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In a year of traveling the world, there are points in which travel can become white noise. The constant change of scenery becomes the norm, and another “local art” museum simply fades into the blur of everyday life. However, the moment I stepped foot on Indonesia I felt a colorful energy radiate through my body. It was as if I had found my paradise.
For me, Indonesia has been the best country on earth. It could be the beautiful mix of different languages, religions, and cultures that are found on its many, many islands. Or it could be because I was incredibly prepared in knowing all about it thanks to my Marco Polo guidebook. Either way, I fell in love with the country in a way I have never done before.
The country is made up of an archipelago of 17,000 tropical islands, each with their own charm. It is on these isles that tourism of all varieties thrives. No matter what type of travel you like, Indonesia will have a place for you. Adventure travel, ecotourism, luxury, and spiritual travelers will all find peace here. And for the relaxation lover? Don’t worry, Indonesia is known as “Asia’s spa center” and its wide variety of massages, aromatherapy experiences, and day spas will woo you in moments.
The question soon becomes not “Do I visit Indonesia?” but “Which island do I visit?” Though I still have many more to explore, these are my favorites.
Easily the most popular island of Indonesia, Bali is home to mighty volcanoes covered in rice terraces, unique ancient Balinese Hindu Dharma culture, and picturesque cliffs dotted with hidden beaches. Life on Bali is spiritual. Every morning women dressed in sarongs are seen carrying trays of fruit and woven palm leaf baskets filled with flowers, incense, and rice to the edge of their driveway and temples. The goal being to appease the gods and protect their homes from demons.
Here everything has tremendous significance. Each offering to the gods represents a different desire, and in Balinese dance each spread of the finger and roll of the eye has a special meaning. Above beaches and rice fields, kites fly high in the sky as a spiritual significance to god Indra who liked the sport himself. The “islands of the gods” is truly a diamond in the Indian Ocean.
Yet, for a country so in touch with its spirituality it has incredibly embraced modern life. There is no shortage of trendy restaurants, oceanside pool bars, immaculate shopping centers, and a massive digital nomad community. Bali is a paradise for those that love culture, sun, and wellness, yet like to have access to Western life as well.
Unknown to tourists until 1980, Lombok is the same size as Bali yet much more wild. In some ways, this makes it more charming than Bali because most of the Sasak (indigenous people) still live off of agriculture and fishing. This neighbouring island has secluded beaches, fabulous coral reefs, and the second largest mountain in Indonesia which makes it great for trekking. It is surrounded by picturesque bays and white sandy beaches.
Though Lombok is in close proximity with Bali, its flora and fauna differs significantly because of its geological structure. This is because a defining line between the Asian and Australian primeval continent runs between Lombok and Bali called The Wallace Line.
3. GILI ISLANDS – GILI MENO & GILI AIR
The Gili Islands are a snorkelers dream with its fascinating underwater world filled with colorful reefs and lively sealife. In total, there are three islands; Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno. I recommend Gili Meno or Gili Air because they are relaxing with stunning white sand beaches. Gili Trawangan is a party island, and I have not heard good things from people that have visited. I didn’t even bother going because so many different people told me it was a waste of time.
However, Air and Meno are like pearls in the aqua blue sea off the northwest coast of Lombok. The white sand beaches are lined with bamboo huts and hammocks in coconut groves. The islands are car-free, and the only way to get around is by horse drawn carriages or bikes. If you’re looking for a secluded getaway, these islands are for you.
4. NUSA ISLANDS – NUSA LEMBONGAN, NUSA PENIDA, & NUSA CENINGAN
It doesn’t get more picturesque than the Nusa Islands. Like the Gili’s this consists of three islands; Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, and Nusa Ceningan. These islands are ideal for adventurers. From surfing to hiking to snorkeling and biking, there are so many active sports do to here. The vibe is mellow, similar to a surfer town feel, and the sunsets are out of this world.
It’s only a quick boat ride from Bali and an easy day trip, though I encourage you to stay at least a night to experience everything. When you visit make sure to marvel at the phenomenal cliff walls of Devil’s Tears, discover underwater Buddha statues, enjoy a boat ride in the thick mangrove forest, and don’t miss the yellow bridge connecting the islands.
Indonesia holds a special place in my heart. It’s easily my favorite place I’ve lived while traveling the world, and I can’t thank my Marco Polo guidebook enough for introducing me to its beauty and variety.
Want your own copy of Marco Polo Bali or one of their many other destinations around the world? Right now, I’m giving away three guidebooks now thru January 6th to celebrate travel in 2018. To enter the giveaway, click here or enter via the form below, and begin planning your 2018 vacation. Three winners will be selected on January 7th. Good luck!
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