Indonesia’s unique and mesmerizing diversity boasts approximately 17,508 islands and is divided into 34 provinces. The culture of Indonesia is so diverse, with a melting pot of past colonialism from Portuguese traders, Dutch colonialists, and Japanese Empire occupation, and many immigrants that came in for trading like Chinese, Persian, Indian, and Middle Easterners, and of course the indigenous tribes that have lived in the archipelago for a long time. All that becomes Indonesia one of the most diverse countries in the world.
We are as Indonesian must be proud of how rich our culture is. Every part of Indonesia contains different heritages that must be preserved. As a source of valuable identity, they represent the Republic of Indonesia as a nation, Indonesian people, culture, arts, and its biodiversity. Here is the list of Indonesia icons that we are really proud of.
1. Lake Toba
Lake Toba is a large natural lake in North Sumatra that occupying the caldera of a supervolcano. With an island in the center, Lake Toba is a great laid-back place to chill out for a few days after jungle trekking. The location is very popular with tourists specifically because each viewpoint offers a different scenic view.
2. Way Kambas National Park
Way Kambas National Park is covering 1,300 square kilometers in the Lampung Province in southern Sumatra. Though this park widely famous by their Sumatran elephant, the park also has 406 bird species and 50 different species of mammals which many of them are critically endangered like Sumatran tiger and rhino. It also provides excellent birdwatching, with the rare white-winged wood duck.
3. Ujung Kulon National Park
This national park, located in the extreme south-western tip of Java on the Sunda shelf, includes the Ujung Kulon peninsula and several offshore islands and encompasses the natural reserve of Krakatoa. In addition to its natural beauty and geological interest, it is the place particularly for the study of inland volcanoes. Several species of endangered plants and animals can be found there, the Javan rhinoceros being the most seriously under threat. The park also protects 57 rare species of plant and the 35 mammal species include banteng, silvery gibbon, Javan lutung, crab-eating macaque, and many more.
4. Borobudur Temple
As one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the magnificent Borobudur Temple is the world’s biggest Buddhist temple, an ancient site widely considered to be one of the world’s seven wonders. The temple sits majestically on a hilltop overlooking lush green fields and distant hills. The temple is decorated with stone carvings in bas-relief representing images from the life of Buddha.
5. Prambanan Temple
Prambanan Temple Compounds consist of Prambanan Temple, Sewu Temple, Bubrah Temple and Lumbung Temple. Prambanan Temple itself is a complex consisting of 240 temples. The biggest temple is dedicated to Shiva the destroyer, and the two smaller ones which sit on its right and left are dedicated to Brahma, the creator, and Wisnhu, the sustainer. The tallest temple of Prambanan is a staggering 47 meters high. Its peak is visible from far away and rises high above the ruins of the other temples.
From white sandy beaches to the majestic mountains, Bali has a lot to offer. The Island of the Gods is known for its great views, historic temples, and many lovely rice fields. Hindu ceremonies, shadow puppet shows, and traditional dance are also very popular that have garnered many local and international tourists for years. Another layer to Bali’s iconic attractions is Tanah Lot, Pura Besakih, Uluwatu Temple, Mount Agung, Mount Batur, Ubud Monkey Forest, Ubud Art Market, Rice Terraces, Sidemen Valley, Tirta Empul Tempel, Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park, and many more.
Meanwhile, Seminyak, Legian, Ubud, Kuta Beach, Nusa Dua Beach, Uluwatu, and Jimbaran are a few of the most prominent spots for leisure and some of them offer great nightlife, that’s why there are so many hotels and luxury resorts housing in the areas. Tourists also sail across Nusa Penida to make even more adventurous and enjoying other pristine beaches.
7. Bunaken National Marine Park
Bunaken marine park has 20 points dive spot with varying depths of up to 1344 meters. From those 20 diving points, the 12 points among them are around is Bunaken Island. Those twelve-point dives are the most frequently visited by divers or tourists who want to enjoy the beauty of the underwater scenery. Bunaken National Park is a representative of Indonesian tropical water ecosystems consists of mangrove ecosystems, seagrass beds, coral reefs, and land / coastal ecosystems.
8. Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat is the islands-regency in West Papua Province. With all the spectacular wonders above and beyond its waters, as well as on land and amidst the thick jungles, this is truly the place where words such as beautiful, enchanting, magnificent, and fascinating get their true physical meaning. Raja Ampat comprises over 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals surrounding the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo, and the smaller island of Kofiau.
Widely known as the largest barrier reef in Indonesia, Wakatobi’s magnificence is second to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia on a worldwide level. Here can be found fringing, atolls, and barrier reefs and offer more than 50 spectacular dive sites easily accessible from the major islands. This is the habitat of large and small fish species, the playground of dolphins, turtles, and even whales.
10. Komodo Island
Komodo Island has attracted a lot of tourists because of the Komodo Dragon. Only found in the world within the Komodo National Park and the surrounding Flores island, these Jurassic and majestic creatures are the park’s star attraction. Although awesome to see, visitors are urged to keep a distance and exercise caution. Always be accompanied by a ranger and follow all the ranger’s instructions when in proximity to these dangerous lizards, although they may look pretty docile.
11. Pink Beach
Due to the degradation of red coral in combination with the pristine white sand, this unique and charming beach got its name. Pink Beach is one in seven in the world to have a glowing soft pink tinge. The panoramic views of the luscious green hills, pristine turquoise waters, luminous pink sand, and azure blue skies will surely take your breath away. Don’t miss the spectacular snorkeling and diving spots as they over pristine marine landscape decorated with a large variety of biota.
12. Lake Kelimutu
Mount Kelimutu has three volcanic crater lakes that famously differ in color. Lake colors periodically change due to adjustments in the oxidation-reduction status of the fluid of each lake, and also considering the abundance of different major elements, such as iron and manganese. Sometimes, the colors are blue, green, and black, and some other times they turn to white, red, and blue. The last time a traveler saw them, one was dark brown, just like a pond of chocolate. It’s so a magical sight to see.
13. Tana Toraja
The famed “Land of The Heavenly Kings”, lies about 328 km north of Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi Province, in the central highlands of South Sulawesi. Tana Toraja has unique culture set in stunning scenery. Traditional Tongkonan houses stand proudly in this setting. In Toraja society, the funeral ritual is the most elaborate and expensive event. During the festival, ritual dances and buffalo fights are held, and buffaloes and pigs are slaughtered to ferry the soul of the deceased to the afterlife. The deceased is then finally buried either in a small cave, often with a tau-tau effigy placed in front, inside a hollow tree, or even left exposed to the elements in a bamboo frame hanging from a cliff.
14. Karapan Sapi
Karapan Sapi is Madura’s annual traditional bull racing event. Every year from about July through October, local bulls are yoked to wooden skids and raced for 130 meters, similar to a chariot race. The bulls participating in the event are adorned with gold and other decorations, and the event may be accompanied by Gamelan music, food, and wagers on the outcome of the race.
Fahombo or Hombo Batu also familiarly knowns as Lompat Batu is a ritual for the test of the maturity of the Nias Tribe. They have to jump over a stone structure as high as 2 meters with a thickness of 40 cm or more. This stone jumping tradition will be held in the presence of all the villagers. The participants who will take part in this tradition will prepare to wear Nias warrior clothes while waiting for their turn.
The most familiar that we can see in our daily life is Batik that is a cultural element that has been developing for a long time and is widespread in Indonesia. Making batik, in the sense of written batik is not only a physical activity but has a deep dimension that contains prayer, hope, and lesson. This is what gives a magical feel to traditional batik products so far. Now batik has become a daily dress whether it’s at work, school, or formal and non-formal events in Indonesia. In October 2009, UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. As part of the acknowledgment, UNESCO insisted that Indonesia preserve its heritage. The day, 2 October 2009 has been stated by the Indonesian government as National Batik Day.
17. Traditional Culinary
The entire region of Indonesia is rich with spices and natural resources, thus Indonesia cuisine is a collection of various regional culinary traditions that offer a wide variety of recipes and cuisines. Indonesian cuisine varies greatly by region and has many different influences. Sumatran cuisine, for example, mostly has Middle Eastern and Indian influences, featuring curried meat and vegetables such as gulai and curry with spicy hints. Meanwhile, Javanese cuisine is mostly indigenous, with some hint of Chinese influence and a sweet note. The cuisines of Eastern Indonesia are similar to Polynesian and Melanesian cuisines. Elements of Chinese cuisine can be seen in Indonesian cuisine foods such as noodles, meatballs, and spring rolls that have been completely assimilated.
Many Indonesian dishes may come out strong in flavors, full of seasonings, different techniques applied, sweet, salty, fresh, tangy, and most importantly many Indonesian love their food spicy. In 2017, Rendang was chosen as the “World’s Most Delicious Food” by the CNN Travel Reader’s Choice. Many other famous dishes are Gudeg, Nasi Goreng, Satay, Nasi Tumpeng, Soto, Bakso, and of course various crackers.
18. Traditional Performance Arts
The culture of Indonesia has been shaped by long interaction between original indigenous customs and multiple foreign influences, resulting in many cultural practices being influenced by a multitude of religions and beliefs. The result is a complex cultural mixture in a form of music, dance, drama, theater, and martial arts.
As for traditional music, the most notable are Gamelan, Kroncong, Tanjidor, Gambang Kromong, Sasando, and many more. Angklung musical orchestra, a native of West Java received international recognition as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Meanwhile, Indonesian dance reflects the diversity of cultural ethnic groups that composed the nation of Indonesia. One of the most popular is Reog Ponorogo which is a visualization of the legendary story Wengker kingdom and the kingdom of Kediri. While in Bali, they have Pendet Dance which is usually performed by young girls, carrying bowls of flower petals, handfuls of which are cast into the air to purify the temple or theater as a prelude to ceremonies or other dances.
Another Balinese dance that attracts many tourists in Bali is Kecak Dance that is performed by a circle of as many as 150 performers wearing checked cloths around their waist, percussively chanting “chak” and moving their hands and arms. The performance depicts a battle from the Ramayana, in which the monkey-like Vanaras, led by Hanuman, help Prince Rama fight the evil King Ravana.
Other notable dances are Saman, Wali, Bebali, and Balih-balihan already been recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage.
For drama and theater, Wayang, Ludruk, Ketoprak, Lenong to name a few have attracted many tourists. All of these dramas incorporated humor and jest, often involving audiences in their performance. The most awaited performance Sendratari Ramayana (Ramayana Ballet Prambanan) is a visualization and representation of the epic Ramayana saga, originally written by Valmiki in the Sanskrit language that performed near the Prambanan Temple, Indonesia.
As for martial art, Indonesia’s renowned Pencak Silat is an art for survival and practiced throughout the Indonesian archipelago.