ATJ Travel Expert Jarrod Hobson's Top 5 Places to get off the Beaten Path in Indonesia
Indonesia is my personal favorite travel destination. A staggering expanse of over 18,000 islands, Indonesia contains a vast array of distinctive cultures and landscapes that have kept me coming back for many years—and I still feel like I have only scratched the surface.
Indonesia is so vast and diverse that it is impossible to check off all the “must sees” in a single trip. Rather it is the perfect place to deeply engage in authentic, culturally-immersive experiences on just a few islands at a time. I typically recommend that first-time travelers spend time on Bali, Java and Kalimantan, absorbing the unique culture and natural surroundings of each locale.
But for repeat travelers to Indonesia, or adventurous travelers looking to avoid the crowds, I dig into my first-hand knowledge of Indonesia’s seldom visited corners to recommend the following:
Located in the mountainous highlands of south Sulawesi, Torajaland is paradise for curious travelers in search of unique cultural experiences and amazing biodiversity. The highlight of a visit here is an invite to a local funeral (yes, really). Funerals in Torajaland are celebrated much like weddings in the US with the whole community gathering for feasting, dancing and orations. And the more the merrier—travelers are treated as honored guests.
Papua New Guinea has a reputation for being one of the most culturally diverse and vibrant places on earth. But few realize that the western part of the island is actually part of Indonesia. Here, it is possible to trek through orchid gardens, alpine rainforests and visit remote Dani villages all without the logistical hassles posed by a trip to PNG. The 3-star Baliem Valley Resort, located at 1900 meters above sea level and surrounded by beautiful untouched hills is the perfect home-base.
The remote Raja Ampat archipelago stretches into the sea off the west coast West Papua. This hidden locale houses the world's most diverse marine habitat with 540 types of colorful coral and countless species of fish. It’s a snorkelers paradise and best experienced by chartered private boat.
Twice the size of Bali but with only one sixth of her inhabitants, most of whom still follow ancient tribal traditions, Sumba shows the curious traveler a much different face of Indonesia. Sumba is renowned for its unique tribal culture, fine ikat weavings and tradition of horsemanship. Each February and March, ancient rituals are kept alive during the Pasola Festival, a reenacted war ritual between two rival clans of traditional headhunters. The exclusive Nihiwatu Resort is my recommended accommodation featuring an an exotic combination of eco-conscious escapism and understated elegance.
Famous as the home of fearsome and respected Komodo dragons, Komodo National Park also supports populations of wild horses, buffaloes and barking deer. Offshore, the marine life is also diverse—dolphins and whales are abundant and teeming coral reefs are a delight for snorkelers and sea kayakers. I recommending staying at the Plataran Komodo Resort & Spa on secluded and private Waecicu Beach. Those it is just a ten-minutes boat ride to the main town of Labuan Bajo, it feels miles from civilization.