Lake Toba has been part of traveller folklore for decades: the largest volcanic lake in the world, one so enormous that an island almost the size of Singapore sits in its centre. It’s hands-down the best place I have ever been to chill out, but it wasn’t always so peaceful. Lake toba sumatera indonesia travel blog The lake itself is the site of a massive supervolcanic eruption that occurred 75,000 years ago. This is actually the biggest known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years, and according to one theory, had global consequences for human populations: killing most people living at that time. Ouch. Luckily for us though, the human population still remains, as does the incredible lake that was formed in the aftermath. I normally get itchy feet when I’m travelling and want to move on after 3 or 4 nights in one location, but this place was different. I could easily spend a month here, just doing nothing, sitting, writing. I think a large part of my love for the place was because of where I stayed and the people I met there. Mas Cottages really is the best place to stay in Lake Toba, and I look forward to the day I return. I cannot recommend this place highly enough, and it is worthy of its 94% rating on Tripadvisor. Opening your door to this every morning = wow. A walk in the hills. Exploring on foot or by bicycle. Motorbike or scooter is the way to get about when you are on Samosir island. You’ll cover more ground and have access to more remote spots. But while this is all well and good, you often are travelling too quickly to appreciate hidden alcoves and deserted lanes. I travelled both ways – by motorbike and by bicycle – and found I
Lake Toba has been part of traveller folklore for decades: the largest volcanic lake in the world, one so enormous that an island almost the size of Singapore sits in its centre. It’s hands-down the best place I have ever been to chill out, but it wasn’t always so peaceful. Lake toba sumatera indonesia travel blog
The extensive, far-reaching archipelago of Indonesia welcomes everyone for any kind of adventure imaginable. Discover the best time of year to visit Indonesia according to your objectives, or use our guide to decide where to go during your available time. The best time to visit Indonesia
January is the wettest month in many localities in Indonesia, including Java, Kalimantan (Borneo), Sulawesi, even Bali and other islands in the region. Many tour operators in Komodo and other island destinations choose to close during this time, as boat trips can be challenging and not pleasant. It’s also best to not plan a hiking tour in January, as paths can be slippery, and the glorious sunrise may not be visible due to the overcast morning. Some scuba diving spots may have poorer visibility during this time, but in contrast, the far-flung Raja Ampat in Papua has distinctively calmer and clearer waters during the earlier months of the year.
February may not be the ideal month to realise your dream beach or island-hopping vacation in Indonesia. However, rainfalls and raging seas are subsiding in some regions, especially in the northern coasts. North Sumatra and North Sulawesi see a perceivable drop in rainfalls this month, giving tourists a window to experience the rainforest’s vibrant wildlife without having to worry about the crowd, that is, if you don’t mind the risk of getting caught in light rain. Islands in Nusa Tenggara – Lombok, Komodo, Sumba, etc. – experience less frequent and less intense rain compared to Bali, so opting for these islands may reward you with a slightly sunnier island adventure. Plus, the famed Pasola festival in Sumba and Bau Nyale in Lombok is usually held in February, so there’s another reason to go further east from Bali this month. The best time to visit Indonesia
The transition between monsoon and sunny weather happens in March. Rainfalls continue to decrease in most areas, led by the archipelago’s northern parts. Stretches of emerald and green appear fresh and shiny in the highlands across the country, especially as the month rolls on. On March’s hottest days, the temperature may reach 91℉ (33°C), so pack your summer clothes and sun protection along with a raincoat or umbrella for the intermittent sudden rains. Visiting temples and exploring heritage towns in Java is now significantly more pleasant as the chance of rain has dropped and the tropical heat is not yet at its peak. March holds one of the most important holidays for Balinese Hindu, the Caka New Year. During the New Year’s week, various festivals and rituals are held throughout the island, including the peculiar Nyepi Day, or Balinese Day of Silence.
Rainfall: 13 days
Temperature: 80℉ (27℃)
Ogoh-ogoh festival before Nyepi
This is the month where divers, surfers, and beach babes in general are most drawn to book their trip to Indonesia’s best island paradises. Favourable diving conditions are to be expected in Bali, Lombok, Komodo, and the Gili Islands. The second half of April also marks the start of long-awaited surfing season in Bali, Mentawai, and Nusa Tenggara, among other destinations. During this month, the southern parts of the archipelago are expected to be slightly warmer with less rainfalls than the north. That means the weather is finally conducive enough to explore the highlands of Toraja, the beaches and jungles of Lampung, and any other southern towns in Sumatra, Borneo, and Sulawesi. In general, temperatures are already rising as sunny days become more frequent throughout the country.
Rainfall: 12 days
Temperature: 80℉ (27℃)
Surfing in Mentawai
The start of full-on dry season opens up more opportunities for explorations and adventures across the archipelago. May can also be perceived as an ideal month to visit mainstream destinations like Java and Bali, a full month away before summer holiday and high season, so you’ll see fewer tourists and lower rates for travels and hotels. The nation’s Buddhist population observe Vesak day in May, with Borobudur temple in Yogyakarta holding the most festive celebration that involves pilgrimage and a lantern festival you don’t want to miss. It’s still an ideal season for diving, surfing, and island adventures, and now also a wonderful time to start hiking and trekking. The best time to visit Indonesia
Tourists begin to swarm the more popular destinations like Java and Bali, but it’s not the peak season yet, which usually starts in July. Sunny days and lower humidity can be expected across the country, especially the southern part. June is one of the hottest months in some areas, such as North Sumatra and Java, but no matter where you go don’t forget to pack sunscreen and light breathable clothes. The weather conditions are favourable to go up the mountains or down into the ocean. In many areas like Komodo and Gili Islands, marine life is at its liveliest as the waters are getting warmer and calmer, while better visibility makes diving and snorkelling more rewarding.
One of the biggest holidays in the country, Eid al Fitr, changes date every year but this decade it falls somewhere between April and July. If you’re travelling around this holiday, keep yourself informed on the things that may change during Ramadan, a full month preceding a big feast on Eid.
High season is in full swing. Be sure to book your travels, hotels, and tickets beforehand, especially if you’re going for popular summer destinations like Bali. The excellent weather coincides with European summer holidays and school holidays in the country, creating a mix of youths and tourist families, foreign and domestic alike. Get ready to fight the crowds for the perfect spot to view sunrise in touristy volcanoes or to take a decent picture in Bali’s splendid temples. Luckily, July is also an excellent time to venture off the beaten path, with the dry weather making it easier to go off track and into the wild. Go to the national parks to observe wildlife, meet orangutans in Sumatra, birdwatch in Sulawesi, or trek through the rainforest. The generally sunny and warm weather is also perfect to visit Mount Bromo and witness the Tengger Yadnya Kasada ritual.
The peak season continues until at least the first half of August. Booking ahead is still necessary, especially if you’re going to touristy localities like Bali or Java. Due to the excellent sunny weather, island destinations like Lombok, Komodo, and Gili Islands will be packed and it’s not unheard of for tours and accommodations to be fully booked. The rather centralised tourism activities in the southern parts of the archipelago make August a good time to venture off to the less-travelled. Charming highlands like Bukittinggi in Sumatra or Toraja in Sulawesi stay relatively cool due to the geography, making excellent travel choices if you mind the scorching tropical heat. Bonus point: Toraja is particularly lively with its notorious funeral ceremonies during this month.
August 17 marks Indonesia’s Independence Day, and celebrations can be observed across the country. You’ll be welcomed to join in some traditional games and events held in any given neighbourhood, or even participate in flag ceremony. Celebrating Independence Day at a mountain’s summit is also a popular activity among locals. If you don’t mind the crowd, hearing the national anthem echoing to the skies with breathtaking views would be an unforgettable experience. Aim for popular hikeable volcanoes like Mount Prau, Mount Pangrango, or Mount Semeru if you’re an avid hiker.
Favourable for outdoor adventures in most localities as the number of tourists continues to decrease. September, especially the second half of the month, is a particularly good window to visit some popular destinations like Java, Bali, and the lesser Sunda islands (Lombok, Komodo, Gili Islands, Sumba, etc.). The hottest days in September may reach 93℉ (34℃) especially in Java and Sulawesi, while other regions may see slightly cooler temperatures. However, if you’re going to the highlands or rainforests, the mix of sunny weather and lush natural surroundings create a balmy condition favoured by a range of wildlife, making September one of the best months to spot orangutans in Borneo or Sumatra.
If you’re planning on hiking glorious volcanoes in Java, Bali, or Lombok, October is your last chance before the rainy season kicks in again. Same goes for diving, as the seas may be more turbulent after this. North Sumatra and some other northern localities may already be seeing downpours that will continue to travel through the archipelago in the upcoming months. The chance of rain increases as the month rolls on, so you should make the best out of the earlier days of the month. Rainfalls may come intermittently in short periods, so be advised to take an umbrella or raincoat if you’re going outdoors, no matter how sunny it looks when you head out.
Rainfall: 7 days
Temperature: 82-86℉ (28-30℃)
By November, the rainy season has already arrived in most parts of the country. Tourism is in hibernation even in Indonesia’s most popular island paradise Bali and its surroundings. Travelling with boats and ferries may become much more challenging although not downright impossible, so it’s best to keep islands like Komodo or other Nusa Tenggara islets out of the itinerary. A pleasant and surprising exception awaits for those who don’t mind venturing to the far-flung Maluku or Papua (where Raja Ampat Islands is located), which have an inverted wet season to the rest of the country. Both regions have exotic islands and vibrant diving spots but are much less touristy than the Nusa Tenggara islands due to the geography and more expensive fares.
Intense downpours are to be expected at this point, especially in Java, Bali, and Sulawesi. Road conditions will be affected by the rain, so be extra careful when you’re driving off the main roads in main cities. Sea conditions get even rougher in many areas, so you may want to keep your feet on the ground, exploring cities or villages, eating, observing, and shopping your way around. Despite holding the largest Muslim population in the world, Christmas is still a major holiday in Indonesia, especially in Manado, where the population is predominantly Christian. The festivities can also be seen throughout Maluku and some main parts of Papua, which are still seeing a lot of sunny days despite the rest of the country being drenched in heavy rain. December is still an excellent month to go island-hopping and diving in Raja Ampat or Maluku islands. The best time to visit Indonesia
While Indonesia’s capital is powering ahead as a global business hub, Kota, its old town, is arguably still its top traveller highlight. Indonesia’s Dutch colonial roots can be explored here, and Jakarta's historical quarter gives a snapshot of how the cityscape looked before the skyscrapers moved in.In the 1600s, Kota became the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company. Sadly this colonial heritage was not preserved as well as it has been in the likes of other Southeast Asian colonial outposts such as Singapore and Penang, and there are only a few remnants of the attractive wooden-shuttered buildings left today. Still, Taman Fatahillah(Fatahillah Square) and its surroundings are a sensory feast for a first-time visitor to the city. Taman Fatahillah. Image by Prayudi Hartono / Getty Set off on a walking tour at Kota Intan bridge (also known as Chicken Market Bridge). Constructed by the Dutch in the 17th century, the wooden drawbridge extends over the Kali Besar canal, and would have been raised to accommodate merchant ships. The last remining bridge of its kind, it is no longer raised, and can’t be crossed by pedestrians – its planks are in disrepair – but there is talk of a renovation project. For now, it’s worth a visit to witness a rare monument to the city's Dutch colonial era. Hawker carts near Fatahillah Square, Jakarta. Image by Tom Cockrem / Getty From the bridge, with the Kali Besar canal on your right, it’s just a ten-minute walk straight down towards Taman Fatahillah, though it does involve crossing a couple of busy roads – if you feel intimidated by the swarms of cars and motorbikes speeding towards you, find a group of locals and cross with them. The buildings along this strip have a distinctly European feel, combined with a poignant sense of decay. As you approach the square,
While Indonesia’s capital is powering ahead as a global business hub, Kota, its old town, is arguably still its top traveller highlight. Indonesia’s Dutch colonial roots can be explored here, and Jakarta‘s historical quarter gives a snapshot of how the cityscape looked before the skyscrapers moved in.
In the 1600s, Kota became the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company. Sadly this colonial heritage was not preserved as well as it has been in the likes of other Southeast Asian colonial outposts such as Singapore and Penang, and there are only a few remnants of the attractive wooden-shuttered buildings left today. Still, Taman Fatahillah(Fatahillah Square) and its surroundings are a sensory feast for a first-time visitor to the city.
Taman Fatahillah. Image by Prayudi Hartono / Getty
Set off on a walking tour at Kota Intan bridge (also known as Chicken Market Bridge). Constructed by the Dutch in the 17th century, the wooden drawbridge extends over the Kali Besar canal, and would have been raised to accommodate merchant ships. The last remining bridge of its kind, it is no longer raised, and can’t be crossed by pedestrians – its planks are in disrepair – but there is talk of a renovation project. For now, it’s worth a visit to witness a rare monument to the city’s Dutch colonial era.
Hawker carts near Fatahillah Square, Jakarta. Image by Tom Cockrem / Getty
From the bridge, with the Kali Besar canal on your right, it’s just a ten-minute walk straight down towards Taman Fatahillah, though it does involve crossing a couple of busy roads – if you feel intimidated by the swarms of cars and motorbikes speeding towards you, find a group of locals and cross with them. The buildings along this strip have a distinctly European feel, combined with a poignant sense of decay. As you approach the square, the street becomes lined with trees and gerobak (mobile food carts) selling strips of vacuum-packed sweets and siomay bandung – steamed fish dumplings served with peanut satay sauce from wooden carts. Eventually you reach an intricate cast iron arch on the left that marks the entrance to Taman Fatahillah.
Making gado-gado, Indonesia. Image by Carlina Teteris / Getty
Kota’s 1.8-acre central square is usually teeming with Indonesian tourists, and encapsulates the vibrant, edgy and slightly daunting character of Jakarta. Dotted with multi-coloured striped parasols, it is the business arena of some 200 carts selling all manner of tourist tat and street food. A multi-layered aroma of sweet, spicy and barbeque scents permeates the square, and you can sample local delicacies – from gado-gado (Indonesian salad with peanut sauce) to kerak telor (omelette fried with sticky rice, dried shrimp, and shredded coconut) from the animated vendors for next to nothing. A food festival is held at Taman Fatahillah every year in March.
Taman Fatahillah, Jakarta. Image by Rose Dykins
Take some time to explore the side streets leading away from the square (be careful to watch your belongings as you weave around the crowds) to spot more decaying colonial relics, and see local tatoo artists at work in their crude, streetside studios. Another option is to rent one of the many colourful bicycles for hire – with matching-hued floppy hats thrown in for free to shield you from the sun’s glare – and explore on two wheels.
Museum Wayang, Jakarta. Image by Antony Giblin / Getty
It’s worth popping into the tiny Museum Wayang (Puppet Museum) to understand how integral puppeteering has been to Indonesian storytelling for centuries. The museum’s exhibits range from 16th century Wayang Banjay puppets from Borneo to the hand puppets from the 1980s children’s TV show Unyil which look a bit like alarmed Cabbage Patch Kids. Free performances with traditional rod puppets take place in its theatre every Sunday – they are in Bahasa, but watching the live gamelan orchestral accompaniment is a worthwhile cultural experience. Entrance to the museum is 5,000Rp. There’s also the Museum Sejarah Jakarta (Jakarta History Museum) in the former town hall on the south side of the square, though its exhibits are a little sparse.
Dominating the northern side of Taman Fatahillah Cafe Batavia, named after the former colonial name of the capital. Housed in a 19th century building that was originally used by the Dutch government, it’s a great spot for escaping the heat and people-watching over Taman Fatahillah. Grab a window seat upstairs in the Grand Salon constructed entirely of Javanese teak wood, and try the Batavia Punch mocktail – a zingy blend of pineapple and lime juice. The menu offers delectable dim sum, western staples and Indonesian fare, with mains averaging 200,000Rp.
If you’re keen to see more colonial buildings, rent a bicycle from Taman Fatahillah (around 20,000Rp/hr) and pedal the 1.5km to Sunda Kelapa, Jakarta’s historical port, and the original reason why the city was an international trade hub. Stroll among the rows of traditional Bugis Phinisi Schooner ships anchored on the dock and peruse the stalls of the busy fish market, soaking up the local ambience. If you have time, pay a visit to the turquoise- shuttered Museum Bahari, which recounts the maritime history of Indonesia’s archipelago.
Alternatively, exit Taman Fatahillah from the southeastern corner and continue southwards along the main road for about 30 seconds to reach Kota Station. Originally built in the 19th century, it was renovated and reopened in 1929 after being re-designed by a Dutch architect, who created a western art deco facade with an indefinable local twist.
Rose Dykins is a freelance travel journalist driven by curiosity and fuelled by copious amounts of black coffee. She tweets at @rose_dykins