Draped languidly across the equator, the charismatic archipelago of Indonesia is a smattering of diverse island jewels bobbing around in tropical seas. A visit is a great adventure in waiting – it’s truly one of the last intrepid destinations left on the planet. The third most populous nation on earth has an incredible legacy of peoples, cultures and geography just waiting to be explored.
Visitors will soon be tripping over pristine, white-sand beaches fringed by dramatic volcanic ranges towering over verdant green terraced hillsides and lush rainforest. A kaleidoscope of sealife including huge sunfish, manta rays, porpoises, turtles and blindingly colourful beds of coral await beneath the waves.
Bali is the picture-postcard paradise: stunning scenery, gentle sarong-clad people and sunsets of legendary glory. Komodo Island's ‘living dinosaurs’ will astound as do Borobudur's architectural treasures, which include 5km (3 miles) of Buddhist relief carvings. Adventure-seekers head for Kalimantan's remote jungle interior or explore Sumatra, with its teeming wildlife and wealth of tribal groups.
Things to see and do in Indonesia
Just off the northwestern tip of Lombok are these three irresistible islands with deep-water coral reefs, beachfront bungalows, miles of white sand beach and bucketfuls of serenity. If it’s all too quiet for you, all-night dance parties are not far away.
Visit and give your support to the rehabilitation centres on Sumatra and Kalimantan that rescue orphaned, injured and captive orang-utans and return them to their habitat.
Indonesia's coastline is reputed to contain 15% of the world's coral reefs. Bunaken National Park and Lembeh Strait, both in North Sulawesi, are magnificent. A mind boggling 300 types of coral and 3000 species of fish await beneath crystal-clear waters.
An inhabited island in the middle of Lake Toba, Samosir was once a volcanic crater, 900m (3,000ft) above sea level in Sumatra. The island is home to the Batak people, an ancient tribe who preserve many of their traditions.
Don't miss the Sultan's Palace in Yogyakarta, a masterpiece of understated Javanese architecture, and still home to the sultan and his family.
Travel to the Sea Temple of Tanah Lot on the west coast (a short drive from Kediri), one of the most breathtaking sights of Bali.
Tour Mahakam River
Take a tour up the great Mahakam River in Kalimantan, Borneo (www.visitborneo.com), which is dissected by a network of rivers running from the mountainous interior to the coasts. Starting from the port city Samarinda, such tours continue deep into the upper jungle reaches, where tribal communities have largely preserved their traditions.
Trek up an active volcano: on Java island, hike Mount Bromo, (the most visited of Indonesia's volcanoes) and Kawah Ijen crater lake (www.central-java-tourism.com). Take a boat trip to view Krakatoa located between Java and Sumatra. Dormant volcanoes include Gunung Agung in Bali, Gunung Rinjani on Lombok island (www.lomboksumbawa.com) and Keli Mutu on Nusa Tenggara Barat (www.ntb.go.id), which has lakes with different coloured waters.
The modern Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Java (www.jakarta-tourism.go.id) is one of the largest in the world.
Jungle trek through the Indonesian rainforest - Irian Jaya, Kalimantan and Sumatra offer the most remote and untouched terrain. The best trails include trips to Bukit Barisan National Park, a remote and beautiful peninsula in Sumatra and the Muller Mountain in Kalimantan.
Prambanan Temple Complex
The Prambanan Temples form the largest temple complex on the Indonesian island of Java. Constructed around AD 900, the compound was deserted soon after it was completed, possibly due to the eruption of nearby Mount Merapi. The temples were restored in 1953 and now form one of the world's great Hindu shrines. There are 224 temples in total, but the site is dominated by the imposing figures of the three main temples: the Brahma Temple, the Vishnu Temple and the Shiva Temple. From May to October, the Ramayana Ballet, a traditional Indonesian dance based on the Hindu epic, is performed at the open-air theatre.
Puppet shows are staged throughout Java, in which traditionalwayang golak and wayang kulit marionettes act out stories based on well-known legends; performances can sometimes last all night.
Do not miss Bali's Pura Besakih, a temple that dates back originally to the 10th century and stands high on the volcanic slopes of Gunung Agung. Nowadays, it is a massive complex of more than 30 temples, and the setting for great ceremonial splendour on festival days.
Search for the Komodo
Take a boat to Komodo and Rinca islands in search of the world's largest lizard, the Komodo Dragon. But don't get too close as their bite can be fatal.
The beautiful Sulawesi (www.north-sulawesi.org) is a land of high mountains, misty valleys and lakes. In the south is Bantimurung Nature Reserve, which has thousands of exotic butterflies and a waterfall. The island has geysers and hot springs at Lahendong and Leilem.
The best surf spots are in Bali, Flores, Java, Lombok, Sumatra, Sumba and Sumbawa. Some well-known surfing beaches, such as Ulu Watu on Bali, tend to get overcrowded, and are for very experienced surfers, but organised trips to isolated areas are widely available.
Visit Torajaland, known as the 'Land of the Heavenly Kings', on Sulawesi, and note the inhabitants' buffalo horn-shaped houses and custom of burying the dead in vertical cliffside tombs.
This museum, in the province of Aceh (one of the areas worst hit by the 2004 tsunami), is an educational centre that will also be able to serve as an emergency disaster shelter in case the area is hit by a tsunami again.
Ujong Kulon National Park
Paddle in a dugout canoe through the untouched wilderness of isolated Ujong Kulon National Park at the extreme south western tip of Java in search of the elusive Java rhino.