In this installment of our occasional Insider’s Guide series, we head to Indonesia on a dream trip designed for us by Black Tomato, the hip London and NYC travel agents.
So many beaches, mountains, and temples; so little time. The best way to do Indonesia? Island hop.
Begin in Java, where live volcanoes, coffee plantations, and royal palaces vie for your eye. Skip capital city Jakarta for less frenetic Yogyakarta and the mystical Amanjiwo hotel, which is built from intricately carved limestone and overlooks the world’s largest Buddhist sanctuary and four whispering volcanoes. The spa uses locally made products (souvenir alert!), and the Javanese beauty treatment will knock any jet lag out of you. The hotel shop stocks amazing gold jewelry from nearby villages and beautiful hand-carved furniture (you can send it home for reasonable rates).
Now for your lovely to-do list: Hit the ancient Borobudur temple before the gates open to the public. Take a guided trek up live volcano Mount Merapi to see lush coffee plantations (don’t miss Losari). Return via elephant at sunset. Explore the Royal Palaces’ pools, then recover with a feast at the hotel’s restaurant, surrounded by ornate gold-leaf murals.
For local flavor, check out Annas (Gang 1/127), a homey, family-run eatery, and Kedai Kebun, a stylish resto and art gallery with a pretty garden. Head to the bustling evening food markets at Jalan Malioboro and don’t miss the warung (a small food stall or shop where you can buy anything from detergent to soup) at the end of Gang 1 for amazing spicy goat curry.
Next hop: Bali, for gorgeous beaches and lively surfer-chic nightlife. Stay in a private pool villa at luxury boutique The Elysian; you’ll need it to recover from out-till-dawn nights in bustling Seminyak. Start your eve under twinkling lights at the bar at The Living Room, then get down with the cool crowd at Ibiza-style Ku De Ta amid palm trees and swirling pools. For excellent local eats (and party fuel), grab a table at cheap and cheerful Warung Suka Suka’s (Poppies 1) or rustic Warung Murni (Jl. Pantai), which serves the best nasi goreng (fried rice) in the country. About the shopping: Hit the markets for hand-woven bamboo baskets made by local villagers, masses of incense and spices, and colorful woven cloths with a subtle sparkle.
For a remote beach getaway, hail a boat to indigenous Lombok, where you’ll get gleaming white sands, shaded open-thatched huts, green mountains, crystal-clear snorkeling, and nonstop sunshine. Stay in the contemporary Qunci Villas set in exotic gardens overlooking the Lombok straits. Jump on a bike to get picture-perfect views from Malimbu Hill of the Batu Bolong Temple in the sea.
The Gili Islands, a quiet, car-free utopia, are Lombok’s gem. Hire a boat to cross turquoise waters and spend the day on a dreamy beach. Back on Lombok, take a sunset horse and cart ride to Mataram for snacks at Asano warung on Cilinaya Street.
Make It Work
The easiest way to get around the islands is on Singapore Airlines. You could take ferries, but the seas are often choppy, which makes timing unreliable. Small planes are the best and safest option. The most pleasant time to go is during the dry season (April-October). But if you love a party, the rainy season (November-March) coincides with the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, meaning a buzzing atmosphere and cheaper rooms.
Can’t hop that.
For a custom Indonesian itinerary on any budget, go to blacktomato.co.uk.
Traveling alone stinks: Send this e-mail to your favorite beach bum travel mates.
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