Bucket List Worthy
Beautiful beaches, surreal surroundings and a pretty great shout-out from Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love…when it comes to idyllic vacation spots Bali seems like the jackpot of foreign destinations. Step off the plane though and your tranquil vacation may suddenly seem like a whirlwind experience.
With its crowded streets, tourists galore and merchants hocking their goods at every corner, the island isn’t exactly the silent, meditative getaway it was once touted to be. Sure you could check yourself into one of Bali’s many beautiful resorts and be waited on hand-and-foot, but if true Indonesia and a soul-cleansing journey is what you’re going for, there are many other stops you should also consider before jumping on the Bali bandwagon.
Tourists often forget about this scenic paradise thanks to its proximity to Bali, but set foot on the beautiful beachy shores and you’ll wonder why anyone ever leaves. If you’re looking for a more authentic Indonesian experience, book a trip through some of the lush rice fields, climb the beautiful waterfalls, make friends with monkeys on the side of the road or head out to the multi-denominational Pura Lingsar. That temple compound, which is located northeast of Mataram, is considered the holiest in Lombok and features beautiful details. If you’re feeling lucky you can purchase a hard boiled egg from a local vendor, who will then attempt to lure out a sacred eel from the Wektu Telu temple’s pond. According to locals, those who successfully do so are guaranteed good luck for the foreseeable future.
If it’s a soul-cleansing retreat you’re looking for, go no further than Hotel Tugu Lombok. The luxury resort features a sprawling beach, a gorgeous infinity pool and private, lush accommodations. With limited rooms and a staff that insists on calling each guest by name, you’ll feel as though you walked into the height of luxury.
If you’re looking to find your centre in Central Java, consider a visit with some ninth-century architecture. This Buddhist Temple is not only spectacular to take in, but chockfull of history, culture and spirituality. Soak in the sights of the stacked platforms and beautiful stonework (the temple consists of more than two million blocks of lava), with nearly 1500 carved panels. It’s the world’s biggest known Buddhist monument at 115 feet tall at its highest point, and has survived the elements for more than 1,200 years.
Comparable to Peru’s Machu Picchu, this 10th century compound in Central Java is truly a spiritual stop on any adventure-seeker’s bucket list. The sprawling grounds boast 240 temples, making it the largest compound dedicated to Shiva in the country. Given that these temples have outlasted hundreds of years of earthquakes, volcanos and generations of leaders, it’s no wonder the area is so heavily protected today and has been declared a World Heritage Site.
Located in the peaceful city of Surabaya, Mount Bromo is one of Indonesia’s lesser-known tourist attractions, but is well worth the visit. An active volcano that most recently erupted earlier this year, it’s part of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park and requires at least a two day’s trek to see. That’s because you’ll want to stay as close to the base as possible the night before, and wake up early enough to see the sun rise over the majestic peak. Then, in the early morning once you’ve soaked in the views, you can climb down into the valley and all the way to the volcano opening for a closer view. Or, if you’re not up for the hike rent one of the horses available instead.
Some tourists opt to make their own reservations and make the hike on their own, but you can also book a tour through the Surabaya tourism office. Or, hire locals Harso Suko Wibowo and Indah Fardiana at Tour Jawatimur. They’ll drive you around in a private car, arrange for accommodations and even pick you up from the airport with snacks in tow.
The country’s capital might not be as spiritual or picturesque as some of the other spots on the map, but it’s certainly full of a life of its own. Shopping malls, high-end restaurants and museums galore line the crowded streets, while simply getting into a cab and watching the driver dart in-and-out of the insane traffic is an experience on its own. If you’re looking for a little culture there’s no other place to be.
This centralized spot has some of the best authentic dining in the country and picturesque hotels with plenty of services to help get you around to the various squares and monuments. If you do decide to go out exploring be sure to take plenty of safety precautions, including wearing the appropriate clothing and using a guide wherever possible. It’s not unheard of for students and their teachers to stop Western tourists and ask them to practice their English, or for locals wanting to snap selfies with visitors with fairer skin. You’ll feel like Brad and Angelina have nothing on you by the time you leave.
Comprised of three separate islands on which there are no motorized vehicles, the Gili Islands have long been an Australian hotspot similar to Canada’s penchant for all-inclusive Cuban vacations. The main party stop, Gili Trawangan, features an impressive strip of nightclubs, restaurants and hotels with happy hours where tourists spill out onto the streets. It’s also fairly easy to rent a bike or take a horse-drawn carriage around the island in just under half a day.
If it’s a more relaxed atmosphere you’re looking for, Gili Air and Gili Meno are better bets. The latter features amazing snorkeling and beaches along with a turtle sanctuary in which tourists can help care for the animals. If you’re headed to the former, invoke your inner Canadian and try to find Morgan from the Molson Canadian beer commercials shown during the Sochi Olympics. He’ll be the one in the establishment with the giant Molson Canadian beer fridge and the Canadian flags hanging from the ceiling.
If you’re a coffee lover, you’ll find some of the very best brews no matter where you go in Indonesia. Thick, dark and full of flavour, there are several varieties to try and varying price points. There’s nothing like being able to say that you’ve had a cup of Java in Java, but we also recommend trying a cup of Kopi Luwak for a truly unique experience. The expensive beans are only cultivated after they’ve been ingested and broken down by wild civet cats, which means the beans are actually collected from the animal’s feces before being broken down into coffee. It may sound disgusting in theory, but thanks to natural fermentation and selection, it may be the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had. As it should be, with a running price of eight bucks a pop.
If you’re considering exploring these amazing destinations, there are many airlines to choose from that will make your experience one to remember from the minute you step on the plane.