Indonesia is a country that surprised us in many ways. I thought I knew how Indonesia was, as I have been in Bali years before, but Bali is very different from the other places we visited.

Indonesia is the 4th biggest country in the world with regards to its people, so it is easy to imagine how much variety it has to offer. We summarized 5 curious facts about Indonesia.

Fact #1 Photographs

In Indonesia, we definitely took more pictures than in other countries, but not with our camera. Many of the locals wanted to have a picture taken with us, much more than in China or in India, which sometimes felt quite funny. Once we’ve been stopped by the police as they wanted a selfie with us. You might think they are so crazy for pictures because they do not see tourists or „white“ people very often, but no no no, they ask tourists for pictures in order to get more likes on Social Media. But while most people asked nicely for a picture, many times pictures of us were taken in a sneaky or pushy way what we did not like. We do not take pictures of other people either without asking them.

Fact #2 Islands

To discover Indonesia takes a lot of time, as the country is the one with the most islands in the world. In total, the country counts more than 18.000 islands and more than 900 of them are inhabited. The biggest ones are Borneo, Papua/New Guinea and Sumatra. The capital Jakarta is located on the island of Java, the most populous island in the world.

Fact #3 Big bigger Indonesia

Indonesia’s biggest Islands are also some of the biggest ones in the world. And not just the islands are big, but also one of the biggest stadiums (Gelora Bung Karno Stadium) in Asia is located in Indonesia. Lake Toba in Sumatra is the biggest volcanic lake in the world and Jakarta is the biggest city in South East Asia and the second biggest conurbation city in the world. Borobudur temple in Central Java is the largest Buddhist temple in the world with more than 500 Buddha statues. Indonesia is also home to the biggest Muslim community in the world. Also, the biggest flower and the biggest snake are found in this country.


Fact #4 Volcanoes

The volcanoes are a magnificent part of the country and of the well-known “ring of fire”, which stretches along the Pacific Ocean’s coast and sum up more than 60% of the active volcanoes in the world. In total, Indonesia counts around 150 active volcanoes.


Fact #5 Durian

Indonesia was the country where we had our first encounter with the Durian fruit. The fruit looks similar to the Jack fruit but has a terrible smell, similar to sulfur. It smells so bad, that in trains and hotels it is forbidden to eat it. I tried it and I cannot say I liked it. However, there are some people that like it very much and I guess it is depending also on the fruit itself if it is ripe enough or not.


Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay

See more pictures from Indonesia here.

As an island nation, Indonesia offers access to a large number of beach paradises and spectacular natural landscapes. It is by far one of the most impressive travel destinations in the world. But apart from its natural wonders, history and culture are the other two aspects that make it worth visiting.


The city of Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta is one of Indonesia’s biggest and most diverse cities, offering access to a reach number of experiences.

We chose a colorful hostel for the 6 days that we spent there, in a more touristy neighborhood, where we could enjoy the variety of delicious local coffee and food. It’s been one of the best coffee experiences in Asia… did we mention that we love coffee very much?

But apart from the good coffee and the chill atmosphere of the place, what we enjoyed most here was the chance to meet again with our friends from Sumatra, whose travel route matched a few times with ours, giving us the chance to meet again and again.

The city offers also a cultural experience. Try visiting the Sultan’s castle (The Kraton), the Taman Sari Water Castle or the Sonobudoyo Museum for an insider look into the local traditions. See the work of skilled artists handcrafting leather puppets, jewelry and batik.


Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple

Even if the country’s main religion is Islam, the two main attractions in Joghyakarta are the largest Buddhist temple in the world, Borobudur, and the biggest Hindu temple in Indonesia, Prambanan.

We found the tour organized by our hostel to be the most convenient and cheapest option and it included the visit of both temples in one day. Other travelers prefer to ride a scooter and have the freedom to move around and enjoy more time at the sights.

The tour started early, at 4 o’clock in the morning, so we could climb the stairs of the Borobudur temple before the sunrise. The funny thing about Indonesia is that most of the touristic experiences start at sunrise and nobody would advise otherwise.

The morning light and the mist surrounding the temple create kind of a magical atmosphere when you walk up the stairs to the top of it. Unfortunately, the crowd of tourists armed with selfie sticks, climbing everywhere for a more spectacular picture, ruins the magic fast. But even so, for us it has been a beautiful experience.


The history of the temple remains uncertain until recent times. Abandoned for years, it was discovered and renovated by the British ruler of Java in 1814, being today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Decorated with 504 Buddha statues and more than 2000 relief panels, it is an important place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The pilgrimage journey starts at the base of the monument and follows a path around it, ascending to the top through three symbolic levels of Buddhist cosmology.


The Prambanan Temple

While the sun started to move up the sky, so did we towards the Prambanan Temple. The mystical air was not part of the atmosphere anymore, but large crowds of people were. Luckily the area is large enough to accommodate a high number of visitors and give everyone a chance to enjoy exploring the site. Actually, while moving away from the central buildings of the complex of temples, we found smaller ones and almost completely ignored by the tourists, but equally beautiful. There is the option to rent a bike and move around the complex. Also, you can end the tour with a refreshing drink and a tasty snack at the food stalls inside the area.



The Prambanan Temple is one of the largest in Southeast Asia, dating back to the 9th century. Damaged by the earthquake in the 16th century, the ruins of the temples have been abandoned and rediscovered in 1811, but the reconstruction of the temple started only one decade later. The project required a lot of effort, due to the advanced level of damage. Most of the smaller shrines are now visible only in their foundations.


Mangunan Fruit Garden in Yogyakarta

If sunrises are your thing, you should know that Yogyakarta has plenty of spots where you can admire a perfect landscape under the morning light. The Mangunan Fruit Garden is one of those spots and, even if there aren’t many fruits around, despite the name, there are many viewpoints and platforms for picture lovers. After the full day tour at the two temples, we found it difficult to wake up for another sunrise, so we went there in the afternoon. The walk around was nice, although the afternoon felt very hot. It is a popular spot among locals for spending the free time, so be ready to share the place with many people and to be invited to take pictures with them.


At the end of the six days in Yogyakarta, we moved towards Jakarta, the capital of the country, which didn’t impress us as much as the other places we already visited in Indonesia. Probably, if we had a bit more time, we could have discovered more beautiful things, even in a big and crowded city like Jakarta. But at the end of our journey in Indonesia, we were already excited about discovering our future destinations, Sri Lanka and India.

For more pictures from Yogyakarta click here.

Experiencing the sunrise over Mount Bromo has been indeed one of the highlights of our journey in Indonesia, but our trip in east Java would not end with it. A five hours train ride distance from Probbolingo is Mount Ijen, just another volcano of the many on the island, but offering a particular experience compared to the others. Its crater serves as a sulfur mine for the locals, but it got the attention of travelers from all around the world for a somehow magical phenomenon that happens here. When the toxic smoke rises up from the crater and gets in contact with the air, it resembles a fire of blue color. It is known as one of the only two places on earth where this phenomenon can be witnessed, so we decided to put it on our bucket list.

How to get there

For tourists that have a bit more money to spend, a private tour is an easy way to organize your visit. Many tour operators include Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen together in a single itinerary and, with Banyuwangi being a popular overland access gate from Java to Bali, many travelers coming from Jakarta or Yogyakarta consider stopping as well for a hike on Mount Ijen.

For others that decide to travel independently, the train is probably the most convenient way of transportation. We found tickets at a higher rate than expected. Due to local celebrations during the time when we were there, many seats have been booked in advance but we were still happy to find some last minute. For booking train tickets in Indonesia, we used either Traveloka or that both have convenient and easy to use mobile apps.

The Banjar Krajan village

The best stop on the route to Mount Ijen is Banyuwangi. Most travelers stop here because of the easy access from the train station to the city, but also because of the ease of finding local agents that can organize a trip to the volcano. We opted for accommodation in Banjar Krajan, one of the villages surrounding the mountain area, where we witnessed some of the most impressive landscapes of our trip. We stayed with a local family that organized the tour for us and offered us the chance to discover the neighborhood, during a walk through rice fields, coffee plantations and the beautiful vegetation that made the village feel like a perfect place to chill, to enjoy watching people’s lifestyle and to taste the local cuisine.



One particular thing that got our attention were the many giant spiders hanging around. While they can look quite scary, we’ve been assured that they live in perfect harmony with the people.

The Ijen Volcano

We left our accommodation in the middle of the night. It takes around one hour to reach the base of the volcano. Be aware that temperatures can drop drastically, so make sure you carry warm clothes with you.  The access gates open at 1 am and tourists and miners start climbing towards the crater. There are many guides offering to lead the way for you and who will ask for a pricey reward in return. We declined their offers and hiked by ourselves as the path was clear and easy to follow. The moon happened to be very bright that night and lightened up the valley enough for us to be able to see and admire the surroundings.



Torchlight can be a very useful tool to make sure you see where you walk. It is also advisable to wear good hiking shoes, especially if the air is humid. Climbing down the slippery rocks inside the crater of the volcano might be dangerous and signs at the top of the crater advise tourists not to descend to the sulfur mine. So, keep in mind that, in case of an accident, your travel insurance most likely won’t cover for it.

A must-have is a gas mask to protect you from the toxic smoke. Most tour operators will include the mask in the tour’s price, but make sure it is part of your gear.

Inside the crater

You will be told that climbing down into the crater is illegal if not accompanied by a guide, which, of course, demands a high price for his service. Still, most people choose to do it without. We were some of the first people to enter the crater, followed by another couple. At the base of it we found two miners filling their baskets with heavy stones of sulfurous, which they typically carry on their shoulders. It is impressive to watch those men carrying up to 70 kg of minerals to the top of the crater and after down the mountain. Many of them decided to give up the heavy work and earn an income by guiding tourists that come to visit the area.


The “blue flames” are an impressive spectacle to watch and when more and more people started to climb down, the crater turned into the scene of a real light show. But with more people came also more noise and suddenly the silence of the night felt less pleasant in the presence of people flashing their phones for a perfect selfie, so we decided to climb back up before it got too crowded.



The blue flames were not the only beautiful thing to witness. As the light of the first morning hours started to lighten up the valley, the shapes of the nearby volcanoes uncovered and the green vegetation revealed a truly incredible landscape. Walking back to the base of the mountain proved to be a beautiful walk that made the whole Ijen experience one of the best we ever had.



Our driver was waiting for us in the parking lot, where many bars and restaurants offer breakfast and a hot coffee that felt very rewarding after the cold hours on the mountain. On the way back we had a short stop at one of the waterfalls near the village, before arriving at the accommodation where we quickly fell into a deep and necessary sleep.


We reserved the last afternoon for exploring the village and cycling along the rice fields, with a stop next to the coffee plantation for a good afternoon meal and a refreshing coffee.

After discovering so many of the natural wonders of Indonesia, our trip continued towards more historical and cultural destinations, ending in the beautiful city Yogyakarta. Read more about it here.

For pictures from Mount Ijen click here.

Sumatra is the second-largest island of Indonesia and just one of the 17000 that form this nation, which makes it hard to decide which one to visit and which one to give up on.

Our previous planned itinerary included also the island of Bali, but after the time in North Sumatra we decided to spend more time in Java and make Bali a destination for future travels.

We returned to Medan for a flight to Malang, in East Java, and continued with the train till Probolinggo. While in Sumatra the transportation options are poor and limited, Java is well connected by a well-maintained network of buses and trains.

Moving around

Booking tickets in Java was easy. We used the mobile apps and Traveloka which are both great for booking almost anything, from transportation tickets to attractions, accommodation and food. After the payment, you will receive an electronic ticket with a bar-code that needs to be scanned once you arrive at the station. The process is made quite simple. You will find a bar-code scanner that will automatically print out a ticket, without needing to queue in front of a counter, which saves a lot of time and stress.

Arriving in Probolinggo

It took us approximately 4 hours by train from Malang to Probolinggo, where we rented a room for 3 nights. We decided to do so as visiting Mount Bromo is made easier from here. Of course you can travel further to Cemoro Lawang and spend the night there if you don’t wish to wake up too early.

We joined a tour organized by our hostel, together with other 4 people, and left early in the morning in order to arrive in time for the sunrise. It took us 40 minutes from the parking place to the viewpoint. It was still very dark outside and the path was narrow. We used the torch of our mobile phones to light the way. Other people used headlamps. The landscape from the viewpoint was really beautiful, but so believed also the more than a hundred people that came to see the sunrise in the same place. We recommend climbing a few meters higher and getting a place just for yourself. There are spots also on the way to the official viewpoints where you can stop for a more private experience, but climbing till the top will guarantee you a much better view… even if you’ll have to share it with more people.



Seeing Mount Bromo has been an amazing experience and although we could have continued the day by crossing the “sea of sand” that surrounds the volcano and climbing up to the crater, we felt happy just with seeing the sun rising over it.



Mount Bromo was the only attraction that brought us to East Java, but meeting other travelers on the way inspired us to use the chance and visit another one of the many volcanoes on the island. We used the last day in Probolinggo to recover our energy and to get a good sleep before our trip to Banyuwangi, the access point to Mount Ijen.

More pictures from Mount Ijen and Indonesia you will find here.

After the adventure in the jungle in Bukit Lawang111, our trip in Indonesia continued to new extraordinary places. The northern landscape of the island of Sumatra is dominated by the largest lake in the country and the biggest volcanic lake in the world, Lake Toba. It was formed in the crater of a super-volcano, after the biggest-known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years. Today it offers a calm and relaxing environment for travelers in search of a moment of peace.


We reached Lake Toba at the end of a six hours drive from Bukit Lawang, via Medan. The tickets can be easily organized by any agent in the jungle and the transfer is usually done with minivans able to transport up to 7 passengers.

Arriving at Lake Toba

The access to the lake can be done either by car from the south part or by ferry from the north. Being 100 km long and 30 km wide, the lake offers mesmerizing panoramic views long before arriving at the access points to the island situated in the large crater. We boarded the ferry from Parapat to the Tuk Tuk village, where we booked a Batak style room at one of the hotels on the coast, offering a beautiful view of the lake.



Our days at the lake have been the best of our trip in Indonesia when we could admire incredible landscapes, taste delicious local food and get together with our friends from Medan, which we met at the arrival in the country. There were also other travelers, that we already got acquainted with on the way from the jungle to the lake and who joined our group, so we spent most of our time together.


The local community on the island and the natural environment offer a truly authentic experience and an open door to discovering long preserved traditions. The old architectural style can be easily recognized all over the Samosir island and the local cuisine promises to impress even the most pretentious gourmets. One dish that we warmly recommend is the Mie Gomak Batak soup.


Mie Gomak Batak soup

We decided to explore the island by scooter, but also cycling along the coast. One of the main points of interest are the ruins of the ancient Batak village Ambarita, together with its stone chairs, head-chopping block and traditional dances. Visiting the tomb of King Sidabutar or the Batak Museum, hiking to the Sipiso Piso waterfall or just going for a swim in the refreshing water of the lake are some of the activities that make Lake Toba a great place to explore.

We spent in total six wonderful days at the lake, before taking a minivan on our last day back to Medan, and further a flight to Malang, on the island of Java.

Check out more pictures from Indonesia here.

Our journey in Indonesia started with an adventure in the jungle in the north of Sumatra, where we wanted to meet the rare and extraordinary orangutans.

We reached Medan on a hot afternoon and took the public bus from the airport to the city center. The exciting ride, that took about 1 hour and for which we paid only 1.23 €, made us quickly understand what traffic in Indonesia means.

While the ride was kind of scary and the road bumpy, the trip was a great opportunity to speak to new people. We met two travelers from France and one from Sweden, whom we joyed later on the same day for a walking tour in the city, together with Lia, a lovely girl from Couchsurfing that offered to show us the neighborhood and introduce us to the local cuisine. Alexi, JB and Claudine were the names of the other three travelers with whom we quickly became friends and shared contacts so we could meet them again during our journey in Indonesia.

Getting to Bukit Lawang

We decided to go to the jungle already the next morning, but the drive to Bukit Lawang proved to be a more difficult task than expected. As we found out the day before, transfers were overpriced everywhere and the official information about transportation was poor and not very helpful. We found out more by reading reviews on travel forums, where we found out that the ride from Medan to Bukit Lawang should cost between 40,000 to 80,000 IDR (2,30 – 4,79 €). Unfortunately, as many travelers reported, the journey can be much more costly and dangerous because local criminal gangs sometimes harass tourists and force them to pay additional money. Apparently, their main targets are solo travelers and single women.

Finally, we decided to take a Car to Buji through the GRAB app and from there we took a bus ride to Bukit Lawang. We paid for the GRAB 5 Euro from Medan Center to Binjai Super Mall, where we were told that the public bus would stop and where these gangs won’t be present, as police officers took care to maintain public order. The bus was actually a van (look for red and orange color) and we paid for the ride 3 € (50,000 IDR) per person. The journey was faster than expected and honestly quite scary as the driver knew no speed limit. Two hours later we arrived at the bus station in Bukit Lawang. Here, a nice gentleman came up to us offering to bring us to our accommodation for another 20,000 IDR. We refused politely, as it was not worth paying that amount for 1.5 km, but when he offered us 10,000 IDR we agreed on the deal. Cars are not allowed to drive close to the village, so locals will offer travelers a ride for a spicy price. There is, of course, the option to walk, but after more than two hours in a crowded minivan and a hot sun above your head, a transfer by rickshaw or scooter might seem like a good idea. Just don’t forget to bargain as you will most probably be asked to pay more than the regular price.

Arriving in the village




At the tourist information point, where the Becak (the Indonesian type of rickshaw) let us out, there was a person waiting for us. Our host’s brother welcomed us and took us to his office. He told us that their hostel was overbooked due to the holiday (end of Ramadan) and we couldn’t go to our originally booked accommodation, but he had an alternative to this problem. He offered us to book the jungle tour with him and as a bonus, he would arrange a better accommodation option till the time when we will be back in the village, at no additional cost.

The whole situation seemed rather odd, but we wanted to take a tour anyway and prices were standard regardless of whom we would have booked with, so we agreed on taking the tour with him. We also liked his approach to nature. We were assured that the guides have a license and that nature and animals would be respected and not be disturbed in any way.

Unfortunately, in Bukit Lawang, not all tour operators are on the side of nature, because the tourists want to have a close encounter with orangutans. It is sad to think that there are many people who do not realize that these wild animals are threatened with extinction and that being able to still see them in the wild is a rare opportunity. That’s why we ask you: If you are going on a tour, always enquire about the tour operator and make sure that nature, humans and animals are always respected, and not just in Indonesia but anywhere in the world.



The cost of the tour for a 2 days jungle trek and overnight stay at the camp, including meals and river rafting back to the village was 89 euros per person. We found it to be very expensive, but this cost was matching the one from our research on the Internet. As I mentioned before, prices are standardized by the local authority, so unless you take a bigger package of services, it would be hard to bargain.

So far, so good. We gladly moved into our accommodation and spent the rest of the day walking around and later preparing ourselves for the upcoming jungle trek.

Jungle trekking and orangutans

The following morning we started at 08.00 o’clock and were introduced to our guides – Walli and Cacao, two brothers that made our two days in the jungle feel extraordinary pleasant. We were a small group of 6 persons: Alex, a Swiss couple, two Englishmen and me.

Before entering into the dense jungle, we crossed a rubber plantation where we could see how rubber is extracted from the bark of the tree before being processed. The trek continued deeper and deeper into the forest. Constantly we had to take short breaks to recover from the burning heat, even during the early hours of the morning. The two guides told us a lot about their home, the jungle, the plantations and the orangutans.



After a while, we saw another group of tourists watching something in the trees: an orangutan mom with her baby. What a wonderful view! Quietly, we approached the tree to observe not just the orangutans, but also the members of the other group being noisy and acting disrespectful towards the animals by trying to attract them with food and approaching them more than it was necessary in order to get their perfect “selfies”.  Sadly, most of them were locals that obviously didn’t value enough the natural treasures of their own country, but were more focused on their personal entertainment.



We noticed also the nest of those orangutans. As our guides explained to us, orangutans rarely climb down the trees due to the presence of predators on the ground, so they spend lots of time building nests whenever they want to move from one place to another. And because it happens quite often that they move during one single day, they mastered the ability to construct their nest incredibly fast and easy. The nest that we saw wasn’t empty and by the time we got closer to it, a really big and old orangutan, that certainly weighed over 100 kg, climbed down the tree. We all stopped and quietly watched him pass a few meters away from where we were standing. It was an incredibly beautiful experience, but not the only one that day. During our trek we could observe different monkeys, birds, beetles and plenty of insects.



The path to the camp felt long because we always took long breaks, which were needed in order to reduce noise on one hand but also to enjoy the beautiful nature that was surrounding us. For the lunch break, Walli and Cacao prepared rice in a banana leaf together with fresh fruits, which we ate with our hands or with crackers that served also as a spoon.


The guides not only answered our questions about the jungle and the animals, but also told us about Mina, an orangutan lady who usually reacted sensitively and aggressively towards people. She was held in captivity and was not well treated during that time. That day, however, she did not bother us and remained hidden in the jungle.

Camping in the jungle

When we arrived at the camp later in the afternoon, it started to rain. It was the perfect time for cooling down. Our camp was right next to a waterfall, where we freshened up before we were served some tea and cookies by our guides. It was nice to talk to the others in the group while finding shelter from the rain under a wooden roof.



We could witness pure life taking over the place. Monitor lizards bathing in the river, monkeys hanging in the trees and little frogs hopping through the camp, all felt beautiful to watch accompanied by the sounds of the jungle.


The camp consisted of three “huts”, two served as a sleeping place and lounge, the third as a kitchen. Actually, they were not really huts, as their structure was quite simple and open to the front but offering a breathtaking view. The “beds” were just basic thin mats. Later we got a blanket, which we happily received as the air outside started to cool down rapidly.



In the kitchen, which was a shelter with 2 fire pits, the guides prepared a delicious dinner. After the meal, we played a few games and had nice chats by the fire. We all had difficulties finding sleep on the hard floor but were also very exhausted after the long day.



The next morning, I woke up very early, while the others were still asleep. I walked to the waterfall and watched the monkeys bathing next to me in the water. This was one of the most beautiful moments I ever experienced. The water was freezing cold but very refreshing at the same time and the silence of the morning allowed me to hear the clear sounds of the jungle.

After a truly sumptuous breakfast, we started our return journey. At this point the group was separated into two parts, as the two Englishmen continued their trek for another day in the jungle, while we returned to the village, accompanied only by Walli this time.

The walk was short and later we spent some time by the river, bathing, eating fruits and even got another chance to spot orangutans, before going down the stream with an inflated raft. The ride was indeed fun and entertaining.



Unfortunately, the fun in the jungle ended with less fun back at the village. We found out that the hostel was still overbooked and that this time we had to look for other accommodation by ourselves. In the end, we decided to stay at the same hotel where we spent the first night, despite the higher price. It wasn’t easy to find last-minute accommodation at a lower price, considering that we were there during high season. Luckily the price for the remaining two nights at the accommodation did not affect much our budget and we could enjoy the last days by the river to the fullest.

In the following days, we planned our trip to Lake Toba, where we would meet again with our friends from Medan. Private or group transfers are easy to organize directly in the jungle. We joined a group of other 5 people with whom we traveled together in a minivan. Surprisingly we found out that some of them had the same problem as us with the same hostel. Apparently, the people at the hostel were scammers, trying to attract tourists into booking tours with them, but without carrying much for their enjoyment after the money have been paid. We were still thankful that the whole experience did not change our mood and we were glad it did not throw a bad light on our unforgettable jungle excursion.

Do you feel like going for a tour into the jungle? Find more inspiration in our pictures here.