Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!
Travel to Indonesia’s tropical islands, where sacred ruins rise out of jungles, monkeys frolic in temples, and artists are still revered. Although Java and Bali are neighbors in the archipelago nation of Indonesia, they each have their own religions, histories, and traditions. Java is the country’s political and cultural heart, with a devout Muslim society and lingering reminders of the Buddhist kings and Dutch colonists who shaped its history. Bali is its artistic soul, with a spiritual Hindu population and landscapes that have inspired painters and performers for centuries.
Join OAT on these isles to unravel the mysteries of ancient kingdoms at ornately carved ruins. Experience the serenity of holy water temples. Meet villagers in their homes and farms to learn about their daily lives. And surround yourself with the natural beauty of terraced hills, blossoming orchids, and pristine coastlines.
Since your overnight flight to Taipei, Taiwan, departs Los Angeles very early in the morning, travelers are advised to arrive at LAX the night before
Arrive in Taipei and connect to your flight to Jakarta on the island of Java, Indonesia. Your OAT Trip Leader will greet you at the airport and escort you on the hour-long drive to your hotel. Here, you'll be joined by travelers who took the pre-trip extension to Northern Vietnam: Hanoi & Halong Bay. This evening is yours to rest or venture out into the city.
After breakfast, we enjoy a full-day tour of Jakarta, the capital and largest city of Indonesia. Originally a trading port of the Kingdom of Sunda in the fourth century, Jakarta caught the attention of the Dutch and became their colonial capital, known as Batavia, during the 17th and 18th centuries. When Indonesia declared its independence in 1945, Jakarta re-emerged as the symbol of both the nation’s freedom and its diverse cultural heritage.
We focus our explorations on Medan Mederka, or Liberty Square, where we first visit Monas (the National Monument), a 450-foot-tall pillar erected in 1961 as a symbol of Indonesia’s independence. An elevator can bring travelers to an observation platform for sweeping views of the city (depending on the crowds), and a small museum below the monument tells the story of the country’s fight for freedom from the Dutch.
Nearby, we explore the neo-Gothic Catholic Cathedral, consecrated in 1901. We continue across the street to enormous Istiqlal Mosque, capped with a spherical dome. It opened in 1978 as the national mosque of Indonesia, a country that is home to the world’s largest population of Muslims. Today, it remains the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia.
We pause for lunch at a local restaurant and return to the hotel. Tonight, we enjoy a Welcome Dinner at a Jakarta restaurant.
We rise early for breakfast and check out of our hotel before a short ride to Bogor, home to a large Christian community. Here, we meet a local guide for a walking tour of the Bogor Botanical Gardens, a tropical oasis where we can see giant water lilies, a variety of palms, and some of the 3,000 types of orchids.
We enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and continue by motorcoach to Bandung, the capital of West Java with a pleasant highland climate. (Temperatures average around 74.5 °F year-round.) During Dutch colonization, Bandung was one of the most fashionable cities in the East Indies, and its chic cafés and Art Deco buildings earned it the nickname, the “Paris of Java.” Today, it has developed into modern city with a vibrant culture of the Western Java ethnic group known as the Sunda or Sundanese. After we check in to our hotel, we take an orientation walk around the neighborhood and have dinner together in town.
Following breakfast, we learn about the indigenous music of the Sunda people on a visit to an angklung workshop. An angklung is a musical percussion instrument that consists of bamboo tubes and a frame, with tones somewhat akin to a xylophone. We meet with an artisan who makes these traditional instruments and try our hand at constructing and playing our own. Then we let the experts take over and treat us to a performance.
After lunch on your own, you'll have the option to rest or join your Trip Leader for a walking tour of downtown Bandung to admire the Art Deco and Dutch Colonial architecture and peruse handcraft stalls on Jalan Braga. Dinner is on your own tonight.
We depart early this morning for an air-conditioned train ride to Yogyakarta. This journey reveals some of Java’s most iconic rural scenery as we wind along forest-coated hills, through rural towns, and alongside terraced rice paddies cut into the slopes. We have boxed lunches for the ride. In the afternoon, we arrive in Yogyakarta (pronounced “Jokjakarta” and nicknamed Yogya or “Jogja”) and check in to our hotel.
Located in the valley below Mount Merapi, Yogya is the epicenter of Javanese arts, where colorful batik cloths, wooden and silver handcrafts, and dance and music performances all abound. It also displays some classic examples of the island’s architecture and design, defined by low-rise buildings with tall, pyramid-shaped roofs. We get our first glimpse of the city on a brief orientation walk around our hotel. Next, we enjoy a tour by cyclo-rickshaw on our way to dinner at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, we visit a rural village and meet its residents. Then we set out for the colossal Borobudur Temple, which UNESCO calls “one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world.”
We approach this sacred site from the east, starting at Mendut Temple and following a path scholars believe pilgrims took in the ninth century. Built during the Sailendra Dynasty around AD 800, Mendut Temple is located less than two miles from Borobudur and is an impressive archaeological site in its own right. Here, we see carvings that depict scenes from Buddhist literature along with Indian morality parables on the exterior, and a rare Buddha statue seated in the European style (on a chair) inside.
We continue on to the Sailendra’s masterpiece, Borobudur, a massive pyramid that rises up from the green plains like the neighboring volcanoes. From its 150,000-square-foot base, we have a chance to climb up the six tiers to the top. Moving from bottom to top, note how the volcanic-rock carvings progress from depictions of the world of desire, to the world of forms, and reaching the pinnacle in the world of formlessness—the realm of nirvana in Buddhist ideology. The top level is dotted with 72 small, latticework stupas, each with a statue of Buddha inside, which we can see through the grates.
After we have lunch together and return to our hotel, the afternoon is yours to explore Yogyakarta. Perhaps you’ll browse the open-air craft stalls on the market road Jalan Malioboro, or wander the maze-like pavilions of the Kraton (Sultan’s Palace).
This evening, enjoy dinner on your own, or join an optional tour that includes dinner at a local restaurant and a ballet performance that tells stories from the great Indian epic, the Ramayana.
After breakfast, we visit a workshop where artisans carve wooden ducks. Then we head to the nearby plains to witness the ninth-century Prambanan Temple complex. Built by the Sanjaya Dynasty, a Hindu group thought to be political rivals to the Buddhist Sailendra rulers in the area, Prambanan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest Hindu temple complex in Indonesia. Many of its 240 structures collapsed during a major earthquake in the 16th century, and they were largely forgotten by the outside world until British statesman Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles stumbled upon the site in 1811. Still in various states of repair, they retain an aura of being lost in time, awaiting discovery.
Enjoy lunch on your own and a free afternoon to explore more of Yogya. This evening, we’ll get to experience everyday life as we join a Javanese family for dinner in their home.
We say farewell to Java and our Trip Leader this morning and fly to Bali. At the Denpasar airport, we meet our Balinese Trip Leader who will guide us through this tropical paradise.
A Hindu enclave that stands alone in the middle of the rest of the largely Muslim Indonesia, Bali has fostered a deeply spiritual culture with arts, customs, and social rules unlike any place on Earth. In fact, Balinese Hinduism is a unique mélange of different cultural influences, including traditional Hinduism, brought to the island by a Javanese princess and priests in the 16th century; Buddhism, the island’s state religion in the seventh century; and indigenous animist and ancestor-deifying religions. Throughout our time here, we’ll see how spirituality factors into nearly every aspect of Balinese life.
Upon arrival in Denpasar, we begin our transfer to Jimbaran, a coastal town overlooking the Indian Ocean. After we check in to our hotel, you can have lunch on your own. We meet again in the late afternoon for a brief walking tour of the town and a barbecue dinner on the beach.
In the morning, we ride southwest to Pura Luhur Uluwatu, or Temple above the Headstone. With origins that date back to the tenth century, it’s one of the most striking examples of a Balinese sea temple, perched on a cliff 330 feet above the water. Two types of creatures greet visitors here: statues of the elephant-headed Hindu god, Ganesha, and a resident colony of mischievous macaque monkeys. We have time to explore the ancient structure and take in the dramatic seascapes along its promenade before lunch together.
We return to the hotel in mid-afternoon. The remainder of the day is yours to explore Jimbaran or enjoy the white-sand beach that fronts our hotel, and dinner is on your own tonight.
Bali’s volcanic soil and tropical climate bless the islanders with year-round crops, and we have a chance to learn about two of them this morning. First, we visit the beautiful rice terraces cut into the slopes of Mount Batur. Alternately brilliant green and flooded with reflective waters, these rows of paddies have become a symbol of rural Bali—and for good reason. The irrigation system used to feed them, known as subak, is woven into the landscape, as well as the culture of the island, feeding into many religious practices. The entire subak landscape is protected by UNESCO World Heritage. Next, we visit a coffee plantation to see a different cultivation practice.
We have lunch together in the village of Kintamani and then take an hour-long hike inside and around the Kintamani Volcano crater for striking views of Mount Batur and the surrounding hills.
We can rest on the three-hour motorcoach ride to the north that follows. Lined with black, volcanic sand beaches and fishing villages, northern Bali maintains a quieter pace than its neighbors to the south, and its calmer waters sometimes serve as a playground for dolphins. We arrive in Lovina, a laid-back coastal town, in time for a sunset orientation walk to a local restaurant, where we dine together.
Today we have a rare opportunity to experience daily life in the rural hills outside of Lovina, heading first to a local market in the bustling morning hours. While the southern half of the island specializes in rice production, citrus fruit orchards and cocoa and sugar plantations thrive here in the north, and we’re likely to find their produce on display in the simple stands here.
From the market, we travel to the farming community of Tiga Wasa the way the locals do—by bemo, a van or minibus with bench seating and open windows or doors. A breezy ride brings us to the Tiga Wasa Village School (when school is in session), where we meet students and their teacher and perhaps witness a typical lesson.
Next, we see another side of everyday life when we meet with villagers in their home and have a chance to try fresh fruits that are grown nearby. We walk to a sugar plantation and then join a local family for a Home-Hosted Lunch. As we dine on a traditional Balinese meal, seasoned with regional herbs and spices, we can ask questions about their cultural practices, livelihoods, and any other points of curiosity.
We round off our afternoon with a visit to a basket-weaving workshop, speaking with the female artisans and witnessing their craft in action.
In the late afternoon, we return to the hotel for leisure time to wander through Lovina or unwind with a drink and views of the Java Sea. Dinner is on your own.
Balinese Hinduism is sometimes known as the “religion of the holy water” for the important role that water plays in rituals and livelihoods. Keep this in mind as we approach Ulun Danu Bratan, which appears to float over the placid waters of Lake Bratan. Dedicated to the goddess of the lake, Dewi Danu, its 17th-century pagodas actually rest on small islands.
After a peaceful morning, our day takes a lively turn at the Candi Kuning Market, lined with rows of wild orchids and other fresh flowers used in religious offerings. We can bargain with the locals for tropical fruits and a variety of spices, like coriander, cloves, cinnamon, and lemongrass—exotic flavors that lured Dutch traders to the island in the 19th century.
Next we head for Ubud, Bali’s artistic heart, stopping en route to explore a few lanes of Kapal Village, known for its handmade Hindu shrines. We arrive in Ubud in time for lunch on your own, and the afternoon is free to explore the town’s galleries, cafés, and shops. In the early evening, we gather for an orientation walk and dinner at a local restaurant.
In the 1920s, Ubud grew from a sleepy but charming village into a nucleus for the arts. The scenic rice fields, hills, and streams surrounding the town enticed European painters like Walter Spies and Rudolf Bonnet to settle there. They brought with them an influx of arts funding—which in turn, drew local painters, carvers, woodworkers, and performers. Today, most craftspeople have settled into smaller villages on the outskirts of Ubud, which we visit this morning.
We begin with a skilled kite maker, whose colorful designs accent the skies around Ubud. Next we meet a puppet master at his workshop and have an opportunity to try carving a bit ourselves. He will perform a short Balinese puppet show before we continue on to a mask-making shop. We learn a few stories behind some of these theatrical pieces, and then head to Laka Leke Restaurant to enjoy traditional cuisine, such as nasi goreng (Indonesian-style fried rice).
The nearby village of Blahbatuh holds another perspective on local arts at the Sudi Dancing School. Here, three young female dancers will present a Legong dance for us with precise footwork and finger movements and ornate costumes. Afterwards, we return to our hotel for dinner on your own.
Following breakfast, we set out on a gentle hike on Tjampuhan Hill to take in the fresh, morning air and views of lush vegetation. A motorcoach brings us to the sacred Monkey Forest of Ubud, a sanctuary where hundreds of Balinese monkeys gather in giant nutmeg trees and at a small temple.
Enjoy lunch on your own in Ubud and a free afternoon. Your Trip Leader can recommend a quiet café, photo or art galleries, or even yoga classes.
Later, our small group comes together for a Farewell Dinner at Café Wayan, the noted bakery and restaurant featured in Elizabeth Gilbert’s popular memoir Eat, Pray, Love.
After breakfast, we transfer to the airport for our flight to Taipei, where we’ll spend the night. Lunch and dinner are on your own.
Travelers on the post-trip extension to Komodo Island & Beyond: Land of Dragons will fly to Labuan Bajo this morning.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before returning to the Taipei airport for your flight back to the United States.