7 cultural highlights of Indonesia

The Travel Nova | 7 cultural highlights of Indonesia | Learn Balinese dance

We often travel as casual observers of a country and its vibrant culture, rather than rolling up our sleeves and getting involved. We might pass by a village and admire the beautiful scenery, but we rarely stop to engage. Yet these connections make up some of my most memorable travel experiences, and I was lucky to be able to do, actually do, so many things on the Trip of Wonders with the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism.

 

Indonesia is a melting pot of cultures and religions, thanks to its rich history on the ancient trade routes to Southeast Asia, the Far East and Middle East. I visited four regions during the trip, and these are my top 7 cultural highlights of Indonesia. They are fantastic activities that have offered me hands-on experiences of the culture of Wonderful Indonesia. I hope you find them equally fun and enriching.

 

Setu Babakan

The Travel Nova | 7 cultural highlights of Indonesia | Setu Babakan

What is it?
19km south of Jakarta, Setu Babakan is a specially preserved area for the indigenous Betawi culture.

Why go here?
It’s a chance to admire the original Betawi architecture and learn about the rich culture. The music and dance performances are mesmerising.

What to do?
You can learn how to make a miniature ondel-ondel doll. Ondel-ondels are huge puppets that are traditionally used during festivals.

 

Layang-Layang Museum 
The Travel Nova | 7 cultural highlights of Indonesia | Layang-Layang Kite Museum

What is it?
A museum dedicated to Indonesia’s favourite traditional toy: the kite.

Why go here?
The museum has an extensive collection of hundreds of kites and makes for an interesting stop if you are in the area.

What to do?
The museum offers kite-making sessions with advance booking. It’s a fun activity for the whole family.

Pentingsari Cultural Village

The Travel Nova | 7 cultural highlights of Indonesia | Pentingsari Cultural Village

 

What is it?
Pentingsari is a local village offering authentic cultural experiences in lush rural settings.

Why go here?
This is not a purpose-built tourist village but is a traditional working village that opened its doors up to travellers as a way for the community to flourish. The tourism initiatives are developed from, by, and for the community.

What to do?
The village offers an array of fun activities, such as learning how to make a wayang suket (doll made out of straw), play traditional instruments, and dance Javanese style.

 

Yogyakarta Royal Palace
The Travel Nova | 7 cultural highlights of Indonesia | Yogyakarta Royal Palace

What is it?
The royal residence of the Sultan of Yogyakarta, this is the political and cultural centre of the vibrant city.

Why go here?
A great source of information about Javanese culture and history.

What to do?
Catch one of the live performances: dance, music, poetry and puppetry. Be sure to check the schedules ahead of your trip.

 

Plentong Batik Village
The Travel Nova | 7 cultural highlights of Indonesia | Plentong Batik Village

What is it?
A family-run batik shop and factory in Yogyakarta.

Why go here?
Meet the skilled workers who create the intricate designs and see how the art of batik is handmade.

What to do?
Design and make your own batik! This was my favourite activity during my culture Trip of Wonders with the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism.

 

Rumah Desa

The Travel Nova | 7 cultural highlights of Indonesia | Rumah Desa Cultural Village

What is it?
Like Pentingsari Cultural Village, Rumah Desa offers a range of activities and experiences in a beautiful setting among rice paddies.

Why go here?
See another side of Bali. The food was the best that I had during my Trip of Wonders.

What to do?
Have lunch there and then choose from the fun activities on offer, such as learning how to plough a field with cows and plant rice.

 

Ubud Royal Palace
The Travel Nova | 7 cultural highlights of Indonesia | Ubud Royal Palace
Photo courtesy of Yuki Anggia (@yukianggia)

What is it?
Also known as the Pura Agung Desa Peliatan, this is home to the King of Ubud and 64 other families.

Why go here?
The palace and the temples on its grounds are fine examples of Balinese architecture, and the pretty gardens make for a lovely place to have a wander.

What to do?
Get dressed up in traditional Balinese traditional attire and learn how to make and carry a Gebogan, the Balinese offerings used in special ceremony.

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