Ultimate Guide to Indonesia’s 9 Most Beautiful Islands
Ask anyone who’s been to Indonesia, and they’ll tell you that it’s an absolutely fascinating place. Not only is it incredibly culturally diverse, but on its territory are over 18,000 islands.
If you like islands and visiting them, there’s a lot to love. And even though only about 8,000 of them are inhabited, that’s still a lot to see.
What’s nice about all those islands is the fact that many of them have a vast variety of things to offer. There’s literally everything, from untouched beaches with white sands that remind you of paradise, to party-oriented cities where you can have all the fun in the world.
To add to this, you will also find plenty of wildlife exploration spots where you can enjoy some endemic species, as well as places like the Komodo National Park, which is a protected island we’ll get to in a moment.
But with so many options for you to pick and choose from, it’s easy to head to the wrong island and end up disappointed. If you’ve only got time for a few, below is a list of some of Indonesia’s finest islands for you to visit.
9. The Spice Islands
A place that’s as beautiful as it is historically significant, the Spice Islands are just stunning, no matter how you look at them. They got their name from the fact that at one point in time, they were the world’s only source of nutmeg. Nutmeg used to be a rather expensive spice, at some moments being worth more than gold by weight.
This is why a lot of nations, most notably the Dutch and the British, fought a lot of wars to establish control over the islands.
If you’re backpacking, there is one thing you’ll absolutely love about the Spice Islands, and that’s the architecture. The buildings that were built by the Dutch, for example, are architectural wonders, and many of them are perfectly preserved nowadays. It’s like a living museum, and when you’re walking around you’ll get a feeling like time has stopped completely.
And of course, we mustn’t forget the coral life on the Spice Islands. Whether you’re a fan of snorkeling or diving, there are some stunning places for you to enjoy. You’ll probably see some whales and dolphins as well, which is neat.
A backpacker’s paradise, Lombok is an island that’s just as beautiful as Bali, but not that popular. The island houses a couple of smaller cities, and each of them has something different to offer.
Mataram, for example, is an excellent place to experience the culture. It’s home to the Taman Narmada, which is a Hindu temple turned park, and a lot of people go there to relax and enjoy. If you’re a fan of surfing, on the other hand, Kuta is the perfect destination for you.
7. Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat, technically, isn’t an island, but an area that has over 600 individual islands. But even the name itself means “Four Kings”, and if the ancient mythology is to be trusted, the four biggest islands (and the ones to visit) are Salawati, Batanta, Waigeo and Misool. Each one of them offers something different, but overall, visiting those four islands gets you pretty much everything Indonesia has to offer.
The islands come with some stunning biological diversity, and they’re just perfect for scuba divers and bird watchers alike. You’ll even get to experience some rare birds that you can’t really see anywhere else.
To further sweeten the pot, Raja Ampat has some long beaches with shallow blue waters and white sand, which is a combination that’s just spectacular in every possible way. If you don’t like wind, you can find shelter in one of the lagoons and enjoy.
What’s interesting about Raja Ampat is that if you want to, you can experience the life of some of the locals on the islands. This way, you get really close to the culture, and you’ll see how they spend their time. You can even learn a few things like local crafts and skills – you never know when they’ll come in handy.
You just can’t head to Indonesia and not visit Bali. A place that has been rapidly rising in popularity in the past years, you can experience everything from cultural and religious things to some of the finest sandy beaches out there. Of course, not everyone loves the fact that Bali is absolutely full for most of the year, with many tourists opting to enjoy the experience.
Apart from things like Balinese Hinduism and the many temples that honor it, there is no shortage of those sandy beaches that stretch for miles. You can enjoy your cocktails with your legs in some of the clearest water out there, and the views are just really stunning. Did we mention the volcanos? You just have to visit those, too, because they’re a sight like no other.
And here’s a quick tip that’s perfect if you’re backpacking – a scooter should be your go-to method of transportation. Yes, tuk-tuks are a lot of fun, and a dokar is an interesting alternative, but two wheels are much faster and get you through Bali’s tight alleyways a lot more quickly. Be careful with the traffic, though!
5. Komodo Island
We mentioned The Komodo National Park, and it’s located on Komodo Island. This is a relatively small island you will find in the East Nusa Tenggara province, and getting there is easy if you’re in Bali. All you have to do is get to Labuan Bajo, on the island of Flores, from where you can get to Komodo by boat.
Being a tropical island, Komodo Island has both a wet and a dry season. You can visit during either, but the end of the rainy season is when the plants flourish, and that’s when the island really comes to life.
This makes it perfect for diving, especially if you’ve got the adventurous spirit because you can dive with whale sharks. Of course, you can dive in the marine reserve pretty much all year round, but March through October is when the time is really perfect. On the other hand, if you want to dive with the manta ray (which is a fantastic creature), December through March is when you want to go.
Of course, the highlight of Komodo Island is, of course, the Komodo National Park. Founded back in 1980, you just must visit the home to the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon. 11 years after its founding, in 1991, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, in an effort to protect both the marine life and all the other wildlife species you’ll come across. And to add to this, it was also selected as one of the New7Wonders of Nature.
4. Gili Islands
The Gili Islands are known by many names, one of the more popular ones being “the turtle capital of the world”. That’s thanks to the fact that the islands are marked as a rather important area for marine turtle conservation, and there are two endangered species – Eretmochelys imbricata, also known as Hawksbill Turtles, and Chelonia mydas, also known as Green Turtles. But there’s something for you even if you aren’t a fan of turtles.
There are three islands in total, all of which offer something different. You have Gili Meno, Gili Air, and Gili Trawangan, and as a combination, they offer a rather relaxing atmosphere, with a little something for everyone.
Gili Meno is the smallest one of the three, and consequently, the least developed one as well. And while this might not sound too good, it’s actually perfect if you appreciate privacy. Honeymoons, anyone?
It’s also great for wildlife spotting because animals roam rather freely considering the lack of tourists. Then you have Gili Trawangan, which is the complete opposite – it’s the largest, and most developed of the three. That’s why you’ll find the most tourists there, which you may or may not like
. However, the island is a combination of vibrant parties and laid-back beaches, so there is something for everyone. Last but not least, there’s Gili Air, which is somewhere in the middle in terms of development and tourists. It does however offer the best experience if you want both authentic villages to visit, and adventures like sub-winging, kitesurfing, and even SUP yoga.
3. Moyo Island
If you really appreciate your privacy, you’ll love Moyo Island. You can find it in the West Nusa Tenggara province in Indonesia, just off the north coast of Sumbawa Island. Unlike most of the islands we mentioned, Moyo Island is mostly uninhabited, with a total population of around 1,000 spread across six villages. To add to this, not a lot of tourists and visitors know about the island, which makes it perfect for a honeymoon experience.
Probably the best thing about the island is the Moyo Island, Hunting Park. This is a nature reserve that spreads across most of the island, and there’s a great variety of wildlife. We aren’t just talking about barking deer and wild cattle – you’re looking at over 86 species of birds. The yellow-headed parrot is endangered, and the Tanimbar Megapode is both endangered and endemic to Indonesia.
And of course, like almost all of the islands in Indonesia, diving and snorkeling is a true pleasure. The marine and coral life are rather diverse, and you’ll be able to enjoy quite a bit. When you’re done, sandy beaches await for you to unwind and relax.
2. Wakatobi Islands
This mini-archipelago is found in the south of Sulawesi, and it consists of four main islands – Binongko, Tomia, Kaledupa and Wangi-Wangi. They’re rather popular nowadays because they’re a fantastic spot for diving. The coral life is just stunning, giving you a great place to explore what’s beneath the waves in Indonesia.
To add to this, the islands are also part of the territory of the Wakatobi National Park. This national park was explicitly formed to preserve the marine life diversity, which is why this is a prime diving spot. If you aren’t keen on diving, though, you can still walk around the island and enjoy the wildlife. It is a bit of a journey to get there, but it’s more than worth it when you get there. Not only do you get the national park, but you have some stunning unspoiled beaches to enjoy.
Famous for its volcanoes, Java is an island that lies between Bali and Sumatra. The world’s 13th largest island, it is almost entirely of volcanic origin, with as many as 38 mountains that have, at some point, been active volcanoes. This all creates stunning landscapes that you won’t find elsewhere, and you can do things like enjoying the sunrise at Mount Bromo, which is a beautiful place to visit.
However, the island is also home to the city of Yogyakarta, which is culturally, an incredibly significant place. It’s home to the temples of Prambanan and Borobudur, which are two Buddhist temples you absolutely must visit. Prambanan is basically a set of Hindu temples set in a green landscape, and you can spend hours if you want to enjoy all the temples. Borobudur is not only famous all around the world, but it’s also the largest Buddhist temple in Indonesia. A truly stunning architectural piece, and beautiful landscape.
Wrapping Things Up
When you take everything into consideration, Indonesia is one of those places you can never have enough of. It has something for everyone, and you can spend months exploring the islands with all their landscapes and exotic beaches, and still not see everything.
It’s an explorer’s paradise, a place you absolutely must visit if you’re considering a vacation that offers a combination of exotic beaches, stunning views, cultural sights and everything in between. Everything about it will leave you breathless, and to add to this, it is considered by many to be a wallet-friendly destination, making it an even better choice.