Indonesia has so many islands; even the experts aren’t sure how many there are. The consensus is that this country in Southeast Asia has 17,508 islands and a third of the world’s volcanoes. So, it should come as no surprise that many of the famous landmarks in Indonesia are of the fiery or watery kind.
The islands of the Republic of Indonesia are spread across 5,120 kilometres from east to west, and you might be surprised to learn that 300 ethnic groups speak more than 740 languages and dialects. Being one of 13 countries that straddle the Equator, Indonesia is in both northern and southern hemispheres.
While most people know of Bali, there are plenty more amazing Indonesia landmarks right across the country.
20 Incredible Landmarks in Indonesia
Historic Landmarks in Indonesia
One of the most spectacular landmarks of Indonesia, Borobudur is a Buddhist monument that is one of the wonders of the world.
The 9th-century Buddhist temple built during the Syailendra dynasty has Indian architectural influences, 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues.
It was rediscovered in 1815 after being buried by volcanic ash and was restored in the 1970s.
This UNESCO World Heritage treasure is decorated with images from the life of Buddha and is one of the largest and Buddhist historic sites in the world.
Visited by more than 2.5 million people each year, Borobudur is the most-visited landmark in Indonesia.
Borobudur is only one hour’s drive from Yogyakarta.
2- Tanah Lot Temple
One of the most photographed landmarks in Indonesia, the Hindu temple of Tanah Lot in Bali sits on top of a rock that has been shaped by the ocean for centuries.
This mysterious Balinese temple is one of seven sea temples along Bali’s south-west coast.
When the tide is low, visitors can walk across the ocean floor to get to the temple.
Photographing this temple is one of the most popular things to do in Bali and the best photos of Tanah Lot are taken at sunset or sunrise.
3- Prambanan Temple
Prambanan is a 9th-century Hindu temple complex in Central Java, which, in its heyday, had 240 temples.
Work to restore the temple began in the 1930s and continues on.
The main shrine honours the Hindu God Shiva and is an eye-catching shrine flanked by two other shrines honouring Brahma and Vishnu.
The shrines are stunning, with elaborate carvings and is the largest complex to worship Shiva in Indonesia.
Don’t miss the beautiful reliefs of the epic of the Ramayana.
Prambanan Archaeological Park is on the border of Yogyakarta and Central Java on Java Island.
4- Ulun Danu Temple
A mystical temple by Lake Bratan, Pura Ulun Danu Beratan is another Hindu temple in Bali.
When the tide is in, the temple projects an illusion of floating on the lake, making it one of the more mystical landmarks in Indonesia.
What sets this temple apart from the others is it’s a Shaivite water temple, built in 1633, and a place to worship the Balinese water, lake and river goddess Dewi Danu.
One of the reasons the temple is located on the shores of Lake Bratan is because the lake is a primary source of irrigation within central Bali.
Parts of the temple is in honour of Shiva and there’s also a statue of Buddha in the temple.
Lake Bratan is 1200 m above sea level and is one of the top temples to visit on your Bali itinerary.
5- Monkey Forest Temple
The three temples in The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud were constructed during the 14th century during the Pejeng Dynasty.
The purpose of these Hindu temples is to worship the Gods, but most people visit to see the hundreds of Balinese long-tailed macaques.
There are so many monkeys that voluntarily hang around the temples and the forest (hence the reason for the name), making it a top Balinese landmark for animal-lovers to visit.
More Landmarks in Asia
Natural Landmarks in Indonesia
6- Mount Krakatoa
Although it’s not the tallest or the biggest volcano in Indonesia, Mount Krakatoa is famous for its massive eruption in 1883.
The eruptions killed over 36,000 people and destroyed more than 165 towns and villages on the island of Krakatoa.
It went on for two days and was such a momentous moment in history; everyone remembers this famous landmark in Indonesia.
The impact of the Krakatoa eruption on world culture was so significant that the B-52’s sang about it in their song “Lava” 95 years later.
Mount Krakatoa is a stratovolcano, which is a conical volcano with steep sides and strata of solidified lava, volcanic ash and tephra (fragments from eruptions).
The island of Krakatoa is in the Sunda Strait.
It’s a day trip from Jakarta and a popular camping, diving and snorkelling destination
7- Komodo Island
Komodo dragons are the largest lizards in the world and have lived on these islands for millions of years.
These prehistoric beasts are predators that hunt deer, pigs and water buffalo.
Visits to see the Komodo dragons on Komodo Island are supervised by rangers, as these animals with their powerful legs, serrated teeth and sharp claws are dangerous to humans.
Other activities on Komodo island are hiking, swimming, snorkelling and Komodo Island diving is legendary.
One way to explore Komodo Island is to take a cruise from Labuan Bajo and in recent years, it has been possible fly from Bali via Garuda.
8- Kelimutu Crater Lakes
At the summit of Mount Kelimutu, the three crater lakes are a unique trio of landmarks in Indonesia worth getting up at dawn to see.
What’s most unusual about Kelumutu Crater Lakes is that the colour of the water in each lake changes unpredictably and often.
Why do the lakes of Mount Kelimutu change colours?
Activity from the volcanic gases of the active volcano continues to trigger chemical reactions of the minerals in the lakes.
Although Tiwu ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People) is often blue and Lake Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) is usually green, the water could be any colour when you visit.
Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched or Enchanted Lake) is often red, and all the lakes can change to blue, green, black, white or red.
Kelimutu is also a sacred mountain that the locals believe is the resting place of departed souls.
Lake Kelimutu is in Kelimutu National Park
9- Puncak Jaya
Puncak Jaya is an Indonesian natural landmark located on the island of Papua, which is shared with the country of Papua New Guinea.
At 4,884 metres (16,024 ft) above sea level, it’s the highest mountain in Indonesia and the world’s highest island peak.
It’s a peak for serious mountaineers and was first climbed by Austrian explorer Heinrich Harrer in 1962.
Puncak Jaya is in Lorentz National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
10- Bromo Volcano
At 2,329 m, Mount Bromo is one of the most famous landmarks on the Indonesian island of Java.
Mount Bromo or Gunung (the Indonesian word for mountain) Bromo may not be as high as Puncak Jaya but it’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful active volcanos in Indonesia.
It has erupted several times over the past 30 years, the largest eruption occurring in 1974.
The volcano is part of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park and is named after the Hindu god Brahma.
The volcano is set within a giant crater called the Sea of Sand, which is a reserve with five volcanoes ranging from 2329 m to 2650 m.
They are Mount Bromo, Mount Batok, Mount Kursi, Mount Watangan and Mount Widodaren.
Mount Bromo is a 45-minute walk from the village of Cemoro Lawang and the closest cities are Malang and Probollingo.
11- Ijen Crater
Also on the island of Java lies the Ijen Crater or Blue Fire Crater, which is one of the most unusual natural landmarks in Indonesia to see.
The reason it’s called the Blue Fire crater is because of its blue flames, which are created by activity within the active sulphur mine.
Ignited sulphuric gas seeps through the cracks at temperatures up to 600C but to see the blue fire you need to be there at night.
Ijen is a stratovolcano that last erupted in 1999.
It takes about two hours to hike up to the top.
12- Madakaripura Waterfall
Madakaripura Waterfall is a spectacular waterfall tucked away in a deep valley in the foothills of the Tengger mountains.
It’s one of the landmarks in Indonesia worth ticking off your to-visit list.
At the entrance to the gorge, a statue of Gajah Mada, the fabled military commander of the Majapahit Kingdom (1293 to 1500AD), sits in deep meditation.
Gajah Mada was the man who unified the entire Indonesian Archipelago under the Majapahit Empire, which once stretched to Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Southern Thailand, Philippines and East Timor.
The waterfall is 200 m and there’s a cave where, according to legend, Gajah Mada did is final meditation before leaving this earth.
It’s the second-highest waterfall in Indonesia (Sigura-gura Waterfall near Lake Toba holds the top spot),
Madakaripura Waterfall has an air of mystery and the setting of a chamber with high walls covered with moss is enchanting.
Madakaripura Waterfall is near Bromo and the village of Sapih in Lombang district.
13- Jatiluweh Rice Terrace
Brought to the world’s attention by former US President Barack Obama, who holidayed here with his family, Jatiluweh Rice Terrace is an iconic landmark in Indonesia
Jatiluweh is a vast and beautiful expanse of terraced rice fields carved into the side of the mountain, from sea level to its peak.
The rice fields are irrigated using the Subak Rice Irrigation System, which is a traditional method that has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries.
The system was conceived by farmers and is used throughout the island.
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14- National Monument MONAS
One of the Indonesian landmarks that define the nation is the National Monument or Monas.
The monument is home to Indonesia’s first (and somewhat worn) red-and-white flag proclaiming the independence of the Republic of Indonesia on 17 August 1945.
The obelisk-shaped monument is 137 m high and has a gold-coated bronze flame holder at its pinnacle.
There’s a museum inside the base where you can learn about Indonesia’s struggle for independence from the Japanese.
In the 16th century, European conquerors fought to control the spice trade as Indonesia’s Spice Islands were a rich source of spices.
The Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and British all tried to take control at various times, however, the Dutch emerged as the force that ruled Indonesia between 1815 and 1942, when the Japanese took control during World War II.
Take the lift to a lookout at the base of the flame for a panoramic view of Jakarta.
MONAS is in Merdeka Square, Jakarta.
15- Istiqlal Mosque
Also in Jakarta, Istiqlal (the Arabic word for independence) is the national mosque of Indonesia.
The mosque was built – and appropriately named – to commemorate Indonesia’s independence.
This Islamic landmark in Indonesia is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia and is near Merdeka Square.
16- Jakarta Cathedral
Looking at the impressive architecture of Jakarta’s main Cathedral, you would never guess that this beautiful neo-gothic building is a landmark in Indonesia.
Built in 1810, Jakarta Cathedral sits incongruously across the street from Istiqlal Mosque.
It is one of Indonesia’s landmarks that is as a reminder of the history of the Dutch East Indies.
The neo-gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral is called the Church of Our Lady of Assumption (Gereja Santa Maria Pelindung Diangkat ke Surga).
It has a statue of Maru with a famous quote that “All generations shall call me blessed.”
The Cathedral was constructed from brick, plaster and has teak beams on its roof. There are three altars and three impressive spires are made of iron and are 45 to 60m high.
Another thing that makes the Church of Our Lady of Assumption unusual is it’s an active cathedral in a mostly Muslim country.
17- Equator Monument in Pontianak
As one of 13 counties on the Equator, it’s fitting that there’s a landmark in Indonesia to mark the spot separating the northern and southern hemispheres.
While many places in Indonesia are located on the Equator, Pontianak (the capital of West Kalimantan) is the only city in the world that has the distinction of being on the Equator.
The Equator Monument marks the spot surveyed by a Dutch expedition team in 1928 and is a steel globe with black pillars.
18- Blendug Church
Blendug Church is a lovely Dutch Colonia church built in 1753 in the town of Semarang, which is the capital of Central Java.
Semarang’s Old Town was known as Oudstad and has a collection of other 18th century buildings worth checking out.
Originally built in the Javanese Joglo style, this historic Indonesian landmark is Central Java’s oldest Protestant Church in Central Java.
It was later redesigned with an octagonal copper dome inspired by the Church of St Peter Basilica in the Vatican City.
19- Sam Poo Kong Temple
Another historical landmark in Indonesia, also in Semarang, is the temple built by Ming Dynasty Chinese explorer Admiral Zheng He.
Zheng He stepped ashore in Semarang in 1416 AD while on a voyage around the world.
Sam Poo Kong Temple is a sprawling complex with five temples and a courtyard decorated with statues of Zheng He and his men
20- Goddess of Mercy
The lovely Hong San Tang Temple in Surabaya is home to one of the tallest Goddess of Mercy statues in the world.
The 20m Goddess of Mercy or Guan Yin, which is an unusual landmark in Indonesia, is flanked by other Chinese Gods.
The temple in Surabaya has a palace-like structure guarded by two dragons.
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