What to see in Indonesia: 10 things to do in Java, Bali and the Gili Islands

What to see in Indonesia: 10 things to do in Java, Bali and the Gili Islands

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15 September

Would you like to travel to this heavenly place but aren’t sure what to see in Indonesia?

Especially when organising such a distant tour, you should learn which places to visit and what to see in Indonesia before booking your flight.

Indonesia is an unforgettable country that will introduce you to the wonders of ancient civilisations, its ways of life and its smiling inhabitants. Embark on a journey to discover mysterious places, from Buddhist temples immersed in wild nature to the blue flames of sulphur mines, passing through enchanting islands with endless white beaches.

So the question arises – which places should I visit if the choice is so varied and vast?

Not to worry! Whether you set off on your own or in a group in arcane Indonesia, we have created a guide with ten must-see things for a dream trip to Bali, Jakarta and the Gili Islands.

WeRoad coordinator enjoying the beauty of the Bromo mountain

Visit The Borobudur Temples 

If you are taking a tour of Central Java, you cannot miss visiting the picturesque Borobudur, the largest and most visited Buddhist temple in the world in Indonesia.

The building is incredibly charming at dawn when the morning haze still embraces the surrounding hill peaks. The first 45 minutes after sunrise represent the most beautiful moment of the day when the temples are bathed in golden light and the morning mist begins to dissipate, revealing the surrounding pristine nature.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this colossal work from the base of 123×123 metres and a height of 35 metres is still shrouded in mystery. Indeed, no evidence has been found on the construction or purpose of Borobudur.

It is supposed to have been commissioned between the eighth and ninth centuries by the Sailendra dynasty, at the pinnacle of their power and splendour. Following the dynasty’s decline, a series of natural cataclysms forced residents to leave the area. After a volcanic eruption, the temple remained hidden for centuries under layers of ash that were, in turn, covered by thick vegetation.

The building was brought to light in the nineteenth century by Governor Thomas Stamford Raffles and researcher H.C. Cornelius and, finally, restored with the help of UNESCO in 1975.

At the Borobudur Temple, a group of guys enjoys the sunset

What To See in Indonesia: The Prambanan Temple

The Prambanan is a group of Hindu temples in Yogyakarta, dedicated to Trimūrti (from Sanskrit “three forms” or “three aspects”), the expression of God as creator (Brahma), preserver (Vishnu) and transformer (Shiva). It officially became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. It stands 47 metres tall and consists of about 240 temples. The temple is just 45 km from the colossal Borobudur and it is worth visiting them both with a local guide to dive into the ancient and fascinating Buddhist and Hindu traditions.

Although they are united by historical period and area, the two sites have substantial structural differences. Prambanan develops vertically in a sleek slender shape with jagged spires, while Borobudur is a massive group of buildings that spreads out horizontally.

The temples of Prambanan also suffered the same fate as Borobudur, falling into oblivion for centuries

The British administration accidentally rediscovered the huge complex in 1811, when the other site was brought to light.

Let’s dwell on the three most famous temples ones dedicated to the main Hindu deities:

  • Shiva. This temple, 47 metres high, soars above the others. The beauty of the finely worked bas-reliefs stands out immediately, especially the statue of a lotus flower containing the god Shiva. Finally, other statues related to the god: his master, the wife of Shiva, Durga, and his son Ganesh, characterised by zoomorphic features, with a human body and elephant head.
  • Brahma. The temple, smaller than that of Shiva, follows its structure. The statue of Brahma depicted with four heads stands inside, along with the bas-reliefs telling the story of Ramayana (Hindu epic poem).
  • Vishnu. Particularly resembling the temple of Brahma, it differs by its statue of Vishnu and bas-reliefs that reproduce the history of Krishna.
A group of WeRoaders taking a selfie in front of the Prambanan temple

Surfing In Kuta (Bali)

Do you think Indonesia is just temples, palaces and ancient traditions? Nothing could be further from the truth!

This wonderful country has a variety of attractions, from historical to natural ones such as forests, waterfalls and beaches.

Case and point, if you love the sea and sports, giving you directions on what to see is quite easy: Kuta.

Kuta is located in the western part of the island, just over 3 km from Ngurah Rai International Airport.

Once a simple, rustic and quiet village, Kuta Beach has transformed in recent years due to the growth of hotels, shops and restaurants.

Bustling and noisy, it has become the epicentre of mass tourism in Bali, as well as a paradise for surfing and nightlife.

The main attractions are the immense coastline of white beaches and the often very high waves, ideal for surfing. A proper Eden for the athletic-minded, you can perform numerous water activities such as snorkelling, diving, rafting and kite-surfing in Kuta.

But keep it at arm’s distance, or further, if you are crowd shy. Otherwise, dive headfirst into days at the sea, romantic encounters and fun. You can watch the sunset over a cocktail by the sea and, as soon as it gets dark, enjoy the nightlife in the beach bars.

A group of people ready to do some surf

Admire The Dawn On Mount Bromo

For the more adventurous, we recommend hiking at dawn on one of Indonesia’s highest mountains, Mount Bromo.

Located in eastern Java, the mountain is located in the middle of a plain called Segara Wedi (literally “Sea of sand”).

It is part of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park which covers an area of about 800 square kilometres.

Mount Bromo is still one of the most active volcanoes in the world and one of the most iconic in Indonesia. Towering at 2,329 metres, it offers an unforgettable spectacular view, especially at sunrise and sunset.

The best way to visit the volcano is from the village of Cemoro Lawang.

From there, you can walk to the mountain within one or two hours depending on your fitness. For the sport-adverse, we recommend booking a tour aboard a jeep to reach the slopes of Mount Bromo.

The best time to visit the mountain is between June and August, as far as possible from the rainy season.

A beautiful shot of the Bromo mountain seen from above

Traditional Balinese Dance

If you’re heading to Ubud, you’re probably thinking: What should I see in this charming town in Indonesia?

Ubud offers countless activities, but traditional Balinese dance is probably at the top of the list. But is it really worth it? Definitely yes.

A Balinese performance is something absolutely unique. A show you have never seen before.

The live performances are presented on stages of temples, amphitheatres and palaces and tourists can admire dancers in fabulous colourful costumes dancing barong, kekak and legong.

You should arrive 20-25 minutes early to snatch the central seats and see the performance up close.

Men with colorful costumes for balinese barong dance

A Dip In The Gitgit Waterfall

The Gitgit Waterfall is one of the most visited sites in Bali. It deserves to be seen at least once, especially if you are in the Beratan Lake area.

The waterfall flows imposingly from a height of 45 metres and is surrounded by a wonderful tropical landscape.

The Gitgit Waterfall offers breathtaking scenery that nature and photography aficionados will find hard to miss.

If you are near Lake Beratan, the easiest way to reach these natural beauties is to rent a means of transport or book a local guide for a guided tour of the most beautiful and lesser-known waterfalls.

Arriving from the main entrance leading to Gigit, it is easy to reach the waterfall. Just go down the stairs, follow the guided route and, after a few minutes, the sight of this spectacular waterfall will open up.

Although the path to Gitgit is relatively easy, don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes. The steep staircase and possible short rains could cause slip-ups if you do not pay adequate attention.

This excursion is perfect for admiring the lush nature, breathing in some fresh air and cooling off in the water basin below. One of the best things to see in Indonesia hands down!

Hiking On Mount Kawah Ijen

Do you want to come back from a tour in Indonesia thinking you’ve seen one of the most beautiful views in your life? Great, then you can’t miss a night hike on Mount Kawah Ijen.

Kawah Ijen is a volcano and sulphur mine located in the eastern part of Java.

This place is famous for two almost unique peculiarities: the largest acid lake in the world and the blue fires! If the volcano erupts red lava during the day, during the night there is an unusual spectacle. In fact, the lava seems to take on a fluorescent blue. Are they faint fires? No, leave the folklore behind.

The bright blue of these flames is the result of the burning of sulphur, deposited outside and inside the crater, which reacts with the oxygen of the air and flows along the walls of the volcano.

Reaching the crater is possible, but with the necessary precautions. You need gas masks, gloves and hiking shoes.

To reach the summit, at an altitude of almost 3,000 metres, set aside about 2 hours for the route.

On the summit, there is the largest acid lake in the world: its waters contain very high levels of sulphuric acid.

While you are admiring the surrounding blue fires, you will notice hundreds of people around you moving feverishly. They are the sulphur miners, residing in the small villages at the foot of the volcano. Did you think your hike was tough? The miners carry more than 40 kg of sulphur on their shoulders at a time in two baskets connected via a bamboo pole.

The route is suitable for hikers and nature lovers, and for anyone who wants to explore and endure unusual experiences.

This excursion is not recommended for asthmatics, those looking for a simple walk or who feel extremely uncomfortable walking on a steep path in the dark.

An adventurous woman enjoying the spectacular Mount Kawah ljen

Shopping At The Ancient Menteng Market

Jakarta is a city with a thousand facets. Different cultures, misery and wealth, tradition and modernity mix giving us evocative glimpses and indelible emotions.

Speaking of tradition, the ancient market of Jalan Surabaya is worth a visit, inaugurated in 1974 by Ali Sadiking, erstwhile governor of Jakarta.

The Jalan Surabaya Market has become so popular in Indonesia and abroad that even Mick Jagger and Sharon Stone visited it. Among the things to see in Indonesia, Jalan Surabaya market can’t be missed!

This market is perfect for anyone who loves antiques and shopping among the typical stalls while haggling with the locals to get the best deals.

Among the kiosks, there are handmade wooden sculptures, traditional Indonesian masks, porcelain, antique lamps and souvenirs.

On the other hand, others specialise in fabrics, bags and suitcases or kiosks that sell old books or, even, antiques made from navigation equipment.

What To See In Indonesia: Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is located in Ubud and is the natural habitat of the long-tailed Balinese monkey.

Inhabited by more than 700 monkeys and 186 species of trees, the sanctuary houses three unique and bizarre temples for the enormous amount of statues of animals and fantastic beings of Indonesian mythology.

The forest is one of Ubud’s most popular attractions. Observe the cute monkeys mess around in their natural habitat, hop on the temple roofs, and … even try to steal your food and belongings!

So don’t put any flashy jewellery, bottles or cameras in plain sight to avoid nasty surprises.

The entrance ticket to the Monkey Forest costs just 50,000 Indonesian rupees, about € 2.86.

Those staying in Ubud for just one day could also visit the Royal Palace and a typical Balinese show.

An approachable monkey takes a selfie with a group of tourist

What To Do: Snorkeling In The Gili Islands

Do you want to indulge in wild dances and drink cocktails on the beach? If you are looking for fun, then the Gili Islands are perfect for you.

The Gili Islands are a cluster of three small islands located east of Bali, on the west coast of Lombok. Incredibly popular, the Gili Islands are an earthly paradise. In recent years, tourism has exploded: why? Turquoise waters, extremely white beaches, a wonderful coral reef and countless diving sites. The Gili are the perfect place to relax during the day and to enjoy yourself after sunset!

Each island, however, has a unique personality. Gili Trawangan, a destination for fun; Gili Meno, perfect for couples; and Gili Air for leisure and relaxation.

Gili Trawangan is the largest as well as the most lively island, offering a wide variety of clubs and bars that organise beach parties with DJs and dances around a bonfire. If you prefer sports, you can snorkel, dive and relax on the beach.

A picture of a beautiful sunset on the Gili islands

Now that you know all the things to see in Indonesia, are you ready for a dream trip? Join our WeRoad tour to explore Java, Bali and the Gili Islands!

WeRoad Team
Written by WeRoad Team