice. They love helping foreigners and they tend to live life at a slow pace, being content with what they have. Indonesian people smile every time you make eye contact which makes all the difference. This small gesture shows how welcoming they are.
When it comes to food, I have three words to describe it: fried, crispy and spicy! They fry almost everything they eat. Apparently they like some crispiness and a little spice in their life which is kind of interesting. If you are someone like me who can’t handle too much spiciness, just ask them to put no chilli in your food and you will be good!
My tips for Indonesia would be to (firstly) use Google Translate to converse as smoothly as possible with the locals, as many of them don’t speak English. Next key tip is to utilise Grab for taxis, motor taxis and food delivery. Then, when in Bali, just rent a scooter or bike to commute around – it’s the best way to explore this paradise!
Finally, make sure you respect the environment when you travel. This destination is pristine and let’s keep it that way! Thanks for reading about the best islands to visit in Indonesia. I hope you enjoy your visit here, exploring some of the most beautiful places on earth.