Wow, we absolutely loved Indonesia, what a beautiful country! The Indonesian archipelago is made up of 18,110 volcanic islands – 6,000 of them being inhabited – and it is the largest archipelago in the world. No wonder why we felt that 3 weeks time was just way too short and we definitely will be back at some point. During this rather short vacation we visited Bali, The Gili Islands and Lombok.
Our detailed itinerary for 3 weeks in Indonesia:
Jakarta – Bali (Uluwatu, Ubud, Tampaksiring) – Gili Air – Lombok (Senaru, Mt Rinjani, Kuta) – Jakarta
If you are in the stage of planning your Indonesia trip, and have limited time just like we did, you will have to decide which islands to visit. It is not easy, but three things you can be sure of: one, you can’t go wrong, no matter which islands you choose; two, you will have to fly within the country at least once; and three, pick anything, you will be back later for sure.
Our international flight landed in Jakarta International Airport, where we spent the night until the departure of our domestic flight to Bali. It was long but the best option for us, since we were not too keen on visiting the huge metropolis.
Things to see in Bali
Bali is indeed very touristy but it definitely worths a visit. After landing we headed straight to the more quiet beaches of Uluwatu. It is nice, chilled and the guest houses are laid back, no party crowd. The nicest beach (for sunbathers) is Bingin Beach along that part of the coast but you will find many surfers beach as well. You will need a scooter to get around and to see some monuments such as the Uluwatu Temple. The view from there is stunning!
From Uluwatu we took a shared taxi to Ubud. Public transport is basically non-existent on the island, since everybody drives a scooter. This makes the transportation more expensive than other Southeast Asian countries but, hey… It is also not bad to have your door-to-door transport in an air-conditioned car! 🙂 Ubud is the cultural center of the island surrounded by incredibly green paddy fields. The town has a vast selection of restaurants and cool cafes, not to mention the beautiful handicrafts sold around every corner.
Driving Without an International Drivers License in Bali
You can explore the surrounding paddy fields on foot or the farther ones by scooter. Rent a scooter at any guesthouse but make sure to have your International Drivers License with you. We do not hold an International license and we met many people who similarly to us drive without that document. Until you get stopped by the police… The police is setting up checkpoints specifically on tourist routes, near monuments etc. stopping only tourists. A good advice is to hide your ‘big notes’ and say that you only have a tenner on you. For us it worked, they took 10 USD and gave us a paper stating that we can drive in Indonesia for the next 10 days or so.
Here we are before we got caught. Please wear a helmet, that means less penalty and more safety! 🙂
From Ubud we did a day trip to Gunung Kawi Temple, the Holy springs of Tirta Empul, Tegenungan Waterfall, Mt Batur volcano and Batur Lake. It’s all manageable in one day by scooter.
The Gilis – Yoga every day and swimming with turtles
The Gili Islands are a group of 3 tiny islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air – near the coast of northwest Lombok. Trawangan is the party island, Meno and Air offer a quiet and peaceful hideaway. We stayed on Gili Air in a guesthouse with a beautiful garden. There were free yoga classes that we joined every morning from 7.00am in the garden. Beautiful sunsets, and super relaxed days is all what you can expect. And of course if you are lucky you get to swim with turtles! We snorkeled every day, hoping to see at least one, and we did! 🙂 Ask around where are the best spots and don’t give up, keep on snorkeling!
Things to see in Lombok and climbing Mt Rinjani
The landscape of Lombok is dominated by magnificent Mt Rinjani 3,726 m (12,225 ft). You can see the volcano from Gili Air on clear days but most of the time the peak is covered in clouds. On the Gilis you can find tourist offices offering packages for the climb. Try to negotiate the price. Generally said, if you pay more you might get a slightly better equipment and food but there is not much difference.
Are you fit enough to climb Mt Rinjani?
The only way up to the peak is by foot and the trek is a strenuous three-day walk starting from Sembalun or Senaru village.
(Whether you start from or finish in Senaru make sure to visit the amazing waterfalls located near the village. There are 3 waterfalls, one is easy to access, one is impossible and the third is a great walk through the jungle. It’s called Tiu Kelep Waterfall. That was the most beautiful waterfall we have ever seen, check out the photo at the bottom of the page.)
About the Mt Rinjani summit trek: It is a very difficult route but also highly rewarding to stand on the peak at sunrise. On Day 1 you will sleep on the crater rim in tents with other fellow trekkers. Everything is carried up there by porters, from tents to food so don’t expect anything luxurious. Day 2 starts very early. At 2am you start the never-ending climb to the summit. The volcanic soil is very loose and the last 500 meters are extremely strenuous. We trekked the Himalayas and been over 5000 meters elevation but this one was even more difficult… The view however will sooth you pain. Many people turn back or give up half-way to the summit but we made it to the summit before sunrise!!!
After you watch the sunrise, you will start descending back to the camp, pack your stuff and start descending further down, into the crater! Going down is sometimes more difficult than climbing up. It is very steep and the trail is not well maintained.
The huge crater of Mt Rinjani contains a beautiful lake and also a smaller volcanic cone, which was formed a couple of hundred years ago. You can soak your tired feet in the crater lake after the 12 hours hike. But before you think that this is the end of the hike, you are wrong. We still had to climb back up to the other side of the crater rim, where we spent the night. We nearly died that day. Day 3 is a bit easier, the descend feels better after so much uphill.
So to summarize it: the Mt Rinjani trek is amazing but definitely not for beginners! If you are not a hiker but you are in a good physical condition, you are exercising regularly, chances are good that you can make it to the summit. No special equipment needed, sneakers are fine. Pack a light jacket and a jumper, though, because on 3726 meters it is not that warm anymore.
After this 3 day trek the only thing we wanted is a shower and a bed. We found our private paradise in Kuta, Lombok at Yuli’s Guesthouse, rented a bike and explored the white sandy beaches in the area. One of the most beautiful ones was Selong Belanak. The beaches of Lombok are more beautiful from the ones in Bali. The island is more untouched and far less touristy!
From Lombok we flew to Jakarta to catch our international flight back to Europe. The itinerary we did was quite relaxed. It would have been possible to squeeze in a Komodo Boat trip or even to do Jakarta-Bali overland but we prefer to travel more relaxed, have time to immerse in the culture and take in the atmosphere of the places. During this trip we saw three smaller islands, which were beautiful! Next time we want to do more – Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi and so on… Indonesia, we will be back! 🙂
More pictures from our trip…