1. Yogyakarta, East Java
Located on the island of Java, Jogjakarta is a fast growing backpacker destination in Indonesia. This is due to it’s amazing temples. There are actually lots of great things to do and see in Yogyakarta, but most people visit for the two main temples: Borobudur and Prambanan temple.
Both are stunning in their own right, but my favourite of the two is Prambanan temple. Borobudur is great for a sunrise tour though, and it’s a real bucket list moment.
Yogyakarta is also super cheap with friendly locals and it’s fairly easy to get around and to it thanks to it’s airport and the great train service across Java.
Definitely one of the best places to visit in Indonesia.
Highlights of Yogyakarta:
- Beautiful Temples
- Amazing countryside
- Great, cheap food
- Friendly locals
2. All of Bali
I could start naming specific areas of Bali that you should visit, but in all honesty, I think you should see it all. For a great night out and beginner waves, you can visit Kuta, for stunning temples and sunsets, make your way to Uluwatu, for blue waters, hit up Balangan beach, for the most stunning rice terraces, visit Sideman and for epic waterfalls, head up to the very north of Bali!
You’ll need a good 3 weeks to see everything in Bali and make sure you see it all well.
Bali is actually a unique island in Indonesia. It’s the only non-Muslim island in the whole country. This has actually caused some tensions in the past, but it’s generally peaceful.
Bali is a bucket list destination for many people and it’s no surprise why. I’ve been twice, hence why it's on this list of the best places to visit in Indonesia.
Highlights of Bali:
- Delicious food
- Super cheap massages
- Surf city
- Beautiful temples
- Friendly locals
- Rice terraces of Sideman
Read: Romantic Things To Do In Bali
3. Bandung, West Java
Bandung is located on the island of Java and it was actually a random stop for us in Java because it’s not very touristy. Which really is the main reason I wanted to visit. I ended up really liking Bandung, not the center of the city itself, but once you rent a moped (or a grab driver) and head out to the countryside you’re greeted with amazing, beautiful tea fields, stunning flower parks, a floating market and much more.
It’s super super cheap and because it’s so high up, it’s actually got a cooler climate which is nice (that’s why you can grow tea there!)
Highlights of Bandung:
- Floating markets
- Mini town
- Great food
- Beautiful tea fields
4. Malang, East Java
Ah, Malang, another one of my favourite places to visit in Indonesia. The main attractions in Malang are the famous rainbow village which is colourful, unique and honestly makes for a fantastic drone photo!
Not only that, once you rent a moped and head out of the city, you’ll find one of the best waterfalls in all of Indonesia. Worth the journey and very beautiful!
Malang is also the base for sunrise tours to Mount Bromo, which honestly is the best sunrise experience I’ve ever had in my life. If you only ever do one thing on a trip to Indonesia, then make a sunrise Bromo tour the thing you do.
Actually, I’ve done a whole guide on Mount Bromo and how to visit.
- Rainbow Village
- Delicious food
- Breathtaking waterfalls
- Mount Bromo
5. Nusa Penida
Nusa Penida is an island off Bali and technically it’s part of Bali, but it’s not on the main Bali island, so it’s another place to visit in Indonesia. You have to get a boat there but it’s a beautiful island.
The tourism on this island is really exploding and more and more hotels and restaurants are popping up, which thankfully means they’re fixing the roads, which are a disaster by the way!
The beaches in Nusa Penida are crystal clear blue, you can swim with manta rays, and it’s just got breathtaking views. It’s also famous for it’s iconic Instagram spots, so if you like a good picture, then you’re going to love Penida.
Words of warning, most of the sights require a lot of walking to get to them, so wear the right shoes.
Highlights of Penida:
- Blue water
- Manta Rays
- Friendly locals
- Diamond Beach
6. Nusa Lembongan
Nusa Lembongan is another island that’s “technically” Bali, but it’s quite different and actually when you visit Bali, you’ll discover there aren’t many clear beaches with pure blue water perfect for snorkelling….well, just take a quick boat ride to Nusa Lembongan and you’ve got great snorkelling opportunities.
You can stay on Nusa Lembongan, or you can just visit for the day. We visited on a day trip and explored the island on a tour, but the best part of that tour was definitely the snorkelling. We’ve had better snorkelling in the Philippines, but as far as snorkelling in Bali goes, this was a great spot and it was super cheap.
Definitely one of the best places to visit in Indonesia if you’re looking to swim with the fishes!
Highlights of Lembongan:
- Good snorkelling
- Cheap water sports/activities
- Nice beach and waters
- Cheap as chips
7. The Gili Islands
Ah, the Gili Islands! The Gili islands are made up of 3 islands: Gili Trawangan (referred to as Gili T), Gili Meno and Gili Air. Gili T is the largest and air is the smallest.
You can stay on all 3 islands and they each offer something different. Gili T is a “party” island with endless opportunities for drinking (ironic on a muslin religion island!), parties, and catching the sun. We had a moped accident on Nusa Penida which saw me out of action and meant we had to give up some of the other places in Indonesia we were going to visit…
This meant I spent about 10 days on Gili T, and I have to say, there are worse places to be “stranded”. The sun was amazing, the vibe fantastic, but honestly, the great thing about the Gili islands is their famous snorkelling opportunities. There are statues under the water, there’s a motorbike...you’ve probably seen the pictures.
That was the most disappointing thing for me, I couldn’t go in the water!!! So I spent all that time on this wonderful island, but couldn’t experience the highlights. But Bradley did and he loved it.
So if you’re looking for pure paradise, then a trip to the Gili islands would be on your Indonesia itinerary.
You can easily get there from both Bali and Lombok via boat.
Other places to visit in Indonesia
So there were a few places we were meant to visit in Indonesia but couldn't due to the moped accident. However, I did a lot of research into these places and I think they're worth visiting. We hope to return in the future to do these:
- Komodo Islands
More information to help you plan your adventure to Indonesia
When is the best time to visit Indonesia?
So in general, the most popular times to visit Indonesia are during the dry season which runs from May and September. Bradley and I visited in July/ August/Sep and the weather was perfect. I can’t remember seeing rain once!
Just remember peak time for Bali and Gili islands is June/July/August so if you want to avoid the crowds then I suggest you go before or after these months.
You can also visit in the monsoon season, because it doesn’t exactly rain every single day, it just means there is a higher risk and of course Indonesia is prone to “natural weather disasters” so just be wary!
Is it expensive to visit Indonesia?
No, no and no. Indonesia is one of the cheapest places to visit in the world. Getting there is the expensive part. But if you look on Skyscanner, you’ll probably find a good deal!
Lombok and Java islands are probably the cheapest of the ones I visited with Bali being a little pricer if you opt for more of the western style conveniences, but if you stay local it’s still cheap as chips.
How long should I spend in Indonesia?
This will all depend on what islands you want to visit. I’ve only listed 8 out of thousands of islands in Indonesia. But if you want to visit everything I’ve mentioned on this list then I suggest 6 weeks. You could see everything comfortably.
But if you’re short on time, then stick to one island, so either choose…
- All of Java (Malang, Bandung, Jogjakarta)
- Lombok and Gili islands
- Bali, Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan
And stick to just that, then spend at least 2 weeks exploring!
So there you have it, my guide to the best places to visit in Indonesia. Just remember, there is more to Indonesia than Bali, and there’s even more that we haven’t seen. We were hoping to visit the Komodo Islands and Flores but due to a moped accident our trip was cut short. BUT, I’m pretty sure I’ll visit eventually then they’ll probably make this list of places to visit in Indonesia too!