With more than seventeen thousand volcanic islands spread across seven seas (literally), Indonesia is a land blessed with long sandy beaches, rain forests, waterfalls, and untouched coral reefs. It’s also home to a multicultural population, from the world-famous Hindu island of Bali to the Buddhist temples of Java.

With all that beauty considered, Indonesia is a massive country with an endless array of islands and archipelagos worth exploring. How on earth does one choose just a few places to visit when presented with tens of thousands of options?

The answer isn’t simple, but this article sure can make it easier to choose where to visit in this expansive archipelago.

With this list of twenty-two of the most beautiful places in Indonesia, you can curate your own bucket list shortlist and plan the PERFECT Indonesian itinerary. You’re welcome!

1. Besakih Temple, Bali

One of the oldest (and largest) Hindu temples in Indonesia, the history of the Besakih Temple dates back to megalithic times, when the original structure was built around a central holy rock. It’s not known as The Mother Temple of Bali for no reason. 

Like many temples, this one is shrouded in history and mystical legend. I won’t even try to begin to explain its origins and evolution – you’ll simply have to visit to learn more. But what I can tell you is that this temple is one of the most beautiful places in Indonesia.

Besakih Temple

As you walk towards the steep stairs of the temple, you’ll be overwhelmed by the scent of tropical greenery and the sounds of buzzing bugs and birds. It’s located on the side of Mount Agung, the iconic volcano that towers over the island. With its fertile volcanic soil, the temple is naturally surrounded by never-ending jungles of lush plants and grasses. 

Whatever your faith (or lack thereof), visiting this temple is a spiritual experience for all who visit. I’m telling you, there is something otherworldly about this location. No wonder it’s still an important place of worship for the Balinese Hindu community.

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    2. Ubud, Bali

    If you’re backpacking in Bali, hitting up Ubud is a must, it’s like an unwritten law, I guess! Located in the center of Bali, this place really captures the heart and soul of this peaceful island.

    rice-fields in Ubud, Bali, indonesia
    Rice fields galore.
    Photo: @amandaadraper

    The small yet busy town is surrounded by tropical jungles and terraced rice fields. You could spend weeks exploring the stunning rice terraces (the Tegalalang Rice Terrace is no doubt the most famous), swinging over the valleys on some of the famous Ubud swings, and visiting iconic temples in the area.

    Ubud is the cultural capital of Bali, overflowing with art galleries, small boutiques, and traditional marketplaces. Other than culture and history, this is also where you will find some of the most impressive waterfalls on the island. Sure, they might be more crowded here than up north, but this doesn’t make them any less spectacular.

    Visit the Ubud Monkey Forest for a really unusual experience. This small forest park is teeming with cheeky monkeys. Just make sure to hold onto your hats and phones, as these monkeys are known to have a thing for stealing!

    For a change of pace, join a yoga class or wellness retreat in Ubud. Take it from me: you’ll leave with a new understanding of the word “zen.”

    3. Wae Rebo Village, Flores

    Nestled in the misty mountains of the Island of Flores, Wae Rebo is a traditional village that has earned itself a spot on the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage list. This destination is exceptionally secluded, adding an adventurous touch to your Indonesian backpacking journey.

    Home to the Manggarai tribe, this tiny village is surrounded by a dense tropical Todo forest packed with orchids, plant life, singing birds, and other endemic animals.

    The most defining characteristic of the village is the unique houses, called Mbaru Niang, which are covered in thatch from the roof to the ground. Every house has five levels, each for a separate purpose – cooking, socializing, sacred gatherings, and sleeping. Today, it’s the only village in the country that maintains these traditional Manggarai houses

    Mbaru Niang in a large valley surrounded by mountains in Wae Rebo Village, Flores
    This is the real deal—an actual remote village vibe.

    A single ancestor named Empu Maro founded the village over 100 years ago, with some of the current residents being 18th-generation descendants. Basically, this means the Manggarai tribe have kids super early. Do the math!

    love to feel like I’m visiting an island where people actually live, stay with locals, and actually immerse myself in their culture.

    One of my favorite things, and in my opinion, what makes this one of the most unique places to visit in Indonesia, is the lack of phone reception and limited electricity (only available between 6 pm and 10 pm). This gives you a real opportunity to switch off and reconnect with yourself and the surrounding nature. 

    4. Mentawai Islands Regency

    The Mentawai Islands are bestknown to surfers around the world. Isolated and off the beaten track doesn’t even begin to describe this string of islands. 

    It can be a hack to get here, which makes it super uncrowded and all the more beautiful in return. First, you’ll have to fly to Padang on the island of Sumatra (likely via Jakarta) and then get a ferry into the islands. You might even need to catch a small local long boat to get to certain islands in this beautiful place in Indonesia. It’s all part of the journey.

    Famous with surfers across the world, the islands are suitable for anyone on the hunt for crystal clear water, soft white sand, a slow pace of life, and all-around good vibes. First order of business: Secure the perfect surfboard, then ride the waves.

    A man surfing in nusa lembongan
    This surfer crushed that wave.
    Photo: Roaming Ralph

    The Mentawai Islands aren’t the best spot for solo travelers, though, since there isn’t much socializing to be done around the islands. However, if you’re traveling in a group or with family, add the Ments – as we call them – to your list.

    Surfing isn’t the only activity on the islands. You can also trek through the inner island jungles, snorkel, dive, and learn about the local island culture. The underwater scenery certainly offers the most in these parts, with some of the most spectacular dive sites in the world.

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    5. Kelimutu Lakes, Nusa Tenggara Timur

    Kelimutu Lakes might just be some of the most dramatic-looking volcanic lakes in the world. They are also some of the most visited lakes in the country, and rightfully so.

    What you might not know is that Kelimutu Lakes are actually a collective name given to three different crater lakes created by the same volcano. Each of the three lakes is a different color – blue, white, and red. 

    The most spectacular (and, of course, most photographed) is the blue lake, which shimmers an incredible turquoise that is hard to put into words. 

    Skyline views of Kelimutu Lakes in Nusa Tenggara Timur
    These lakes change color independently. They can go from turquoise to deep red, LITERALLY!

    The best way to experience this place in all its natural beauty is to hike or trek to the summit. Sunsets and sunrises here are unreal, and I really advise you to try to plan your trip to avoid the midday heat. Unfortunately, swimming is not allowed in the toxic sulphuric water (not to mention the steep cliffs). Otherwise, a cool-off dip would have been ideal.

    The lakes’ colors and intensity change by the minute, so manage your expectations. That said, when it comes to beautiful places in Indonesia, the lakes really are in a league of their own. 

    6. The Gili Islands, Lombok

    If you’re mapping out your Lombok itinerary, you’ve got to know about the Gili Islands. A string of islands located just off the west coast of Lombok and just a short ferry ride from Bali, the three main islands are called Gili Trawangan (Gili T, for short), Gili Meno, and Gili Air.

    Gili T is the largest island, although calling it large would be an overstatement. All three islands are small enough to walk around on foot and have no car traffic, meaning the best way to get around is by walking or cycling. And oh boy, do we love an island with no traffic!

    Sky view of Gili Islands with boats lining on the coastline and lush trees
    Ideal drone altitude for the perfect shot!

    The islands are known for three main things: snorkeling and diving, the beaches, and the nightlife. The nightlife is best in Gili T, where just about every street corner is buzzing with activity.

    Learning to dive or snorkel over the reefs are the two most common activities. Take that snorkeling boat trip, and you’ll see just why Gili Island’s underwater world is just incredible!

    If you’re up for even more water-related adventures, there are plenty of places where you can rent a SUP, go on kayaking day trip tours, kite surf, or wakeboard. Basically, you’re going to want to bring as little clothing and as many bathing suits as possible on this trip…

    7. Raja Ampat Islands, West Papua

    A quick Google search of these islands will have you gawking at your screen. Seriously, it’s impossible to put this incredible tropical island into words. That said, I’ll give it the best I can…

    Set in a secluded part of the archipelago, Raja Ampat is one of Indonesia’s premier diving destinations in the Coral Triangle. The triangle stretches from the Phillippines to Malaysia and Indo, but there are few places within it that can compete with the beauty of Raja Ampat. 

    Rock formations in Raja Ampat Islands, West Papua
    Raja Ampat Islands’ gorgeous rock formations.

    It’s true that the islands are the best for diving and snorkeling. But the thing is, these islands are just as beautiful above the surface as the coral reefs beneath them. 

    The island of Kri is the most popular for tourists, with plenty of accommodation and dive center options. However, if you have the cash to spare, do yourself a favor and book a boat charter for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    A dream come true for island-hoppers, bird watchers, and general fans of exquisite views and vistas, Raja Ampat is as remote as it is beautiful – and let’s be honest, the two are directly related. 

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    8. Bangka Belitung Islands, Sumatra

    While you might have heard of the island chains mentioned above, chances are the Bangka Belitung Islands are new to you. This province of islands located off the coast of southeastern Sumatra includes two main islands, surrounded by smaller ones. 

    They fall slightly off the beaten track and, thankfully, off the radar of many tourists, purely because of their remoteness and distance to get there. Admin aside, the islands are considered one of the most beautiful places in Indonesia for their unique granite boulders and palm tree-lined beaches. Sign us up!

    Bangka Belitung Islands' coastline with boats lining at the shore
    Bangka Belitung Islands: the sweet escape.

    Tanjung Tinggi Beach offers the perfect combination of white sand, smooth boulders, and crystal-clear water. For a slice of history, make sure to visit the Museum Kata Andrea Hirata, a colorful museum that represents the journey of literature and learning in the region. 

    On the island of Belitung, the Danau Kaolin Belitung Lake was formed by mining activity in the area. Today, water from the bright blue, turquoise lake is used to produce paper, cosmetics, and even food.

    It’s an interesting place to learn about the local industries, and it doesn’t hurt that it doubles as one of the most uniquely beautiful places in the country.

    9. Komodo National Park, Nuse Tenggara Timur

    Likely already high on your list of places to visit in Indonesia, Komodo National Park is truly deserving of a place on this list. Comprised of a string of three exotic islands, each island is preserved and protected for these magnificent dragons to thrive.

    In an otherworldly landscape of dry bushes, rugged cliffs, and barren rocks, roam the mighty Komodo Dragons. Where else in the world can you see totally wild prehistoric creatures that have their own entire region to roam free?

    A hilltop view from Komodo National Park, Nuse Tenggara Timur
    Komodo National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve.

    And let me tell you, these massive lizards aren’t the only interesting thing about the islands. The three islands, named Komodo, Padar, and Rinca, each have beautiful views, beaches, lush coastal hills, and, of course, are ringed by a thriving and colorful coral reef system. 

    Once you’ve had your taste of Jurassic Park, head to the famous Pink Sand Beach on Komodo Island to experience an entirely different side of the islands. The pink hue of the sand comes from microscopic red organisms that live in the coral reefs. 

    After they die, they get washed up on the beach and turn the sand pink. Neat, right?! While it isn’t the only pink beach in the country, these beaches are typically super rare.

    10. Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi

    Taking a step away from the tropical beaches and islands, Tana Toraja is one of the most unique places to visit in Indonesia for a few reasons. 

    First of all, the region set in the highlands of South Sulawesi offers a majestic mountain backdrop surrounded by lush jungles and picture-perfect local villages.

    Famous for its incredible hiking trails, Tana Toraja is as popular with nature enthusiasts as it is with activity devotees. Begin your day by watching the sun rise over the misty hills as you explore the villages and mountainside. What a dream!

    People standing in a traditional building made of rocks in Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi
    Not suitable for the easily creeped out…

    Second, the area is also known for its mystical tribal funeral customs. In an uncommon practice, the dead are not considered truly dead (in modern medical terms). Here, the departed are considered to be sick, or makula, as they say. 

    The makula – sick (or dead, as a doctor would say), are placed in a sealed coffin inside the family home until the family has saved up enough money for a decent funeral procession. Funerals depend on the social status of a family, with the most wealthy funerals including hundreds of animal sacrifices.

    You can visit the Londa Burial Caves for an eerily beautiful and educational experience. Suitable for fans of anthropology and beautiful places. Not suitable for the easily creeped out…

    11. Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Borneo

    A boat floating down a river in Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Borneo

    Ever wanted to see an orangutan in the wild? Tanjung Puting National Park contains the largest population of wild orangutans in the world.

    Naturally, the park is spread across a dense jungle and swamps on the island of Borneo. Among the orangutans, there are endless other fauna and floral species thriving in the jungle.

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    12. Borobudur Temple, Java

    Borobudur Temple, Java
    Borobudur Temple would look so different at night!

    Welcome to the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Sitting among the likes of Angkor Wat and Bagan in Myanmar, this exceptional temple is considered one of the most ancient archeological sites in Indonesia.

    Sitting on a majestic hill overlooking the island below, no wonder this is one of the top ten places to visit in Indonesia.

    13. Mount Bromo, East Java

    Mount Bromo Indonesia
    Mount Bromo – The Best View in Indonesia?
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst

    One of the best volcanoes in Indonesia, Mount Bromo is an active somma volcano that forms part of the Tengger Mountains (a series of other volcanoes).

    It’s one of the most famous volcanoes in the world because of its otherworldly landscape. And by this, I mean some of the most quintessential volcanic imagery you could dream up. Watching the sunrise from the top of Mount Bromo is not to be missed when visiting East Java. Sign up for the tour below and live the ultimate experience.

    14. Derawan Islands, East Kalimantan

    A group of boats floating on the blue water next to the shore with palm trees in Derawan Islands, East Kalimantan
    You’ve seen nothing. Wait until you go underwater.

    The Derawan Islands comprise 31 islands surrounded by coral reefs and islets that form part of the Coral Triangle. They are famous for their biodiversity of coral, invertebrates, and protected marine species, including the giant clam, coconut crab, and sea turtles.

    15. Maluk Beach, Sumbawa

    Maluk Beach, Sumbawa
    Off-the-beaten-path charm.

    Maluk Beach is as beautiful as beaches get. Picture yourself sinking into the soft white sand, strolling along a palm tree-lined beach, and taking dips in the pale blue water. It’s one of the most beautiful beaches for snorkeling, relaxing, and even surfing (when Neptune allows).

    16. Lake Toba, North Sumatra

    Lake Toba surrounded by green mountains in North Sumatra
    Lake Toba is one of the largest volcanic lakes in the world.

    Once the site of the largest volcanic eruption on the planet, some 74 thousand years back, Lake Toba is now a beautiful lake that could give Lake Como a run for its money.

    Surrounded by panoramic views, beaches, waterfalls, and hot springs, there are plenty of places to explore and adventure around this peaceful Sumatran lake.

    17. Baluran National Park, East Java

    2 people under a tree in a wide dry field in National Park, East Java
    Baluran National Park: the African savannah of Java.

    If you squint your eyes, you might think the Baluran National Park was a game reserve in the African Sahara. The area has a dry climate that consists mostly of savanna.

    Add to that white sand beaches, a coral reef of dreams, and more animals than you can imagine, and we have ourselves one of the most unique places to visit in Indonesia.

    18. Saraswati Temple, Bali

    Saraswati Temple, Bali

    Dedicated to honoring the Hindu Goddess of learning, literature, and art, Saraswati Temple is a beautiful place to visit in the sacred village of Ubud.

    The beautiful temple is surrounded by a water garden of ponds dotted with blossoming water lilies. Decorated with fine carvings and etchings, it only makes sense that the temple is dedicated to art.

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    19. Uluwatu, Bali

    Man surfing at balangan uluwatu
    You’re gonna be surfing in Uluwatu :))
    Photo: wavehavenbali (Flickr)

    Uluwatu is a small village set on the cliffside of the Bukit Peninsula in Bali. At the far south of the island, the area is known for its world-class surfing waves, warungs hanging on the edge of the cliffs, and incredible beaches and coves. Not to mention the sunsets and nightlife!

    20. Yogyakarta, Java

    Yogyakarta, Java

    Culture fans, this one is for you. Yogyakarta is the only Indonesian city still ruled by a monarchy. The royal city is known as the center for Javanese fine arts and culture, including things like poetry, music, literature, and fine art. 

    21. Alas Purwo National Park, East Java

    A pathway through a lush forest in Alas Purwo National Park, East Java
    No clear destination, but following the path anyway.

    A national park made up of savanna, mangrove swamps, caves, monsoon jungles, and coral-fringed beaches, Alas Purwo National Park is just what we signed up for. Not to mention, it’s also home to a famous surf break.

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    How to See Beautiful Places in Indonesia

    As you can imagine, Indonesia’s transport options consist of lots and lots of boats. Ferries, local transport boats, and speed boats – there are endless ways to travel across the seas from island to island. A ferry from Lombok to Gili Trawangan takes around half an hour and costs between $10 and $20 in each direction.

    Man on moped in Lombok
    The best option!
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst

    When it comes to traveling long distances from region to region, flying is usually the best option. It’s much quicker and often inexpensive when traveling on budget airlines like Lion Air, Citilink, and Garuda Indonesia. A flight from Bali to Jakarta would cost you around $30 – $35 in one direction and take under two hours. Easy-peasy.

    When on a local island like Bali or Lombok, the best way to get around is to rent a scooter (although controversially not the safest). That said, it’s super cheap (less than $5 per day to rent), and people do drive super slowly. Renting a car is another great option if you’re traveling in a group.

    Beautiful travels stay that way insured

    The first thing that most locals say is “hello;” the last thing that they say is usually “be careful.” Indonesia is a safe destination, but accidents do happen all the time, especially in Bali. Whether it’s a scooter accident, complications from diving, or a case of Bali belly, there are lots of ways that your trip can be derailed.

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    Final Thoughts on Beautiful Places in Indonesia

    And that brings us to the end of our list of beautiful places in Indonesia. Truthfully, I could have continued writing about this country for pages, but hopefully you’ve got your eyes set on a few of these exquisite places for your next trip.

    From moss-clad temples to gushing waterfalls to some of the trippiest coral reefs on the planet, there really is an incredible amount of places to visit and things to do in Indonesia. Cutting this list down would be an impossible task; however, if I had to recommend you visit only one of these places, it would be the Raja Ampat Islands. 

    Less popular than the Gili’s, this tropical paradise is a haven for wildlife – both on land and underwater, and is easily one of the most striking places I’ve had the honor of visiting.

    Mount Rinjani Joe
    Get out there, see them for yourself and you’ll be happy like me!
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst
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