A vast archipelago
The Indonesian archipelago spreads over 5200km between the Asian mainland and Australia, all of it within the tropics, and comprises 17,000 islands to explore. Its ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity is correspondingly great – more than 500 languages and dialects are spoken by its 250 million people, whose fascinating customs and lifestyles are a major attraction.
A cruise to Indonesia features highlights across the archipelago, beginning in Medan on Sumatra’s north-east coast. From here, the classic itinerary runs to the thick jungles and orangutan sanctuary at Bukit Lawang and down towards the lakeside resorts on Pulau Samosir in South-east Asia’s largest lake, Danau Toba. Just across the water from Java sits Bali, the long-time jewel in the crown of Indonesian tourism, a tiny island of elegant temples, verdant landscape and fine surf.
The biggest resorts are in the party conurbation of Kuta-Legian-Seminyak, with the more subdued beaches at Lovina and Candi Dasa appealing to travellers not hell-bent on nightlife. Most cruisers also spend time in Bali’s cultural centre Ubud, whose lifeblood continues to be painting, carving, dancing and music-making.
The islands east of Bali – collectively known as Nusa Tenggara – are attracting increasing numbers of travellers, particularly neighbouring Lombok, with its beautiful beaches and temples.