Complete Guide to the Best Islands of Indonesia

Post by Billy

June 11, 2024

Complete Guide to the Best Islands of Indonesia

What is it about islands that generate such fascination among travellers? Is it the feeling of becoming a modern-day Robinson Crusoe? The isolation? Being surrounded by the ocean wherever you go? The fact is, islands are highly sought-after tourist destinations for travellers from all over the world who seek, among other attractions, relaxation, paradisiacal beaches, and sunsets with a cocktail in hand. For this, there is no country with more options than Indonesia, as it comprises… 17,000 islands!

They come in all sizes and types, but what is certain is that many of them are ideal for getting lost for a while. In this article, we present a selection of the best.

The 10 Most Popular Islands in Indonesia

With a strategic location along the equator in the Asian continent, Indonesia boasts some of the most desired islands in the world for multiple reasons. From the blend of culture, religion, and natural spaces of the famous Bali, to the overwhelming and somewhat unknown natural richness of Komodo, through to sizeable islands with high historical value like Java, or countless small islands ideal for enjoying the tropical atmosphere and excellent diving.

Here is a list of the 10 most popular islands in Indonesia.


Known as the “Island of the Gods,” Bali is famous for its ancient temples, paradisiacal beaches, and vibrant nightlife. Its landscapes include terraced rice paddies, jungles, and volcanic mountains like Mount Agung. Additionally, Balinese culture is rich in ceremonies and festivals, with traditional dances and unique crafts that add extra value to your trip.

The 10 Most Popular Islands in Indonesia: Bali

Bali may be very popular with tourists, but it’s still possible to get lost in its lush interior, in a secluded cabin where you can simply contemplate nature at its most exuberant.


Less developed than Bali, Lombok offers pristine beaches perfect for surfing and the majestic Mount Rinjani, ideal for hiking. The island also features traditional Sasak villages and the beautiful Kuta Beach, famous for its white sand and crystal-clear waters.

The 10 Most Popular Islands in Indonesia: Lombok

A plus is that it does not yet receive hordes of tourists year-round like Bali, but it is comparably beautiful.


The most populous island in Indonesia (130 million people, 60% of the country’s total population), Java is home to the capital, Jakarta, and historical sites like the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan.

The 10 Most Popular Islands in Indonesia: Java

It is also home to active volcanoes like Bromo and Ijen. Java combines spectacular natural landscapes with vibrant urban and cultural life, along with a rich historical legacy.


Famous for its biodiversity, Sumatra offers national parks like Gunung Leuser, home to orangutans and one of the best places in the world to observe them, making it well worth a visit.

The 10 Most Popular Islands in Indonesia: sumatra

The island features a mix of cultures and stunning landscapes, from tropical jungles to active volcanoes and the vast Lake Toba, one of the largest volcanic lakes in the world.


Part of the Komodo National Park, this island is famous for its Komodo dragons, the largest lizards in the world. Its coral reefs and pink sand beaches are ideal for diving and snorkelling, offering an unparalleled natural experience.

The 10 Most Popular Islands in Indonesia: Komodo

Cruises through the Natural Park that explore its surroundings are very popular.

Nusa Penida

Known for its impressive cliffs and crystal-clear waters, Nusa Penida is also a paradise for diving and snorkelling enthusiasts. For this reason, this island is home to one of the DPM Diving schools, with a professional team ready to show you Penida’s underwater treasures, including mantas, tropical fish, turtles, sharks, etc. Furthermore, as your stay will not be only underwater, attractions like Kelingking Beach and Angel’s Billabong offer spectacular views and unique photo opportunities.

The 10 Most Popular Islands in Indonesia: Nusa Penida

Gili Trawangan

The largest of the Gili Islands is famous for its relaxed atmosphere and parties. With no cars or motorcycles, it is explored by bicycle or on foot. Its clear waters are perfect for diving and snorkelling, especially for seeing sea turtles. We can help you with that at our DPM Diving school located next to the port, with courses tailored to all levels. Additionally, we will introduce you to other must-see dive sites in the rest of the Gili Islands.

The 10 Most Popular Islands in Indonesia: Gili


Located in Komodo National Park, Padar is known for its mountainous landscapes and beaches of different colours: white, black, and pink. The views from its peak are iconic, offering a spectacular panoramic view of the island environment.

The 10 Most Popular Islands in Indonesia:  Padar


Also in Komodo National Park, the island of Kalong is famous for its spectacular sunsets and the evening departure of thousands of fruit bats, creating a fascinating natural spectacle.

The 10 Most Popular Islands in Indonesia: Kalong

Maluku Islands

Known as the “Spice Islands,” the Maluku Islands have a rich colonial history and are famous for their production of nutmeg and cloves. Their landscapes range from pristine beaches to mountains and tropical jungles, ideal for ecotourism and adventure. They are located to the east, near the island of Papua.

The 10 Most Popular Islands in Indonesia:  maluku island

Unique Activities in Indonesia

With over 17,000 islands to explore, imagine the endless possibilities of activities to do in a country like Indonesia. Here are some of the most impressive activities offered by its most popular islands.

  • Visit the Temples of Borobudur and Prambanan in Java: These impressive temples are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and offer a fascinating insight into Buddhist and Hindu history and culture.
  • Explore the Rice Terraces of Bali: The terraced rice paddies of Ubud and Jatiluwih are not only visually stunning but also offer opportunities for hiking and learning about Balinese agriculture.
  • Trekking on Mount Rinjani in Lombok: This active volcano offers challenging hiking routes with spectacular views, especially at sunrise from the summit.
  • Diving in Raja Ampat: Known for having one of the greatest marine biodiversities in the world, this archipelago is a paradise for divers and snorkellers.
  • Observe Komodo Dragons: On the islands of Komodo and Rinca, visitors can see the famous Komodo dragons in their natural habitat, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
  • Sail through the Maluku Archipelago: Known as the “Spice Islands,” they offer pristine beaches, colonial history, and rich marine life to explore.
  • Discover the Gili Islands: These islands offer crystal-clear waters perfect for diving, snorkelling, and relaxation, with vibrant nightlife on Gili Trawangan.
  • Immerse Yourself in the Culture of Tana Toraja in Sulawesi: Known for its unique funeral rituals and traditional houses, this region offers deep insight into local cultural practices.
  • Relax on Bali’s Beaches: Beaches like Kuta, Seminyak, and Nusa Dua offer white sands, world-class surfing, and vibrant nightlife.
  • Dive with Mantas in Nusa Penida: There’s nothing like watching these majestic animals at one of the world’s best dive spots, located very close to Penida.

Tips for Travelling Between the Islands of Indonesia

Indonesia is a country that spans a vast insular territory, with great distances to cover between some of its islands. Therefore, travelling between them requires careful planning. Here are some tips to facilitate your movements:

  1. Research and book your flights and transport in advance, especially during high season, to ensure availability and better prices.
  2. Indonesia has an extensive network of domestic flights operated by airlines such as Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, AirAsia, and Citilink. Flights are the fastest way to travel between distant islands.
  3. For nearby islands, consider taking ferries or fast boats. Companies like Pelni offer ferry services between many islands. Fast boats are common between Bali and the Gili Islands, or Lombok and Nusa Penida.
  4. Weather can affect sea travel, especially during the rainy season (November to March). Check weather conditions before planning boat trips.
  5. Upon arrival at an island, use taxis, transport services like Grab or Gojek, and motorbike rentals to get around. On smaller islands, bicycles or local boats are popular options.
  6. Flight and ferry schedules can change, so maintain some flexibility in your itinerary and confirm your reservations before travelling.
  7. Ensure you have your passport and visa in order. Some domestic flights may also require valid identification.
  8. Travelling light makes it easier to move between islands, especially when using local transport or boats.
  9. Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and transport issues, especially if you plan activities like diving or hiking.

Scuba Instructor in DPM Gili Trawangan.

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