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With thousands of breathtaking options on offer, deciding where to holiday in Indonesia can be hard work. That’s why we’ve come up with 10 simple questions to steer you towards your perfect island partner.
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Best for: beaches
The beaches of Indonesia are the stuff of castaway fantasies. There are literally thousands to choose from, but the place that best combines extraordinary beauty with the convenience of easy transport links is Lombok – you can fly direct, or nip over on a fast boat from Bali.
There are beaches on the island for every occasion, but the standout for many visitors is Mawun. It goes without saying that Mawun has white sand and stunning, turquoise water, but the bonus here is the seclusion of an enclosed bay. The beach is rarely busy, and at “off-peak” times there’s a very real chance of having it all to yourself.
Another winner is Senggigi Beach, where can sit on the sand and watch the surfers do their stuff (or, if you’re so inclined, borrow a board and join in).
Jimbaran or Nusa Dua, Bali
Best for: children and teenagers
Older kids will love Jimbaran in Bali for its range of watersports. Close your eyes and try not to worry as you send them off parasailing, jet skiing, water skiing or bouncing along on a banana boat.
If you want to take it down a notch, there’s snorkeling and learning about turtle conservation.
If you’ve got younger kids, you might want to stay at a family-friendly resort to make use of the various kids clubs. (It’s your break, too, and it’s easier to relax by the pool knowing that your child is being professionally entertained in a purpose-built playroom.)
If you’re trying to cater for more than one age group, you might want to take a look at The Westin Resort in Nusa Dua, Bali. They have a “teen zone” packed with PlayStations and dedicated clubs for both toddlers and younger kids.
Best for: wellness
If your holiday packing is pretty much sun cream and yoga pants, and you like to come back from time away cleansed and invigorated, Ubud is for you.
Ubud is Bali’s center for healing, and in fact the name of the area comes from Ubad, which means medicine. This is the place to head for the full menu of luxury spas, Ayurvedic treatments, acupuncture or panchakarma programs.
Ubud is also Bali’s cultural nexus, and you can easily fill your days with temples and art galleries, ceremonies and dancing, and great cuisine.
After all that, enjoy a hedonistic four-handed massage before settling into bed to re-read Eat, Pray, Love.
Best for: partying
With a reputation for good times, busy, crowded Kuta in Bali draws a young, energetic crowd ready to party.
Days are spent swimming, shopping, sunbathing or just chilling. Nightlife ranges from places where you buy beer by the bucket to the kind of upscale establishments where the barman takes care not to bruise the gin in your martini.
It’s not the prettiest of places on the island, or the most authentically Balinese, but it has an appealingly brash, good-humored vibe all of its own.
If hardcore partying isn’t your thing, you’ll also find a few quieter, less high-octane places for watching sunset turn into sunrise.
Best for: cultural experiences
As it’s the history, culture and ceremonies of a new place that thrill you, you’ll probably find Yogyakarta the perfect destination.
This is the city where Java began, a place that was a powerhouse in the 8th and 9th centuries, and an opportunity for modern visitors to enjoy fascinating Javanese arts and traditions at every turn.
Beyond the urban sprawl are two of Indonesia’s most astounding archaeological sites: Borobudur and Prambanan. The Mahayana Buddhist temple at Borobudur boasts nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome, while the UNESCO World Heritage-listed temple compounds at Prambanan makes for a stunning spectacle in the style of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.
Thanks to Yogyakarta’s surprisingly mild climate, a bit of exploring won’t leave you exhausted. That’s good news as there’s still the Sultan’s Palace to see, local silversmiths to admire in action at Kotagede, and endless pavement stalls selling the must-try local specialty gudeg: a stew of jackfruits simmered in coconut cream and served with chicken, egg or tofu.
Best for: urban buzz
Beaches are OK, but who wants to spend a couple of weeks just lying in the sun? If you find lazing around a recipe for boredom, then your best bet is Jakarta.
From the aromatic, old-fashioned streets of Chinatown to the crazy nightlife in North Jakarta, you really can have any experience you like in this city of 10 million people.
You’ll find haute couture in Plaza Indonesia and the Grand Indonesia shopping town, but bargain hunters will be in heaven in the wholesale textile malls of Tanah Abang.
For a Jakartan market with edge, head to Pasar Santa on Jalan Wolter Monginsidi. This was a conservative indoor market until 2014, when it was transformed by a group of young entrepreneurs who wanted to use it to showcase their start-up companies. Now Pasar Santa has a unique mix of style-conscious places to eat, vinyl record stores, vintage clothing shops and cool coffee lounges. We promise you’ll go for the shopping and stay for the people watching.
Lombok’s Gili islands
Best for: diving
The Gili islands off the northwestern coast of Lombok are famed for their fantastic diving. The conditions are rarely difficult, the current is near non-existent, and you’ll pretty much always have at least 20m of visibility for spotting the first-class marine life.
Advanced divers will enjoy the deeper reefs, which have vast areas of pristine coral, swathes of hard corals and brightly colored fans.
A speedboat from Lombok’s main beach resort of Senggigi gets you to the trio of islands in around 20 minutes.
Trawangan (which everyone refers to as Gili T) is the funkiest of the three with chic bars and cool restaurants. Gili Air is more traditional and Meno is the least developed.
In recent times the waters surrounding Lombok have been intently watched by conservationists, so turtles are a common sight once again. You may also come face-to-face with a manta ray, reef sharks or even the rare Mola mola – the heaviest bony fish in the world, capable of weighing more than 950kg.
Not desperate to swim rapidly away from a fish that weighs much the same as your car? Fear not: there are endless colorful, pleasingly small fish pottering about in the shallows, too.
Best for: wildlife
Lampung is an easy hop from Jakarta—take a 40-minute flight, or a seven-hour bus trip, your call—and you’ll soon be surrounded by what the World Wildlife Fund has called ‘one of the planet’s most biologically outstanding habitats.’
Elephants inhabit the rainforest of the Way Kambas National Park, while Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park is home to Sumatran rhinos and tigers. The park is also famous for the many bird species that prefer foothill climates, as well as for several species of sea turtle that nest along its coastal zone.
While you’re in Sumatra it would be remiss not to give a few coins to help orangutans. There are now less than 700 in the wild, making them critically endangered. It feels unimaginable that orangutans share 97 percent of our DNA and yet could be extinct in 20 years.
The one piece of nature that you don’t want to see at its most magnificent is Mount Krakatoa. Happily dormant right now, the volcano holds the record for creating the loudest sound ever heard in modern history: its 1883 eruption was audible up to 3,000 miles away.
Nusa Dua, Bali
Best for: loved-up luxe
Many resorts in Indonesia are aimed at honeymooners, but the neatly groomed enclave of Nusa Dua in Bali turns the sense of seclusion and luxe up a notch.
Just 14km southeast of Kuta, it’s easy to get to, unlike some of Indonesia’s more remote beauty spots. (After all, nothing ruins a romantic holiday in paradise faster than three hours uncomfortably bouncing on a wooden speedboat.)
The beautifully quiet coastal stretch is home to an array of five-star resorts, fully mod-conned-up, with plenty of spas and options for candle-lit dinners on the beach.
Best for: when you can’t make your mind up
There’s a reason that Bali is the most famous island in Indonesia. It’s because it’s easily the best all-rounder, with a beautiful hinterland of volcanic mountains and rice paddies and some pretty outstanding beaches. There are so many that you can even chose your preferred sand color—soft and white in the south; exotic volcanic black in the west.
The Kuta-Legian-Seminyak strip is an 8km sweep of golden sand that’s well known as a weekend hangout for visitors who’ve hopped over from Australia. Now, however, it’s increasing in appeal to other travelers drawn to chic restaurants and designer shops.
Hardcore divers will gravitate towards Malibu Point for glimpses of sharks, tuna and manta rays, while snorkelers will enjoy Crystal Bay, where the clearest water in the region offers visibility between 30-50m.
Honeymooning couples head toward the luxury of Nusa Dua, party people take on Kuta and parents simply find one of the many child-friendly resorts and hunker down while the kids clubs do all the work.
- Question 1 of 10
What is your personal paradise?CorrectIncorrect
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What’s on your 90s pop mix tape?CorrectIncorrect
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Which of these most appeals to you?CorrectIncorrect
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After a holiday, is your camera filled with shots of:CorrectIncorrect
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If your friends planned a surprise for you, would you like it to be:CorrectIncorrect
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Complete this sentence: “The buzz of a big city makes me feel…”CorrectIncorrect
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A friend tells you they’ve spent the morning aligning their chakras. Do you…CorrectIncorrect
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When you’re sitting on your suitcase trying to squash it closed, is it because you’ve tried to squeeze in:CorrectIncorrect
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The great outdoors is…CorrectIncorrect
- Question 10 of 10
How do you feel about Finding Nemo?CorrectIncorrect