Last year, we spent a month traveling through Indonesia. We frolicked through the mountains and highlands of the Java region, ooh’ed and aaah’ed at the ancient temples of Prambanan and Borobodur, stood at the crater of an active volcano, explored off-the-beaten-path beaches, and got up close and personal with sharks, turtles and other underwater creatures. It was hands down the highlight of our adventures in 2015. We couldn’t believe that it took us so long to finally spend some time in this beautiful country.
See, unlike its neighbours Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, Indonesia doesn’t always make it onto the backpackers S.E.A. itinerary. It certainly wasn’t at the top of our travel wish list when we first started exploring S.E.A. For us it wasn’t the lack of sights or amazing experiences that held us back from visiting Indonesia, it was the fact that Indonesia is HUGE. Its 18,110 islands, 6,000 of them inhabited, made planning our trip to Indonesia that much more intimidating.
But now that we’ve had a chance to experience Indonesia for ourselves, we are ready to share our suggested itinerary with you!
2 Weeks in Indonesia Itinerary
If 2 weeks is all you have to experience the best of Indonesia, come to terms with the fact that you just won’t see everything. The country is too fast and is full of too many amazing experiences too cram into 2 weeks. But we promise, you can still see and do a ton!
Yogyakarta, Java – 2-3 days
Jakarta will be a lot cheaper to fly into, but don’t be tempted to add it to your itinerary. It’s not worth the stop. Head straight to Yogyakarta and plan to stay for 2-3 days. The biggest attractions in Yogyakarta are the Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple and while seeing both in one day will be a bit exhausting it’s not impossible. Plan to visit Borobudur at sunrise and Prambanan at sunset, then spend the second day checking out the city of Yogyakarta.
Our Accommodation Tip: Stay close to the city centre, near Jalan Malioboro (Malioboro Street). We stayed at Hotel Poncowinatan, a local no frills hotel in central Yogyakarta for just $23/night with breakfast. It’s great value for what you get but don’t expect anything fancy.
Malang, Java – 2 days
Hop on an overnight train and make your way from Yogyakarta to Malang, the second largest city in East Java and the gateway to the stunning Mount Bromo and the Ijen Crater which sits amidst a landscape of volcanic cones and a beautiful turquoise coloured sulfur lake.
Those that have time to spare will plan 2 individual trips to see Mt Bromo and Ijen Crater from Malang, as each one is easily organized as a day trip with a VERY early start. But if you are short on time, join a combined Mt Bromo and Ijen Crater 1N/2D Tour that will take you to both attractions and give you an option to be taken to the Gilimanuk ferry port in the western tip of Bali Island and onwards to Kuta, Bali. But beware, the trip from the ferry across to Kuta is a long one (6-7 hrs), so it might make more sense to grab a tour that returns to Surabaya and fly from Surabaya to Bali instead.
Our Accommodation Tip: We stayed in a bamboo gazebo at Kampong Tourist, a lively hostel located on the rooftop of Hotel Helios. The hostel was very basic with shared facilities but was a fantastic place to meet other travelers and make arrangements for Mt Bromo and Ijen Crater treks.
Ubud, Bali – 2 days
We won’t be the only ones to tell you not to waste your time in Kuta. Unless you are looking to get drunk with a bunch of 18-year old Australians (sorry Aussies, you know we love you and your country, but you really do get out of hand when you come to Kuta), there is absolutely no reason for you to stop here. Take a bus from Kuta directly to Ubud for a more cultural and authentic Bali experience. Spend 1-2 days in Ubud, enjoying the town itself and the various day trips/activities available nearby.
Looking for a great place to stay? we highly recommend the Onion Collective. It’s a hotel/restaurants/ coworking space where you’ll always find some digital nomads to socialize with during your stay. Onion Collective can only be booked via Airbnb.
Lombok/Gili Islands – 3 days
From Ubud, make your way to Lombok. Here you have a choice of spending a few days relaxing on Gili Islands or exploring the lesser known and quieter Kuta area. If you choose to relax in Lombok, like we did, opt to fly there from Denpasar, Bali. If Gili Islands is your destination, you are better off taking one of the fast ferries. If you are staying in Kuta, hire a scooter and explore the area and the nearby beaches at your own pace.
Flores/Komodo National Park – 2-3 days
Fly to Flores (Labuan Bajo), the getaway to the Komodo National Park to experience out of this world sights and the mythical Komodo dragons. If you are a diver, choose between a liveaboard and day-trip diving experience and spend at least a few days diving in the national park. It’s an absolute MUST! If you don’t have your diving certification, go on a day-trip with our friends and Uber Scuba Komodo for some amazing snorkeling and a chance to get up close and personal with the Komodo Dragons. There are also hot springs, volcanoes and crater lakes waiting to be explored in the area.
With only 2 weeks to spare, that’s about all you’ll be able to cover during your stay in Indonesia. It’s a jam-packed itinerary but is one that allows you to see the majority of Indonesia’s main sights and attractions.
If You Have More Time…
If you have more time, consider yourself lucky. You have the luxury of slowing down your travel and being able to see more and do more at each one of these stops. Here are a few suggestions on how to extend your trip:
In Yogyakarta, give yourself an extra day to wander around the city
It’s a great place to pick up some souvenirs, try street food, come across a random street market, or strike up a conversation with a local “taxi” driver. Despite being one of the hot spots in Java, the city is not yet crowded with westerners, so there is space for you to meander and simply watch the locals go about their daily life.
Stop in Solo en route from Yogyakarta to Malang
It’ll break up your train journey and allow you to experience the beauty of this highly underrated town in the highlands and visit some tea plantations and temples that lie outside of it.
Give yourself a few extra days in Malang …
…to explore the town. Check out Malang’s night market, walk around the beautiful Dutch colonial-style neighbourhood or get out of town and visit one of Malang’s nearby Balekambang Beaches.
Spend extra time in Bali….
… exploring past Ubud and the party central Kuta. Visit the Bedugal Waterfalls in North Bali, soak in the Banjar hot springs, scuba-dive the Liberty Ship Wreck, or trek to the top of an active volcano Mount Batur.
Climb Mt Rinjani in Lombok
We planned to do this trek right after climbing Ijen Crater and Mr Bromo, but were too exhausted from the other treks to embark on another 3-day adventure, but we heard it’s an amazing experience.
Go even further!
Visit Sumatra for a chance to come face to face with the Sumatran Orangutans and other wildlife, dive in Raja Ampat, renowned as one of the top 5 dive sites in the world, or explore the land of the indigenous tribes of Baliem Valley in Papua.
Want to know more about traveling in Indonesia? Browse our Indonesia Archives for more stories from our time there or watch our Highlights of Indonesia video below!
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