It’s rare that Indonesia is the first far-flung destination family travellers go to, partly due to distance but, we think, also because it’s not as good at ‘selling itself’ as a tourist destination compared to its other Asian cousins, like Thailand or Vietnam. Frankly, we’re rather thrilled about this, as travelling there you feel you are truly getting off the beaten track, doing something a little more ‘out there’ than following the crowd.
Whilst the paradise island of Bali needs little introduction, it being the most well -known destination in the Indonesian archipelago, it’s larger neighbour, Java is an undiscovered delight, packed full of temples, buzzing street scenes, volcanoes and jungles. Do them both together and you have the ultimate ‘compare and contrast / best of both worlds’ holiday: world-best archaeological sites with world-renowned palm fringed beaches and snorkelling. When travelling further afield than Bali with kids, we can also also arrange trips to neighbouring Lombok and much less visited islands, such as Komodo or Flores, too.
1 – Visit Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple
Built in the 9th century, Borobudur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is an absolutely fascinating place to explore whilst travelling in Indonesia with kids. Nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular and topped with a central dome, the bell-like structures are not just awe-inspiring but one of the best places in the world to enjoy ‘Hide and Seek’. It’s an understandable tourist draw, although most will be Indonesian tourists who love trying out their English with you and your family. Did we mention the views?
2 – Watch sunrise over a live volcano
Mount Bromo, an active volcano (don’t worry, it’s shut to tourists if an eruption is imminent) is Indonesia’s most climbed mountain. A crater with the top blown off, it’s best seen at dawn, where you take donkeys across the ‘Sea of Sand’, before dismounting and climbing to the crater rim. There, with the sight and smell of sulphurous fumes a constant reminder that this volcano is still active, you’ll watch the day break for a sunrise you’ll never forget. An absolute must-do Indonesia with kids experience. Our tip? Get the whole family to visit the loo before the climb. We speak from experience…
3 – Take a Javanese street food tour
Jogjakarta (affectionately known as ‘Jogja’) is Java’s cultural centre, an absolutely charming place where you can wander the markets and see artisans making ‘Batiks’. Our favourite activity, though, is the street food tour where your guide takes you, by foot and by becak (pedicab) to traditional and modern angkringan (foodstalls) for you to sample kopi joss (coffee with a brick of burning charcoal), bakmi (stir-fried noodles), gudeg (jackfruit curry) and more. Adults love it, kids will be much more culinary adventurous than you’ll think.
4 – Visit a spice plantation
Java may be well-known for its coffee, but also for its spices. The whole family will love this insight into a local plantation to learn about nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee and coconut production, and learn about the traditional process of turning palm tree liquid into palm sugar.
5 – Go snorkelling amongst a coral reef
The warm waters of Bali don’t just make snorkelling an idyllic experience but provide the perfect environment for coral reef and its colourful inhabitants. The best snorkelling when travelling to Bali with kids is Menjangan Island, a protected marine park where you can pootle through the waters or go scuba diving for the older child or more adventurous adult.
6 – Learn about Balinese art
One of our favourite Bali with kids activities in the island’s cultural capital, Ubud, is a tour called, ‘A day in the life of a Balinese artist’. Offering a a fascinating insight into not just Balinese art, but, visiting artists in their own homes, traditional life, it’s something that few tourists ever get to experience.
7 – Visit Tanah Lot Temple
It’s one of the most photographed temples not just in Bali, but the world, so it can be rather surreal visiting Tanah Lot temple ‘in the flesh’. It’s beauty – and location – is better than any photo could capture, though, perched as it is on a barren rock outcrop which at high tide is completely surrounded by the sea.
8 – Visit a Turtle Conservation Centre
The ocean surrounding Indonesia is a haven for turtles but, as anyone watching Blue Planet will know, their habitat is threatened by plastics and some (not all, thankfully) unscrupulous local fishing practices. By visiting the conservation centre on Serangan Island, you’ll not only learn about turtles when travelling to Bali with kids, and the challenges they face, but help safeguard their future.
9 – Go in search of Komodo Dragons
If you’re travelling this far from the UK, you may want to make a visit to the islands of Flores or Komodo, home to the world’s largest lizard. Like a giant iguana, these ‘dragons’ are a sight to behold, with a population of 2,500 in Komodo National Park and another 2,000 on Flores. They’re probably the closest thing to a dinosaur your children will ever see yet a creature few western tourists (particularly family travellers) have witnessed in person.
10 – Stay on a tropical island
Indonesia has no shortage of beaches and whilst Bali’s are world famous (Nusa Dua, Candi Dasa etc.), they do get busy, particularly around Kuta. If you’re wanting true get-away-from-it-all, hammock swinging, palm-tree fringed, crystal-clear waters experience – paradise, in other words, the Gili Islands, off the coast of Lombok (neighbouring island to Bali) are picture postcard pretty.
Java and Bali with kids
Want to know more about travelling in Java and Bali with kids? Check out our Indonesia & Bali family holiday section and take a look at our sample itineraries – our 14 day Highlights of Bali trip or 16 day Active Java & Bali – or call us on 01728 752751.
Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel
We always love to hear about your experiences holidaying in Indonesia with the family, so please do send us your reviews and feedback. Thank you – firstname.lastname@example.org.