The biggest island country in the world with about 17,000 islands in its archipelago. In Southeast Asia, this is easily the largest country and the most preferred tourist destination all over the globe. Almost 30% of these mesmerizing islands are still uninhabited and are waiting to be discovered and explored. Indonesia tops the list of natural retreats as it is home for the second-largest rainforest. No wonder this piece of the gem is called the Emerald of the Equator!
Geographically present on the Ring of Fire, Indonesia has around 100 underwater volcanoes, making this archipelago even more mysteriously attractive.
Given the number of islands that make Indonesia, it’s quite a task to comprehend the best 15. However, we have tried to the best of our abilities to do some justice and provide you with the top 15.
The main promotion of Indonesian Tourism is – “Wonderful Indonesia” and this phrase fits it like a glove. Let’s Dive in!
Best Islands in Indonesia:
1. Java Island – House of The Indonesian Capital:
The reason why Java is topping the list of the best islands in Indonesia is that this Island houses the most important and largest city – the Capital city, Jakarta. The fourth biggest island of the Indonesian Archipelago consists of half of its total population.
It’s home for some of the rarest living species in the world – The endangered One-Horned Rhino can be spotted in the UNESCO designated Ujung Kulon, National Park. Java also tops the list for the number of volcanoes the place has – about 110 volcanos of which 35 of them are still active. These mounds of spectacle make a beautiful spot for a great trek and hike for people who enjoy their vacation amidst unspoiled nature. Some of the beautiful trekking volcanoes are Mount Ijen (has a lake at its summit which illuminates post-sunset and glows blue), others are- Mt Bromo, Mt Merapi, Mt Merbabu, etc.
Java also is culturally rich with many World Heritage sites dating back to the 3rd century. The humongous Buddhist Stupa of Borobudur, Sewu, Temple of Mendut, and the majestic Prambanan Shiva Shrine oto name a few.
Best time to visit: May to September
How to get there: Direct Flight from cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai
Best Stays: Get a taste of the busy city and live amidst luxury in these preferred stays from where it will be convenient to access major tourists hotspots – Plataran Borobudur, MesaStila Resort, Mandarin Oriental, Padma Hotel
2. Bali – The Little Heaven:
One of Global Tourism’s favorite child, aptly named – The Island of the Gods. This place is a little piece of heaven on Earth which makes us wonder how such a small island can have so many things packed in itself making it one of the best islands in Indonesia.
Tourism in Bali alone contributes up to 70% of its total economy. One of the best islands in Indonesia provides trekking through thick foliage, river rafting, scuba diving at its bright and colorful coral reefs.
A few among the best places to visit in Bali are –
- Besakih temple, the mother of all temples in Bali with 86 independent and unique shrines
- Spectacular Rice Terraces which have got its irrigation system enlisted in The UNESCO’s world heritage list
- Te infamous Gates to Heaven at Lempuyang
- Extremely popular Jungle swings and
- Mysterious volcanoes such as Mt Agung, Mt Batur, etc.
Best time to visit: April to October
How to get there: Direct Flight from cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi
Best Stays: Experience solace amidst lush foliage and impeccable hospitality at these stays – Park Regis, Ashoka Tree Resort, Villa Coco, Swiss Belhotel Segara
3. Samosir Island – The Lake Island:
The largest island within another island is Pulau Samosir located in Crater Lake Toba, North of Sumatra Islands. Formed when there was a magnanimous volcanic eruption about thousands of years ago it is one of the kind islands and is one among the best islands in Indonesia for a vacation of peace and solace.
The tribe living here is called The Batak Tribe. The Sopos (Batak Houses) is a sight to behold with their well preserved traditional wooden structures with curved roofs. You can also try your hand at their traditional dance – TorTor which is like their own Tap Dance! This is an extremely unique dance form that is performed during any gala gathering and is a must for the bride and groom during their wedding!
Apart from these you also have museums and some tombs of yesteryear royals of the Sidabutar clan, and King Siallagan. There is also a site of the execution of the lawbreakers with horrifying stories attached to it.
They also offer a decent amount of nightlife, though not as extravagant as other islands’. You should definitely try their local liquor – The Tuak (Palm Wine) from a toddy shop. Don’t go bare hands from such a wonderful vacation. They have market places where you could shop for some unique and intricate wood carvings, Batak musical instruments, or their traditional Ulos Cloth as a sweet memory of one of your best vacations in the famous island of Indonesia.
Best time to visit: December to February
How to get there: There are no direct flights from India. You have to change flights and go via Singapore and reach Medan. From here to Parapat and from there take a boat to Samosir.
Best Stays: The simplicity and peaceful atmosphere can be enjoyed to the fullest while staying at Hotel Carolina, Tiara Bunga Villa, The Mas Cottages, Tuk Tuk Timbul Bungalows.
4. Alor Island – The Beautiful One:
An alluring island, largest among the 90 plus islands of the Alor Archipelago with untouched beauty all around. The surreal beauty that meets the eye is nothing compared to what’s beneath the sea! Definitely one of the best islands in Indonesia which are known for its diving hotspots.
Called The Island of a Thousand Moko’s because of its unique bronze kettledrums, it is the most preferred destination for a calm and peaceful vacation. Two among the best-known peaks are – Kolana and Muna which are both fire-spitting mounts.
This island in itself is very simple but what’s beneath the ocean is right the opposite. Apart from diving, you could also visit some museums, mosques and go on a city tour to know more about their way of life starting from the traditional houses which look like pyramids covered with coconut leaves and bamboo walls.
The most astonishing fact here being Alor is home to a population of just about 200K people, but this itself has been grouped into over 100 tribes, each speaking their own dialect. And if you think you can practice a few words of Malay and you will be able to manage your trip, think again!
Best time to visit: April to November
How to get there: No direct flight from India. Once you get to Indonesia you can take internal flights from any of the major destinations of Indonesia like Nusa or Kupang
Best Stays: Rejoice in the tranquility of the sea breeze at The Sebanjar Bungalow, La Ptite Bungalows, Alami Alor Dive Resort Pula Alor Hotel, Pantai
5. Karimunjawa Island – The Nature’s Abode:
A breath-taking archipelago of about 27 islands with precious undisturbed nature. Owing to this feature this is one among the 7 Marine National Parks in Indonesia. Famously known as the Paradise of Java this is one of the less-traversed islands of Indonesia. Best place for the honeymooners!
Karimunjawa literally means – an island which is not obviously visible. It gets this peculiar name because – when the weather is clear, this island is visible from Java but not very clearly. It also has a twin sister called – Kemujan Island. They look like one single island except, there is just a small gap between them and they are connected by a small bridge.
Karimunjawa is a great and famous place for diving and snorkeling. The coral reefs here are of extremely rare species (has two species of protected coral strains. Black Coral and Pipe Coral) which makes it even more attractive.
Being one of the most exclusive Marine National Parks in the world, this place also has a Shark Preservation. You get a chance to swim and observe these mammals from close quarters, of course under the supervision of the guides. This attraction makes this island a crowd-pulling Indonesian island to visit.
Apart from the adventurous water activities you also have many amazing caves, floating mangroves, glorious waterfalls, raging rivers, many religious shrines.
Best time to visit: April to October
How to get there: No direct flight from India. You will have to take Internal Flights from different destinations of Indonesia like Jepara, Kendal
Best Stays: Stay amidst luxury and nature comfortably at the D’season Premiere, Breve Azurine Lagoon Resort, The Happiness Hills, Royal Ocean View Beach Resort
6. Nusa Islands – The Tranquil Triplets:
The Three Musketeers – Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, and Nusa Ceningan are becoming a famous landmark on the world tourism map. Its calming beaches, floating mangrove forests, towering hills, lush greenery makes it an idyllic destination for a peaceful family vacation.
It has some interesting and Holy Cave temples like the world-famous Goa Giri Putri Temple in Nusa Penida. Beautiful blue beaches like the hidden Broken Beach, the Secret Beach, the Devil’s tear, the exotic Dream Beach and many more await you.
Not only surfing but also, diving and snorkeling. The temple Point – a famous diving spot for people from across the world. What makes it so famous are the installations of Buddha statues underwater, making it somewhat like a mystic underwater temple.
The weirdly fascinating Seaweed Farm in Nusa Lembongan, the mysterious Pura Paluang Car Temple are a few off-beat spots, and not to forget the mysterious undersea chambered maze – Goa-Gala-Gala Underground house makes it one of the best Islands of Indonesia.
Best time to visit: March and October
How to get there: No direct flight from India; have to take ferry of fast boats from major destinations in Indonesia like Lombok islands, Sanur, Bali, etc
Best Stays: Just relax and rejuvenate amidst peaceful surroundings with easy access to private beaches at the Blue Lagoon Avia Villas, Villa Genta Ceningan, Aurora Beach View, Semabu Hills, Pandawa Beach Resort, Batu Karang Resort, Lembongan Beach Club
7. Maluku Islands – Island of Unexpected Wonders:
An island with multiple names such as the Moluccas or the Moluccan Islands is a paradise in itself. Known as the Spice Island, they were the greatest exporters of cloves and nutmegs even before the foreign invasions.
Given the geographic location of this island, which is between Asia and Australia it houses ecologically specific flora and fauna. These islands have many tiny islands in their group. All of them are filled with gushing waterfalls, tranquil beaches, lush national parks that have over 2000 species of butterflies, and 120 species of birds.
One place which definitely makes this island stand out is a particular stretch of coral reefs in Banda Neira. What’s so special is that these corals have grown on hardened molten lava from a volcanic eruption in 1988. You can also swim along these reefs with hoards of turtles, sharks and if you get lucky you can even have the world’s most beautiful fish – The Mandarin Fish as your companion. Isn’t this one of the most amazing Indonesian islands to visit.
Best time to visit: November to March
How to get there: No direct flights from India, have to go via major destinations of Indonesia – Jakarta and Ambon
Best Stays: In the Lap of luxury experiencing the beauty of the ocean and the colorful living being beneath its surface is an experience which can be felt at The Maluku Divers, The Natsepa Resort, Amaris Hotel, Hotel Santika Premiere, Grand Dafam Bela
8. Komodo Islands – Island of the World’s Dangerous Reptile:
Komodo Dragons, the largest and the most poisonous lizard in the world can be found only on this Island. Due to this fact, these lizards are named after the island itself.
An archipelago with the world-famous Komodo National Park has about 25 islands, among which few are even volcanic. This island has the most diverse landscapes. Ranging from mountainous hillsides, grassy woodlands, and pristine white sandy beaches to plush marine environments. The species found here are so diverse that some of them are yet to be discovered, making it a global conservation priority area.
Apart from these lush forests, at the heart of the Asia Pacific Coral Triangle is the world’s richest marine life too. This makes the best island in Indonesia a world hotspot of diving sites.
Another one of the unique spots of this island is the Pink Beach! The sand here is literally pink-hued. This incredibly beautiful phenomenon is due to the corals getting washed to the shores along with the white sand.
Best time to visit: April to December
How to get there: No direct Flight from India have to take Internal Flight from Bali Island
Best Stays: Relax in the sun, along the shores and surround yourself with some exquisite nature at The Komodo Resort, Komodo Boutique hotel, Luwansa Beach Resort, Puri Sari Beach Hotel, Laprima Hotel, Angel Island Resort
9. Mentawai Islands – for the Adventurous ones:
A group of 70 islands lying off the west coast of the Sumatra islands is considered to be one of the best islands of Indonesia for its solitude, and also for people who love adventurous activities. Most of the island here is covered with forest. The inhabitants are said to be descendants of early Malayan tribes who still lead a nomadic life. They still go on hunting with bows and poisonous arrows.
This island is said to be separated from Sumatra about 500,000 years ago. This resulted in its unique flora and fauna. Very rare species of yellow and black monkeys are found here.
Some of the rainforests is under protection within the Siberut National Park limits. An island that is almost disconnected from the rest of the world is one of the finest destinations for surfers and it derives most of its income from it as well. What’s not to make this a perfect Indonesian island to visit.
Best time to visit: May to October
How to get there: Nearest Airport is Minangkabau International Airport, from there you will have to take other domestic flights.
Best Stays: Stay right at the place of action and just enjoy your days pampering yourself at Mentawai Surf Retreat, Anugrah Surf Lodge, Shadow Mentawai Surfcamp, Awera Resort, Aloita Resort, Oinan Lodge, Hollow Tree’s Resort
10. Sulawesi Island – The Nature’s Child:
One of the best islands in Indonesia, Sulawesi which provides people with breath-taking scenic views. Sulawesi is divided into three sides – North, South, and Centre.
To explore these islands itself you will need days together as there are many small islands surrounding Sulawesi. Sulawesi is still inhabited by its indigenous tribes who celebrate extremely unique festivals and famous among the rituals is an elaborate funeral ceremony of the Toraja tribe.
Comes within the Lindu National Park limits and is hard to reach. You will have to traverse through a mountain to reach there. But the journey is worth every step you take. There are famous trekking trails along the way. One among them is a trail that passes through the famous Mount Mahawu Volcano.
You could also go island hopping, or even visit many other national parks such as the Tangkoko National Park or the Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park, etc. Just pack all you want and get on with your journey of nature rehabilitation.
Best time to visit: July to October
How to get there: Direct flight from India is from Kochi or you will have to fly through major destinations like Sri Lanka, Malaysia or Bali
Best Stays: Stay amidst unspoilt nature in style at The Pulo Cinta Eco Resort, The Sheraton Hotel, Lembeh Resort, Siladen Resort, Gangga Island Resort, Bastianos Bunaken Dive Resort
11. Flores Islands – The Elegant One:
Flore in Portuguese means Flower! The mention of this very name is enough to attract people like magnets as this is one of the best Indonesian islands to visit. This is due to the presence of the world-famous Pink Beach!
An island with one of the highest peaks of about 7,900 feet above sea level having about 14 active volcanoes, Flores is the most fascinating and mesmerizing island of Indonesia. Flores is largely mountainous especially in the west, several active volcanoes are in the central and eastern region.
Near Ende, historically the main city and once a mission center. The Mysterious Mount Kelimutu, which translates to “Mountain of the three colored lakes”, is a volcanic mountain with three crater lakes, each of a different color.
It’s emerging as a unique tourist destination of its own because of its world-famous dive spots, blissful beaches, smoldering volcanoes, emerald rice terraces, exotic cultures, prehistoric heritage sites, mysterious caves, sacred thermal springs the list is endless.
Best time to visit: April to October
How to get there: No Direct flights from India; Have to take a flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo airport
Best Stays: Sun Rice Homestays, Bintang Lodge, Sylvia Beach Villa, Ayana Komodo, The Roomz Homestay, Villa Domanik, Sudamala Resort
12. Gili Trawangan Island – The Nightlife Hub:
A part of the Gili Islands, Gili Trawangan is known for its beachside parties, diving, and snorkeling. It is the largest of the Gili Islands and is simply referred to as Gili T.
One can rent a bicycle and cycle around the island or swim in the white sandy beaches, capture amazing photos of Sea hammock and swings at Ombak, go scuba diving, visit turtle sanctuary and hatchery or go for a snorkeling tour and so on and so forth.
The underwater world is extremely special here. Apart from the usual snorkeling or diving they also have a glass-bottom boat to experience marine life underwater. You could also go island hopping.
Gili Trawangan is the most suitable Indonesian Island to visit for partying. In the daytime, you can frolic on the sandy beaches, but once the sun goes down, Gili Trawangan comes alive and you can enjoy the throbbing nightlife that consists of live music, late-night bars, and even themed party night events. If you just want to get away from the crowd but still Party hard, you have made a perfect choice.
Best time to visit: September to November
How to get there: No Direct flights from India; Have to take fast boat services from Bali
Best Stays: Gili Air escapes, Pearl of Trawangan, Kuno Villas, Sunset Palms, Scallywags Resorts, Wilson’s Retreat, Jambuluwuk Oceano Resort.
13. Lombok Island – The island with Underwater Spectacles:
One among the many undiscovered islands of Indonesia, a destination that looks as though it’s been tailor-made for the pleasures of nature enthusiasts. The divine beaches, majestic mountains, and its spectacular marine life make this island which is on the West of Nusa Tenggara a place not to be missed.
North Lombok is where you can embark on a great hike to Mount Rinjani, the second-highest volcano in Indonesia, The breath-taking Segara Anak Crater Lake atop the 3,726 meters tall volcano provides an out of the world experience.
The central part of Lombok is where the picturesque beaches are present. One of the best Indonesian islands to visit, Kuta Beach, Tanjung A’an, and Mawun Beach are just a few on the seemingly never-ending list.
Also, you can trek via amazing paths leading to gorgeous waterfalls like Senaru, Benang, and others. White water flowing amidst complete greenery is a sight to behold. There are also a few hot water springs like Air Kalak Hot springs. If time permits, do not miss hiking in the seldom-visited Taman Wisata Alam Kerandangan.
To the West of Lombok are the Senggigi beach, Tangsi Pink Beach, and the Monkey Forest. Lombok is now much more than just a surfer’s paradise. Make time to visit the Selong Belanak, West Nusa Tenggara Museum, Mayura Garden, and the Fountain of Youth in the historic Narmada Park to find more about the intriguing past about the island.
Best time to visit: July to August
How to get there: No direct flights from India; have to go through Singapore or take ferries from major destinations of Indonesia like Bali
Best Stays: Relax and rejuvenate with your closed ones with un-interrupted nature and comfort stays at The Jeeva Klui Resort, Selong Selo Resort, Holiday Resort, The Sheraton Hotel, Katamaran Resort, Novotel Lombok Resort
14. Raja Ampat Islands – The Bundle of Royal Beauty:
Far from the maddening crowd and concrete jungle, you will find a pristine paradise where Mother Nature invites you with all her exceptional beauty. That’s briefly Raja Ampat in West Papua Province, one of the best Islands in Indonesia.
At the eastern end of the Indonesian Archipelago, Raja Ampat literally means ‘The Four Kings’. Comprises over 1,500 small islands, and bays surrounding four main islands – Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, and Misool. The name Raja Ampat is said to be derived from a legend where a woman found seven eggs, among which four of them hatched and became the kings of the four main islands, while the other three became a woman, a ghost, and a stone.
The islands look like green mushrooms on blue waters. Its marine life and spectacular coral reefs make a diver’s dream come true. Snorkeling and kayaking are also equally good options. While its underwater splendors are beyond exceptional, the landscape above the surface is equally breath-taking.
The sublime scenery of steep, jungle-covered islands, fine white-sand beaches, hidden lagoons, spooky caves, and crystal clear waters is a welcomed relief from the stressful days of one’s life. This ultimate tropical paradise must certainly be in the list of the Best Islands of Indonesia to be visited – list.
Best time to visit: November to March
How to get there: No direct flights from India. Best way is to fly from Jakarta
Best Stays: Live in solitude and be treated like the royalty at the Firdas Raja Bungalow, August Eco Resort, TauYado Guest House, Mithos Homestays, Meridian Adventure Resort
15. Padar Island – A Fairytale land:
A famous slang of the Indonesian language, this island definitely has the most picturesque sceneries there is. Once a home for the humongous Komodo dragons, this island alone has 6 species of sharks. This place is like it has come straight out of a fairy tale book due to its pink, black, and white beaches.
The 30 min exhausting trek to the Padar viewpoint is like the cherry on top because this is the viewpoint from which you will be able to see four beaches at a time. This is a photographer’s hotspot!
There are no proper staying options on this island and hence the best time to visit this natural beauty is during the early hours of the day. Plan your day such that you will be at the peak during the amazing sunrise or sunset time.
The topography of the island is rugged with steep volcanic mountains and hills set against deep bays making this one of the best Indonesian Island to visit. Padar has a dry climate, with only bushes and grassland vegetation covering the island.
Don’t miss your sports shoes, track pants, and your cameras!
Best time to visit: April to June
How to get there: No direct flights from India; you have reached Bali, or Jakarta, or any other destinations and then take a flight to Labuan Bajo and from there you can reach Padar island by Boat.
Best Stays: There are no stays on the island, have mentioned the closest and the best ones where you will not miss out on any of the premier experiences nor the pure bliss of nature. Some of the most popular stays are The Sudamala Resorts, Flores Dive Camp, Angel Island Eco Resort, Blue Marlin Komodo
Let your hair down, and just get out of your hectic lives and take some quality time for yourself. Come to any of the above mentioned best islands in Indonesia where you will be made to feel at home at the same time. Nature, beaches, dynamic volcanos, unique flora and fauna, and the variety of colors are the best parts of these places.