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A Tale of Two Islands

The reasons for visiting Indonesia are many and varied, but three of the country’s most enticing draws are its ancient temples, diverse culture and pristine beaches. With careful planning you can experience all three without too much internal travel, by combining Java and Bali with a bit of dedicated beach bliss, and maximising your time in each distinct destination. If your priorities include taking things slowly, minimising excess journeys, and making time to see the detail in each place you pause, then this route could be the one.

Borobudur sunrise
Bali, Indonesia
Bali beach with swing
Bali, Indonesia

Start with some serious wow factor in Java, watching a Borobudur sunrise, as you witness dawn turn to day from the serenity of one of Indonesia’s most stunning temples. Make your way into central Yogyakarta to immerse yourself in the culture, get hands-on artisan experience, and explore the peace of the city’s historic sites.

Take the short-hop flight over to neighbouring Bali to continue the cultural cornucopia in Ubud, letting yourself unwind in Indonesia’s most bohemian town before heading east to Sidemen to discover the island’s quieter rural traditions that fewer visitors get to see. Lastly, make time to digest your experiences and maximise the relaxation on your chosen stretch of pristine sand, listening to the soothing sound of the waves lapping against the shore… Make this route your own with extra time in the places that pique your interest the most, and discover the local details that swifter trips might miss.

From temple dawn to city sunset

Borobudur & Yogyakarta

Borobudur - Indonesia’s famous 9th-century Buddhist temple - is a wonderful place to dive straight into your Indonesia journey. An eye-wateringly early morning might not sound like the most relaxing way to begin, but it’s absolutely worth the 3 am start to stand amid the Buddha statues and stupas and watch the sunrise. Even at that hour you won’t be alone up there, but it’s a big temple and you can always find a quieter spot away from other visitors.

Following that stunning start, spend a few days in Yogyakarta absorbing the culture and history of Java’s second city. Gaze into the bathing pools of the Taman Sari Water Palace, and wander through the Sultan’s Palace. Sample kopi joss charcoal coffee, and get hands-on experience of traditional batik production. Bike out to the Borobudur-aligned Mendut and Pawon temples, have lunch with a Prambanan temple view, and look up at the slopes of Gunung Merapi (one of Indonesia’s active volcanoes). For the foodies, there are tours of an independently-owned coffee plantation, and evenings spent sampling delicious regional dishes at Yogyakarta’s night markets and street stalls. Let your guide show you the highlights, and linger longest at whichever of them catch your eye.

Bohemian chic and holistic healing


Ubud is Bali’s avant-garde hub, and even though it’s much busier today than it once was, it retains its unique artistic flair and alternative culture. Spending several days here gives you the chance to see this vibrant town from all angles, and to explore its spiritual side in more depth should you wish. Its long history as a centre for healing means there are excellent spa facilities available on every level; plenty of options for relaxing the body and mind. 

Head into the surrounding countryside to explore the beauty of the rice paddies, experience the colours and spiced scents of Bedugul market, and see the reflections of Ulun Danu’s ‘floating’ island temple in the mirrored surface of Bratan Lake. Make the most of the laid-back vibes by staying in a slightly out-of-town resort, where you’re surrounded by lush greenery and a blissful lack of city noise, and venture back into the town centre for artisan workshops, a wealth of diverse dining options, and the chance to experience Ubud like a local.

A true rural idyll...


There’s something about having a massive volcano rising above a town that gives it a certain edge, and even more so if said volcano occasionally smokes rather spectacularly! Sidemen is just such a town: a sleepy rural idyll in east Bali’s remote and rugged landscape, showing you a side to the island that few visitors get to see. Slowing things down and focusing on making fewer stops allows you to experience places like this; less-hyped areas where tourism takes second place and you can really feel the rhythms of daily agricultural life.

If you wish, make a couple of stops en route at the hidden Gunung Kawi river valley temple complex, the holy bathing pools of the atmospherically-carved Tirta Empul Hindu temple, and the otherworldly landscape of the Kintamani region, before settling in for a couple of nights in Sidemen. Take a cycling trip through rice terraces, past clove and coffee plantations and nurseries growing chillies; trek to remote temples in the countryside; and (cloud-cover permitting) witness the extraordinary atmosphere of a Mount Agung sunset. Rural Bali really doesn’t get more idyllic than this.

Undiluted beach bliss...

Indonesia has some truly world-class beaches, and there’s no denying that a few days on a picture-perfect stretch of sand is a wonderful way to round off any Indonesia trip. Bali is often the first place people think of for beach bliss, and although we don’t favor the two-weeks-on-a-Kuta-sunlounger kind of holiday, the beaches of nearby Jimbaran and Sanur offer that famous southern Bali feeling without the relentless partying.

If you’re willing to think outside the box, we’d recommend considering Lombok for your beach chill. It’s easy to get to, there are usually fewer people sharing the sands, and it gives you a chance to sidestep the tourist trail for a slice of Indonesia beach life that’s a little less processed. Our Destination Specialists all have their particular favourites, so chat with them about the best beach options for your tailored itinerary.

A note on cost…

The guide price of £2,090US$2,490 is a per person price (not including international flights) staying 1 night in Borobudur, 3 nights in Jogja, 4 nights in Ubud, 2 nights in Sidemen and 2 nights on Jimbaran beach; all in our favourite mid-range hotels.
How yours looks is up to you, our tailor-made specialists work with you to create your perfect journey.

What's included in your Selective Asia holiday

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