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Island Hopping in Indonesia: The Best Islands to Visit

Written by Chris Osburn

This blog post was updated on August 16, 2021.

With more than 17,000 islands, there’s a lot more to the Asian Pacific nation of Indonesia than vacationing in Bali (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Here’s a look at very few of the best islands to visit in Indonesia that’ll make you start looking at round trip flights right NOW!

Bangka Belitung Islands
best islands to visit in Indonesia - Bangka Belitung Islands

Off the eastern coast of Sumatra are the Bangka Belitung Islands, a group of small islets clustered around the two main islands of Bangka and Belitung. Budget-friendly and boasting big beaches, these islands are easy to reach (just an hour flight from Jakarta) but remain off the radar of most folks that visit Indonesia. It’s a great place to do nothing at all. But for more active travelers, there are rock formation and unusual geological features to explore, a 130-year-old Dutch lighthouse to climb, and amazing sea life and a coral reef for snorkelers and divers to explore.

Derawan Islands
best islands to visit in Indonesia - Derawan Islands

East of Borneo in the Sulawesi Sea, this archipelago of 31 islands is an ideal destination for nature lovers. The islands are home to Indonesia’s largest nesting site of endangered giant green turtles and hawksbill turtles with plenty of dolphins, giant manta rays, dugongs, pygmy seahorses, 460 different types of coral, and more than 870 species of fish living in the 1.27 million hectare marine conservancy surrounding these islands.

best islands to visit in Indonesia - Flores

Flores is one of the most amazing islands in the world with its huge mountains, all sorts of hidden beaches, waterfalls, lakes, traditional villages and dozens of dive sites. Accessing all of that island wonder via the 400-mile Trans-Flores Highway cutting across it is the stuff of road trip dreams. Nevertheless, an underrated destination, the long narrow island in southeastern Indonesia has good infrastructure, an impressive range of accommodation options and plenty for all types of travelers to see and do.

By the way, here there be dragons! Namely Komodo dragons and the best place to find the Komodo National Park, just a short boat ride away from the western end of Flores.

best islands to visit in Indonesia - Java

Gigantic and populous Java has it all: massive megacity Jakarta, a vibrant food scene (and excellent coffee), volcanoes galore including majestic Mount Bromo, ancient archaeological sites and temple complexes such as Borobudur and Prambanan in the historic and culturally significant city of Yogyakarta, secret beaches and quiet hideaways, jaw-dropping-ly gorgeous vistas and multi-hued sunsets that stretch the limits of your imagination. For itineraries rich in variety and activity, a Javanese vacation should more than do the trick. With Jakarta and its airport, Java is a smart base for extended stays filled with short excursions, day trips and opportunities to visit other countries in the region.

Inspired to go island hopping? Find your round trip flights to visit Indonesia

best islands to visit in Indonesia - Lombok

Second to Bali on the tourist circuit, but not nearly as crowded, Lombok is what many people think of when dreaming of an island paradise. With active volcano Mount Rinjani in ever-present view, rice paddies, jungles, big surf and something else scenic at every stop, the island is as evocative a place to visit as it is relaxing and easygoing.

Nusa Islands
best islands to visit in Indonesia - Nusa islands

Sitting pretty between Bali and Lombok are the Nusa Islands, with Nusa Lembongan being the biggest and best known of them. Ideal for divers, coral reefs abound in the waters around these islands. The beaches are breathtaking in their beauty. The pace is slow and chilled out.

best islands to visit in Indonesia - Sumatra

Indonesia’s largest island – and the sixth largest in the world – Sumatra offers an unlimited bounty of beauty for visitors. Among the most stunning is the high mountain Lake Toba that many who have seen it say it looks more like Scandinavia or Switzerland than Indonesia. The Bukit Lawang orangutan sanctuary is a bucket list must, with more wildlife including elephants and rare rhinoceroses also spotted on occasion. Miles of untouched beaches, tiny islets just off the coast and welcoming culture and to the Sumatran charms.

West Papua and the Raja Ampat Islands
best islands to visit in Indonesia - West Papua and Raja Ampat Islands

For a truly wild experience, West Papau and the Raja Ampat Islands off its northwest coast beckon the adventurous. Birds, fish, and marine life are the main draws here – with some in-the-know divers claiming the Raja Ampat Islands are the most gorgeous and species diversity in the world with huge and healthy coral systems attracting animals of all shapes, sizes, and colors to them.

Have you had an island-hopping holiday in Indonesia? Leave a comment about your favorite Indonesian getaways.

About the author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, and curator and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world and has called London home since 2001.

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