Home Indonesia 8 of ‘The Seen & The Unseen’ Highlights of Indonesia

8 of ‘The Seen & The Unseen’ Highlights of Indonesia

by Lola Pasquier

Have you heard of the Balinese Hindu philosophy ‘Sekala, Niskala’ (The Seen & The Unseen)? It captures the delicate balance between ‘the seen’ physical world and ‘the unseen’ spiritual world beautifully. The concept values both realms equally, believing that a blend of both is essential for harmony and wellbeing. We love this as people tend to overlook mystical forces in the West, yet it’s often these intangible qualities that capture the essence of a place and where the real magic of travel lies. Don’t you find that you’re struck most by hidden corners of the world, where you tend to stumble across exciting encounters by chance?

Seek the unseen of Indonesia with us…

Considering so many of Indonesia’s hotspots are splashed over social media (to an almost sickening degree), we’re here to help you go beyond these ‘Insta-famous’, all-too-often overfiltered shots and discover the lesser-seen, almost otherworldly wonders of this mighty archipelago.

Here are 8 of our top recommendations for going off-piste from ‘the seen’ (Sekala) to seek out ‘the unseen’ (Niskala) pockets of Indonesia – perfect for adventurous travellers just like you…

1. Canggu Beach, Bali (‘Sekala’)

We bet that you’ve heard of this beach in Bali. Influencers have put it firmly on the tourist map, and many of them flock here for its busy beach clubs, restaurants, and cafes. Today, its white sand is strewn with sun loungers, beanbags and umbrellas, and it’s pretty much packed. Especially at weekends. Plus, the music is blaring. Not for us, thanks!

Tanjung Aan Bay, Lombok (‘Niskala’)

Found on the southern coast of Lombok, this secluded beach is free from partying crowds, so you can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s a sweeping beach brimming with bright-white soft sand, hard-to-resist turquoise water, and views of the surrounding emerald-green cliffs. There are a few warungs (small family-owned stalls) nearby, but other than that Tanjung Aan Bay remains undeveloped.

lombok beach

Revel in the beauty of this beach on this epic suggested holiday, which ends in laid-back Lombok.

2. Borobudur Temple (‘Sekala’)

As far as recognisable temples of Indonesia go, Borobudur is up there as the most iconic. Considering it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s no wonder that this colossal Buddhist temple attracts millions of tourists every year. We love it – its architecture, detailed relief panels and scenic views are all staggering when seen up close.

Plaosan Temple (‘Niskala’)

On the other hand, Plaosan Temple (also known as Candi Plaosan) sees a surprisingly small footfall each year. Similarly to Borobudur, it lies hidden among the lush greenery of Central Java, but instead of feeling surrounded by others, you’ll be able to admire Buddhist and Hindu architecture in a quieter, more serene, atmosphere here. The temple complex is made up of two main structures, Plaosan Lor and Plaosan Kidul. Both hold a great deal of historical and spiritual significance. (Psst, it’s also a stone’s throw from the Prambanan Temple, another beauty which you may have heard about…).

Visit timeless temples during our ‘Spirit of Indonesia’ holiday.

3. Ubud (‘Sekala’)

When you imagine the rippling rice paddies of Bali, you’ll most likely see Ubud in your mind’s eye, since the fields here are endlessly photographed and posted by visitors. The town itself is also renowned for its thriving arts and crafts scene (think painting, wood carving, and silverware) and has a wealth of yoga and wellness retreats, as well as countless coffee shops. These days, the centre of Ubud is more Starbucks and cheap dreamcatchers than the authentic Bali of yesteryear. We always encourage our travellers to stay further out, north of the town, as it’s a great base for some lovely experiences in the countryside (and you can still head into town for a fabulous meal or cocktail in the evenings).

Sidemen (‘Niskala’)

Sidemen is what Ubud used to be 30 years ago and makes for a wonderful alternative. It has an artsy vibe, a traditional village feel, and – of course – rippling rice paddies. Days here can be spent watching traditional Ikat weavers in action, cycling through the rugged landscapes at the foothills of Mount Agung or rafting down the river. Despite gaining some traction in recent years, Sidemen is definitely less crowded than Ubud and has a more laid-back atmosphere.

Escape the hustle and bustle of Bali’s main tourist hub and stay in Sidemen on this Indonesia adventure in Java & the Lesser Sunda Islands.

4. Komodo National Park (‘Sekala’)

The clue’s in the name, so no real surprise here but Komodo National Park is home to the legendary Komodo dragon. Travellers come from far and wide to catch a glimpse of this curious creature in its natural habitat, and to take in its impressive marine biodiversity, (full of coral reefs, vibrant fish, and manta rays). Komodo National Park consists of three breathtakingly beautiful (genuinely!) main islands (Komodo, Rinca and Padar). On Padar island, the main trekking trail leads you up the hillside to a phenomenal panoramic viewpoint, where you’ll overlook the surrounding islands and their rugged coastlines – simply glorious. However, as one of Indonesia’s most ‘Instagrammable’ spots, it can feel fairly overrun (especially in the peak months of July and August) – not quite so glorious!

The Banda Islands (‘Niskala’)

Compared to Komodo National Park, the Banda Islands offer a far more exclusive Indonesian island experience. Thanks to their remote location and being relatively tricky to get to, this chain of islands remains an inch off the map. You can dive into the sparkling sea to swim among colourful coral reefs and marine life as well as explore its tiny islands in utter peace. All of the beauty, and none of the crowds. The Banda Islands are part of the Spice Islands and played a crucial role in the spice trade during the colonial era. Once upon a time, they were the world’s only source of nutmeg and mace, making them highly valuable and sought after by European powers. You can see remnants of colonial architecture and ancient ruins scattered across the islands – so, all in all, we’d say they’re very interesting and immersive islands to explore.

Image courtesy of Tiger Blue

Find out more about the Banda islands here or speak to a specialist if you’d like to visit this out-of-the-ordinary location on your next adventure.

5. The Gili Islands (‘Sekala’)

Again, the Gili Islands have flooded our social media feeds over the past few years. This trio of islands have become somewhat synonymous with Indonesian island bliss, but rarely pictured are the droves of travellers you’ll be sharing the islands’ beaches with. Lying off the coast of Lombok, these islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno – are well worn on the tourist trail. Gili Trawangan, the largest and often nicknamed ‘Gili T’ is famed for its lively nightlife, bustling beach bars, and extensive dining options. This makes it a magnet for party-loving backpackers and honeymooners (who tend to favour the ‘sunset side’ of the island for a touch more romance).

The Karimunjawa Islands (‘Niskala’)

With just the same tantalising turquoise water and wide-open skies, the Karimunjawa Islands offer a way quieter – and, in our eyes, a way more enticing – island experience than the Gilis. Located just off the coast of Central Java, this archipelago is made up of 27 islands, (only five of which are inhabited), and has some heavenly hotels (such as Kura Kura, found on Menjawakan, its very own island). Enjoy soaking up its pristine natural beauty while reclining on its idyllic beaches, before taking to the water to spot turtles and brightly coloured fish on the move around you. Having your ‘very own piece of paradise’ has become a bit of a travel writing cliché but it’s the real deal here.

Image courtesy of Kura Kura Resort

Experience tropical bliss far from the maddening crowds on this suggested holiday through Java & its nearby islands.

6. Mount Bromo (‘Sekala’)

This smoking giant – known for its smouldering cone and rising peaks – is a classic shot of a typical trip through Indonesia, especially when snapped at sunrise. Standing proudly within the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in East Java, this iconic volcano with its vast caldera and otherworldly surroundings attracts tens of thousands of travellers every year. It’s easily connected to nearby cities like Malang and Surabaya, making it a well-established, easily accessible tourist destination. You’re likely to be one of a pack here, but the view from the top is still an impressive sight to behold. We’ll arrange for you to go for sunset, rather than sunrise, to beat the crowds.

Mount Semeru (‘Niskala’)

If you’re after something a little more intrepid, then Mount Semeru is for you. It’s just as dramatic in stature and is the highest volcano on the island of Java (in fact, it’s the centrepiece of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park). Despite its grandeur, it remains relatively unknown to mainstream tourists. We recommend climbing up nearby Penanjakan Mountain for the best views of Mount Semeru and soaking up the sight of this active volcano emitting plumes of steam into the air above. You’ll hike through awe-inspiring scenery with far fewer people than Bromo, and once you reach the top of Penanjakan? Prepare to be blown away by panoramic views of volcanoes and valleys stretching as far as the eye can see and enjoy a real sense of accomplishment. Just unbeatable.

volcano trek

Craft your own adventure, trekking up whichever volcano you prefer, during this journey east across Java & Bali.

7. Yogyakarta, Java (‘Sekala’)

Yogyakarta, affectionately shortened to ‘Jogja’, is the cultural capital of Java. The city is known for its traditional arts, music, and dance performances – that range from Batik fabric weaving to world-class ballet – and its current community creates and celebrates cool, contemporary art. While strolling along its streets, you’ll see an array of art galleries, workshops, and street art dotted around. It also has several historical sites, including the majestic Sultan’s Palace (Kraton), Taman Sari Water Castle, and the ancient Hindu temple of Prambanan (mentioned earlier in this blog).

Rantepao, Sulawesi (‘Niskala’)

To get your fix of Indonesian arts and culture away from the masses, we suggest straying off the regular route and visiting Rantepao in Sulawesi. Serving as the cultural centre of Tana Toraja, you’ll gain fascinating insights into the region’s unique heritage and the Torajan people’s elaborate traditions – including their famous funeral ceremonies (which, we have to say, are not for the faint of heart). Witness traditional dances and admire distinctive Tongkonan architecture, where houses are shaped like boats and adorned with intricate carvings and symbols (telling stories of the community’s social status and beliefs). We recommend visiting the markets to see handicrafts like Ikat fabric and beautiful basketry during your time here.

Immerse yourself in Rantepao on our exploration of Sulawesi.

8. Bali (‘Sekala’)

Brimming with buzzy beaches and attractions, Bali has a well-developed tourist infrastructure. There’s a vast array of accommodation options scattered around the main hubs, with more and more popping up each year, and its places of interest have become the stomping grounds of ‘travel influencers’. You’ll see hordes of them snapping set-up Insta-shots at the Gates of Heaven (Lempuyang) temple, taking part in gimmicky water blessings, and catching the waves on Kuta beach. These ‘highlights’ of the island are tried, tested – and tired. We suggest you steer well clear of them and reject the beaches on the south coast in favour of special spots elsewhere.

Sumba Island (‘Niskala’)

It’s no secret that here at ETG, we’re smitten with Sumba. Found to the south of Komodo National Park, this island is home to the phenomenal Nihi Sumba. Its landscapes are simply spectacular – think wild beaches without a soul in sight, endless grasslands and rugged, rolling hills. Days can be spent swimming, snorkelling and surfing, and back on dry land, visiting the island’s villages (where ancient animist traditions co-exist with Christianity). Another extraordinary experience is watching the Sumba people putting on local festivals like the Pasola festival (where fearless men mount their horses and charge into adrenaline-filled mock battles). With little Wi-Fi on the island, it’s the perfect place to unplug and switch off from the stresses and strains of everyday life back home.

Image courtesy of Nihi Sumba (Wild Horses by Tania Araujo)

Indulge in this ultimate island getaway by taking this original adventure in Java & Sumba. Remember, you can always tweak our holidays to your exact tastes.


Please get in touch on 020 7924 7133 .

Alternatively, fill out an online enquiry form to start your journey.

You may also like