A guide to the 7 best things to do in Indonesia

Indonesia is an awesome place to visit, with thousands of temples, beaches and adventurous activities. It’s a unique destination for any type of traveler.

Padar Island, Indonesia

Indonesia is an incredibly vast and varied country; it’s home to over 17,500 islands which makes it the largest archipelago in the world. With so many places to choose from when planning your Indonesia itinerary, it can be hard to know exactly where to prioritize.

Thankfully, we’ve put together a huge guide of the best things to do in Indonesia to help you plan your dream trip and so that you can see as many incredible places as possible.

Experience every type of natural beauty in Bali

When you think of things to do in Indonesia, your first thought is probably of Bali as it’s arguably one of the most popular and famous islands in the country.

Bali gates

Despite being remarkably small in size, Bali packs a punch when it comes to awesome things to do and it’s a great place to base yourself while in Indonesia as you can easily get to and from numerous other surrounding islands.

For example, the high speed ferry from Bali to Gili Trawangan with Blue Water Express takes just over an hour and the high speed ferry from Bali to Lombok takes between 1 and 2 hours, depending on who you travel with. The boat journeys in and around Bali tend to be very wavy and choppy, so just bear that in mind if you plan on traveling between the islands here.

In terms of transportation overland in Bali, there are ample routes for you to enjoy. Below, you can find some of the top things to see and do in Bali, including the transportation links to get you to and from each place.

Drink fresh coconut water in Seminyak/Denpasar

Denpasar is the capital city of Bali Island and it’s also home to the island’s airport so if you’re traveling to Bali via plane, you’ll land here first.

Denpasar, Bali

There are plenty of things to see and do in Denpasar and its neighboring city, Seminyak, including spending the day on Seminyak beach where you can learn to surf, frolic in the sea or just enjoy drinking out of fresh coconuts on the beach.

You might also want to head into the town of Kuta if you’re looking for a lively night out and somewhere fancy (albeit pretty expensive for Indonesian standards due to the high volume of tourists that frequent this area) to eat.

Let out your inner monkey in Ubud

Ubud is undoubtedly one of the best and most popular places to visit in Bali. It’s also only one hour away via car from Seminyak so it’s easily accessible for a day trip or a longer stay while you’re on the island.

monkey forest in Ubud

Here you’ll find the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, the Art Market which is absolutely teeming with local produce, souvenirs and clothing as well as the Tegallalang Rice Terrace which is just a 20 minute drive from the center of Ubud.

Chill out and relax in the Gili Islands

The Gili Islands are another incredibly top tourist hotspot for visitors from all over the world thanks to their laidback lifestyle, awesome island life and beautiful surrounding waters that are perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving.

scuba diver with turtle

Despite the popular misconception that they’re part of Bali, the Gili Islands actually belong to Lombok.

You can reach the islands of Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan in less than 2 hours from Bali thanks to Blue Water Express High Speed Ferries

Depending on which island you want to visit, will depend on how much there is to see and do there. Gili Trawangan, or Gili T as it’s more affectionately known, is renowned for being the busiest and liveliest island out of the three. Here you’ll find dozens of beach bars, snorkelling tours and crazy pub crawls. It’s an island that’s aimed at a much younger audience as it’s so busy and has an awesome party scene.

Gili Meno and Gili Air on the other hand, have a more relaxed approach to island life and this is where you’ll find much quieter beaches, but also far fewer places to stay and eat as these islands are remarkably quiet compared to Gili T.

Go on a day trip to Nusa Penida

Nusa Penida is the largest of the three Nusa islands (Ceningan and Lembongan comprising the other two). It’s an incredibly quick 30-minute boat journey from Padang Bai in Bali with Golden Queen Fast Boat so you can head over there for a quick day trip if you don’t want to actually stay on the island.

Nusa Penida Indonesia

Once you hear some of the best things to do in Nusa Penida, however, you might change your mind about wanting to stay!

Nusa Penida is home to some of Indonesia’s best things to do including the beautiful Diamond Beach, Kelingking Beach, Thousand Islands viewpoint, Broken Beach and much more!

Get adventurous in Java

Java is home to more than half of Indonesia’s population and it’s a popular island to visit for travelers seeking adventure and thrills in the form of hiking, jungle trekking and volcanic exploration!

Some of Java’s top cities include Jakarta and Surabaya which are actually at opposite ends of the huge island (Jakarta – Indonesia’s capital city, sitting on the northwest coast of the island and Surabaya in northeast Java). It’s approximately a 9-hour drive from Surabaya to Jakarta, or an hour and a half flight.

As Jakarta is such a huge and important city in Indonesia, there are plenty of things to do there. You can access it by plane from other areas of the country, or if you’re already on the island of Java, then it’s a 3 and a half hour bus ride from Bandung

Once in Jakarta, you can enjoy visits to places like the National Monument, the Jakarta History Museum and the beautiful Cathedral.

Get in some culture in Batam

Batam Island is located so incredibly close to Singapore, that you probably wouldn’t think it belongs to Indonesia at all! It’s just over an hour’s journey on the ferry from Singapore to Batam so it’s an awesome place to visit in Indonesia if you need to do a visa run.

Pro tip: A visa run is a very short trip over an international border that essentially “resets” your visa in the country that you just came from. As countries like Indonesia have a 30-day visa limit for residents of most countries, a visa run means that you can quickly leave and then re-enter the country without having to pay to extend your visa.

There are plenty of things to do in Batam including numerous temples such as the Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya Temple, as well as plenty of water sports activities like the ones you’ll find at Batam Cable-Ski.

As you can see, Indonesia is absolutely teeming with incredible things to see and do; hopefully this list will have given you some inspiration to start planning your trip!

Posted June 18, 2021
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Chloe Dickenson
Full time traveler and digital nomad. Obsessed with garlic bread, potatoes and chocolate orange. Huge fan of eating, napping and New York City. Will likely never tire of traveling and determined to inspire as many people as possible to see the world!
image of blog writer Chole