In this post, I focus on the best family friendly places to visit with your child outside of Bali and Jakarta. When it comes to Indonesia, Bali and Jakarta are the automatic destinations of choice. However there’s much more to Indonesia than Bintang singlets, reenactments of “Eat Pray Love” in Ubud, or grand shopping experiences in one of Jakarta’s many malls.
It must be remembered that Indonesia is an archipelago of not only different islands, but diverse cultures, languages, customs and foods. Each city and island you visit will be different to each other. There are over 300 ethnic groups and over 700 languages. You will be greatly mistaken if you consider traveling to Jakarta and Bali as your best source of Indonesian culture.
This list of places is not a confined list. There are many places and cities with their own unique quirks which deserve at least a day of travel.
The city of Batu is an hour drive from the city of Surabaya. It is best known for being a getaway destination for rich families who own holiday homes within the mountainous Batu region. There are numerous adventure attractions and museums your child can explore to develop their explorative nature. These include:
- Batu Secret Zoo
- Museum Angkut
- Jawa Timur Park (theme park)
- Batu Green Park (environment museum)
- Conban Talun Waterfall
- Batu Night Spectacular (night theme park)
Better known as Jogja to the Indonesians, this city is a great guide to Indonesia’s culture and history. For shopping, the famous Maliboro strip is great for traditional ornaments or fashionable batik clothing to make you look like the best-looking hipster in New York (if that is your thing). Jogja is also a great city to impress upon your child, a cultural and historic lesson on Indonesia. Java is often known as the epicentre of Indonesian culture, with the Javanese kingdom being the highest caste of Indonesia. The historic buildings, provide a flashback to a centuries-old culture thriving in the modern world. The ancient temples, transport your family to a time when the Hindu religion dominated Indonesia, before the influx of Islam via Arab sea traders. In terms of attractions the best places to visit are:
For those who still pine for the luxuries of Bali, but want to avoid a group of graduate students on a wild party adventure (seriously, Legian is just one wild party strip), then Lombok is your best option. This island offers many luxurious beach resort experiences that do not include the hustle and bustle of Bali. The beaches possess an authenticity that remains untouched from the demands of the commercial traveler. The lack of commercial tourism, allows your family to fully explore the local Lombok culture, without the displeasure of travel hawkers looking to take advantage of tourists with a greater currency exchange than the locals. Great places to visit whilst in Lombok include:
Komodo National Park
If your idea for a great place to visit includes seeing one of the world’s most ancient and rarest animals, then you’re in the right place. Within the tiny island of Komodo, lies the komodo dragon, feared for its savage nature, but respected for its longevity. This island is a UNESCO world heritage site that houses the world’s largest lizard. I must admit, the Komodo Dragon is a fearsome sight which may initially scare your child, but the opportunity to expose your child to a rare animal will no doubt increase your child’s respect for the animal kingdom. The komodo conveys intimidation, which forces your child to respect the fearsome nature of the komodo dragon.
The idyllic mountain ranges near Mount Bromo is a perfect escape for your family away from the chaotic traffic of Jakarta. The first impression you attain is the inescapable smell of egg (no trust me you do smell egg, without any eggs in sight!), stemming from the gases of the dormant Mount Bromo volcano. This is a great way to introduce your family to a great nature experience, via horse ride or walking trek. The views from the top of the mountain ranges are one of the best seen not only in Indonesia but the world.
If you intend to cleanse yourself from the hustle and bustle of Jakarta, then the one hour drive to Bandung will help you forget the stress of Jakarta. Considered the outlet shopping capital of Indonesia, the city of Bandung is more than just outlet shops. The nature preserves provide a great escape and great introduction for your child’s nature education. It is also a great location for some of Indonesia’s best culinary dishes, such as siomay and satay. Good places to check out in Bandung are:
- Geology Museum
- Bandung Grand Mosque
- Kawah Putih White Crater
- Forest Park Conservation Area Tahura Ir. H. Juanda
- Farm House – Hobbit Town
Another Javanese city, considered an escape from the frenetic nature of Surabaya, Malang is a city best known for its majestic mountain ranges. Whether it’s a mountain hiking adventure or a luxurious stroll through nature strips, this city offers a great introduction to Indonesia’s natural environment. Malang also borders Batu city, which possesses many family-friendly theme parks.
Another gem of a city within Java displaying Indonesia’s colonial past. Semarang was a trading point in colonial times for the Dutch. These days remnants of the old Dutch-inspired architecture can be seen through grand tours of the classic Luwang Sewu building which is both enchanting and haunting. There is also an old town which showcases Indonesia during the Dutch colonial period.
Similar to Komodo, in which you replace the Komodo Dragon with the elusive orangutan. North of Medan, this place is home to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. The centre is surrounded by thick jungle and is a great eco-friendly experience. The centre will help your child garner a greater appreciation for the Orangutan, and the overall animal kingdom. The centre also has internal accommodation which provides great access to the Orangutans
It is important to note, that there are many more places you can visit outside of the list above. I cannot stress the diversity of different experiences you and your family can experience outside of Jakarta and Bali. Indonesia truly is a diverse archipelago of experiences for your child.
Chris & Ariana