Draped languidly across the equator, Indonesia is a series of emerald jewels scattered across a broad expanse of tropical sea. This is one of the world’s great adventures in waiting – hidden away in dense jungles on secret islands are tribes almost untouched by the outside world and animals hardly known to science.
The third most populous nation on earth has an incredible legacy of peoples, cultures and geography just waiting to be explored. The archipelago boasts more than 18,000 islands, from tiny islets not much bigger than a palm tree to the mighty expanse of Borneo, shared with the Malaysian provinces of Sabah and Sarawak and the kingdom of Brunei.
Many come specifically to discover their own island paradise, complete with white-sand beaches, swaying palms and emerald waters. Offshore are some of the world’s best dive sites, swarming with huge sunfish, giant rays, sharks, porpoises, turtles and a blindingly colourful array of tropical fish.
For others, the attraction is cultural. A fascinating range of civilisations have grown up on these tropical islands, from animist tribes in remote jungle villages to the elaborate Hindu kingdoms of Bali and Java. In Indonesia, timeless temples jostle for space with golden-domed mosques and beach resorts crowded with sun-seekers and surfers. The surf resort of Kuta has become one of the world’s favourite tropical escapes, and the beach party raves through till dawn every day of the week.
For some, Kuta is the very vision of Asia. For others, the true escapes lie elsewhere, on the volcanic islands that drift eastwards towards Australia. Here are towering volcanoes to be climbed, national parks to be explored and tropical rainforests to be trekked. You might even get lucky and meet an orang-utan on Sumatra or the world’s largest living reptile on the island of Komodo, home to the eponymous Komodo dragon.
Best of all, flights and ferries link all of the islands, so you can island-hop right across the archipelago, stopping only when you find your own perfect piece of Southeast Asia.