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 begin our explorations in Medan Mederka (Liberty Square) with a visit to the 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 continue across the street to explore the neo-Gothic Catholic Cathedral, consecrated in 1901.
We pause for lunch at a local restaurant, and then embark on a walking tour of Jakarta’s old quarter, Fatahillah Square. Once the administrative and commercial heart of Dutch colonial Indonesia, the cobblestone square still retains vestiges of its past grandeur.
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 75 °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.
We then embark on a walking tour of Bandung’s vibrant downtown, admiring the Art Deco and Dutch Colonial architecture and perusing the handcraft stalls on Jalan Braga.
The rest of the afternoon is yours to enjoy lunch on your own and explore more of Bandung as you wish. Dinner is also 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 Sambisari, a Hindu temple constructed in the 9th century. Until its accidental discovery in 1966, Sambisari remained hidden under layers of rock and sand from Mount Merapi’s 1906 volcanic eruption.
From here, 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.
We enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before visiting a Batik workshop. Here, we’ll learn about the wax-resistant dying technique behind this traditional Javanese cloth and the spiritual significance of the many motifs and patterns.
This evening we’ll get to experience everyday life as we join a Javanese family for dinner in their home.
This morning we set out for the colossal Borobudur Temple, which UNESCO calls “one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world.”
Borobudur is the Saliendra’s masterpiece, 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.
We leave Boroburdur and visit a rural village, where we’ll take a walking tour and learn how local tofu is made.
We’ll refuel after a busy morning with lunch at a local restaurant before heading back to our hotel. Enjoy free time this afternoon and dinner on your own.
We say farewell to Java this morning and fly to the tropical paradise of Bali. 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 Ubud, Bali’s artistic heart. We stop at the sacred Monkey Forest of Ubud, a sanctuary where hundreds of Balinese monkeys gather in giant nutmeg trees and at a small temple.
Afterward, we gather for lunch at Laka Leke Restaurant to enjoy traditional cuisine, such as nasi goreng (Indonesian-style fried rice). We’ll then set out for the nearby village of Blahbatuh to witness a Legong dance performance at the Sudi Dancing School. Note the precise footwork and finger movements and the ornate costumes of the dancers.
We depart for our hotel, check in, and enjoy dinner and free time on our own this evening.
Following breakfast, we set out for the Kintamani Volcano area to visit the village of Trunyan, crossing Lake Batur by motorboat to get there. Trunyan is home to the Bali Aga ethnic group, known for their ancient ancestral rituals. Contrary to Balinese tradition, the people of Trunyan do not practice cremation, but display their dead in open graves, concealed by bamboo lattices and remarkably preserved by the roots of the fragrant taru menyan tree.
We take a walking tour around the village and its environs, enjoying striking views of Kintamani and Lake Batur.
We make our return trip across the lake and pause for lunch nearby. Next, we head to Tjampuhan Hill, stopping on the way at a coffee plantation to learn about the cultivation process. We set out on a gentle hike on Tjampuhan Hill to take in the fresh afternoon air and surrounding tropical vegetation.
After we return to the hotel, you’ll have free time to rest or perhaps explore Ubud’s galleries, cafés, and shops. Enjoy dinner tonight on your own.
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. You’ll have a chance to discover Ubud’s art scene with a full day to spend as you wish.
Or, join an optional Spiritual Bali tour. This morning, we’ll go to a nearby spiritual center, where we’ll join locals in traditional Balinese clothing and participate in a purification ritual. First, we'll cleanse ourselves in a pool of water surrounded by fountains, each one promising good will. Next, we'll gather in a temple for prayer session assisted by a priest. From here, we’ll enjoy an hour of yoga practice lead by an experienced instructor at a nearby studio. Our optional tour ends with an included lunch at a local restaurant.
This evening, we’ll travel by motorcoach to the workshop of a puppet master, who will treat us to a short Balinese puppet show performance. Tonight, we’ll dine at Café Wayan, the noted bakery and restaurant featured in Elizabeth Gilbert’s popular memoir Eat, Pray, Love.
This morning we depart Ubud and head north to Ulun Danu Bratan.
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, we eat lunch at a local restaurant and continue on to Gitgit Waterfall, following a trail of paved steps through the forest to get there. Our efforts will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the impressive 35-meter waterfall, surrounded by lush tropical trees.
We then transfer to our hotel in Lovina, a laid-back coastal town on Bali’s northern shore. Lined with black, volcanic sand beaches and fishing villages, northern Bali maintains a quieter pace than its neighbors to the south. You’ll have some free time to rest or explore around the hotel before we gather again for an orientation walk and dinner at a Lovina restaurant.
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 by minivan to the farming community of Tiga Wasa to visit 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. 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.
Bali’s volcanic soil and tropical climate bless the islanders with year-round crops, and we have a chance to learn about one of them this morning when we visit beautiful rice terraces during our transfer to Jimbaran. 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.
From here, we drive to Jimbaran, a coastal town overlooking the Indian Ocean, and settle in at our hotel. Enjoy lunch and dinner on your own today.
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 the afternoon. Lunch is on your own, and the remainder of the day is yours to explore Jimbaran or enjoy the white-sand beach that fronts our hotel. Tonight, our small group comes together for a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.
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.