Indonesia is a stunning country in both beauty and scope, a tropical archipelago rich with literally hundreds of ancient cultures strewn amongst its islands spanning an area as long as the US is wide. A primarily Muslim country with small Christian and other minorities, such as Hindus in Bali, the country has a population not much smaller than the US, with over 260 million citizens calling the country home. One could explore the archipelago over a lifetime and not see the seemingly endless array of tropical islands, pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and diverse cultures. It is truly difficult to find other places on earth which can offer so much richness to travelers. Bali in particular figures as a marquee destination in the country’s south-central stretch of islands, with its beaches in Kuta, elaborate indigenous art of Semarapura, and urban centers of Mangupura and Denpasar, the capital and usual home base for tourists on the island. Rated the second-best island tourism destination in the world (behind Santorini, Greece), cultural attractions abound in cities surrounded by lush forests and white-sanded beaches. The dense, layered history of the island and the archipelago both lend themselves to exploration by the intellectually inquisitive and creative minds both, with so much to draw on in closeby abundance. While a few high-profile terrorist attacks a decade ago put visitors on edge, the island has been secure since, and has proven one of the region’s safer options with a level of development in urban areas comparable to what US and Eureopean travelers are accustomed.
Good to Know
For Indonesia writ large, the capital of Jakarta is worth the visit even if Bali is your primary destination. Nicknamed the “Big Durian” (an homage to New York City and a popular local fruit), it is a truly cosmopolitan city where the country’s many cultures — and many expatriates — gather to create a similar melting pot to the US’s biggest city. Most of the other larger cities in Indonesia are located comparatively close to Bali in East or West Java, such as Surabaya, Bekasi, Bandung, and Depok, though a few can be found in Sumatra, like Medan and Palembang. While planning a visit, it may make more sense to stick to Java and Bali, as Indonesia is a very large country.