Never has the phrase ‘spoilt for choice’ rung so true. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising over 17,00 islands and its tropical climate and location, between continental plates, has resulted in a varied landscape of beautiful beaches, endless reefs nestled below mountains and volcanoes with rainforests alongside. Indonesia offers a perfect mystical balance.
The vibrant spice and mining industries, combined with the sheer beauty of the Indonesian archipelago, has attracted hundreds of ethnic groups to make their mark here over the centuries. Unified by a common currency and a basic trade language, the Indonesian people are a mixture of many different cultures and religions whose costumes and customs vary between islands and even between valleys. Its strong sense of spirituality is afforded by a range of religions including Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
Bali is one of the smallest islands but long been thought of as a holiday destination for the luxury traveller. Fringed by wonderful beaches, Bali also has a remarkable landscape centring on the volcanic Gunung Batur, sloping up through terraced rice paddies, a fabulous place from which to view the sunset or surrounding countryside.
We love spending a few days gazing at the Balinese hillside village, and artistic hub, of Ubud with its jumbled stack of lush paddy fields and wonderfully laid-back locals. Ubud is ideal for those seeking some tranquil, mind-cleansing meditation although there are local crafts to bargain for.
Lombok’s majestic Gunung Rinjani remains one of our favourites. At over 12,000 feet, Rinjani is one of the largest volcanos in the region. Exploring it’s slopes at sunrise sees the pooled crater emerge from the mists, awash with a kaleidoscope of blues, greens and yellow; whilst at dusk the pools turn orange, red and gold in the setting sun.
Lombok and Sumbawa are less visited, with natural untouched beauty and pristine beaches creating perfect tropical hideaways. Sail out with the divers who are heading across to the Gili Islands – sensationally vibrant underwater world– where water temperatures remain wonderfully warm all year round.
Java is home to the mighty Buddhist monument, Borobudur, which is the largest monument in the Southern Hemisphere. Borobudur, hidden deep in Java’s forests with its elaborately carved domes and intricate etchings, is a sight to behold. You can even clamber onto the back of a gentle elephant to watch the sunrise over Borobudur.
Java’s premier tourist city, Yogyakarta (called Yogya for short) is bright with dance and music and is a stronghold of batik, gamelan and ritual. Nearby is another of Indonesia’s most important archaeological sites Prambanan. The towering peak of the active Mount Bromo smoulders over an otherworldly, volcanic landscape in East Java.