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The best spots for a multicentre holiday in Indonesia

Experience the best of both worlds in Indonesia

Take your pick of Indonesia's alluring islands and split your time between several destinations to get the most out of your holiday to this rich and diverse tropical region. There are such an enormous variety of experiences to be had that you really will be spoilt for choice, so it's a good idea to choose your destinations according to what appeals to you the most. Culture vultures should head to Java or Sulawesi, wildlife lovers should stop in Sumatra, Komodo or Kalimantan, beach buffs should go to Lombok and everyone should spend at least a few days on the unique paradise island of Bali.

Culture and discovery

Most holidaymakers head straight to Java and Bali via regular international flights from the UK and both islands have immense tourist appeal. If you only have a short time in the country, start by exploring Java's cultural hub, Yogyakarta, linked with the country's capital, Jakarta, via regular internal flights and a good railway network. Then it's a simple business to catch an onward flight to Bali.

Yogyakarta is a city of wide avenues and universities with beautifully restored colonial buildings. One of the city's most appealing places to stay is the Phoenix Hotel. This heritage property is housed in a former Dutch colonial mansion with a peaceful inner courtyard filled with the gentle sounds of gamelan, a gorgeous spa and stylish balconied rooms overlooking a neat pool. The city itself boasts a fantastic array of cultural curiosities from shadow puppetry and batik fabric making to gamelan music and traditional dancing.

Two of Indonesia's most important cultural sites are close to the city - the ancient Hindu temples of Prambanan and the mystical Buddhist monument of Borobudur, best seen as the sun rises over the distant volcanoes. Mount Bromo, in the east of the island, is chief among its many volcanic peaks and a popular excursion for intrepid visitors. If you take a flight from Yogyakarta to Bali be sure to get a left-hand seat for amazing views of the Java's clusters of conical volcanoes.

Sitting pretty in the centre of the country's vast spread of islands, Bali has a unique culture and way of life that makes it a key stop on any trip to Indonesia. In fact, the island's symbol represents the key of life and it is renowned for its deep spiritualism and plethora of temples. The ancient Hindu temple of Uluwatu has a stunning location on a towering plateau on the southern tip of the island, while the tiny sea temple of Tanah Lot clings to a rocky outcrop washed by curling waves on the south-west coast. Up by the crater lakes of thickly-forested dormant volcanoes, tourists can discover yet more delicate water temples. Bali's spiritual and creative heartland, Ubud, is surrounded by verdant rice paddies and arts and crafts villages. Its gorgeous Balinese boutique hotels and yoga retreats make the perfect base if you want to immerse yourself in island culture.

Wildlife and nature

For wildlife enthusiasts, Indonesia is a dream come true. Make some time to visit the Komodo National Park for encounters with the world's largest lizards, which is just a short hop east of Bali via daily flights. Spend some time in Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo, to meet some of the country's famous orangutans. Tanjung Puting National Park has a healthy population of these big friendly apes, as well as proboscis monkeys and gibbons, plus nearby jungle accommodation such as Rimba Lodge. The area is also home to rare clouded leaopards, sun bears and civets and there's the chance to take guided night walks to witness the magical spectacle of fireflies and glow-in-the-dark mushrooms.

Add another dimension to your trip with some time diving and snorkelling in the Nusa Tenggara islands. Situated at a point where two oceans meet, the islands are renowned for the diversity of their underwater life and you can spot everything from clown fish hovering above bright sponges to schools of dolphin frolicking in the water.

Beaches and spas

Bali could have been created specifically as a sanctuary for rest and relaxation. The island is a celebration of life and creativity with gorgeous blooms and fragrant religious offerings at every turn. A serene atmosphere prevails and the people are renowned for their warmth and friendliness. The island has glorious beaches and sumptuous spas in spades. You will find the most exclusive and indulgent spas in the gated beach resort of Nusa Dua, while the most holistic centres are located in Ubud.

If you long to luxuriate on a castaway stretch of sand, neighbouring Lombok is just the tonic at 45 minutes from Bali by boat. The island's delicious curves of creamy soft sand are framed by the steep forested slopes of dormant volcanoes, and there are a clutch of good international hotels such as the Oberoi and Sheraton Senggigi Beach Resort that offer luxurious accommodation and on-site spas.

Island hopping

It's easy to get a taste of more than one island on a visit to Indonesia using the good internal flight connections and ferries between islands. Visiting a trio of close islands such as Java, Bali and Lombok is more than manageable within a fairly short time-frame and well worth the effort. While Java boasts ancient wonders and Bali has a rich and deep culture, Lombok, just east of Bali, has become known for its sultry, palm-strewn white sand beaches. Sumatra, Java, Bali, Sulawesi and the Nusa Tenggara islands are all connected by regular ferries.

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