18 Tuesday February, 2014
The vast archipelago of Indonesia holds endless treasures for the tropical traveller: wildlife-rich jungles, whispering volcanoes, pristine white beaches and warm turquoise seas. Into that mix add exotic architecture, diverse Muslim and Hindu cultures, tongue-tingling food and some of the best resorts and villas on the planet. Here we present our top Indonesia picks.
A land of Hindu gods and architecture, amazing eateries and intense natural beauty, the ‘Island of the Gods’ is a culture vulture’s dream. It is so diverse, it has something for everybody, whether you’re looking to embark on a spiritual adventure or kick back at a world-class boutique hotel. Head inland to the breathtaking terraced hills of Ubud to experience Bali’s cultural capital. Como Shambhala Estate is the ideal base to dedicate yourself to healthy activities and adventure, or indulge in some all out R&R at the spa. Ubud can also easily be combined with a beach break – just an hour away, the south coast is a cosmopolitan hotspot for food, shopping, nightlife and immaculate beachfront properties, such as Amanusa. The perfect culture & relaxation combo.
Coconut-studded sandy beaches, see-through seas, thatched beach bars and streets squawking with chickens... Lombok really is the ultimate rustic beach break, and it’s just two hours by boat or a quick flight from Bali. But forget what you remember from your backpacking days – Lombok now rivals Bali for first-class style and service. Rent a luxury villa like the stunning Sepoi Sepoi or Sira Beach House, which is the ultimate fantasy holiday home. Conceived of and designed by London-based Jane Taylor Designers and local firm, Nexus Studio, the house combines state-of-the-art eco technology with antiques and objets d'art, rustic tables, elegant colonial chairs, masks from southern India and rare Indonesian textiles all melding together to create an atmosphere of relaxed luxury. You have mountains, volcanoes and waterfalls within striking distance, and dreamy sunrise views of Mount Rinjani. Activities range from snorkelling and scuba diving, to deep-sea fishing or even a spear fishing course.
3. The Gili Islands
For serious diving and snorkelling enthusiasts, the world-renowned reefs of the Gili Islands await just 30 minutes by boat from Lombok. These small coral fringed islands are the perfect hideaway for an idyllic sunshine and sea holiday. The Gilis (Sasak for ‘island’) are made up of three charming little islands: Gili Meno is the smallest and least developed, Gili Air has a relaxed, mellow vibe, and Gili Trawangan has a little more action, with beachside bars and more travellers; they all have magnificent reefs teeming with manta rays, sharks, parrotfish and turtles. Trawangan is slightly more flashpacker than backpacker, but basically for all the Gili Islands, you come for private powder-fine sands, sunbathing and stargazing.
Head to Indonesia’s premier art hub to get a taste of traditional Javanese culture by exploring its art galleries, hidden temples and royal palaces. Cut a path to Java's rural heartland to stay at the Amanjiwo: built from intricately carved limestone, it overlooks the ancient Borobudur Temple (the world’s largest Buddhist sanctuary), green paddy fields and four brooding volcanoes. Get up early to witness the sun rising over the volcanoes and spend your days lapping up the Zen-like tranquillity of this Aman gem. Unwind at the 40-metre green stone pool, enjoy a game of tennis, shop at the Javanese boutique or treat yourself to a traditional massage at the spa. Stretch your legs by meandering through surrounding coffee plantations.
5. Moyo Island
Take a 60-minute boat cruise from Sumbawa Island to the designated wildlife reserve of Moyo Island. These wild, pristine shores are home to one of the most luxurious tented camps you’ll ever experience. The Amanwana’s 20 super-luxe “tents” come with AC, glass windows and hardwood floors, and (as with all things Aman) they’ve been elegantly furnished in eastern colonial style. The camp leads straight onto a gorgeous white sand beach and blends into the forest canopy – the perfect location for jungle treks and waterfall excursions. Water lovers can go scuba diving, game fishing, snorkelling and windsurfing, or even take a cruise on one of Amanwana's luxury fleet of boats to their own private sandy bay for a secluded luxury picnic.
6. Raja Ampat
This scuba diving paradise is remote, but well worth the journey. From Jakarta, fly to the Papuan island of Sorong and take a 4-hour boat ride to the tiny island of Batbitim. Behold the greatest concentration of marine biodiversity in the world (fact) and some of the clearest seas in Indonesia. Stay at the Misool Eco Resort in chic driftwood cottages with private sun decks stilted over a blue lagoon amid 425m2 of kaleidoscopic coral gardens. Whether you’re a diver, a snorkeller or a swimmer, you’ll no doubt come face to face with a dazzling array of sea creatures like stingray, octopus, reef sharks, bumphead parrotfish and barracuda.
7. Sumba Island
The far-flung Spice Island of Sumba, 250 miles east of Bali, is home to Nihiwatu Lodge, a seductive and fully eco-conscious luxury resort with 400 acres of lush jungle, rice terraces and secret sandy coves to explore. Her twelve thatched-roof luxury villas all overlook a sun-bleached beach and the turquoise ocean beyond. This is one of the top surf breaks in the world, with left breaking waves cresting directly over Nihiwatu’s outstretched reef, which are reserved for just nine surfer at a time (beginners beware!). To wind down, the resort has a breezy living and dining room, a cliff-top bar, a spa and a yoga studio, or you can hop on a deluxe speedboat to chill at your own private slice of paradise.
8. Pulau Joyo
Pulau Joyo is a tropical treasure in the little-known Riau Archipelago, three hours' boat ride from Singapore. Pulau Joyo Resort is pure 'barefoot boutique' island living and it is a great spot for couples and families. The resort’s eight villas consist of 'driftwood palaces' and Java houses, furnished with rare finds from all over the world, with indoor and outdoor living spaces. Pulau Joyo comes with a 23m pool and a towering open-air games and pool house set amid lush, perfectly manicured gardens. The resort has its own 140ft charter yacht and a first-class spa. For those who love barefoot luxury, this resort is chic and sophisticated, yet it still maintains a relaxed, rustic vibe. This emphasis is on traditional craftsmanship and unspoilt nature; you can smell the sea and hear insects as you sleep... in other words, bliss.
Bintan Island has white-sand beaches, turtles and dolphins, mangroves, rainforests and Silver-leaf monkeys – all just a 45 minute boat hop from Singapore’s Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. New for 2014, Bintan unveils one of the region's most exciting new beach resorts: The Sanchaya. Styled as a grand colonial estate with lush landscaping and original furnishings, Sanchaya is all about bespoke beachside luxury. Everything in the estate has been customised, from the fragrance, to the dinnerware, to their unique blend of tea created exclusively for them by Ronnefeldt. The estate evokes the elegance and grandeur of the sprawling governor residences of India and guests can play games like croquet and lawn bowls, and indulge in English high tea!
10. Bespoke island hopping
The ultimate way to enjoy Indonesia’s countless uninhabited islands is to design your own sailing itinerary, which might take you to the marine-rich waters of Raja Ampat or to the other-wordly landscapes of the Komodo Islands. The standard of luxury sailing boats has sky-rocketed in Indonesia in recent years and there are 5 vessels that we recommend to our luxury explorers with money to spend. Silolona is a 49m long traditional phinsi sailboat which sleeps 10 guests, so you can take a few fellow sailors with you. It is a hand-carved wooden masterpiece decorated with Balinese artefacts and crisp white cushions. As your crew work the sails and whip up fresh feasts from local sources, you can unwind and prepare for the adventures ahead. Her sister vessel, Si Datu Bua is slightly smaller but just as high spec and ideal for honeymooners. The Amanwana has a luxury cruise ship called the Amanikan which, as you would imagine from an Aman vessel, is a floating temple to understated Asian chic. Tiger Blue is another favourite of ours, perfect for adventurous families, and new to sail these seas is the Alila Purnama, which is ultra slick and perfect for those who do not wish to rough it in the slightest. Freedom, adventure and sheer luxury rolled into one.
For more information on these destinations or to start planning your tailor-made tour of Indonesia, please contact our Indonesia sales specialist Mark Wright on +44 (0)20 7819 9770 / firstname.lastname@example.org