Bali is one of the most popular destinations in Indonesia, that is undeniable, and it is okay. Just okay, nothing more nothing less. It’s nice enough, for some. For others it is overly touristy and has been ruined by Australian package tourism. The thing is so many backpackers head there on their gap years and totally miss out on dozens of far better Indonesian alternatives. So where else can you go in Indonesia as an island alternative to Bali?
Bali is one of the most popular island getaways in Indonesia, if not the world, and has had more than it’s fair share of international media attention with overly saccharine chick flicks. But here’s the thing, with over 17,000 islands in Indonesia it isn’t the only destination in the archipelago, and it is by far from the best option for backpackers.
Don’t get me wrong Bali isn’t my favourite place in Indonesia by a long shot but I don’t exactly hate it either, I just think there are far better islands to head to, ones that aren’t overun with Aussie Bogans and middle aged housewives thinking they are Julia Roberts!
So the next time you think of booking a flight to Bali, where should you choose instead?
Kalimantan, otherwise known as Indonesian Borneo, still evokes images of intrepid adventurers and Victorian explorers. Even though it is starting to open itself up to tourism more and more, there is still that visceral feeling of heading into one of the last true wildernesses, where the rainforest is still filled with indigenous tribes the protected Tanjung Puting National Park is the last refuge for the orangutans that are struggling to survive there.
In many ways similar to Bali without being quite as overrun with package tourism, you can still party, surf or relax to your hearts content on the stunning island of Lombok, which also offers some world class trekking options up the jungle clad topography of Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia’s second highest volcano. It also happens to be the perfect jumping off point for Indonesia’s other famous backpacker destination, the Gili’s.
The gili islands are a three in one jackpot and a backpacker paradise all rolled into one offering everything from long stretches of white sand beaches to traditional basic homestays, just don’t go expecting fast wifi speeds, the whole point of at least two of these islands is to get away from it all! Unless of course you want the world famous beach parties and hedonistic nightlife of Gili Trawangan which has everything Bali can offer and more.
But If you want turquoise blue waters, white sands, palm trees, sun loungers and beach side huts with a bit of scuba diving and snorkelling, thrown in, then these are a far better option than Bali!
Surrounded by dramatic active volcanoes and caldera lakes, Sulawesi is the perfect spot for adventurous backpackers who want to explore Bunaken National Park or Mamasa, stay in a homestay with the Toraja people or even just use it as a jumping off point to explore Komodo National Park and Rinca. The charming towns of Flores and Timor are perfect spots to relax for a few days before you set off exploring again too.
Komodo island is perhaps one of the most extraordinary islands on the planet, there really is nowhere else like it. Needing an epic odyssey on it’s own merits just to get there and the only place you can see wild Komodo dragons in their natural habitat, you really do feel like you have reached the end of the world in this mesmerising destination.
No, not the dance. Sumba is one of the lesser Sunda islands in the province of East Nusa Tenggara, and is like nowhere else in Indonesia. It’s rugged limestone hills and wide Savannah differentiate it visually from the volcanic jungles elsewhere, and the small hilltop villages dotted around the island still pay homage to their ancient marapu religion with bloody sacrifices.
Papau is the Western, Indonesian section of the world’s second largest island, Papau New Guinea, which is it’s own separate country (and worth exploring on it’s own merits if you are this way anyway). Papau itself is an adventurous backpackers dream, with some of the worlds best dive sites and the nearby archipelago of Raja Ampat in particular recognised as one of the most biodiverse marine habitats on the planet, vast rainforests and huge limestone mountains to hike and explore.
With over 17,000 islands to choose from, all offering varying degrees of paradisaical white sand beaches, dramatic volcanic landscapes, jungle trekking adventures and hedonistic nights out, this is only a very small section of what Indonesia has to offer. So with choices like these, why would you settle for just Bali? Get out there and explore!
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