Temples, Dragons and Volcanoes

The vast archipelago of Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation in the world, the fourth largest country and holds over 17,000 separate islands, with a wealth of biodiversity and different landscapes that offers superb opportunities to get off the beaten track.

Starting our trip in Java, we spend some time exploring the charming city of Yogyakarta and its surrounds, a hub for traditional Javanese art and home to the largest Buddhist temple in the world. We then fly to Sulawesi and Tangkoko National Park, to look for wildlife including the tiny tarsier, and continue on, to discover the traditional ways of living in the Minhasa Highlands and the villages around Makassar.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of our time in Sulawesi, will be our visit to Tanah Toraja, where we spend time among the rice terraces and bamboo forests of this beautiful region with the Toraja people, learning about their unusual death and burial rituals. The eastern part of the archipelago and the island of Flores, brings us to a fascinating place where only ten years ago the remains of a separate human species were found. We visit tribal villages where the supernatural is still part of everyday life, and discover the amazing crater lakes of the Keli Mutu volcano. In bustling markets we rub shoulders with traders and farmers, and journey through stunning landscapes to find pristine beaches where fishermen haul in their daily catch.

The trip finishes with a real highlight – a boat trip to the adjacent islands of Komodo and Rinca, where we search on foot for the near mythical komodo dragons, incredible creatures that can grow up to three metres and were only discovered by western science a hundred years ago. Many people visit Indonesia each year, but few make it this far, to the far-flung outposts of the islands, and those that do are rewarded with a sense of discovery that is often lacking elsewhere.

Buddhist temple of Borobodur - Indonesia itinerary

Highlights

  • Encounter Komodo Dragons
  • Visit Borobodur and Prambanan temples
  • Climb Mt Bromo for sunrise
  • Explore the traditions of Tanah Toraja
  • Look for wildlife in Tangkoko

Day 1 - Yogyakarta

Arrive in Yogyakarta and transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is free. Overnight Gallery Prawirotaman or similar.

Yogyakarta

Home to around 500,000 inhabitants, the city of Yogyakarta is arguably one of the best-preserved cities in Java. Brimming with culture and architecture, Javanese art is pervasive and expansive, including batik, drama, music and pottery. The epitome of this is Wayang Kulit, dynamic performances using wooden puppets, and the traditional Javanese Ramayana ballet dance. There are also a number of festivals held in Yogyakarta each year.

Despite the largely modern nature of this city, at its heart lies the Kraton – the ancient, walled town built by Yogyakarta’s first sultan. Having changed very little in over two hundred years, the Kraton is quaint and traditional in comparison to the metropolitan streets outside of its walls.

Day 2 - Borobodur - Candirejo

Head out of the city to visit the amazing temple complex at Borobodur, dating back to the 8th century and one of south East Asia’s most impressive historic sites. From here continue to the village of Candirejo for an insight into rural life. We explore the village by horse and cart, meet the local people and learn about their customs, before returning to Yogyakarta for the evening. Overnight Gallery Prawirotaman or similar. (B)

Borobudur

Forty kilometres west of Yogyakarta lies Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Surrounded by limestone cliffs and volcanoes, this temple stands at 34.5 meters tall and covers over 200 square metres.

Borobudur was originally built by a Hindu dynasty and consists of over 1.6 million blocks of volcanic rock from the nearby rivers, collected and washed by the Sailendra Buddhists who rebuilt the abandoned construction as a representation of the Buddhist cosmic mountain, Meru. After over a century of neglect, in 1973 UNESCO restructured the temple into this impressive and enchanting historic site.

 

Day 3 - Yogyakarta - Prambanan

Explore Yogyakarta this morning by becak (cycle rickshaw), visiting some of the most interesting sites including Taman Sari, the water castle, the Keraton Palace and others. From here continue to Prambanan, a stunning collection of 9th century Hindu temples with striking bas reliefs. This evening head out into Yogyakarta to see how the locals spend their free time and experience the local nightlife. Overnight Gallery Prawirotaman or similar. (B)

Prambanan

The Prambanan plain consists of over thirty temples and palaces, dating back to predominantly the eighth and ninth centuries. Over a thirty-square-kilometre expanse, forgotten and run-down temples (often rubble) stand next to those that have been restored to their original state – a fascinating juxtaposition surrounded by forests, hills and sugar cane plantations. The Shiva temple is thought to be the most spectacular of them all.

The Sanjaya Hindus and the Sailendra Buddhists were the two rival kingdoms of Java. The Prambanan temples are believed to be built by the Sanjaya Hindus, following their political victory and return to power over central Java in 832 AD.

Day 4 - Mt Bromo

Drive to Mt Bromo ready for our climb to the top of the crater tomorrow morning. Overnight Lava View Lodge or similar. (B)


Day 5 - Mt Bromo

Rise early to see the sunrise and walk up to the summit of Mt Bromo. Continue to the bustling city of Surabaya where we visit the Arab and Chinese neighbourhoods in the north of the city and wander its narrow streets where hand-woven fabrics from all over Java are sold. Overnight Santika Pandigiling or similar. (B)

Please note, to reach the crater of Mt Bromo you do not need to hike, but the stairs are quite steep and it should take around 20-30 minutes to reach the top. Mt Bromo is active and so depending on activity, the crater cannot always be visited. The viewpoint can be visited however, with the exception of major eruptions.

Day 6 - Manado - Tangkoko

Transfer to the airport to fly to Manado, on the island of Sulawesi. From here transfer to the nearby town of Tangkoko and head out to Tangkoko National Park to look for the tarsier, tiny primates about the size of a human hand. Overnight Tangkoko Guesthouse or similar. (B)


Day 7 - Tangkoko

Return to the park early this morning to look for wildlife. Accompanied by a ranger we leave for sunrise and walk on trails to look for species such as hornbill, macaques, cuscus and others. The afternoon is free to relax. Overnight Tangkoko Guesthouse or similar. (B)

Tangkoko National Park
Located on the Island of Sulawesi, Tangkoko National Park is home to an impressive variety of wildlife. This reserve encompasses over 22,230 acres of land, from sea level to 3400 ft, offering a spectacular array of Indonesian’s most exotic fauna and flora.

You can expect to see an extensive variety of Sulawesi’s endemic species, as well as tarsiers, Crested black macaques, wild pigs and large, colourful butterflies. It is also home to a wide variety of birds, including the Lilac kingfisher, hornbills and most notably, the endemic Maleo bird, although these are sadly disappearing due to the over-exploitation of their eggs from neighbouring villages.

Day 8 - Tomohon

Drive into the Minhasa Highlands to Lake Linow and the village of Lahendong, with panoramic views along the way. From here continue to Pulutan, known locally for its pottery, and also to Woloan to see how traditional Minhasan wooden houses are constructed. Overnight Highland Resort or similar. (B)


Day 9 - Mahawu Volcano

After breakfast drive to Mount Mahawu, one of Indonesia’s active volcanoes. We take a short hike to the crater rim for views of the island, then descend and return to Manado, with time to explore the town, including its Chinese temple. Overnight Cocotinos Manado or similar. (B)


Day 10 - Makassar – Maros – Sengkang

Fly south to the city of Makassar, the starting point for the next part of our adventure. From here drive north to Maros, and explore its rice fields and nearby traditional village, as well as visiting Petae Cave with its ancient rock art. From here continue to Sengkang, a centre for the local Bugis people, who traditionally live in wooden houses. Overnight BBC Hotel or similar. (B)


Day 11 - Lake Tempe - Tanah Toraja

Take a boat out onto Lake Tempe to see local fishermen at work and the floating houses that they live in stopping in one to meet the people that live here. We then continue to Rantepao, in the heart of the Tanah Toraja region. Overnight Luta Hotel or similar. (B)


Days 12-13 - Tanah Toraja

We spend two days exploring this beautiful region. Tanah Toraja is one of Indonesia’s most traditional areas and is well known for its distinctive style of architecture, with huge carved wooden houses and rice barns amidst the rice terraces and bamboo forests. We spend time learning about the local customs, including the unusual way that the Torajans bury their dead. Overnight Luta Hotel or similar. (B) Depending on what ceremonies are happening, we will either visit North or South Toraja. Activities may vary to those listed above if we visit the south.

Tanah Toraja

Tanah Toraja is arguably one of the most beautiful regions in Indonesia – a majestic landscape of blue mountains, rugged grey granite crops and the vivid greens of the fertile river. Home to over 360,000 inhabitants, known as Toraja, groups of villagers have formed communities, predominantly Christian, working in the surrounding rain-fed rice fields and living in distinctive curved-roof houses. Children sit astride grazing water buffaloes and go to the spring to fetch water in bamboo tubes.

One of the most fascinating, albeit unusual, aspects of Toraja life is their death rituals. Their funerals are remarkable and are part of their larger ritual cycle which is profoundly linked to agricultural cycles of death and rebirth. When the last rice is harvested from the fields, the mortuary season begins, meaning that the Toraja do not immediately bury their dead. When a person dies, the body is wrapped in layers of cloth and kept in the house for months or even years.  Ritual activity occurs during the days leading up to the burial, including the sacrificing of animals, mourning chants and the wrapping of the surviving spouse in cloth, who is not allowed to eat. During the nights, men join hands and sway rhythmically, stamping their bare feet around a burning fire.

On the day of the funeral, the sacrificed animals are lined up, all representing a debt and social tie of the deceased, reflecting the complex, intricate Toraja social networks.

Day 14 - Makassar

A long day’s drive as we return south to Makassar, passing traditional Buginese houses and stopping en route at Puncak Lakawan to enjoy the views of Mt. Kabobong. Overnight Aston Makassar Hotel or similar. (B)


Day 15 - Ende - Moni

Fly to Ende, on the island of Flores, and on arrival transfer to Moni. Moni is situated in the foothills of the Kelimutu volcano, in a landscape of picturesque rice fields and traditional high roofed ‘adat’ houses. We make stops at the rice terraces and the local market. Overnight Kelimutu Lodge or similar. (B)


Day 16 - Kelimutu - Bajawa

Before dawn we travel to the Kelimutu volcano to watch the sunrise. This area has three lakes which continually change colour due to variations in the mineral content of the water, and was previously an important spiritual site for local people. Explore the area on foot, then descend and drive to Bajawa, passing through landscapes of villages, forests and mountains. Overnight Silverin Hotel or similar. (B)

Bajawa
Bajawa is located 1100m above sea level and is surrounded by volcanoes – because of its altitude it feels cool and fresh. It is the centre for the Ngada people, one of the traditional ethnic groups in Flores, many of whom live in traditional houses constructed from wood and bamboo and follow the old ways of placing food offerings on megalithic stones. The Ngadanese are divided into clans who each have a chief and elders who decide over matters such as land-rights, funerals, marriages and other ceremonies. Traditional symbols are the ngadhu and the bhaga, parasol-like structures about 3m high. The male ngadhu is depicted with a look-out on the top with a machete and spear. The bhaga is a little hut and is considered female.

Day 17 - Tololela

Today we explore traditional villages at the foot of the Inerie Volcano with our local guide, where the lifestyle has remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years. We visit Bena with its megalithic stones, still used by the head of the village to make decisions that affect the relationship between his people and the supernatural forces. We have time to wander through the village and admire the traditional houses, with their steep, high grass roofs.  Our day ends at the village of Tololela, where we are welcomed as guests and stay in a traditional homestay. (BLD)

Please note: Accommodation on day 17 is simple – 4 travellers per house in one room. Each house has an Indonesian toilet outside.

Day 18 - Ruteng

The barren landscape of Western Flores becomes greener as we approach Ruteng, a small Catholic city with a lively store and market district. Because of its location, Ruteng has an extremely cool and pleasant climate. The city is also the centre of the Manggarai minority group. En route, we hike to the traditional village of Gurusina, also stopping at the nearby hotsprings. Overnight Sky Flores Hotel or similar. (B)


Day 19 - Labuan Bajo - Komodo National Park

We drive to Labuan Bajo, the ‘Harbour of the Bajaus’, the minority Muslim fishermen who ply their trade in colourful trimarans with multi coloured sails. From here we depart by boat to the islands of the Komodo Archipelago. Our first stop will be Rinca, where we spend time exploring on foot in order to spot one of the spectacular komodo dragons, or ‘ora’ as they are known locally. Overnight on board the boat. (BLD)

Please note: Accommodation on board is simple and you will sleep on mattresses on deck.

Komodo National Park
Komodo National Park was officially declared a World Heritage Site in 1986 and includes a number of islands including Rinca, Komodo and Sumbawa as well as Flores. The current, wind and wave exposure result in an incredible variety of coastal and marine habitats and it is home to the world’s largest land-dwelling carnivorous lizard, the famous Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis). The creature’s existence was first discovered in 1912 and its ferocious appearance and behaviour when feeding is thought to be the source of many earlier folklore tales of fire-breathing dragons. It can reach up to 3m in length and weigh over 200 kg, travelling at speeds up to 15mph. It carries virulent bacteria in its mouth which eventually immobilises its prey once bitten. The marine habitat supports more than 1,000 species of fish, some 260 species of reef-building coral and 70 species of sponge. Sharks, manta rays and at least 14 species of whale, dolphin and sea turtle also make the park their home.

 

Day 20 - Komodo National Park - Labuan Bajo

Continue our exploration, this time heading to Komodo Island, the biggest in the national park with fertile green landscapes and hills covered with tropical vegetation. Again, we explore on foot hoping to encounter more komodo dragons. This afternoon we head to a beautiful white sandy beach, with crystal clear water and fascinating marine life. Later return to Labuan Bajo for the night. Overnight Puri Sana Hotel or similar. (BL) 

Labuan Bajo
This fishing town is the most westerly on Flores. Its name means ‘Port for the Bajau people’ and derives from ‘labuhan’ meaning port and ‘Bajo’ being Bajau. Today it plays an important role as a harbour to connect between other islands and the western part of Indonesia and is also the main departure point for those visiting the Komodo National Park. The town itself has a daily market which is one of the best places to mingle with the local people. Sixteenth century Portuguese traders named this island ‘the cape of flowers’, and it is easy to see why as you wander this city full of houses covered in bougainvillea, where lilies and sunflowers grow from the cracks in the dusty streets.

Day 21 - Bali

Fly to Bali for your final night in Indonesia. Overnight Puri Santrian Hotel or similar. (B)


Day 22 - Bali

Transfer to the airport for departure. (B)


Water buffalo in village - Tanah Toraja tours
Tarsier in forest - Sulawesi tours
Traditional rice barns - Tanah Toraja tours

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

    Please note that while we prefer to use centrally located hotels where possible, this is not always practical and in some locations they may not be the best option in terms of standards or reliability.

  • Guides

    In most cases you will be accompanied by one guide from start to finish. However, there may be occasions when this is not practical, for example if your trip covers a number of different countries. In these cases it often makes more sense to include different guides for each place, to take advantage of their specific knowledge of the destination

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again. Please note that when meals are included, sometimes these will be in hotels, as often these are the most appropriate option, and will sometimes be set menus. Local restaurants are often lacking in variety, as well as the capacity to cater for groups. Drinks are not included and are at your own expense.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour (www.travcour.com) can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If, however, you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves, we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

Most travellers will require a visa to enter Indonesia, however for most nationalities a visa for thirty days is issued upon arrival. At many airports these are free. Otherwise they cost $35, which must be paid in US dollars. Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy, or us, for the most up to date information.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations, you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required for entry to Ghana, Togo and Benin ad you must bring this with you.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum, you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

The local currency in Indonesia is the rupiah. The best currency to bring for exchange purposes in the US dollar.

It’s easy to change money in Indonesia, although you’ll need to do this in larger towns – once you get further off the beaten track it is far less easy to do so. Indonesia has a number of ATM machines, although again your best bet is larger towns and cities, and they won’t always work, so it’s best not to rely on these as a source of funds.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour.

There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience. 

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any parts of Indonesia.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

 

Water buffalo in village - Tanah Toraja tours
Tarsier in forest - Sulawesi tours
Traditional rice barns - Tanah Toraja tours
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
14 August 2021
Price (PP) -
£3,499
Single Supplement -
£450
Trip Status -
Contact us
Date -
13 August 2022
Price (PP) -
£3,599
Single Supplement -
£470
Trip Status -
Available