Most visitors to Indonesia come for the sun, sand, world-class surf, and Instagram photos. But beyond the well-trodden tourist trail, this vast country offers so much more: volcanoes, carpets of deep green jungle, tropical islands with reality-defying views, and deceptively dangerous lakes so beautiful they almost beg you to dive straight in.
Although it is home to over 17,000 islands, Indonesia’s best hikes are relatively accessible. Hiking tours and guides are available for the most popular hikes, especially for nearby or volcano routes, which cannot even be attempted without a local guide. A number of other hikes require a nominal entry fee.
Remember to prepare yourself and be ready for the unique adventure that only trekking in Indonesia can provide. Here are the best hikes in Indonesia.
Mount Batur, Bali
Best sunrise hike
6.8 km (4.2 miles), 4 hours, easy to moderate
Although it is the general entry point for trekking in Indonesia, hiking Mount Batur is truly amazing. Framed by the distant peaks of Mount Rinjani and Mount Agung, the sky burns with color if you reach the summit in time for sunrise. However, you will need to be up early to enjoy the experience – most travelers leave their hotels at 3:30am – and you will find yourself sharing the summit with many other like-minded hikers and tourists.
The climb itself is generally easy, on a winding and well marked path. It is suitable for most hikers with a basic level of fitness and there are several places to rest along the way. Come prepared with water, a headlamp (if you have one) and a good jacket for that cold, crisp morning air at the top of the volcano.
Mount Ijen, East Java
Best hike for natural phenomena
14.5 km (9 miles), 3 to 4 hours, easy to moderate
One of the most unique hikes in the world and one of the most popular in Indonesia, the Midnight Hike on East Java’s Mount Ijen is best done in the dark so you can see its famous phenomenon blue fire: electric blue smoke rising from the crater, created by a large amount of sulfur in the air coming into contact with the intense heat of the volcano.
The hike is generally easy and can be completed by hikers of any skill level. However, once at the top, things get a little tricky, especially if you want to descend into the crater. Footing here is difficult and uncertain in the dark. You will also need to wear gas masks to enter the crater. Inside is a beautiful turquoise lake, but touching the water can be fatal – it has the highest acid level of any lake in the world.
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Gunung Rinjani, Lombok
Best multi-day hike
41.4 km (25.7 miles), 2-3 days, moderate
A must-do hike for many, this hike from Lombok offers a truly one-of-a-kind experience. En route to the summit of Gunung Rinjani, the country’s second highest mountain, trekkers camp on the edge of the world’s highest caldera lake, where they can watch sunrise and sunset from the roof of Indonesia.
For the most part this is not a technically difficult route, but the optional climb to the true summit is challenging, with strong winds and loose scree underfoot. There are two tracks up, and most tours take you up one side and the other. Hikers will begin in the tropical jungle before traversing lush savannah and rolling grasslands the following day. If you’re lucky, a troop of black Javan lutung monkeys may even make an appearance.
Note that depending on volcanic activity in the area, the summit or the lake could be closed. Check with your tour operator before you go.
Tumpak Sewu, East Java
Best waterfall hike
Duration unknown, 2-3 hours, Easy
Tumpak Sewu is undoubtedly the most beautiful waterfall in Indonesia. Its name literally translates to “a thousand waterfalls”, and when you watch the rushing ribbons of waterfalls, tumbling over the rocks and into the pools below, it sounds like no exaggeration.
But this is only the beginning. From the viewing platform, descend to the base of the waterfall via the dirt roads and steel walkways that cross the canyon. There are also a number of rickety, handmade wooden ladders. Down, the path disappears in a waterfall, and you have to descend while holding on to a rope attached to the rock. Then suddenly you enter a Jurassic world, as the mist of water fills the air.
Further down the canyon are even more waterfalls, with clear mountain pools where you can cool off and swim. The hike is circular and you will have to walk back up the path you came from.
Gunung Api Purba, Central Java
Best hike for beginners and families
2.4 km (1.5 miles), 2-3 hours, easy
Although the Gunung Api Purba in Central Java may not be the longest or most difficult hike in Indonesia, which it lacks in length, it more than makes up for in breathtaking views. Known locally as Nglanggeran, the hike to the top of this mystical ancient volcano blankets travelers with its vistas. Towering rocky cliffs, wooden ladders, narrow canyons and boulders the size of large houses all have to be traversed to reach the top.
A troop of playful monkeys greet hikers from the start at Nglanggeran village, and the road winds up mossy stairs and past great masses of boulders until it all gives way to huge falling cliffs. free and with panoramic views. There are five rest stops along the way, each worth a wrap on their own, but save your shots for the top, it’s worth the wait.
Padar Island, East Nusa Tenggara
Best short hike for epic views
1.6 km (1 mile), 1 hour, easy to moderate
This hike in East Nusa Tengarra offers arguably the best views in the country, but the views on this fabulous one are rarely easy. Instead, it’s a tough climb of 700 steps that takes you from the beach to the viewpoint of Padar Island, where panoramic vistas of the surrounding islands await.
Accessible only by boat, a few hours from Labuan Bajo in Flores, this beautiful atoll is unique in having three incredible beaches, each with different colored sand – and all visible at a glance from the 185m summit ( 607 feet), as do dozens of others. It is possible to visit and complete a day trip, but most hikers stay and also explore the amazing Komodo National Park.
Mount Merapi, Central Java
Best Active Volcanic Hike
8 km (5 miles), 6-7 hours, moderate-difficult
Rising nearly 2,900 m (about 9,500 feet) above the city of Yogyakarta, Mount Merapi is officially the most active volcano in the world. Like a number of other Indonesian hikes, the hike to the summit is best tackled at night, so you can watch the sunrise from the top – and avoid the incredible daytime heat.
From the top you can see five other volcanoes, many of which can also be climbed. Most hikers content themselves with conquering the crater rim on Mount Merapi – no small feat – but more experienced climbers can tackle the actual summit. It is even possible to camp overnight on the rim of the volcano’s crater.
Mount Abang, Bali
Best Alternative to Mount Batur
13.8 km (8.6 miles), 5-7 hours, moderate
Despite being Mount Batur’s closest neighbor, Bali’s Mount Abang remains relatively unknown to foreign hikers, making it an ideal low-key trek. Moreover, the climb offers something completely different from most hikes: Mount Abang is not really a volcano, but it is the highest part of the rim of Batur Caldera, which means that without any rock volcanic underfoot, its sides are entirely wooded, right up to the very summit.
Locals often climb Mount Abang in the late afternoon and camp at the top. There are superb wooded campsites, with stunning views of Mount Batur and up to the mighty Mount Agung. This moderate hike is best tackled in the dry season, as the forested slopes can provide a muddy and slippery experience in wet weather. There are two temples en route to the summit, and both have stunning views across the lake to Mount Batur. The best of all? There are no crowds.