Indonesia is a universe unto itself. In this nation of some 17,500 islands, hundreds of languages and more than 260 million people, you could travel for a decade and still not see the half of it.
By far the most popular destination is Bali, a relatively small island (by Indonesian standards) with a gorgeous green interior, world-class surf breaks and an ancient Hindu culture that is unique in a country mainly inhabited by Muslims. Within Bali you’ll need to choose from a sizable list of destinations including trandy Canggu, artistic Ubud and rural Sidemen.
Travellers seeking Bali-type scenery with thinner crowds often head to neighbouring Nusa Penida, Lombok or the Gili Islands. But you haven’t really been to Indonesia until you’ve visited the island of Java, home to the seething capital Jakarta and the fascinating cultural centre of Yogyakarta.
Surfers and offbeat travellers might explore colossal Sumatra, whose eastern hip nearly grazes Singapore. A worthy stop up this way is Lake Toba, it is just amazing. Other quiet seekers head east of Lombok to the serene islands of Sumba, Sumbawa and Flores. There’s also traditional Sulawesi and the Togean Islands, featuring uncrowded diving.
You can climb many of Indonesia’s famous volcanoes, including Bromo on Java, Bali’s sacred Agung, Lombok’s Rinjani and Sumbawa’s Tambora. Meanwhile, Komodo National Park will introduce you to the namesake giant lizards.
Our coverage of Indonesia does not cover every corner because, look, it’s a huge archipelago that requires lots of time and patience to travel around, and some areas are a bit tricky for foreign travellers. Safety regulations tend to be poorly enforced on the ferries and planes that connect the country. Most nationalities receive only a 30-day visa-free stay, limiting how far they can go.
Indonesia straddles the equator so expect steamy conditions when you’re not standing on top of a mountain. Broadly speaking, the wet season runs from October through April and the dry months come between May and September, although there’s plenty of variation in a country this massive.
How long have you got? That's not long enough. Really. You'd need a few lifetimes to do this sprawling archipelago justice. Be wary of trying to cover too much ground - the going in Indonesia can be slow.
Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!
Burma lends itself to a short fast trip with frequent flights thrown in or a longer, slower trip where you don't leave the ground. There isn't much of a middle ground. Ground transport remains relatively slow, so be wary about trying to fit too much in.
Roughly apple-shaped, you'd think Cambodia would be ideal for circular routes, but the road network isn't really laid out that way. This means you'll most likely find yourself through some towns more than once, so work them into your plans.
North or south or both? Laos is relatively small and transport is getting better and better. Those visiting multiple countries can pass through here a few times making for some interesting trips.
The peninsula is easy, with affordable buses, trains and planes and relatively short distances. Sabah and Sarawak are also relatively easy to get around.The vast majority of visitors stick to the peninsula but Borneo is well worth the time and money to reach.
So much to see, so much to do. Thailand boasts some of the better public transport in the region so getting around can be fast and affordable. If time is limited, stick to one part of the country.
Long and thin, Vietnam looks straightforward, but the going is slow and the distances getting from A to B can really bite into a tight trip plan. If you're not on an open-ended trip, plan carefully.
This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.