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Top Destinations of 2015: Indonesia

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Dense jungle, snow-white beaches and historic relics can be found sprawled out over the 5,000 kilometres and 17,000 islands that stretch out between Mainland Asia and Australia to create Indonesia. With over 500 languages and 246 million people, it is one of the most diverse and distinct nations on the planet.

This is reflected by the attractions of different Islands, with visitors able to choose between witnessing Indonesia's unique wildlife, with islands playing host to both Komodos and Orangutans. Alternatively, there is the priceless cultural history, with temples of all shapes and sizes dotted across the islands in a throwback to an era that existed long before the arrival of Europeans. Or maybe you fancy party beaches, with all-inclusive hotels and lounging around on gorgeous beaches. Indonesia caters to all.

Where to go

Whilst there are unimaginable amounts of places to see in Indonesia, there are four islands that provide the backbone to Indonesian tourism: Sumatra, Java, Bali, and East Nusa Tenggara. In fact, it is very simple to traverse Indonesia through these four Islands, especially for first-time visitors to the country.

It is important to remember that pretty much every Island you can visit will have beaches. It's what each Island can offer in particular, beyond their blonde beauties, that makes them unique and special. It is really worth considering what you want to do and what you want to see before embarking, as the various destinations will actually differ considerably in terrain, climate and culture.

Each Island has its own cities from which to launch explorations from. Sumatra has Medan and Palembang, you’ll find Jakarta and Surabaya on Java, Denpasar on Bali, Labang Bajo and Maumere on East Nusa Tenggara.

If moving from North to South, start in Sumatra. It plays host to elephants, tigers, rhinos and maybe most famously orangutans, which can all be explored with tour companies. The luscious wildlife is juxtaposed by its volatile environment, with a reputation for its sublime volcanoes that dominate the landscape.

Next is Java. Home of the famous coffee bean, it is also a tapestry of culture and history. Some of the most beautiful and ancient temples reside on the Island. There are also the beautiful "Thousand Islands" off the coast of Jakarta, one of Indonesia's biggest cities and directly contrast the sprawling metropolis - many are uninhabited apart from the fish in the coral reefs.

Bali is probably the most famous Island of the lot. It's renowned for its beaches and for its various party towns. There are, however, areas still left relatively untouched by concrete and modernism. If you want to get a slice of culture and have your party pie on the side, look no further than Ubud, a cultural haven in the hills which transcends the stereotype of Bali. The alternative is Uluwatu, just south of the city of Denpasar.

East Nusa Tenggaram, known in the West as Flores, is the next big stop on this tour of Indonesia. Also areas of stunning natural beauty in their own right, they are quick trips from Labuan Bajo. On Flores itself, gorgeous crater lakes sprawl the land, intertwining with the volcanoes of the mountainous terrain. There are also, as always, beaches, renowned for snorkelling and diving. Flores is probably the least modernised of the various Islands, and therefore the chance to see traditional Indonesian life is unbeatable here. Other bases to explore from include Bajawa, Larantuka and Maumere.

These cities are great on their own, but the real attractions of Indonesia lie beyond the cities, in the jungle and artistry of the countryside.

What to do

Go mountain climbing

Not as arduous as it sounds, it is completely worth the effort to gaze at the beautiful Indonesian sunset. A trip up Gunang Sibayak, which is the most accessible mountain on the Island of Sumatra and one of the best in all of Indonesia, before sunrise is definitely recommended.

Visit ancient temples

The best and most steeped in history are found on Java - perhaps the most famous is Prambanan Temple at Yogyakarta. Another is Borobodur, which is made from two million stone blocks. Their scale and shape is quite unlike anything else on the planet, and they are set in some of the most scenic places in Indonesia.

Go to the beach

Naturally, the lush beaches are part of Indonesia's attraction. Sanur Beach on Bali Island provides a gorgeous foreground of beach and sea, shadowed by towering mountains in the background. The Gili Islands, however, have been largely left untouched and are only a boat ride away from Sanur for a quieter spot.

Spend time with komodos

The only place to see komodos in the wild is on the Islands of Rinca and, funnily enough, Komodo. Both islands however are national parks, which means you need to get a boat from Flores. However, the chance to see the dragons and other wildlife in one of the best preserved Parks in Indonesia is well worth the journey.

Take a journey in a Klotok

Kalimintan Province makes up most of the Island of Borneo and is filled with dense rainforest, which is great for exploring via klotok boats on the great rivers. The journey takes you through some of the most untouched places on Earth and is great for anyone looking to travel and explore ethically.

Dive and snorkel

There are two Islands that are exceptional for diving: Lombok and Sulawesi. Here you can start as a beginner or challenge yourself as an experienced diver. The coral reefs make these two areas exceptional for wildlife in the sea and these two Islands have diving as a prime tourist attraction rather than a sideshow like other islands.

 
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