Top Adventure Destinations in Indonesia

From secluded surfing to mountain hikes and searching for Sumatran tigers, Indonesia is an adventure lover’s dream. Explore these off-the-beaten-path destinations and experience the wild side of Indonesia.

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Photo © Oleg Breslavtsev

Swap the crowds for serenity when you visit these lesser-known adventure destinations across Indonesia; they will radically change your impression of the country.

Surfing by Yourself in the Telo Islands

Every surfer dreams of visiting the Mentawai Islands but are surprised by how crowded it is. Fret not, shredders, because just a day's sail to the north are the Telo Islands. 

From your base camp at Surfing Village, you can surf seven different waves with varying degrees of difficulty (from left-hand barrels to easy rolling rights) with no more than the handful friends you arrived with. This is a surfer’s wildest dream. 

Surfing in the Telo Islands. Photo Credit: Audrey Hills

Road Tripping Sumbawa

The bunny-shaped island of Sumbawa, known as Indonesia’s last tourist frontier, draws travelers that come for surfing at breaks including Scar Reef, Lakey Peak, and SuperSuck.

But, back on dry land, the real, untouched Indonesia awaits. Summit Mount Tambora, the location of the 1815 volcanic eruption, one of the most powerful in history, that dispersed ash around the world and caused an event known as "The Year Without a Summer". The two-day hike to the top reveals a six-kilometre-wide caldera, a two-coloured lake, and views to Lombok.

Searching for Tigers in Mainland Sumatra

Orangutans, check. Leaf monkeys, check. Gibbons, check.  But now, you want to see a Sumatran tiger.  With as few as 500 tigers left in the region, your guide is doubtful, “Ma’am, seeing the tiger is very, very lucky.”

Keep your eyes peeled because trekking in Kerinci Seblat, Indonesia’s largest national park, gives you the best chance of seeing the asiatic feline. The park is also a great place to spot rhinos, climb Indonesia’s highest active volcano (Mount Kerinci) and hike through the park’s ethereal rainforest, Ladeh Panjang. 

Sumatran tiger. Photo credit: iStock.com/Steve Bridge

Hitting Highs and Lows in Lombok

Start on a high note - 1,2224ft (3,726m) above sea level, to be exact. Senaru is the place to begin your ascent of Mount Rinjani. By doing the three-day trek (rather than rushing it in two days), you’ll be pleasantly rewarded with a less breakneck pace and a more scenic and shady route to your camp at the crater rim. 

To go low, head to the Gili Islands. Gili T is a safe and affordable place to get your scuba or freediving certification.

If you’ve already spent some time underwater, make sure you dive Shallow Halick and Deep Halick; the gentle sloping shelf of the Halicks is home to an underwater garden of bright colored coral, turtles, blacktip reef sharks and large groupers. 

Camping on Mount Rinjani, Lombok. Photo credit: iStock.com/Chanwit Ohm

Finding Waves and Caves in Java

Your Javanese journey begins in Indonesia’s cultural capital, Yogyakarta. Soak up the rich art and soul of the city (and explore the world-famous Borobudur Temple) before heading south-east to cool down and catch a few waves at IstanaOmbak near the small fishing village of Pacitan. 

In Pacitan, you’ll find a dreamy palm-drenched bay flanked by cliffs, and waves that barrel in both directions. Check out the stalactites and stalagmites that extend deep into the Goa Gong Cave. Said to be some of world’s best natural sculptures, the rock formations come in all shapes and sizes, and glitter in the well-staged, brightly-colored lighting. Don’t miss the magical pools that locals believe have healing properties, and be sure to listen for the gong sound that is the cave’s namesake.

Want to know more about Indonesia? Listen to the World Nomads podcast. With around 17,000 islands to choose from, where are the must visits, and if you have your surfboard, best surf breaks? Hear the tale of a man chased by headhunters, and tips for traveling the world solo.

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