Asia Travel Guide,  featured,  Indonesia Travel Guide,  Travel Tips

Discover Indonesia’s Cities

When you think of Indonesia, you will probably imagine rainforests and beaches, small villages maybe, the odd beach bar or two. And certainly, Indonesia does have all of this, but it is also home to 3 fabulous cities: Jakarta, the capital, Medan in North Sumatra and Makassar in South Sulawesi.

These cities are wondrous to behold and, if you haven’t been before are well worth adding to your holiday bucket list this year. All three have their own take on the Indonesian culture with buildings and cuisine unique to each. The sights and sounds are something, but the flavours you can find here are the real reason many people go.

So get your bags packed, you won’t want to miss these amazing destinations!


Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia and has the largest urban population by far. Around 9 million people live here in this sprawling metropolis with a further 2 million arriving for work every day.

Finding a place to stay in Jakarta isn’t difficult at all as there are plenty of fine hotels to choose from. However, if you are staying for a longer period, you may prefer to rent an apartment for a cheaper and more authentic way of experiencing this amazing city. Try for local houses and apartments.

The food here is also magnificent. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from but the real magic happens on the street. With influences coming from China, India and Europe (through the colonial Dutch settlers), this city wears its trading history in its food. There are so many dishes to try, you will need a big appetite for new foods to manage all of them!  

While you are in Jakarta, you can’t miss out on the theme park, Ancol. Almost a city within a city, this small area on the coast is ideal for watersports, food and leisure activities for all the family. Taman Mini Indonesia Indah and the many museums of Jakarta shouldn’t be missed either.

Image Credit: Flickr


The capital of the Indonesian province of North Sumatra, Medan is the fourth largest city in Indonesia. Though it is not specifically geared towards tourists, this city is a perfect spot for relaxing in hot springs and indulging in new foods. Many people from across Indonesia treat Medan as a weekend escape.

It may not have been the first on your list of cities to visit, but Medan is largely underrated for its beauty and dramatic landscape. This is the home of Lake Toba, a lake occupying the caldera of a supervolcano and Sipisopiso, a waterfall 800m above sea level that plunges into the gorge below.

Medan is famous for its durian fruit provider Ucok Durian Medan who sell the fruit in a variety of forms. Of course, this particular fruit is itself famous for being so pungent it has been banned in many places such as hotels. It can be found in other areas of Indonesia and Malaysia, but since you are already in Medan, it would be rude not to give this little shop a visit.

The city of Medan remains the home of the Sultan of Deli in the historic Maimoon Palace and there are many other buildings of note here too including many temples dedicated to different religions. The Gunung Timur Temple, a Taoist temple is here as well as the Buddhist temple Maha Vihara Maitreya, the Medan Cathedral, which is the oldest church in the city, and Sri Mariamman Temple, which is the first Hindu temple in Medan. These buildings really show how Indonesia has become home to so many different cultures from China and India to descendents of colonial settlers from Europe.
Image Credit: Wikimedia


Some people spell it as “Macassar”. Makassar is considered the provincial capital of South Sulawesi. It was called Ujung Pandang, between 1971 and 1999 after a pre-colonial fort in the city and the names are often used interchangeably by locals.

Like many cities in Indonesia, Makassar has its own culinary palate and is famous for Coto Makassar, a rich stew made with ground peanuts, beef and offal. It may not sound – or even look – particularly appetising but served with jasmine rice, your curiosity will over take you for sure. Another famous dish from this region is konro bakar or grilled ribs which can be found across Indonesia but are best served here in South Sulawesi.

There are all sorts of things to do here, especially if you are interested in outdoor sports and nature. Makassar is an ideal place to enter the Bantimurung Bulusaraung National Park. here you can enjoy the natural waterslide, Bantimurung Waterfall. The national park is known as the Kingdom of the Butterfly and is home to many unique species. Though the park is now used for preservation, there is, unfortunately,  still an informal trade in butterflies amongst the locals.

Beach and sea lovers must visit Losari while they are here, if not to enjoy the sunset, to join the locals in exercising on the beach in the morning. The beach is easy to access and is free of charge for all visitors. Just take a towel and relax.

Indonesia’s cities are vibrant and full of interesting flavours and unique dishes. Every area has it’s own particular take on Indonesian cuisine and as the whole country embraces influences from China, India and beyond, it is both familiar in some ways and completely new in others. If you wanted to, you could spend your entire trip just tasting new things.

There is plenty to do across Indonesia but for a tourist, Jakarta is probably the best place for finding tourist attractions and family fun. However, if you are looking to really experience the Indonesian way of life, trying other cities like Medan and Makassar is a great idea. As Indonesia is such a huge country made up of so many smaller islands, the culture here varies from place to place so you can’t really say you’ve seen Indonesia until you have travelled around and seen many different islands, cities and cultures.

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