Beyond a doubt, there are many things to do in Indonesia but one of the top on our list is backpacking! With a wide variety of accommodation, transportation and halal food, this beautiful country is perfect for backpackers ?
We've rounded up the top 9 places for backpacking in Indonesia! Pack your bags - it's time for an adventure of a lifetime ?
1. Malang and Probolinggo
Malang and Probolinggo are two towns that are perfect for a backpacking trip in East Java due to their budget-friendly nature attractions. One of their must-visit places is Mount Bromo, an active volcano in East Java! A challenging-but-enjoyable horse ride will bring you to the land above the clouds. Be sure to stop by Bromo Savanna Hill, where you can recreate more dreamy photos on a green hill dubbed as the "Teletubbies Hill" ?
For the best views of Bromo, visit at sunrise!
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Your next stop would be the stunning Madakaripura waterfall, one of the tallest waterfalls in Indonesia! Getting to the waterfall requires a short 30 to 35-minute hike but it's well worth it once you witness this majestic nature attraction for yourself.
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Head to Batu, Malang, and spoil yourself with all the history this town has to offer. Masjid Tiban is one of the must-visit places here! The mosque is a whopping 9 storey building, also home to a shopping centre (that funds the mosque's operational costs), Islamic boarding house (students built the mosque building) and an animal shelter.
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You'd be blown away at the mosque's beautiful Middle Eastern architecture and how modern the technology here is!
2. Labuan Bajo/Flores and Komodo islands
If you're more of an adventurous backpacker, East Nusa Tenggara - Labuan Bojo and Komodo Islands, is perfect for you! Your first stop has to be Amelia seaview, a local secret of Flores. This hill overlooks the small islands surrounding it and the sea of Labuan Bajo.
Don't forget to pose at Dermaga Putih too! The bridge is picturesque and the best pictures are taken at sunset ?
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From Labuan Bajo, take a ferry and cross to the islands of the Komodo dragons: Rinca Island and Komodo Island. Get to know the amazing creature known as the largest and heaviest lizard species still living on earth, while closely guided by official Komodo tour guides on either of the two islands!
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After that, enjoy snorkeling and sunbathing at the nearby spots like Manjarite, Kelor Island, and Pink Beach. There's nothing like gorgeous pink sand on a beach!
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3. Yogyakarta and Semarang
Yogyakarta may be an obvious destination for any tourist, but you can always create your own version of Central Java by backpacking! Choose the most awesome (and budget-friendly) spots to visit - one of which has to be the Parangkusumo sand dunes, one of the only two sand dune locations in the world (the other is in Mexico). Sandboarding here is a truly unique and probably once-in-a-lifetime experience ?
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Include Ratu Boko Palace in your itinerary.The vast archaeological site of ancient Buddhist-Hindu palace compound is majestic in its own right! Then head to Kraton Yogyakarta, a huge palace of the sultans of Yogyakarta, which houses a great number of historical treasures including ancient cars and weapons. Taman Sari is your go-to spot for an instagram-worthy feed ?
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From Yogyakarta, take a 2.5-hour flight or a 4-hour bus ride to Semarang, an old-but-beautiful city located at the other end of Central Java. Here, you should not miss Lawang Sewu; which in local Javanese language means "a thousand doors", a name given because of its numerous doors (429, to be exact). Today, the stunning architecture blends with spooky ghost stories to attract both the curious and instagrammers!
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: Central Java takes pride in angkringan
, a traditional type of by-the-street stall selling local food and drinks at night. The stalls do not have Halal certification but from personal experience, the food sold are halal. Experience this in Yogyakarta and enjoy the ambiance, especially with talented street musicians around!
Now wait, backpacking in Jakarta? Yes! This is the place for backpackers who love food ? Start your day with a bowl of bubur ayam
(chicken porridge) with its various toppings (heavenly century eggs!) at Bubur Ayam Mangga Besar.
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In the early evening, head to Tebet area in South Jakarta for a delicious plate of traditional fried duck dish at Bebek Ginyo. There's been some buzz about their Iced Chendol too! Then try the legendary nasi goreng kambing (lamb fried rice) and kambing guling (grilled lamb) on Jalan Kebon Sirih in Central Jakarta.
At night, savour all the seafood you've ever dreamt of at Pasar Ikan Muara Angke in North Jakarta. Choose what you want from the daily catch and choose how you want them cooked ?
#HHWT Tip: You can bargain here, but be sure to be polite!
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We recommend heading to Jakarta around early March as it gives you a chance to also visit JavaJazz, one of the largest international jazz festival's in the world. This festival is held annually!
5. Sipolohon, Toba, Berastagi
North Sumatera is another not-so-mainstream but great choice for backpacking due to its collection of nature's attractions! You'd probably know it best for the iconic Lake Toba Samosir Island. Yes, Lake Toba is a must for your trip, but don't stop there!
Sipolohon hotsprings are a must-visit too. Can you believe that this out-of-the-world scenery is in Indonesia? ?
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Head to Berastagi, a farm town located up on the hill next to Lake Toba. The town is famous for its fresh flowers and fruits! Chill admist the cool mountain air and visit Kebun Strawberry (strawberry farm garden) at Taman Alam Lumbini, which also has an amazing pagoda.
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6. Padang, Bukittinggi, Pagaruyung
West Sumatera is home to one of the most delectable dishes in the world - beef rendang! This is the place to head to for the best rendang and authentic Minang food.
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But that's not all! There are plenty of amazing attractions that you cannot miss here. We recommend heading to Taman Panorama and Lobang Jepang (a literal translation to "Japan's Hole") in Bukittinggi. Taman Panorama is a beautiful garden with a viewing post to Ngarai Sianok, a vast but narrow area of rock valleys!
But the architecture that will truly blow you away is that of Masjid Raya Sumatera Barat. The mosque is beautiful both inside and out, and the peace you feel here is truly unbeatable.
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Be sure to also spend some time at Istano Basa Pagaruyuang (Pagaruyung Palace) too, which was formerly Pagaruyung Kingdom's official palace! History records say that the bullhorn-shaped roof was meant to commemorate and remember the important value of peace. This roof is one of the most significant trademarks of a Minang home.
7. Raja Ampat
You can't say you've backpacked around Indonesia if you haven't been to Raja Ampat! To get the best of this island while still keeping to your budget, choose a locally-owned accommodation and have your island hopping as well as snorkeling trips customized by the accommodation owner. The accommodations you'd probably get is an overwater bungalow which is a pretty cool experience!
Locals here would love to take you to the Pasir Timbul sandbank. The sandbank is only visible during low tide due to it's location in the middle of the sea ?
: Your stay at a local overwater budget homestay includes 3 meals and 2 snacks/day!
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Pianemo Island would be a great choice too, instead of the popular (but expensive) Wayag. This group of small islands are close to each other, against a gorgeous background of deep blue sea and a stunning horizon!
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For animal lovers, Cenderawasih (bird-of-paradise) trekking is a must! Explore the nature with a local and meet bird species that are native to Papua. Each of them takes pride in divine splashes of different colors you don't see on any other birds. Once you lay your eyes on one, you would instantly understand why they're called the birds of paradise!
8. East and Central Borneo
Borneo is arguably the most covered island in Indonesia by wildlife documentary efforts like NatGeo Wild and the likes of it. The whole island is huge but you'd understand why a trip there is so worth it even if you only visit East and Central Borneo!
The raw beauty of this place and its challenging nature blend very well with its rich traditions. We'd say you have to include the majestic Samarinda Islamic Centre, which boasts the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, as one of your backpacking stops.
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Then head to Derawan Islands, off the coast of East Borneo. There are a number of small islands here, each with its unique points of interest for the fun-loving adventurer in you: Sangalaki island for snorkeling, Maratua island for the gorgeous beach, and Kakaban island for their stingless jellyfish ?
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One of the places not to be missed is Tanjung Puting National Park! Take the Sekonyer River cruise, where you will sail along the Sekonyer River amidst the lush, wild Borneo rainforest. At Camp Leakey Conservation Centre, you can learn about the Orangutan, an animal that is native to Indonesia! Plus you can also volunteer in various scientific research projects for the wildlife ?
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Madura is a small island just northeast off Java, beautiful in its own way but often overlooked as a travel destination. To reach Madura, take a scenic ride across Suramadu Bridge from Surabaya, the capital of East Java. Its budget-friendly attractions is a plus point for backpackers!
ZM Willem III Lighthouse, or Bangkalan lighthouse, would be the first spot you enjoy. The lighthouse has been towering at Sembilangan Beach in Madura since the Dutch colony in 1879 ?
Visit the Lighthouse at sunset for the best views!
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The island is also home of the world-famous cow race show, Karapan Sapi, so make sure to include it in your itinerary in Madura!
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Add Masjid Agung (The Great Mosque) Sumenep to your itinerary. It'll add both colour and immersion to your Madura trip ? The mosque is one of the oldest in Indonesia and its architecture is a harmonious mixture of Chinese, European, Javanese, and traditional Madura culture.
This is the perfect example of how Islam blends differences harmoniously!
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There you go! Let a backpacker friend know - it's time for the adventure of your lifetime (plus you don't even have to travel too far) ?