Unlike many other countries, Indonesia is not contained within one single land mass. No, this country is actually made up of more than 17,000 islands, including 8,000 that are inhabited. So it’s probably not surprising that you’ll find a lot of diversity in Indonesia. For example, there are more than 300 languages spoken in this country, and there are also an amazing number of cultures to be found on these islands.
In New Guinea tribes still exist that have had little or no contact with the outside world. But then there is Jakarta, Indonesia’s bustling capital city. It is home to more than 10 million people, modern shopping malls and world-class museums. Here’s a look at the most famous landmarks in Indonesia:
1. Ubud Monkey Forest
Located on the island of Bali, the Ubud Monkey Forest is a nature reserve and a temple complex that is home to three 14th-century temples and approximately 600 wild Balinese macaques. This reserve is a very popular attraction in Bali, especially with animal lovers. Care should be taken while visiting the forest sanctuary as these monkeys have become accustomed to being fed and will often approach visitors looking for food. It’s also important to remember that the grounds of the Ubud Monkey Forest are considered a holy site by the locals. So always do your best to act respectfully while on the grounds of this sanctuary.
2. Tana Toraja
Tana Toraja, which is located on the island of Sulawesi, is best known for two things — its houses, which are often colorful and boast roofs that resemble the prow of a boat, and the elaborate burial rituals that are practiced by the Toraja people. These funerals, which are held during the dry season, have become a popular draw for tourists. In fact, Tana Toraja is the second most popular tourist destination in Indonesia — second only to Bali. In addition to the funerals, this area also has a number of unique burial sites, including a tree with niches in it where the bodies of babies are placed. This mountainous area is not just about the dead, however. It is also a great place to go hiking, biking or, perhaps, rafting on the Sa’dan River.
3. Krakatau Island
This island is famous for being the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in modern history and also for earning a shout-out in the B-52’s song, “Lava.” Krakatau’s historic volcanic eruption spanned two days, from August 26 to 27 in 1883, and was so violent that it destroyed approximately 165 villages and towns. Today, the island is a popular day trip from Jakarta. You can also camp overnight on this island if you have more time. So what can you do on this still active volcanic island? Hiking is a popular activity, and the marine park surrounding Krakatau is teeming with sea life and is considered one of the best destinations in Indonesia for diving and snorkeling.
4. Mount Bromo
Krakatau is not the only volcano in Indonesia that you can hike up. Mount Bromo, which is located in East Java, is probably the most famous natural landmark in Indonesia. This volcano is part of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, and if you’re like most visitors, you’re going to want to wake up early so that you can climb or drive up neighboring Mount Penanjakan first. From there, you can enjoy watching the sun rise over Mount Bromo. Next, you’ll walk, take a vehicle or ride a horse across the Sea of Sand so that you can climb up Mount Bromo, where you can peer into the rim of the crater and listen to the angry rumblings coming from deep within the volcano. Some people, though, will skip the sunrise hike up Mount Penanjakan so that they can enjoy Mount Bromo before the large crowds of people who follow the more traditional itinerary arrive.
5. Prambanan Temple
Prambanan, which dates back to the 9th Century, is the largest Hindu temple complex in Indonesia. It is located in Central Java and in its heyday, this compound once contained 240 temples. Sadly, this complex was eventually abandoned and then fell into ruins. It wasn’t until the 1930s that restoration work began on Prambanan Temple. That work continues to this day. The main and largest shrine, which is dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva, is a magnificent structure. It is flanked by two other shrines — one for Brahma and the other for Vishnu. These buildings boast elaborate carvings and spires and are quite spectacular
6. Komodo Island
Dragons don’t just belong in science fiction tales and legends. There are actually “dragons” living on Komodo Island in Indonesia. Of course, these aren’t the flying, fire-breathing creatures that you normally think of when you hear the word “dragon.” Instead these are the Komodo dragons, the largest and heaviest lizards in the world. These intimidating reptiles, which can be found on Komodo Island, can kill relatively large animals, including deer, pigs and — on occasion — humans. Although many people come to this island specifically to catch a glimpse of this unusual reptile, there are also other things to do on Komodo, including hiking, scuba diving and snorkeling.
Borobudur is a spectacular and large Buddhist monument that was built on top of a hill in Java between 778 and 850 CE. It is, in fact, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. The compound is home to 504 statues of Buddha and many stupas. Like Prambanan, this complex was abandoned and fell into disrepair for many years. Restoration efforts first began on Borobudur in 1907 and was finally completed in 1983. While Borobudur and Prambanan are located close to each other and there are tours that combine a visit to both compounds in one day, some people suggest that you dedicate a separate day to each site, since they are both very large and interesting.
8. Tanah Lot Temple
This unique temple is perched on top of a rock that is located in or near the ocean, depending on the tides. During low tides, Hindu visitors can actually walk across a land bridge to visit and enter the temple. Non-Hindu visitors, however, are not permitted to enter the temple but can still admire its beauty from outside. Its beautiful setting has made Tanah Lot Temple the most photographed (especially at sunset or sunrise) and visited temple in all of Bali.