Best Cultural Sites To Visit in Indonesia
With more than 17,000 islands, 167 active volcanoes and numerous pristine beaches, many travellers come to Indonesia for its outstanding natural marvels and spine-chilling adventures. However, this sprawling archipelago also has an abundance of intriguing places that take you close to the diverse cultures and traditions of this Southeast Asian country. If you’re looking for some, here’s a look at the best cultural attractions to visit in Indonesia.
1. Borobudur Temple
The world’s largest Buddhist sanctuary, Borobudur temple is not only one of the most important spots for Buddhist pilgrimage, but also one of the most popular destinations for travellers to the archipelago of Indonesia. Located in Central Java, this temple dates back to the 8th century, during the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty when Mahayana Buddhism was actively promoted, and it was built on three tiers of stone following the three realms of Buddhist cosmology, giving it the pyramid-like shape. Ascending from the base to the most elevated stupa, tourists will see numerous of ornate stone carvings and reliefs, as well as the main grand structure in Javanese and Buddhist principles. Nowadays, most tourists choose an early morning hike to the top of Borobudur for a magical sunrise experience and a chance to admire iconic Buddha stupas in the first rays of light.
Address: Borobudur Temple, Borobudur, Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia
2. Prambanan Temple
Another cultural landmark in Central Java, Prambanan Temple is the largest Hindu temple compound in Indonesia that was built during the heyday of the Sanjaya Dynasty, just decades later than the establishment of the grand Borobudur Temple. Originally containing 240 individual stone temples, the complex now is divided into three zones, with several towering structures rising above the decaying temple ruins. These temples were decorated with reliefs and stone carvings depicting the epic of the Ramayana, and all dedicated to the three great Hindu divinities, Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, as well as the animals who serve them. Among these structures, the temple of Shiva is the grandest and centrally located with beautiful stone carvings.
Address: Bokoharjo, Prambanan, Sleman Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta & Prambanan, Klaten Regency, Central Java, Indonesia
3. Dieng Temples
Located in the lush Dieng Plateau of Central Java, Dieng temple compound is a group of eight small Hindu temples that are among oldest surviving religious structures in the region and the earliest Hindu temples in Indonesia. The real names and history of these temples remain unknown, but the locals named them after the Javanese wayang characters from Mahabharata epic. It was divided into three groups: Arjuna, Dwarawati and Gatotkaca clusters, and Bima temple was the largest and tallest established as a separate single temple. The Dieng structures are small and relatively plain shrines dedicated to Shiva, and some feature the architecture of Indian Hindu temples.
Address: Dieng Plateau, Bakal, Banjarnegara, Central Java, Indonesia
Covering approximately 100 square kilometres of Mojokerto Regency in the Indonesian province of East Java, Trowulan is an important archaeological site which was the former capital city of the Majapahit Kingdom, the greatest empire Indonesia ever had. The ancient city ruins had been discovered by the 19th century with thousands of archaeological remnants in the form of artefacts, eco-facts, and features. Most relics are stored and displayed in Trowulan Museum, where you can also learn about kingdom history. If you’re very interested in the archaeological park, it’s best to travel with an experienced local guide and explore various temples scattered in the area such as Candi Bajang Ratu, Wringing Lawang Gate, Candi Brahu and Candi Tikus bathing place.
Address: Jalan Pendopo Agung, Trowulan, Mojokerto, Jawa Timur, Indonesia
Better known as the Mother Temple of Bali, Pura Besakih sits on the southern slopes of Mount Agung in eastern Bali, Indonesia, and consists of at least 86 Hindu temples and shrines. It is considered the largest and holiest Hindu monument on the island that magically survived the series of volcanic eruptions of 1963. Pura Besakih is still in use today with seventy festivals throughout the year and is open to every devotee from any caste group, which allure a lot of locals and tourists coming to celebrate. As perched on the slope side, the temple also affords spectacular views of Balinese countryside with rice fields, hills, mountains and forests. If you can explore only one temple in Bali, Besakih Temple is truly worth a visit.
Address: Desa Besakih, Kec. Rendang, Karangasem, Karangasem, Kabupaten Karangasem, Bali 80238, Indonesia
6. Tana Toraja
For those looking to the less-travelled mystical land in Indonesia, Tana Toraja (the land of Toraja) is the go-to place. Located in South Sulawesi, the hidden villages of Toraja with tranquil landscapes and fascinating culture are captivating to explore, especially for all brave hearts and spine-chilling adventure seekers. The Torajans attracted the world’s fascination over their notorious funerary rituals and ancient burial sites, where you can see the towering cave tombs carved into the cliff with eerie Tau Tau effigies looking down. There are several places for these death-themed tours, such as the graveyard Suaya, Londa Burial Caves, the hanging graves Lemo, and Tampang Allo. When visiting the area, make sure you spend time exploring some local villages, like Kete-Kesu or Marante, to see the unique tongkonan – traditional houses with boat-shaped roofs of the Torajan natives and observe their local life.
Address: Tana Toraja Regency, Indonesia
From majestic mountains to ancient temples, Indonesia is perfect for travellers of all types. If you’re keen on exploring the country’s history and culture, make sure to keep these sites to your bucket list. Check out more our Indonesia Tours or send your inquiries to our Asia Tours experts to create your own itinerary.