Indonesia is a country that remains surprisingly little known. Virtually everyone has heard of Bali, but few people realize that there are 17,507 other islands, which make up an archipelago 3,275 miles wide. (For context, it is 2,446 miles from New York to Los Angeles.) Indonesia is the world’s fourth-most-populous nation, with about 261 million inhabitants. And its biodiversity is second only to that of Brazil's. In the far east of the country, in the Papua province, there are still animist tribal groups, such as the Yali people, whose way of life has changed little since the Stone Age. In contrast, the country’s capital, Jakarta, is a vast sprawl of concrete high-rise buildings.
Despite having some of the world’s best scuba diving — in the exquisite Raja Ampat Islands — and exotic wildlife that includes the Komodo dragon and numerous birds of paradise, most of Indonesia receives few tourists. The country has a limited number of upscale hotels, and much of the archipelago is still best explored by boat. Wherever you go, one of the most consistent pleasures of a visit is the food. Indonesian cuisine is complex, vibrant and almost infinitely varied.
This itinerary combines relaxation, adventure and cultural interest. After a period of recuperation in Bali, you will head to the remote island of Sumba for an extended stay at a remarkable new hideaway. There, you can surf, fish, ride and hike, as well as lounge by the pool. On your return to Bali, you will transfer to one of the world’s leading spa resorts. The journey concludes in Java, where you will have the opportunity to visit one of the world’s great cultural monuments: the Buddhist temple complex of Borobudur.
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After your long flight to Denpasar via Singapore, transfer to the Alila Villas Uluwatu for three nights. The resort is situated on the southern Bukit Peninsula, which is connected to the main landmass of Bali by a narrow isthmus. At its southern edge, the land falls abruptly into the Indian Ocean in a series of 300-foot-plus cliffs.
The 65 villas are set in a serene and wooded environment with spectacular sea views, an ideal place in which to recuperate. Each is a self-contained world with a pool, private walled garden and relaxation pavilion. In the evening, duly refreshed, have dinner at The Warung, the resort’s excellent Indonesian restaurant.
After breakfast, and depending on the height of the tide and your degree of physical fitness, walk down the 600 steps to the resort’s idyllic private beach, which is protected by a fringing reef. Alternatively, you may prefer to relax beside the property’s spectacular 165-foot horizon pool.
After a light lunch, spend the afternoon in the superlative Spa Alila, which offers a variety of Asian treatments and therapies. Yoga and meditation classes are offered.
This evening, enjoy a cocktail in the extraordinary Sunset Cabana, which is cantilevered over the edge of the cliff. Afterward, have dinner outside on the terrace at CIRE, which serves delicious international as well as pan-Asian cuisine.
Much of the Bukit Peninsula is arid and sandy, ideal terrain for golf course construction. Golf enthusiasts may wish to play a round within sight of the Indian Ocean, an excursion that can be arranged by the concierge.
Although most of Bali’s cultural monuments are in the north of the island, the Uluwatu Temple, overlooking the sea on the Bukit Peninsula, is regarded as one of the Sad Kahyangan Jagad, or the six holiest places of worship on Bali. The temple was built chiefly in the 11th century atop a 250-foot cliff. A traditional dance performance, based on the Indian epic poem, the Ramayana, is performed daily at 6 p.m. The temple is approximately a 20-minute drive from the resort.
This morning, transfer to Ngurah Rai airport, on the outskirts of Bali’s capital city. The flight by regional jet to Tambolaka on the remote island of Sumba takes 55 minutes. Passengers seated on the left-hand side of the plane will see the islands of Lombok and Sumbawa slide past. The transfer to Nihi Sumba, in one of the resort’s air-conditioned vehicles, lasts about two hours. The road is bumpy in places, but it passes through an unspoiled landscape of mysterious forested hills.
Nihi Sumba is set on a 550-acre wooded estate that slopes down to the sea. It was originally a simple surfing resort, but in 2012 it was acquired by New York billionaire entrepreneur J. Christopher Burch, who has since invested a reported $30 million to build 27 villas with 38 rooms.
Having settled into your spectacular accommodations, each of which comes with a private garden and pool, head down to the Nio Beach Club for a light lunch of grilled fish or meat, or perhaps a wood-fired pizza. Afterward, you may wish to stroll along the mile and a half of tide-swept sand.
In the evening, have dinner at Ombak, the resort’s main restaurant, which has a large deck overlooking the ocean. The menu offers a mix of exceptional Indonesian and international dishes.
Leave the hotel at about 7 a.m. for a “spa safari.” This begins with a guided three-hour hike through villages and paddy fields to the resort’s separate NihiOka spa complex. On arrival, have a light breakfast in an elevated pavilion, overlooking the crashing surf. Then head to your private spa pavilion for a range of pre-selected treatments. Later, you may wish to swim in the ocean and spend time lounging beside a horizon pool before being driven back to Nihi Sumba in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.
In the late afternoon, try your hand at sportfishing aboard one of the property’s two boats. There is no commercial fishing in Sumba, and the waters near the resort are full of wahoo and Spanish mackerel.
Rise early and walk across to Nihi Sumba’s large and impressive equestrian complex — horses are an extremely important part of Sumbanese culture — and head out for a ride through local villages to a nearby beach for a gallop through the waves.
In the afternoon, take a relaxing trip by paddleboard down the tranquil Wanukaka River through unspoiled villages.
On your last full day at Nihi Sumba, take a guided hike to one of the local waterfalls. The “Blue Waterfall” excursion includes a 90-minute walk through a national park, to a spectacular lagoon surrounded by cliffs up to 900 feet high.
In the afternoon, either go on a guided cultural excursion or, alternatively, visit the headquarters of the Sumba Foundation, partly subsidized by Burch, which aids local schools and health clinics, and organizes malaria-eradication programs.
After breakfast, transfer to Tambolaka, and from there fly back to Bali. A driver will be waiting to take you to COMO Shambhala Estate, an exquisite spa retreat set at the edge of the spectacular Ayung River Gorge, located a 20-minute drive to the north of Ubud, Bali’s cultural capital. Although much of Bali has been affected by tourism, the area surrounding the resort is unspoiled, and the property is within easy reach of the island’s most impressive sculptured rice terraces.
In the afternoon, relax in your sumptuous suite and enjoy your private pool, soothed by a soundtrack of rushing rapids far below. Later, have dinner at Kudus House, an exquisite 150-year-old wooden Javanese residence that features a menu of regional dishes.
COMO Shambhala is one of the world’s leading spa resorts, so after breakfast head to the hydrotherapy spa to consult the resident nutritionist, physiotherapist and Ayurvedic doctor.
After an indulgent day of treatments and massages, have dinner at glow, the property’s organic restaurant, with a menu of spa cuisine.
Today, set out early with a private driver and guide for a full-day cultural excursion to visit some of Bali’s most important temples, all of which are adorned with intricate carving and decoration. The north of the island is dominated by volcanoes, the highest of which, Mount Agung, rises to nearly 9,500 feet. You will also be taken to see the spectacular Jatiluwih rice terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Later in the afternoon, visit Ubud, a town famous for galleries displaying the work of Bali’s leading artists. In the evening, have a rustic dinner in a restaurant recommended by the concierge.
From Denpasar, fly to Jakarta and onto the central Javanese city of Yogyakarta. A driver will be waiting to transfer you to Amanjiwo for a three-night stay. The resort enjoys an exceptional setting, backed by the Menoreh Hills with a view of distant volcanoes. Enveloped by rainforest, it is set within a natural amphitheater.
Relax for a while in your suite, which comes with a four-pillar bed, a sunken tub and a private garden with a thatched-roof pavilion. Later, take a dip in the magnificent 130-foot swimming pool, with a backdrop of rice paddies and banyan trees. After a tiring day of travel, opt for a private Indonesian barbecue served in the privacy of your suite.
This morning, one of the resort’s guides will take you to see nearby Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist monument and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its six platforms are decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 lifesize Buddha statues. Afterward, visit some of the venerable Hindu temples on the Dieng Plateau, dating from the seventh and eighth centuries, plus the ancient Hindu complex of Prambanan.
In the evening, try the resort’s signature soursop martini and then enjoy dinner in the colonnaded restaurant, with views over rice fields to Borobudur. The menu features Javanese and Indonesian dishes with most of the ingredients coming from the resort’s garden or nearby farms.
On your last day in Indonesia, go on a guided trek through the memorable landscape. If you are fit, you can ascend the steep flanks of Mount Merapi. The walk to Selogriyo, an eighth-century Hindu temple, high on the slopes of Mount Sumbing, passes through some of Java’s most sensational rice paddies. Alternatively, venture into lush Menoreh Hills, to visit local villages and clove plantations.
Back at the resort, spend two or three hours in the spa, to experience traditional Javanese healing and beauty rituals. Then, as it is your final evening, indulge in a private Indonesian feast, served in a gracious Javanese home close to Borobudur.
Return to Yogyakarta and from there fly back to Jakarta and then onto Singapore and home from there.
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