With over 17,500 islands, there’s no end to exploring the intriguing country of Indonesia! But if you’ve only got one month to see it (the normal length of an Indonesian tourist visa), what’s the best route to take?
Look no further, as this 30 day itinerary is just what you need to plan your trip! It’ll take you almost 2000km across central Indonesia: from the hectic city streets of Jakarta all the way to the wild beauty of Flores and the Komodo Islands, as well as all the reefs, rainforests and rice terraces in-between!
Flanked by Malaysia to the west and Australia to the east, Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world. It’s a whole different ball game to what backpackers have come to expect on the traditional ‘Banana Pancake Trail’… Compared to the VIP buses and fruit shakes of Thailand, Indonesia feels much more off the beaten track.
There are fewer backpackers on the trail here and therefore you’ll come across fewer backpacker-style hostels and Westernised restaurants and shops. For the backpackers who like to step outside their comfort zone, you will surely be rewarded. Deserted beaches, epic volcanic landscapes, tropical island hopping and world class diving awaits.
With each island having it’s own unique highlights and culture, no trip to Indonesia is complete without having explored more than one of it’s islands, and this is exactly what our 30 day itinerary will allow you to do!
Section 1: Journeying Across Java
Day 1: Jakarta
Start your Indonesian adventure on the island of Java (the most populated island in the world!) by flying to the crazy capital city of Jakarta. This is a great place to begin (especially as it has a huge international airport) but be prepared for the hustle and bustle of this mega city, which can be very intense at times!
As there are so many other amazing places to see in Indonesia, our time in Jakarta is short (just one day!), so be sure to hit the ground running! Take a wander around the Dutch Old Town, National Monument and Chinese Quarter for an insight into the city’s culture and history. Then, for an unparalleled nighttime view of the city lights, head up to the swish Skye Bar after dark!
Book your onward travel to Bandung for the following day – the cheapest and fastest way is by minibus, but for stunning countryside views take the train from Gambir station!
Day 2-3: Bandung
Once you’ve arrived in Indonesia’s third largest city, Bandung, hop on a motorbike tour (or rent your own) and begin to explore the surroundings!
As you head out of the city you’ll start to come into contact with Indonesia’s much more agreeable rural side. You’ll come across local villages, sprawling tea plantations, volcanic mud pools and a pleasing cooler climate as you zip along the winding mountain roads.
Bandung’s countryside is full of interesting places to visit, and a good place to start exploring is to the south of the city. Here you’ll find the volcanic crater lake of Kawah Putih – where the bright turquoise waters and remnants of trees that once grew here are a real sight to behold. Don’t forget to take a face mask to block out the sulphurous smell!
Day 4-5: Pangandaran and Batu Karas
From Bandung, make your way to the quiet coastal towns of Pangandaran and Batu Karas. Here you’ll find quiet beaches to wander along, natural adventures and hardly any other tourists!
Laid back life and awesome waves are the main lures of Pangandaran and Batu Karas – they’re great places for a surfing lesson and you can easily find board rental and locals to teach you on both beaches. (A much cooler place to learn to surf than popular Bali!)
For an epic off the beaten track adventure, visit the Green Valley and the Green Canyon! Amazing natural views, jumping off waterfalls and swimming through aquamarine rivers is a pretty good way to spend the day in our books, and these day trips are sure to be an experience you’ll never forget!
Day 6-8: Yogyakarta
After a few days chilling and adventuring in Pangandaran and Batu Karas, get back on the road towards Yogyakarta. Commonly referred to as ‘Jogja’, the city’s colourful vibe and friendly culture will make any traveller feel welcome!
Yogyakarta is also perfectly situated to visit the extraordinary temples of Borobudur and Prambanan nearby. These impressive temples are easy to get to and definitely worth spending a few hours wandering around!
While you’re outside the city visiting temples, why not also pay a visit to one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia – Mt Merapi – or take a swim in the turquoise waterfall pools of Taman Sungai Mudal in the middle of the rainforest.
Once you’ve explored Yogyakarta, you can either hop on a plane to Denpensar in Bali and then onto Ubud for the next leg of the journey! (If this option is for you then skip to Day 9-10 in Ubud) Or, see below for a overland adventure via two of Indonesia’s most famous volcanoes…
Section 2: East Java (Mount Bromo & Mount Ijen)
Before flying onwards to Bali, you could instead go overland through East Java where you’ll come across some of Indonesia’s most iconic volcanoes!
However, these volcanoes are not the easiest to get to! From Yogyakarta, the route requires long travel days and, once you get there, early mornings (especially if you want to witness the stunning sunrise views at Bromo and the blue flames in Ijen’s crater)!
If the long travel days don’t put you off, then you’ll need at least three days to do this extra adventure, and even that will see you travelling almost constantly and getting very little sleep! (It may be worth taking an extra day or two for a more comfortable journey.)
There are several ways to begin this adventure – from Yogyakarta, either fly to Surabaya or make your way to Probolinggo by train or bus. You can arrange transport from either of these cities to Cemoro Lawang – the gateway town for Mt Bromo.
To get to Ijen from Bromo, you’ll need to first make your way to the town of Banyuwangi and then organise transport from there to the volcano – for example a jeep tour.
For more details on how to get to Mt Bromo and Kawah Ijen independently from Yogyakarta, check out the links below:
- Bromo and Ijen Volcanoes in 27 hours,
- Independent and on a Budget Mount Bromo: why you don’t need a guided tour
- Travel Planning: Yogyakarta to Bromo Made Simple
- The Ultimate Guide to Climbing Ijen
Alternatively, you can book an organised tour from Yogyakarta, or even Bali, if you decide to do this trip later on!
Section 3: Backpacking Around Bali
Day 9-10: Ubud
After making your way north from Denpensar Airport, your first stop in Bali should be the leafy town of Ubud. This artsy hub in the centre of the island is full of cafes, craft shops and temples, while a short walk or motorbike drive out of town will take you into lush and peaceful countryside.
During your time in Ubud, make sure to visit the cheeky inhabitants of the Monkey Forest and the breathtaking Tegallalang Rice Terraces. It’s also the perfect place to try your hand at authentic Balinese cooking class.
Day 11-14: South Bali
On Day 11 in Indonesia, make your way from Ubud down to the South of Bali. There are numerous spots on this part of the island and each has it’s own awesome vibe, with places to suit all personalities!
Do you like surfing or chilling on the beach? Is partying or diving more your thing? Or will it be a combination of these?! Click the links below to find out more about each destination and decide where you’d like to spend the next few days!
- Canggu – For Surfers and Digital Nomads
- Seminyak – For Flashpackers and Expats
- Kuta – For Party Animals and Newbie Surfers
- Jimbaran & Uluwatu – For Pro Surfers and Beach Lovers
- Padangbai – For Budget Backpackers and Divers
Alternatively, check out our in-depth Bali guide!
Wherever you choose to go, make sure that there’s available transport to get to Sanur, as this is where you’ll be jumping on a boat to the next destination of the Nusa Islands!
Also see – More options for Bali itineraries.
Day 15-16 – Nusa Lembongan
On Day 15, catch a boat over to Nusa Lembongan – one of the three Nusa islands off the south-eastern coast of Bali! Spend your time on Lembongan exploring the beaches and snorkelling or diving on the beautiful reefs surrounding the island. Lembongan is an amazing place to learn to dive – you may even catch a glimpse of manta rays at Manta point!
Tip – An amazing place to watch sunset is at Devil’s Tears! Here the waves surge into a cove with such power that they burst back out from under the rocks and create a wave of sea spray ‘tears’! There’s also some stunning tidal pools, the glassy surfaces of which reflect the heavenly sunset colours.
While on the island, make sure you head across the yellow bridge between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan and explore the blue lagoons and beach bars of this tiny island for the day!
Day 17-18 – Nusa Penida
After a couple of days on Lembongan, head over to the rugged coast and wacky roads of Nusa Penida. There are some incredible viewpoints on Penida, so either hop on a bike (only if you’re an experienced driver!) or a tour to explore all the corners of this island!
Some of the most popular viewpoints and beaches are Kelingkling Beach (the famous T-Rex shaped cliff), Broken Beach, Crystal Bay and Angel Billabong. However, while these viewpoints are great places to visit, there are also plenty of hidden gems to explore on Nusa Penida – so don’t forget to go off the beaten track as well!
Tip – If you’re in a group, you may want to hire a driver to navigate your way around the crazy roads of Nusa Penida! They may also know a secret spot or two…
Section 4: Lombok and Beyond
Day 19-21 – Gili Islands
From Nusa Penida catch a boat to yet more incredible islands: the Gili’s! This tiny archipelago is just of the coast of Lombok and is made up of three islets – Gili Trawangan (also referred to as Gili T), Gili Meno and Gili Air.
No motorised transport is allowed on any of the Gilis, and this makes all three interesting places to explore by foot or bicycle. Each island has their own personality and charm, and they are also great places for diving and snorkelling!
If you like partying, exploring and watching sunset from sea swings, head to Gili Trawangan where, if you’re lucky, you can also snorkel with turtles just metres from the sand at Turtle Beach!
Gili Meno is the smallest of the three and, with no nightlife, is the place for a couple’s romantic getaway. Meno is also where you can find the famous underwater sculptures, which are only a 5 minute swim from the beach!
And lastly, the chilled out island of Gili Air is the place to go for a combination of the other two!
Tip – It’s easy to use one Gili as a base and take day trips to the others via taxi boat. There are also plenty of snorkel tours that include stops at spots surrounding all three islands.
Trawangan, Meno and Air are not the only Gili islands on Lombok… have you heard of The Secret Gilis?
Day 22-23 – Lombok
Only a short boat journey away is the next destination of Lombok! From beaches and epic coastlines to jungles and waterfalls, there’s so much to explore on this island – including the second highest volcano in Indonesia: Mount Rinjani!
If you’ve got more time on your hands, you could even hike to the crater rim and summit of Mount Rinjani! It’s a tough trek over multiple days, but the exceptional views and sense of achievement make up for the sore muscles!
Tip – If you decide to take on the Rinjani Trek, make sure you’ve planned for some rest days afterwards – your legs will need them!
Day 24-27 – Komodo Boat Trip
Lombok is the jumping off point for the legendary boat trip to Flores via Komodo National Park!
This bucket list adventure is a must do whilst in Indonesia, and will take you to hidden waterfalls, colourful beaches and breathtaking viewpoints – and that’s just the start of it! You’ll also get the chance to get up close to prehistoric Komodo dragons, lounge on a pink beach and snorkel with manta rays!
It’s the trip of a lifetime that ends up on the island of Flores, where you can explore with your new travel buddies.
- Click here to book your Lombok to Flores Boat Trip!
- You can also do this epic sailing adventure in reverse.
Day 28-30 – Flores
After four days at sea you’ll arrive on Flores – yet another amazing island with a completely different set of adventures to be had. (Flores, for now, remains delightfully off the beaten track as most backpackers simply head back to Bali once they get off the Lombok-Flores boat.)
If you have time to explore Flores for a few days – you will be rewarded! Jump right in by journeying to Rangko Cave for a swim, taking a boat to explore even more of the Komodo National Park, or go scuba diving in world renowned waters! Book a diving day trip here.
You can also venture further into the centre the island, where you’ll come across treks to Wae Rebo cultural village, the Hobbit Cave and the colourful volcanic lakes of Ende and Kelimutu.
With airports dotted across Flores, it’s an easy place to catch a flight back to Bali and onwards to your next destination!
Section 5: Sumatra (A separate trip!)
You might have noticed that in this itinerary we don’t even touch on Sumatra. This is because you need at least a week (preferably two weeks) to explore Sumatra and it’s best done as a separate trip!
Sumatra is the second biggest island in Indonesia and offers a very different kind of adventure. Off the beaten tourist trail, Sumatra is home to volcanoes, rainforests, deserted islands and much more!
Day 1 – Medan
Medan is the largest city of Sumatra and not a place you will really like to linger, especially because there is so much more on offer on this jungle-clad island! You can reach Medan via a cheap flight from many other places in Southeast Asia or you can get the ferry from Penang in Malaysia.
Day 2-5 – Banda Aceh to Pulau Weh
We recommend getting out of Medan as soon as you can and hopping on a bus to Banda Aceh. You’re very unlikely to see another tourist here as this part of Sumatra is very off the beaten track! This Muslim city is the capital of Aceh province in northern Sumatra and is home to beautiful mosques and fascinating museums. But we’re not here for the city life…
Banda Aceh is the jumping off point for the island of Palau Weh – a protected area situated only 2 hours from Banda Aceh. Visit this island paradise island to dive and snorkel amongst the diverse wildlife and coral reefs surrounding it.
Day 6-9 – Bukit Lawang
After you’ve enjoyed the underwater world of Sumatra, it’s time for some trekking. Head to the friendly backpacker town of Bukit Lawang for friendly vibes and the chance to embark on jungle treks to see wild orang-utans! (Bukit Lawang is one of only two places left in the world where you can spot wild orangutans.)
Day 10-14 Lake Toba
Welcome to magical Lake Toba, the largest volcanic crater lake in the world! Base yourself on the small island of Pulau Samosir in the cute little town of tuk yuk and explore the rest of the island by motorbike. You’ll come across hot springs, ancient tribal settlements and amazing lake views.
Got some extra time? Why not check out the Mentawi Islands – untouched beaches, unique culture and a surfer’s heaven, the Mentawi Islands definitely have that isolated island feel!
More off the beaten track places in Indonesia to explore…
If you have more time to really get under the skin of Indonesia, then there are loads of places that we haven’t even mentioned in this itinerary, places where backpackers rarely go. Don’t forget to check out our guide to backpacking Indonesia and get some ideas of some off the beaten track places to visit below…
- Malang – the cooler climates of this mountain city are not the only thing that makes Malang a good stop whilst in Java. Highlights include Tumpak Sewu Waterfalls and the rainbow village of Jodipan!
- Red Island – also known as Palau Merah, Red Island is the place to go for surf camps, relaxed vibes and beaches free of tourists!
- Bali is a big island and has a lot more to explore away from popular southern areas. For an extra adventure, why not hire a camper van and get off the beaten track! West Bali is largely uninhabited and rarely visited by tourists. Visit this side of the island for hiking through Bali’s only national park or snorkelling the untouched reefs of Palau Menjangan.
- Lombok’s Secret Gilis – far from the busy shores of the popular Gili islands, Gili Nanggu, Gili Sudak and Gili Kedis are Lombok’s well kept secret! Visit them for the chance to camp overnight and swim with incredible underwater life!
- The Islands between Lombok and Flores (West Nusa Tenggara) – instead of taking a flight from Flores back to Bali, why not make this journey by public transport and explore the islands you sailed passed on your way to Komodo! This includes the large island of Sumbawa, and many smaller islands surrounding it.
- Komodo Liveaboard Diving Trip – if you can’t get enough of Komodo National Park, its outstanding island hopping and the unbelievable dive sites it has to offer, you can set sail on a liveaboard for up to 7 days!
- Palau Kei – part of the Maluku archipelago, the Kei (Kai) islands are the place to go for pristine tropical beaches! They are rarely visited by tourists and you can find amazing beaches all to yourself.
- Indonesian Borneo – wanting to get seriously, absolutely, totally and utterly off the beaten track? Head north to the island of Kalimantan: Indonesia’s Borneo! Here you’ll find wild rainforest, endangered wildlife and cultural heritage. Your starting point is Pontianak, the capital of Kalimantan.
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