If you’re looking for an off the beaten track experience in Indonesia, why don’t you plan for a cultural getaway to Solo, in central Java? Also called Surakarta or Sala, this island was known as the Kingdom of Mataram until the 18th century. You can visit the royal palace, Danar Hadi museum where you can admire sumptuous batik collections or Radya Pastaka museum and its antiques. In Solo, there are also beautiful temples such as Tien Kok Sie or, located on Lawu volcano, Sukuh and Cetho erotic temples. Sukuh temple looks a bit like a Mayan pyramid, it is a highlight of the Hindu tantric cult celebrating fertility and procreation in Java. You can’t miss the phalluses sculptures there! Cetho is also worth a visit for its particular architecture and the strange atmosphere of the place. On your way take a stroll through the tea plantations surrounding the area.
Indonesia is the place where you can admire breathtaking landscapes and meet amazing people. Among those people are the Mentawai living on Siberut island, near Sumatra. They’ve been persecuted by the Indonesian government for years which led a few thousand of them back to Siberut where they can live far from the modern world in respect with their traditions. They often wear crowns of flowers and have impressive tattoos all over their bodies. They live in the heart of the forest where they can fish and hunt. The uma refers to their houses and are also places of worship. The people of Mentawai are animists, meaning they believe that everything in nature is inhabited by a soul. They carry out shamanic rituals that are worth seeing. This will be for sure the highlight of your off the beaten track trip in Indonesia! Siberut island is now designed a biosphere reserve by the United Nations.
If you want to experience traditional Indonesian lifestyle stay with the locals in Bali. The inhabitants of Budakeling, a village in Karangasem area, welcome travellers in their homes. Living with Balinese people you will learn about their traditions: bring offerings, cook, farm work… This time shared with locals will make your trip off the beaten track in Indonesia unforgettable. Besides, by choosing this type of accommodation, you are supporting the entire village and help preserving the traditions and local culture sometimes threatened by mass tourism and industrialisation.
To go off the beaten track in Indonesia you can also plan for a cruise in the heart of the Raja Ampat. This archipelago located in the Moluccas Sea, nearby New Guinea, is very well preserved. Board a traditional boat and admire breathtaking, untouched landscapes. The Raja Ampat is also a destination of choice to observe marine life, the biodiversity in the “coral triangle” is one of the most impressive in the world. The Raja Ampat is the perfect destination if you like scuba diving but also lush forests and pristine beaches.
Balians are traditional healers in Bali. They care for both body and mind and are also medium and exorcists. They get their knowledge from their ancestors with whom they still communicate. Balians’ practices are diverse, they can do massages, spit herbs on their patients or even beat them with a stick. You’ve probably never received such a treatment but since “Eat, pray, love” by Elizabeth Gilbert was published, lots of tourists are asking for a consultation. If you’d like to try you need to make an appointment and give offerings and donations before you leave. Unfortunately it is forbidden for women to consult a balian during their periods. For an even deeper experience of this traditional medicine you can plan for a few days of training with a healer.
An off the beaten track trip in Indonesia is the chance for you to admire authentic and preserved landscapes. In Sulawesi, in the Celebes archipelago, you can stay in a floating house on Tempe Lake. Your neighbours will be fishermen and their families, a unique way to experience local life. The quiet surroundings will bring you calm and serenity especially when looking at the sunset.
In Northern Sumatra live the Batak. There are 6 different people originating from the same ancestors: the Angkola, the Karo, the Mandailing, the Toba, the Dairi or Pakpak and the Simalungun. All together, the Batak are 6 million. The best known are the Toba, they live next to Toba Lake, the largest volcanic lake in the world. Even if they were converted to Protestantism by the Dutch, the Toba’s lifestyle is still infused with ancestral animist traditions.
Wae Rebo village is nestled in the mountains on Flores island. You reach it after 3 or 4 hours of walk depending on your pace, hiking is the only way to access this off the beaten track Indonesian village where you will be amazed by the culture and traditions of the Manggarai. Their houses have a very recognizable shape of reversed cone. During your stay you will meet the todo, the chief of the village, attend ceremonies dedicated to ancestors, listen to traditional songs and watch dances. You will spend the night in a guest house. The Manggarai were converted to Catholicism however, their lifestyle is still infused with ancestral animist traditions.
Let’s say it, Bali is a busy island. Mass tourism, beach parties, construction… the South of the island is booming. North you can still find unspoiled villages like Tejakula. You won’t find it in most guides and if you ask us it’s for the best! Located in Buleleng district, Tejakula faces Java Sea. The pristine water is calm and on the long black sand beach you’ll see salt marshes. A totally different atmosphere than in Kuta! Not far from Tajakula you can easily go for short walks and discover beautiful waterfalls.
Meeting the Korowai in Papua is probably the most unique, off the beaten track activity, you can plan for during your trip in Indonesia. The Korowai live in the South East of the province. The different clans were for the first time met in the 1970’s it is probably why their lifestyle is still very different from modern Western daily life. Out of the few thousands Korowai still living, only a few know how to read and write. They live in wooden houses up in the trees so they can overlook the area. According to the legend they used to be cannibals but now the Korowai are hunter-gatherers. They believe in ancestral spirits, witchcraft and bad luck.