First and foremost, no, Bali is not a country. I say this, because this has become a common misconception with the rise of influencer culture in Bali land in the last decade. Secondly, yes, Bali is an island in the country of Indonesia. Indonesia is just one of many countries that make up Southeast Asia.
The thing is, Bali is just one of over 17,000 islands in Indonesia. You read that right, there are over 17,000 islands in this stunning archipelago. Which means there’s a heck of a lot more to see other than Bali if you decide to make the trek to Indonesia. I will say that only a fraction of these islands are inhabited. But still, we’re talking THOUSANDS to choose from.
The small island of Bali is known as a surf mecca, a yoga haven, a foodie’s dream, as well as a family-friendly destination. Plus, it’s pretty dang cheap, with a vibrant culture, and beautiful landscape. It’s great! And if you want to plan a Bali trip, then I have you covered in my post all about my top picks in Bali. This post, however, is on my favorite places to go in Indonesia besides Bali. I should know, I once packed a bag to go to Indo for a month, and ended up staying for two years. Whoops.
Where To Go In Indonesia Besides Bali
Top Picks When Traveling Indonesia
One of the greatest things about traveling to Indonesia is that you feel like you’re going to different countries each time you change islands. Truly. The culture can vary a lot from island to island, especially due to religion.
Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, but there is also a large Catholic presence in the Western islands. Plus, we can’t forget the prominent Hindu island of Bali. Religion heavily influences culture from everything from clothing, to architecture, to food. However, the one constant in most islands is the language. Yes, most places have a local dialect in addition to Bahasa Indonesian, but if you learn a little bit of Indonesian- it will carry you a long way.
All of the islands have their own unique draw to them. So it really depends what kind of adventure you’re after to find out if the island in question is the best fit for you.
Assuming that you’re also going to Bali during your time in Indonesia, let’s start off with one of its neighbors: Lombok. You can easily access Lombok by flight, fast boat, or ferry. If you go via boat, make sure to check the swell, as the strait between Bali and Lombok can get quite treacherous.
One of the most popular activities in Lombok is the surf. Although it’s developed quite a bit in the last 10 years, it’s still nowhere near as crowded as Bali, which can make it a little more beginner friendly. Kuta, Lombok is a favorite.
It’s really easy to access the Gili islands from Lombok, even if you’re just going for a quick day trip. Gili T is a party island, so steer clear if you’re looking for peace and quiet, and head to Gili Meno instead. Gili Air is the smallest of the 3 islands, and a nice blend of stuff going on, without getting crazy out of hand.
Mount Rinjani is in Lombok provides an epic hike on an active volcano. Yep, an active volcano. It’s a tough trek, and not one that’s for the faint of heart. Make sure you’re prepared with hiking boots (link to Altra’s in storefront), waterproof gear for you and your pack, and comfortable outerwear. Don’t worry, if intense trekking isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of other more gentle walks around Lombok to explore, too.
Snorkeling and Diving
Most people head to the Gilis from Lombok to snorkel or dive. The water is incredibly clear, and as warm as a bathtub! There’s not a whole lot to see as far as big fish or coral goes, but it’s a really beautiful experience nonetheless. Let’s not forget the world class pink beach in Lombok that offers a true reprieve after a long day underwater.
Okay, onto Bali’s other neighbor, Java. And home to the nation’s capital city, Jakarta. Truly, I’ve never experienced a city like this one, and not in a good way. I’d definitely recommend skipping right through Jakarta if you can. It’s wild. One of my favorite things about Java is the food! You can’t go wrong with it.
Java boasts a variety of temples across the giant island. I’d recommend going to Yogyakarta to see Borobudur and Prambanan if you really want to be wowed.
There is some incredible surf in Java, and it will likely be less crowded than both Bali and Lombok. A popular destination for Bali surfers is G-Land, because it’s so close to Bali. But if you’re willing to make an extra check, I’d recommend checking West Java, instead.
Java is known for incredible hiking, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Mount Bromo is a tourist favorite, which I can’t vouch for myself, as I haven’t been. I will say that driving all the way down the massive island did wow me with the stunning nature, and volcanoes along the way.
Alright, now we’re shooting over to the Western side of the country, which is definitely a flight away from Bali. Although, if you’re on a budget (like I was) you can also overland it. It only takes 3 days on buses and ferries. Totally worth it, though. Some of my greatest memories are here in Flores.
Flores Island is the jumping off point for Komodo Island and Komoda National Park, which have become pretty freaking famous thanks to Instagram. And thanks to the prehistoric creatures roaming the island to this day. Plus, the plentiful sea life. It’s truly a bucket list destination, and I promise you it won’t disappoint. Hot tip: if you’re on a budget, and still want to see komodo dragons, you can always go to Rinca Island, instead.
Snorkeling & Diving
Sealife is a-plenty around Flores and Komodo, and diving fanatics come from around the world to see it thanks to the marine park. Just a short boat ride will provide you with everything from manta rays, to sharks, to dolphins. And let’s not forget the rainbow bright coral reefs. It’s truly like another world, and a must-do for my mermaid people out there.
Flores is home to some of the extraordinary waterfalls I’ve ever seen. Of course the best way to find the hidden ones is to rent a scooter, get lost, and ask locals. But you can always go the more touristy route, and book a tour in Labuan Bajo, instead.
Rote island is even farther West, and can be accessed via flying into West Timor, and then catching a fast boat or ferry to Rote. This sleepy little island is a beach lover’s paradise without all the crowds and noise. Expect more basic accommodations, and less frills. You’re on a remote island, after all.
The main reason people head to Rote is for the surf. Again, because it’s not Bali, and it’s even farther away- it’s not too crowded, which I personally love. The water is warm, and the waves are constant. You’ll definitely get your fix in.
Rote is for beach people. This sleepy little island is home to endlessly tranquil, white sand beaches that you won’t want to miss. This really comes with major relaxation vibes, like a good book on the sand sort of feel.
Snorkel & Dive
Once again, prepare to be wowed by the underwater world that Rote Island has to offer. Your accommodation will be able to arrange a boat trip for you to either snorkel or dive off of this little slice of paradise.
You go to Borneo to see orangutans in the wild. Period. That’s it. Well, I’m sure there are actually other fun activities to do there, but seeing these perfect creatures in their natural habitat is truly a once in a lifetime kind of activity that snorkeling and hiking just can’t beat.
The best way to see the orangutans is by boat, and then getting off throughout the jungle to hike with your guide. I’m the first to admit that I get a little antsy when I’m stuck on a boat for too long. But hiking in the wild, and stumbling into a mama and baby orangutan make it all worth it, I swear. I can’t recommend this enough.
What’s Indonesia Known For?
Indonesia is a country that truly provides a little something for every kind of traveler. Whether you’re looking for a more bougie experience at a luxe hotel in Bali, or a more remote stay on Nusa Penida island- there’s something for everyone.
Let’s not forget that Indonesia is home to the Komodo dragons, and one of the only places in the world where orangutans live in the wild. Plus, the underwater fantasyland that is Raja Ampat.
Indonesia boasts a variety of cultures, religions, and landscapes with over 17,000 islands. Roam Lake Toba in Sumatra, or visit Padar Island for that Insta-perfect photo op. Surf world class waves in the Mentawis, or trek an active volcano. You can run around every square inch of this country, and still not be bored.