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17 Incredible Landmarks in Indonesia You Don’t Want to Miss

Charlotte Boswell

Home to nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Indonesia is a land full of cultural, historical and natural landmarks. From the spectacular Hindu temples of Bali and Java’s rumbling volcanoes to the excellent wildlife parks in Sumatra and the tropical paradise of Komodo National Park, here are 17 of our favourite landmarks in Indonesia.

1. Prambanan, Java

The ancient Hindu temples of Prambanan in central Java are a collection of sharp, and jagged temples that feature three main inner shrines dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Built in the 9th century, this spectacular complex boasts elaborate carvings and spectacular spires and has arguably the finest sculptural art in the country. In its heyday, Prambanan contained over 240 temples however was eventually abandoned and fell to ruins and it wasn’t until it was rediscovered in the 1930’s. Today, visitors are able to explore this UNESCO World Heritage site with a guide or individually.

prambanan temple java
Prambanan Temple

2. Komodo National Park, East Nusa Tenggara

The stunning Komodo National Park located in the Lesser Sunda Islands is made up of three main islands; Komodo, Rinca and Padar as well as a number of tiny tropical islets and sand bars. Known primarily as the home of the Komodo Dragon, Komodo National Park also offers a rich marine and terrestrial biodiversity including coral reefs and mangroves and well as endemic mammals and diverse birdlife. Spend a couple of days sailing round this spectacular national park where you can come face-to-face with the legendary dragon, watch sunset over volcanic Padar Island, swim with manta rays in the crystal clear waters and discover beautiful pink beaches.

padar island komodo island indonesia
Padar Island

3. Ulun Danu Beratan, Bali

One of the most iconic images of Bali, the significant temple complex of Ulun Danu Beratan sits on the western shore of Beratan Lake in Bedugul of central Bali. Sitting on the lake itself, the smooth reflective surface creates a floating impression and the surrounding misty mountains make this landmark one of the most popular in Bali. Built in the 17th century to worship the Hindu gods of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as well as the Dewi Danu, the lake goddess, the complex also consists of numerous shrines, gates and a few megalithic artefacts.

ulun danu beratan bali
Ulun Danu Beratan

4. Borobudur, Java

Situated near Yogyakarta in central Java, Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple that dates back to the 9th century. This architectural masterpiece, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, features three tiers of temples and a central dome that is dotted with sculpted Buddha figures and stupas. Borobudur dramatically sits atop a hill with spectacular views over lush rice paddies and mountainous landscapes, making it one of the best spots to watch the sunrise in Indonesia.

borobudur temple yogyakarta java indonesia
Borobudur Temple

5. Sipiso-Piso Waterfall, Sumatra

One of the tallest waterfalls in Indonesia, Sipiso-Piso located in northern Sumatra stands at 120 metres tall and is one of regions most remarkable natural landmarks. Formed by a small underground river in the Karo Plateau, the Sipiso-Piso Falls eventually flows out to the world’s largest volcanic lake, Lake Toba. The viewpoint overlooking Sipiso-Piso is superb and visitors can enjoy the vista of the sharp cascade among the lush green rocks. The more adventurous can clamber down the rocks to the foot of the falls for more dramatic and up-close views.

sipiso piso waterfall sumatra
Sipiso-Piso Waterfall
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6. Uluwatu Temple, Bali

Perched on top of a cliff at 70 metres above sea level, the magnificently located Uluwatu Temple is one of Bali’s most important temples and spiritual pillars. Dating back to the 10th century, it is said that a holy priest from eastern Java, Dhang Hyang Dwijendra was the architect of the temple and chose it to be the final worshipping place of his spiritual journey. As well as visiting the temple itself, it is also a spectacular place for sunset with direct views overlooking the crashing waves against the sheer cliffs, and is one of the most striking places on the island to watch traditional Kecak dancing.

uluwatu temple bali
Uluwatu Temple

7. Raja Ampat Archipelago, West Papua

Often referred to as the ‘World’s Last Paradise’, Raja Ampat is a cluster of beautiful islands located off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula in West Papua. Although it is difficult to reach, the jungle-clad islands, crystal clear waters and extremely friendly locals are definitely worth the journey. During a trip to Raja Ampat, explore with a local fisherman who will take you to local villages where ancient rock paintings lie, snorkel in the turquoise sea which is teeming with some of the world’s best marine life and hike to one of Indonesia’s most breathtaking viewpoints overlooking the emerald islets floating in the water.

raja ampat indonesia
Raja Ampat

8. Tegalalang Rice Terraces, Bali

Famed for its sweeping beaches and idyllic island lifestyle, Bali is also renowned for the famous lush green rice terraces that span across the island. One of Bali’s most noted rice terraces is Tegalalang located just north of Ubud. Visitors may wish to spend a few hours wandering down the winding paths through the beautiful terraced rice fields framed by swaying palms and blue skies. Sunrise is a great time to visit Tegalalang as the light rays break through the trees and light up the terraces.

tagalalang rice terraces bali
Tegalalang Rice Terraces

9. Kerinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra

Sprawling from the coastal plains of western Sumatra to the valleys and gorges of the Barisan Mountains, Kerinci Seblat National Park covers and area more than twice the size of Bali. Deemed one of the country’s finest national parks to view wildlife, the scenic eight-hour drive from the closest city, Sungai Penuh, is well worth the trip. Home to a number of species including the critically endangered and majestic Sumatran tiger, the rare Sumatran rhino, Sunda clouded leopard and Sumatran elephant as well as bears, tapirs and gibbons, visitors are able to take safaris through the national park in hope of viewing the excellent range of rare wildlife.

sunda clouded leopard kerinci national park
Sunda clouded leopard / Image credit: zoofanatic

10. Mount Kelimutu, Flores

Situated in central Flores, Mount Kelimutu is a volcano that features three striking volcanic crater lakes at the summit. The lakes are famous for differing in colour from blue to green and red to black, as well as changing colour all the time which is thought to be triggered by the continued volcanic activity combined with the gases beneath the water. This natural phenomenon can be seen by hiking to the summit where many visitors choose to camp near the volcano to witness a spectacular sunrise over the crater lakes as they change colour.

kelimutu indonesia
Mount Kelimutu
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11. Pura Taman Saraswati, Bali

Located in the centre of cultural Ubud, Pura Taman Saraswati also known at the Ubud Water Palace, is an iconic temple honouring the Hindu goddess of knowledge and art, Saraswati. On entry to the complex, pass pretty ponds filled with pink lotuses and be inspired by the classical Balinese architecture. Home to other water features and fine carvings including statues of Saraswati and the devil Jero Gede Mecaling, Pura Taman Saraswati is also a great place to watch traditional Kecak dance during the daily evening performances.

pura taman saraswati bali
Pura Taman Saraswati

12. National Monument, Java

Standing at 433 feet tall in the centre of Jakarta, the National Monument is an iconic tower built to commemorate the struggle for Indonesian independence in 1961. Located in Dataran Merdeka, otherwise known as Freedom Square, it is home to a museum which houses a collection of historical Indonesian artefacts and photos. It is also topped with an observation deck that offers fabulous views over the city of Jakarta, and the ‘Flame of Independence’, a gilded bronze flame that is illuminated at night.

national monument jakarta
The National Monument / Image credit: Schristia

13. Tanah Lot, Bali

Known as Bali’s scenic sea temple, the Hindu shrine of Tanah Lot on the islands south coast is famed for its beautiful offshore setting and sunset backdrops. Legend has it that a Javan priest came to Bali in 1489 to spread Hinduism, he settled in the Beraban village where he faced opposition from the village chief who tried to dispel him. The priest resisted and shifted a large rock out to sea whilst transforming his sashes into sea snakes to act as protectors, alas Tanah Lot was born. Perched on top of a rocky outcrop with crashing waves surrounding it, it is one of Bali’s must-see icons and during low tide visitors are able to cross where priests will bless you with holy water.

tanah lot bali
Tanah Lot

14. Lake Toba, Sumatra

Situated in northern Sumatra, Lake Toba is one of Southeast Asia’s largest lakes and also the world’s largest volcanic lake. Formed over 75,000 years ago Toba is a natural lake that sprung from the crater of a dormant volcano. It is a beautiful spot with bright blue water surrounded by emerald green hills and forested peaks. Visitors can enjoy trips to the ancient village of Batak in Ambarita to learn of the Batak culture and cannibal rituals as well as exploring the intriguing stone replica houses which are the graves of long dead Batak kings and noblemen.

lake toba sumatra
Lake Toba

15. Mount Bromo, Java

Iconic Mount Bromo, located in eastern Java, is one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes and also one of the most visited tourist attractions in Java. Named after the Hindi god Brahma, Bromo’s highest peak in the Bromo Tengger Seremu National Park stands at 2,329 metres and visitors can climb Mount Bromo if the volcano’s activity status allows. Guided tours take visitors to the crater and early risers can trek to the summit and watch the sunrise over the Tengger massif and Mount Bromo, it is often said that it is one of the most breathtaking experiences in Southeast Asia. You can also peer into the rim of the crater and listen to the angry rumblings coming from deep within.

bromo volcano indonesia
Mount Bromo
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16.Tirta Empul, Bali

This national cultural heritage site is a major temple complex and holy spring located in the small village of Manukaya in central Bali. Built in the 10th century, Tirta Empul is a nod to the old Balinese Kingdom especially the Warmadewa Dynasty. Home to mountain water spring that feeds various purification baths, pools and fish ponds the main highlight here is to bathe in the spiritual pools and seek purification by praying and dipping under each fountain. Tirta Empul is also home to traditional Balinese temples, statues and courtyards which can all be explored within a couple of hours.

tirta empul bali
Tirta Empul

17. Sacred Monkey Forest, Bali

Located in Bali’s cultural capital Ubud, the Sacred Monkey Forest is a famous nature reserve that is home to three 14th century temples and over 600 wild Balinese macaques. Whilst discovering the moss-covered steps and crumbling temples under the leafy forest, visitors are able to view the grey long-tailed macaques swinging through canopies in their natural habitat. Beware however, as the monkeys have become accustomed to tourists and can prove to be quite the cheeky thief when it comes to food.

sacred monkey forest bali
Sacred Monkey Forest / Image credit: Aaron Toth

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