With quite literally innumerable islands to explore – estimates vary between 17 and 18,000 – Indonesia’s charms are wonderfully diverse. One moment you could be peeling back the vines that surround jungle-cloaked temples and the next, holidaying in the sun on your very own private-island beach.
There’s a rich, cultural diversity, too; over 300 languages are spoken in Indonesia. You’ll be invited to play chess on street corners in Jakarta, mesmerised by hypnotic Balinese dances, and discover what is the largest Buddhist temple in the world – Borobudur. Dating to the 9th century, it’s an undisputed, UNESCO-listed world wonder, a giant pyramid of ordered stupas and Buddha statues that gaze out over mist-shrouded jungle. But, given that Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country, expect the mellifluous call to prayer to drift over its old towns from successively grand mosques, all bright-blue domes and sky-piercing minarets. And, all these disparate influences go into the cooking pot, forming dishes that are only just getting the attention they deserve.
However, at its heart, Indonesia is a land of adventure. Hike up archipelago-defining, still-active volcanoes; snorkel with turtles off the idyllic Gili Islands; dodge temple monkeys on Bali, and hop over to Flores where Komodo dragons hunt buffalo. Then there’s Borneo. Here, twisting waterways plied by luxury houseboats lead into dense rainforests – the home to bright orangutans and shy leopards. If this all sounds like too much, however, there’s plenty of opportunity for a white-sands holiday. Indonesia is home to some of the world’s most luxurious getaways, ranging from clifftop villas with spectacular ocean views to private-island hideaways where golden beaches are shared only by tiptoeing deer. Getting lost has never been so much fun.
In Indonesia, it’s not difficult to find your very own slice of paradise. Golden sands front dense jungles and azure waters host technicolour coral and suitably tropical fish. It’s all invariably watched over by an interior defined by giant volcanoes and dotted with century-old temples. And, while Bali rightly grabs the headlines for its postcard-perfect good looks, next-door Lombok delights with acres upon acres of secluded beaches – ideal for a get-away-from-it-all holiday. There’s also the small but perfectly formed Gilis, where horse-drawn carts still trace white-sand curves.
Abandoned around the 11th century and only rediscovered some 800 years later, Borobudur is an explorer’s dream. It’s a true highlight of world travel, a giant pyramid comprised of hundreds of statues and thousands of carved reliefs. It took 200 men under the orders of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles – yes that Raffles – two months to hack through dense jungle to reach it. They found the monument wonderfully preserved, having laid dormant under layers of volcanic ash for nearly a thousand years.
Indonesia’s archipelago spread lies almost entirely on ‘The Ring of Fire’ – a great Pacific-Ocean horseshoe that comprises 90% of the world’s seismic activity. The result? Landscapes formed, over millennia, by a powerful volcanicity, with giant peaks dominating horizons, slaked in lava-carved violence before being taken over by carpeting forests. And, Mt. Bromo is the king, famous for its smoking crater and conical peak. Don’t also miss out on nearby Ijen Crater, a caldera lake of an otherworldly blue that appears to light up at dark.
Indonesia’s 1.9 million square kilometres of jungles, reefs and volcanic islands is host to a suitably diverse spread of wildlife. Borneo is an obvious highlight, its rainforests and meandering rivers having long romanced scientists and adventurers alike. Here, everything from crocodiles to leopards and, yes, those famous orangutans, vie for your attention. But, you don’t even have to head out to Flores’s dragon-guarded shores, with snorkel and drive trips departing right off the coast of Bali, Lombok and the Gilis, showcasing the likes of turtles, brightly coloured fish and dramatic coral formations.
Given Indonesia’s cultural richness, it will come as no surprise that its cuisine is equally varied. Even the staples from warung restaurant shacks, rice and noodles, come expertly fried and fragrantly seasoned, often served with prawn-cracker scoops and topped with runny eggs. However, it’s perhaps chilli-infused satay sauce that’s become the country’s signature, best appreciated on a bed of crunchy green beans. But, for a real treat, babi guling – roast suckling pig – is the cornerstone of a quintessential Balinese feast, crispy-skinned and rubbed in garlic, turmeric and ginger.
Indonesia does relaxation right. Forget concrete monstrosities, eco-sensitive is the name of the game, with romantic villas built out of local materials and sited in the most perfect of locations, from secluded beaches to rainforest depths. That’s not to say, however, that you’ll be without your luxury holiday. Expect infinity-pool views of national-park wildlife and world-class dining dished up on private islands. Browse our accommodation section for the country's best picks or, for the ultimate, look no further than our Indonesia in Style itinerary.
Indonesia's allure, as you might have worked out by now, lies in its wealth of diversity. Between explosive volcanoes, tumbling rice terraces and wildlife-thick jungles, perhaps it's the country's natural splendours that catch your attention as you travel. Or, maybe it's the thousand-year-old traditions; there's everything from millennia-old temples to thatched villages arranged round verdant rice terraces. In among it all, there's more than enough space for some relaxation, and perhaps a beach-fringed island – out of the thousands on hand – of one's own. Indonesia really does have it all.
Highlights of Bali and Lombok
12 days from £3,495 pp incl. flights
Showcase the best of Indonesia’s paradise islands with stays in private-pool villas and jungle-clad bungalows as private touring and transfers bring you between water temples, snorkelling trips and traditional performances.
Indonesia and Borneo Adventure
18 days from £4,995 pp incl. flights
From travelling in a houseboat into the depths of the Borneo rainforest to snorkelling off uninhabited islands in Bali and hiking up to sunrise views of still-active volcanoes, this is your chance to explore Indonesia in luxury.
Indonesia in Style
15 days from £5,995 pp incl. flights
Aman’s super-stylish hotels are renowned for being destinations in themselves. Combine that with Indonesia’s charming islands and you have the ultimate luxury experience, with faultless service and opulent indulgence.
The Ultimate Indonesian Honeymoon
14 days from £7,360 pp incl. flights
Take in the best of Indonesia's islands and hotels on this honeymoon holiday: sandy beaches, dormant-yet-dramatic volcanoes, jungles sheltering elephants and monkeys, and amidst all this, some fabulous stays.