While Bali is the top destination that comes to mind for many visitors to Indonesia, this nation has more to offer. Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, with 280 million residents spread across 17,000 islands. With over 1,000 ethnic groups in Indonesia, each culture is shaped and influenced by its geographical location and way of life.
The archipelago of Indonesia stretches across 28 provinces, bordering the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. With a nation so spread out and countries like Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and Australia as its neighbours, visiting all of Indonesia would take a long time. So here are our top cities in Indonesia for your travel itinerary.
From an eat-pray-love journey on the beaches of Bali to standing on the grounds of one the seven wonders of the world at an ancient temple at Yogyakarta to hiking an active volcano at mount Bromo, the beauty and diversity of Indonesia will take your breath away and leave a lasting impression.
20 Cities In Indonesia To Visit
As one of the most populated city in the world, Jakarta is a vibrant metropolitan city with towering skyscrapers, modern shopping malls and a busy nightlife scene.
This city in West Java also hosts internationally renowned music festivals like the Djakarta Warehouse Project.
Jakarta’s old-world charm reflects its Dutch colonial past and you can soak up this legacy in Kota Tua (Old Town), which was built in the 17th century.
Fatahillah Square is the centre of the old town and where well-preserved colonial buildings are now museums, such as the Jakarta History Museum and the Museum Wayang Jakarta.
The city’s iconic landmark, the Monas, short for National Monument, is an impressive 450 ft tall monument with a 14.5 ton bronze tip Flame of Independence.
You’ll also get a panoramic view of the city from the observation deck.
From Jakarta, an hour’s bus ride southeast brings you to the city of Bogor.
Less hectic than Jakarta, Bogor is a place to relax among greenery, such as in the Bogor Botanical Garden and the presidential palace beside the garden.
A must-do in this city in Indonesia is to hire a car to drive up the ‘puncak’, translated as peak in English, where you will find Taman Safari Bogor.
It is a zoo and safari where you get a close up experience to see wild animals roaming freely from the safety of a safari vehicle.
You’ll even get to hand-feed carrots to friendly herbivores from your vehicle window.
Recommended tour: Jakarta: Bogor Cultural Tour with Botanical Gardens Visit
If you have time while in West Java, Bandung is absolutely worth visiting for a few days.
This city is about 180 km (110 mi) southeast of Jakarta and is elevated at 768 m (2,520 ft) above sea level, so you’ll get a cool breeze that differs from the humidity of Jakarta and Bogor.
A must-visit is the Kawah Putih, which is a white crater with a stunning turquoise-blue volcanic lake created when Mount Patuha erupted in the 11th century.
This volcanic crater is 50 km (31 mi) away from Bandung city and is worth doing as a day trip as it’s the most unique lake you will see in West Java.
For an easy and relaxing trip, another option is to head to the Dusun Bambu Leisure Park instead.
This leisure park is perfect for families or groups as it offers educational and recreational activities and entertainment.
You can have a Sundanese meal in their restaurants and take a stroll to admire the greenery around the park.
Recommended tour: South Bandung: Volcano, Hot Spring, Mud Bathing & Lake Tour
Medan is the largest city of the province of North Sumatra and the province’s capital; it’s also a gateway to the north of Indonesia.
As a trading port bordering the Straits of Malacca, there are significant Indian and Chinese communities with deep roots and remnants of beautiful colonial-style buildings left by the Dutch.
Visit the Tjong A Fie Mansion, a historical landmark that was built in 1895.
This cultural heritage building and museum has Chinese, Malay and Art Deco influences in its architecture style.
Drop by and get a glimpse of the impressive Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni Shrine which is dedicated to Blessed Mother Mary.
This shrine is one of a kind as it blends Indonesian and Mughal architectural styles, featuring colourful decorations and Biblical content.
For nature excursions to your itinerary, spend an extra few nights at Lake Toba and make your way to one of the tallest waterfalls in Indonesia, the Sipiso-piso waterfall.
Recommended tour: From Medan: Mount Leuser National Park Full-Day Trip
Some of the things you can do in Surabaya city is to visit the second-largest mosque, the Masjid Al Akbar Surabaya, admire the Suramadu national bridge and visit the Surabaya submarine monument.
Another popular thing to do in Surabaya is to take a private tour to Mount Bromo, an active volcano, and visit the magnificent Tumpak Sewu Waterfalls.
The four-hour drive to Bromo Tengger National Park is worth it and the stunning landscape around Mount Bromo will take your breath away.
It’s a great spot to watch the sunrise from the peak of the mountain but if you’re not an early riser, there’s an option to join the night tour to stargaze and marvel at the milky way.
Tumpak Sewu is on the way to Bromo and an attraction known as “a thousand waterfalls”, with stunning scenery.
This majestic cascade is a semi circle waterfall with Mount Semeru volcano in the background.
Recommended tour: From Surabaya or Malang: Mount Bromo Sunrise Day Trip
Makassar is a historically significant trading port on the southwest coast of the island of Sulawesi.
Whether you want to buy silks and souvenirs, feast on fresh seafood, laze on sunny beaches, see butterflies at a waterfall, this is the city to visit.
From the city, head to Fort Rotterdam where there are boat operators offering transfers to Samalona Island, Lae Lae Island and Kapoposang Island.
You can snorkel, dive on these islands or relax and enjoy some sun on the white-sand beaches.
For an adventure, head to Bantimurung Bulusaraung National Park which is 50 km (31 mi) from Makassar city.
This is where you can feel the powerful rush of water and refreshing atmosphere of the Bantimurung waterfall, next to the butterfly centre where butterflies flutter freely.
The second-largest city in Sumatra, Palembang is the capital of South Sumatra Province and a port city on the Musi River.
An iconic landmark is Ampera Bridge, where you will find vendors on boats selling food and merchandise at the floating market by the bridge.
The river is at its most photogenic at sunset, when you can photograph the sun setting on houses on stilts and old quaint Chinese shop-houses along the river.
Spend a few hours at the Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Museum at the north end of the bridge, where you’ll find a collection of over 600 historical items, including ancient coins made from tin and bronze.
These treasures cover everything from archaeology and art to culture and more.
Hike Bukit Seguntang, a small hill around 3 km from the northern bank of the Musi River, where at the peak you’ll get a beautiful view of the city.
You may also stumble upon some of the tombs linked to Malay-Srivijayan royalty and heroes.
Yogyakarta is another Indonesian city on the island of Java.
It’s becoming a popular spot for backpackers and families who are keen to explore its temples, mountains and dive into Javanese culture.
A must-do is to visit the Borobudur temple at sunrise.
The giant pyramid-shaped monument consists of nine levels and has over 2,500 carved panels and 504 Buddha statues.
It’s a humbling experience to be in this ancient and sacred building, which is one of the largest Buddhist monuments in the world.
If you missed the sunrise at Borobudur, head to Prambanan temple for the sunset.
Discovered by the Dutch in the 10th century, this beautiful Hindu temple is only an hour’s drive from the city.
At night, Malioboro Street is the place to go for tasty street food, to shop for local souvenirs, trinkets and to pamper yourself with a massage.
Recommended tour: Borobudur Sunrise, Merapi Volcano & Prambanan Full Day Tour
Batam is a small laid-back island in the Riau Islands of West Java and an hour’s ferry ride from Singapore, making it a popular gateway beach for Singaporeans.
It’s a great spot to go for a seafood feast, spa, watersports and sunbathing.
The Barelang bridge is worth a visit as it’s an architectural marvel that connects Batam Island with smaller islands to the south.
The bridge’s name is a short form derived from the three main islands: Rempang, Galang and Galang Baru.
Spanning over 50 km (31 mi), the bridge is an impressive sight in Batam’s landscape.
For a religious visit, the Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya Temple is a large Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia.
You’ll see statues of Buddha Maitreya in every corner of the temple and learn about Buddha’s values about love.
End your day with a well-deserved spa at one of the many massage parlours and spa boutiques which are scattered around the city.
10- Banda Aceh
If you like history and museums, visit the Aceh Tsunami Museum which pays tribute to the 100,000 victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and earthquake.
Visit the Aceh State Museum to learn more about this city and learn about Aceh’s rich cultural heritage and Islamic arts and history.
Coffee lovers may enjoy visiting one of the coffee plantations to learn about the coffee-making process and sample freshly brewed local coffee.
As Aceh is known for its coffee, particularly the Gayo coffee, having a cup for yourself completes the trip.
Ende is a small town on the south coast of Flores Island and a hidden gem with natural beauty.
Learn about Indonesia’s history while you walk around Taman Renungan Bung Karno park.
This was where Indonesia’s founding father, Soekarno, used to come to think about the nation’s future and where he originally conceived Pancasila, which is still used as the philosophical foundation for Indonesia until today.
Hire a private vehicle for an hour’s drive to Mount Kelimutu, where you’ll be impressed with the breathtaking view of Lake Kelimutu perched on top of the mountain.
The Kelimutu lakes are unique for their different colours and the colour of the water in the lakes change unpredictably from white, red, blue to black.
While you’re there, go trail trekking at Kelimutu National Park to immerse yourself in the tropical rainforest that is prtects 19 endemic and endangered animals.
Recommended tour: Kelimutu Three Colored Crater Lake 2D1N Tour
Bukittinggi is on the island of Sumatra, 90 km from the capital of Padang.
It is a small and chilly town that’s perfect for a short stay.
Visit the city’s historical landmark, Jam Gadang, a clock tower that stands at 26 m (85 ft) tall in the heart of the city.
This clock tower that was built in 1926 during the Dutch colonial era is the city’s main landmark and an object of local souvenirs.
Escape the city with an exhilarating canyon hike up Sianok Canyon.
Take a walk along the canyon’s edge and enjoy a panorama of mountainous terrains and rainforests surrounding the city.
For more adventure, check out an underground military complex and discover the remnants of World War II by exploring the Japanese Tunnel.
You can explore 1.5 km (0.9 mi) of this tunnel, which is the longest tunnel in Asia, stretching up to 8 km (4.9 mi) in total.
Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, is a hidden gem of hills, beaches and lakes that you would not want to miss.
Many visitors stop by this small coastal town in East Papua before exploring the interior of Papua.
A private tour from the city to Sentani Lake offers stunning views and traditional villages consisting of stilt houses built over the water.
Experience the indigenous cultures by watching traditional dances, listening to local music, and learning about the unique customs of the Papua tribes living around the lake.
Relax on the beach of Base-G 10 km away from the city, and enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery.
With crystal clear waters and white sand, tourists can swim, snorkel and picnic on this beach.
Banjarmasin is a city in South Kalimantan on a delta island near the junction of the Barito and Martapura rivers.
Known as the city of a thousand rivers, the highlight in Banjarmasin is the Lok Baintan floating market where local traders sell fruits, vegetables and traditional dishes from colourful boats.
Arrive early at this market as it operates from dawn.
Another attraction is Kembang Island, which is on the Barito River, and where you can see monkeys and birds.
The island is the site of a sacred prayer place for the Chinese, as you can find temples and altars with statues of white monkeys or the Hindu God Hanoman on the island.
Denpasar is the capital city of the famous Bali province.
With its majority of population being Hindu, this city is rich in its Balinese culture and religious temples.
Start your journey by visiting the Bajra Sandhi Monument which was built in 1987 to honour Bali’s history and struggles, and has dioramas portraying Bali’s cultural stories.
This monument is in the centre of the civic square known as Lapangan Niti Mandala Renon, situated right in front of the Bali governor’s office.
It is a popular public space where you can enjoy a walk, have a picnic and take photographs of the monument from afar.
- Denpasar: Night Street Food Walking Tour
- Denpasar: Museum, Traditional Market and Food Tasting Tour
- From Denpasar: 3-Day Sunrise Ijen and Bromo Private Tour
In East Kalimantan, Balikpapan is best-known for its beautiful lakes, beaches and forests.
Explore the Margomulyo mangrove forest that is home to birds, fish and other animals.
You may be able to spot the proboscis monkeys at dawn or dusk.
Walk on the 800-m long wooden bridge for a vantage point of the lush rainforest.
Near the mangrove forest is one most popular beaches in Balikpapan, the Pasir Panjang Beach
This beach is known for its golden sands, clear waters, and a scenic coastline where you can relax on the beach and engage in watersports activities like jet-skiing and parasailing.
17- Kota Ambon
Ambon is the capital and largest city of the east Indonesian province of Maluku.
The city is known as Ambon Manise, which means “beautiful” in the Ambon language for its beautiful scenery.
Explore the well-preserved fort of Fort Victoria that was built by the Portuguese in 1575.
Walk along its thick walls, and visit the museum inside to learn about the region’s history, including its role in the spice trade.
To know more about this part of Indonesia, head to the Siwalima Museum where you get to learn about the culture, history, and biodiversity of the Maluku Islands.
This museum is on a hill facing the bay of Ambon providing a fantastic panoramic view.
Soak up the sun while you sun bathe at Natsepa beach, as it’s only a short drive from the city. With crystal-clear waters and powdery white sand, you can spend an entire day there.
Bengkulu is at the southwest coast of Sumatra.
One of the famous things to do here is to visit Fort Marlborough (Benteng Marlborough), built by the British in the 18th century.
Its architectural design resembles a turtle, with bridges connecting its head, body, and tail, as well as an entrance bridge to the outside.
Head over to the Long beach, a famous beach in Bengkulu only 15 minutes ride from the city centre.
Long Beach is seven km long and often crowded, as there are cafes, shopping centres, playgrounds and sports facilities.
For the adrenaline-seekers, try river rafting at Berau River 30 km from the town of Mukomuko.
You may charter a private vehicle or take public transport there.
Padang is the capital city of West Sumatra and has a rich Minangkabau culture, lovely landscapes and delicious food.
Discover the unique Minangkabau architectural style by visiting the traditional houses known as Rumah Gadang.
These houses are distinctive and unique, as they have curved roofs that resemble buffalo horns.
Some of these houses are open to tourists where you can explore their artworks and the cultural heritage of the Minangkabau people.
If you have heard of the dish called ‘Nasi Padang’, this city is the birthplace of the dish.
Head to a local Padang restaurant where you’ll be served a variety of small dishes on your table, including rendang (spicy beef stew), sate padang (skewered beef in a spicy sauce), and various vegetables in coconut curry sauce.
Manado is the capital city of North Sulawesi, best-known for its vibrant marine life and stunning landscape, surrounded by mountainous areas.
Bunaken National Park is one of Indonesia’s best known scuba diving destinations.
Snorkel or dive here to see vibrant coral gardens and marine life like turtles, reef sharks and colourful fish.
Join a local guide and trek into the Tangkoko Nature Reserve, where you get to observe the tarsier, a small and endangered primate species.
This nature reserve is also home to the black macaque monkeys, maleo birds and hornbills.
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