Two week Indonesia itinerary: Java and Bali

Indonesia is one of the world’s best backpacker destinations. People are friendly, it’s cheap, and it offers a wide variety of activities. But it’s also huge — the 15th largest country in the world, in fact. So if you only have time for a short holiday, you’ll have to choose carefully where you want to go. This two week Indonesia itinerary can help you decide.

 

 

In addition to being huge, Indonesia isn’t the easiest country to get around — after all, it’s made up of 17,000 islands. If you try to see the whole country in two weeks, you’ll end up exhausted and in transit the entire time. So your first decision about how to spend two weeks in Indonesia will be to select a handful of islands to explore.

 

This itinerary focuses on Java, Bali and nearby small islands. It allows you to cover many of the country’s highlights — volcanoes, temples, beaches, and traditional culture — while keeping your travel days short and keeping transit costs low. I’ll also lay out a few alternatives at the end of this post.

 

Week one: Java

 

Start your Indonesia exploration on Java — the most populous island in the world. Java is high-energy and fast-paced. Its cities are huge and chaotic. But it also has some of the most beautiful natural destinations I’ve ever seen.

 

Most international flights arrive in Jakarta, Indonesia’s biggest city and a convenient jumping-off point for this two week Indonesia itinerary.

 

You can cover Java’s highlights in a little less than a week.

 

Days 1-3: Yogyakarta and surrounds

 

Sunrise at Borobudur
Sunrise at Borobudur, near Yogyakarta

 

Jakarta may be Indonesia’s capital, but it’s not a very interesting city for travelers. So try to avoid spending time there. Instead, hop on a domestic flight to Yogyakarta.

 

Yogyakarta is a student town that’s still ruled by a sultan, situated in between two of Indonesia’s most important ancient temple complexes. In other words, there’s a lot to do here. It’s worth devoting three days out of your two weeks in Indonesia.

 

Spend one day exploring the city itself. The highlights are the Sultan’s palace and the Kraton neighborhood.

 

On your second day, check out the traditional market and walk up and down Jl. Malioboro hunting for souvenirs. Grab a street food lunch. Then, head 16 km outside of town to visit the incredible Hindu temple complex of Prambanan for sunset.

 

Finally, spend your last day visiting Borobudur — Indonesia’s most beautiful ancient temple. Try to go for sunrise and spend the afternoon exploring the nearby villages and rice fields, or combine it with a trip to the lower slopes of Mount Merapi.

 

For details on how to spend three days in Yogyakarta, check out this post.

Where to stay: OstiC House

Where to eat: Bu Ageng, Milas, and any street food stall that looks good

 

Days 4-6: Bromo and Ijen

 

Sunrise over Mount Bromo
Sunrise at Mount Bromo

 

Once you’ve had your fill of urban exploration, it’s time to head out into nature! This section of the two week Indonesia itinerary gives you the chance to hike up two volcanoes. If you’re not a hiker, Bromo is completely accessible by car. You should be in pretty decent shape — capable of walking 2 km uphill — to attempt Ijen.

 

Take the overnight train from Yogyakarta to Probolinggo, then transfer to a minibus to Cemoro Lawang. Spend the afternoon walking around the village and taking in the views of Mount Bromo. Walk across the “sea of sand” and gaze into the crater.

 

Then, set your alarm for 3 am for the hike or drive to a sunrise viewpoint. The best balance of views and crowd can be found at King Kong Hill. Watch one of the world’s most epic sunrises over three volcanoes towering above a cloud-covered valley.

 

Hike or drive back down shortly after sunrise and grab breakfast in town. Then start the bus journey to Banyuwangi, the staging point for the trip up Ijen. Go to sleep as early as possible, because you have another early morning ahead of you.

 

The trip to Ijen starts at 1 am. You’ll take a motorbike or a minibus much of the way up the mountain — about a two-hour drive — before reaching the start of the path. Then, it’s a tough climb to the top and then down into the crater. From the crater, you’ll be able to see the incredible blue flame. You’ll meet sulfur miners who have arguably one of the hardest jobs in the world. And you’ll be rewarded with yet another spectacular sunrise over an impossibly-blue crater lake.

 

For the full rundown on how to see Bromo and Ijen, read this post.

 

Where to stay: Any cheap homestay in Cemoro Lawang. Kampung Osing Inn in Banyuwangi.

Where to eat: Cafe Lava in Cemoro Lawang — especially for the buffet breakfast.

 

Week two: Bali and surrounding islands

 

From Banyuwangi, you’re a mere 30 minutes from Bali on the public ferry. It runs 24 hours a day and drops you off in Gilimanuk.

 

The problem is Gilimanuk is not the most accessible corner of Bali. If you’re public transport-reliant, you’ll have a hard time getting through to South Bali or Ubud in a day.

 

This leaves you with two options: Hire a taxi to take you deeper into Bali, or spend a couple nights on the more-accessible north coast first. I highly recommend the latter — if you’re coming off of two early mornings in a row from Bromo and Ijen, you won’t be in the mood for a long travel day. Plus, Bali’s north coast is laid-back and unspoiled by mass tourism. It’s a nice change of pace for halfway through this two week Indonesia itinerary.

 

Days 7-8: Pemuteran or Lovina

 

Pemuteran makes a low-key beach getaway during your two week Indonesia itinerary
Pemuteran is home to many fishermen, and the beach is lined with their boats

 

Bali’s best diving is in the waters around Menjangan Island — a protected marine park near Pemuteran. The coral formations are incredible. You won’t have time on a two week Indonesia itinerary to go to Raja Ampat or other world-class dive sites, so Menjangan Island is a good alternative for diving or snorkeling on a short trip.

 

Pemuteran and Lovina both have beautiful beaches and a low-key coastal village vibe. It’s worth spending at least an afternoon just lounging around before or after your underwater adventures.

 

Pemuteran is geared toward midrange travelers (although there are plenty of cheap places to stay and eat). It’s the better choice if you like a small-town atmosphere, and you can explore little-visited temples in the surrounding area.

 

Lovina is more built-up and has a small backpacker party scene. It’s more convenient to organize onward travel from here. Additionally, Lovina makes a good base to go dolphin-spotting.

 

Where to stay: I highly recommend Kubu Sari Guesthouse

Where to eat: Don’t miss the awesome pizza at La Casa Kita

 

Days 9-11: Ubud

 

Don't miss a traditional Balinese dance performance during your 2 week Indonesia itinerary
Traditional Balinese dance performance in Ubud

 

The next stop on this two week Indonesia itinerary is Ubud. One of the biggest tourist hotspots in Southeast Asia, and justifiably so, you could devote two or three days to learning about Balinese culture here.

 

Spend at least one day checking out the city’s amazing art museums. Learn about the folklore behind traditional artwork and how expats influenced artists to incorporate scenes from everyday life into their painting.

 

Ubud can feel crowded at times. So get out of the center of the city and go on a walk through the rice fields. These range from easy strolls to 8 km hikes, depending on how active you want to be.

 

Don’t miss the chance to see a traditional Balinese dance performance in the evenings. Tickets run 50-100,000 rupiah, and performances are about an hour long. Especially amazing is the rendition of the Ramayana (it helps to know a bit about the legend before you watch the dance performance). The extremely helpful tourist information center sells tickets and can point you to that evening’s best shows.

 

Ubud’s somewhat-central location makes it a good place for day trips around Bali. One popular option takes in the Elephant Cave, an ancient ruins site, a few famous temples, and some rice terraces and waterfalls. Alternatively, you can organize a hike up Gunung Batur or Gunung Agung for sunrise. If minibus tours don’t sound appealing, you can rent a motorbike and go on your own — just be aware that your travel insurance probably won’t cover you if you aren’t licensed to drive a motorcycle in your home country.

 

Where to stay: Depa House is a friendly, clean, cheap and central base

Where to eat: Too many options to name. My favorites include Sari Organik, Bali Buddha, and Gelato Secrets.

 

Days 12-13: Nusa Islands or Gili Islands

 

Backpacking Indonesia feature image
Fisherman off the coast of Nusa Lembongan

 

By now, you’ve gotten a taste of Indonesia’s cities, volcanoes, marine wildlife, and culture. Now, spend the rest of your two week Indonesia itinerary at the beach!

 

The Nusa Islands (Lembongan, Ceningan, and Pendida) and the Gili Islands (Gili T, Gili Meno, and Gili Air) are both quick enough trips from Bali that they’re worth it for just a couple days. Both sets of islands offer a much more low-key getaway than the beaches of South Bali. On the Gilis, you can’t even ride a motorbike.

 

The Gilis are a little further away — it’s about a half-day of travel to reach them. These are definitely tourist islands, and Gili T is a major party destination. However, they’re also meant to be very beautiful and well worth the trip.

 

Nusa Lembongan is only 30 minutes away from Bali. It’s not quite as relaxed as the Gilis — there are definitely still motorbikes — but it also has a decent blend of local life and tourism. From Lembongan, you can walk to the much quieter Nusa Ceningan (home to a large seaweed industry) or take a day trip to little-visited Nusa Pendida. See this post for more things to do on Nusa Lembongan.

 

Where to stay: Casa Janu on Nusa Lembongan has a friendly local vibe

Where to eat: The Nusas’ best seafood is on Ceningan, at Sea Breeze Warung

 

Day 14: South Bali/Jakarta

 

Kuta's a little obnoxious, but at least the sunsets are nice
Kuta’s a little obnoxious, but at least the sunsets are nice

 

Your two-week Indonesia itinerary is coming to an end. Unfortunately, most of your last day in the country will be spent getting to the airport.

 

If your international flight leaves from Bali, you’re lucky — you can probably justify one more beach day. Kuta is the most convenient town to the airport. It’s kind of awful and touristic and full of drunk 18-year-olds, but the beach is quite nice. You can even walk all the way to Seminyak for a delicious brunch at the Garden Cafe.

 

If you’re flying out of Jakarta, you’ll have to first hop on a domestic flight back there from Bali. It’s best to do this the day before your international flight — delays on domestic flights in Indonesia are very common. Jakarta has a handful of good museums and really excellent food options to explore if you have to spend a day there.

 

Where to stay: I can’t recommend anywhere in South Bali. I stayed at Warung Coco Hostel, but its bad location, unpleasant staff and sub-par cleanliness made it a real letdown after everywhere else I stayed in Indonesia. Conversely, The Packer Lodge in Jakarta is amazing and I highly recommend it.

Where to eat: In Kuta, don’t miss the authentic Sumatran street food at Saleko. Jakarta is a street-food-lover’s paradise — the Glodok neighborhood is a good place to start.

 

Two week Indonesia itinerary alternatives

 

Depending on your specific interests, this two week Indonesia itinerary may not cover everything you’d like it to. So here I’ll lay out a couple of substitutes you could make.

 

Lombok

 

Many travelers choose to skip Java and focus their two week Indonesia itinerary on Bali and Lombok. This cuts down on travel days significantly — Lombok is a much smaller island than Java.

 

You don’t have to miss out on volcanoes if you do Lombok instead of Java — Gunung Rinjani is an epic climb. Plan on a two-day, one-night trip and prepare for a tough hike.

 

The downside is Lombok is very touristy and is less distinctive from Bali than Java is. Additionally, this option means you miss the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan.

 

Komodo National Park

 

If you’re a diver, Komodo is probably one of the biggest draws to Indonesia. Even if you don’t dive, you may dream of seeing the world’s only real-life dragons.

 

It is possible to squeeze Komodo into a two week itinerary. To do so, you’d need to skip Pemuteran/Lovina and the Nusa/Gili islands. Head straight to Ubud when you arrive on Bali, spend a couple days there, then fly to Labuan Bajo for three days.

 

The main downside is flights to Labuan Bajo are expensive. It would have cost me $350 to fly from Bali and get back to Jakarta in time for my flight home. For just three days, it didn’t seem worth it.

 

Additionally, the Komodo dragons mate in July and August, which is high season in the rest of Indonesia. They tend to be less active during mating season. You’ll probably still see them, but not quite as easily or in the numbers you would at other times of year.

 

Orangutans

 

Another big draw to Indonesia for many travelers is the chance to see orangutans in the wild. There are two places to do this — Sumatra and Kalimantan.

 

Unfortunately, an orangutan trip is a lot harder to fit in on a two week Indonesia itinerary. It would probably require skipping either Java or Bali entirely and spending more time in transit. You’ll have to round-trip fly to the island you choose, spend a couple days with the orangutans, and then immediately turn around and fly back.

 

To see the orangutans in Sumatra, fly to Medan and hop on a five-hour bus to Bukit Lawang. From there, you can either visit the conservation center for guaranteed orangutan sightings, or arrange a two-day trek into the jungle. Most travelers who do this trip recommend spending at least a week on Sumatra, and ideally closer to three weeks — it’s a huge island with a lot to explore.

 

If you’d rather head to Kalimantan, you’ll need to fly into Pangkalan Bun — which is easiest from Jakarta. Then you’ll take a taxi to Kumai, followed by a speedboat or public ferry/motorbike combination to the national park. Most people arrange a three-day, two-night riverboat trip to see the orangutans and get deep into the jungle.

 

Is two weeks in Indonesia enough?

 

You may not be able to see all of Indonesia in two weeks, but at least that gives you something to come back for.
You may not be able to see all of Indonesia in two weeks, but at least that gives you something to come back for.

 

As you may have gathered from the alternatives listed above, it’s impossible for a two week Indonesia itinerary to cover everything this country has to offer. No matter what you choose to do, there will be something to come back for.

 

However, Indonesia is an immensely enjoyable country to travel in. So just because you can’t see everything in one visit doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go if you only have two weeks. After all, you can always go back. And I can almost guarantee you’ll want to.

 

What are your favorite places in Indonesia? Would you include anything else in a two week trip? Leave a comment!

 

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This two week Indonesia itinerary will give you everything you need to plan a short trip

 

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