Sulawesi Tourist Attractions and Sightseeing
(Sulawesi, Sunda Islands, Indonesia)
There really are some great tourist attractions spread around Sulawesi, including world-class scuba diving on the island of Pulau Bunaken, and some stunning sandy beaches on the Togean Islands. The city of Makassar is brimming with attractions and resides in South Sulawesi, being something of a metropolis and known for its exciting nightlife.
If you prefer to take things at a slower pace, then consider reclining aboard a Pelni liner and enjoying a scenic cruise along the east coast of Sulawesi, between Makassar and Manado. And if you are in the Tana Toraja area, then you may well be lucky enough to experience one of their elaborate funeral ceremonies.
- Ampana - a pleasant town with good boat connections to the Togean Islands. The dock and local market are lively places to hang out if you are looking for something to do in Ampana.
- Banggai Islands - rather remote and deserving at least a few days to explore properly, the Banggai Islands are often overlooked. However, those who do make the effort to come here will be able to enjoy some superb scuba diving, swimming and frequent whale and dugong (aquatic manatee-type mammals) sightings. Pulau Peleng is the largest of the Banggai Islands, with homestays being available at the settlements of Salakan and Tataba.
- Danau Poso - the third-biggest lake in the whole of Indonesia, covering an area of more than 74,100 acres / 30,000 hectares. Boat trios and hiking trails are the main attractions around Danau Poso.
- Donggala - historically the Dutch administrative centre, Donggala's port was once the principal harbour of Central Sulawesi, becoming silted up over time. Today, Donggala is considerably quieter than it once was. However, just 5 km / 3 miles to the north, the Coral Peninsula known as the Tanjung Karang is quite the tourist magnet, as is the colourful coral reef at the Prince John Dive Resort.
- Kolonedale - mainly seen by travellers as simply the gateway into the Morowali Nature Reserve, although there is an impressive mosque and pleasant guest houses around the dock.
- Lore Lindu National Park - covering approximately 617,760 acres / 250,000 hectares and very much untouched by the world of tourism. The Indonesian flora and fauna within the Lore Lindu National Park is extremely rich, with hornbills and even the occasional tarsier (a nocturnal primate), as well as a handful of indigenous tribes. Of interest, look out for the megalithic stones at Doda and Gintu.
- Luwuk - the most significant town on Central Sulawesi's eastern peninsula and a good stepping stone to the Banggai Islands. Luwuk's main tourist attractions include 75-metre / 246-foot Air Terjun Hengahenga waterfall, while some 80 km / 50 miles to the south-west is the Bangkiriang Nature Reserve.
- Morowali Nature Reserve - established during the 1980s and around 556,000 acres / 225,000 hectares in size. Tourists visiting the Morowali Nature Reserve will find that this area is best explored on foot, by using the plentiful trekking trails.
- Palu - the capital of Central Sulawesi, with a population quickly approaching 300,000 people. The city of Palu offers tourists just a few meaningful attractions, such as the Museum Negeri Propinsi Sulawesi Tengah. Both the Lore Lindu National Park and Tanjung Karang are within easy reach of Palu.
- Pendolo - a sleepy and charming village located on the southerly side of the Danau Poso lake, Pendolo features a number of good beaches and opportunities for swimming, next to the boat jetty.
- Poso - the main town and port for the northern side of Central Sulawesi. Poso is a good place to base yourself if you are planning to explore the island. The beaches around Poso are understandably a popular attraction and present good swimming and snorkelling possibilities. Surrounding beaches include the Pantai Madale, the Pantai Matako and the Pantai Toini.
- Tanjung Api National Park - this popular park is around 10,500 acres / 4,250 hectares in size and offers an especially unusual attraction, a burning coral cliff, which remains fueled by naturally formed gas, leaking through the rocks.
- Teluk Tomori - a very beautiful and underrated part of Central Sulawesi, with dramatic limestone cliff faces and turquoise waters. The bay around Teluk Tomori really is best explored by boat.
- Tentena - situated on the northern shore of Danau Poso and close to Pendolo. Tentena has an excellent array of facilities and attractions, with its long bridge marking the point where the Sungai Poso river joins the lake. Eel fishing here has become famous.
- Airmadidi - the setting of acclaimed local mineral springs where, it is said, angels from heaven come to bathe when the moon is full. The pre-Christian tombs (warugas) are an interesting attraction in Airmadidi.
- Bitung - an important regional port town, with regular buses running to Manado throughout the day. Lots of traditional Indonesian eateries (rumah makans) are clustered in the centre of Bitung.
- Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park - located approximately 50 km / 31 miles to the west of Kotamobagu and encompassing just under 494,200 acres / 200,000 hectares. The Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park was previously named the Dumoga Bone and is nothing short of a haven for Indonesian wildlife.
- Danau Tondano - a large lake just under 30 km / 19 miles from Manado. Danau Tondano is a truly exceptional beauty spot and features lots of reliable hiking trails. A number of very decent restaurants line the road around the lake, being popular for Sunday lunches.
- Gorontalo - a busy port town with a distinct countryside atmosphere. Diving is becoming a serious attraction in Gorontalo, although is rather seasonal, being best between November and April. It really is worth coming to Gorontalo to see the wonderfully preserved colonial Dutch houses, which are amongst some of the finest in the whole of Sulawesi.
- Kotamobagu - a market town often abbreviated to simply 'Kota'. Travellers will find Kotamobagu a handy stopover between Manado and Gorontalo, as well as being a great base for accessing the nearby Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park.
- Manado - a large city with a population now topping half a million residents. The city of Manado may have lost some of its colonial character and charm, but still delivers on tourist attractions, being home to the Museum Negeri Propinsi Sulawesi Utara and the historic Kienteng Ban Hian Kong temple.
- Pulau Bunaken - attracting keen scuba divers from the world over, who come here to marvel at the sheer colour and biodiversity of marine life around the shoreline. The island of Pulau Bunaken is part of the Taman Laut Wakatobi (Wakatobi Marine National Park). Glass-bottom boat cruises around Bunaken are always a popular attraction with tourists.
- Sangir and Talaud Islands - there are a total of 77 different islands within the Sangir and Talaud archipelagoes. The main islands of interest include the Karakelong, Kaburuang, Salibabu, Sangir Besar and Siau.
- Tangkoko Batuangas Dua Saudara Nature Reserve - a very accessible nature attraction and one of Indonesia's most outstanding. Do make time to visit the attractions of the Tangkoko Batuangas Dua Saudara Nature Reserve, which include black macaques (small monkeys) and red-knobbed hornbills. Permits are necessary for entry into the park and are available at the National Parks (KDSA) office in Batuputih.
- Tomohon - situated beneath the towering Gunung Lokon volcano, Tomohon serves as a quiet weekend break for those living in Manado. The local market is a good way to familiarise yourself with Tomohon and its rich produce.
- Bantimurung - with a definite pre-historic feel and home to the acclaimed Air Terjun Bantimurung waterfalls, which cascade down some giant limestone cliffs and really are quite a sight to behold. Nearby is the hill resort of Malino and the cave paintings of Gua Leang Leang.
- Makassar - a huge city with a population of more than one and a half million people, Makassar (Ujung Pandang) has long been Sulawesi's most important city, as well as being a heavily used gateway into the eastern Indonesia region. Makassar's attractions are in good supply and include Fort Rotterdam and its Museum Negeri La Galigo, and Old Gowa. Many ruins from the former kingdom of Gowa remain on the outskirts of Makassar, such as the Benteng Sugguminasa fortress, the Makam Sultan Hasanuddin memorial, and the Pelantikan Stone, where the kings of Gowa were once crowned.
- Palopo - a busy Islamic port and the Luwu region's administrative capital. Look out for the village of Bugis, which resides on the waterfront and is home to a long pier, where fishing boats often unload their catch.
- Pantai Bira - the top beach resort in South Sulawesi, offering everything that the modern holidaymaker could possibly desire, such as pristine white sandy beaches, and very good scuba diving opportunities, although the currents can often be a little on the strong side for inexperienced divers. Look out for the traditional boat builders at Marumasa, close to the village of Bira.
- Pare Pare - a well-placed stopper destination, being located en route to Makassar, suiting those travelling to or from Mamasa and Tana Toraja. Pare Pare has become the region's second-largest port and provides regular boats to Kalimantan.
- Pulau Kayangan - close to the coastline of Makassar and featuring an eclectic lineup of tourist attractions. These range from theatrical performances and live music, to water sports and a playground for children.
- Pulau Samalona - this tiny island lies just off the coast of Makassar as is famed for its snorkelling and fishing, with particularly clear and enticing waters.
- Pulau Selayar - a lengthy narrow island, sitting just off the coastline of the south-westerly peninsula. Benteng is the main town on Pulau Selayar and features several nearby attractions - namely the Bontobangun Fort (Bentang Bontobangun) and its sandy beaches. The nearby island of Pulau Pasi offers excellent snorkelling.
- Sengkang - a small town fronting the river, with a thriving hand-woven silk industry and a number of great sights. Always impressive is the Danau Tempe lake, where boats can be chartered for leisurely cruises.
- Taka Bone Rate - home to one of the biggest coral groupings in the world. Taka Bone Rate has become a major marine reserve and is rich in wildlife, both on land and in the water.
- Watampone - often abbreviated to just 'Bone' by the locals. The small town of Watampone has a variety of interesting attractions, such as the Museum Lapawawoi and the Pusat Kebudayaan Bola Soba building, the latter of which dates from the 1880s and hosts many cultural events. Nearby, the port of Bajoe offers a handy link to Kolaka.
- Bau Bau - a prosperous town on the island of Pulau Buton, Bau Bau boasts some impressive citadel walls (Kraton / Wolio Royal Citadel), which remain in a good state of repair. Bau Bau offers travellers convenient boat connections to the Maluku Islands, North Sulawesi and the scuba diving hotspot of Tukangbesi. Close to the citadel, the Pusat Kebudayaan Wolio is a memorable cultural centre / museum.
- Kendari - the capital of South-East Sulawesi, Kendari has strong connections with the inland Tolaki community. This bustling town provides a good choice of inexpensive accommodation, and is conveniently situated between Makassar and Wakatobi, serving as an ideal stopover destination for those taking this long journey. Close to Kendari, the snorkelling and diving opportunities around Pulau Hari are excellent.
- Kolaka - easily reached by boat from Bajoe, being an important gateway into the South-East Sulawesi region. Kolaka is known for its clove and cocoa plantations, and has little to tempt tourists.
- Raha - the most sizeable settlement on the island of Pulau Muna, being located in between Bau Bau and Kendari. The leading attractions in the Raha area are without question the lagoon of Napabale, followed closely by Melerua Beach (Pantai Melerua) and the Mabolu Caves (Gua Mabolu).
- Tukangbesi Islands - famed for their world-class diving and now part of the esteemed Taman Laut Wakatobi (Wakatobi Marine National Park). Pula Hoga is the place that most tourists gather in the Tukangbesi Islands, where a number of picturesque, isolated beaches are on hand.
A area of extreme natural beauty, the Mamasa Valley is also referred to as West Tana Toraja and is known for its traditional ceremonies and local handicrafts. The Mamasa Valley really is best explored on foot, allowing visitors to soak up the scenery and views at a slow pace. Mamasa is the valley's only village of any real size, where the Monday market is a source of great excitement and a chance to purchase a hand-woven blanket. The surrounding countryside is nothing short of idyllic and if you are planning to travel any distance, it makes sense to hire a motorbike, 4WD Kijang or charter a minibus (bemo). Near to the Mamasa Valley are the attractions of the Gunung Mambulilin mountain peak, the hot springs at Kole, village life in Loko, the cascading waterfall of Mambulilin Sarambu, and the jungle walks around Taupe.
- Batutumonga - boasting a very dramatic setting, on the side of the Gunung Sesean. Be sure to pay Batutumonga a visit if you can, since the panoramas of Rantepao and the Sadan Valley are quite breathtaking.
- Makale - Tana Toraja's administrative capital, centred around a large man-made lake. Makale has far less to offer than Rantepoa, although its white washed churches make for a good photograph.
- Rantepoa - the best place for tourists wishing to spend their time exploring the countryside attractions around the cultural island of Tana Toraja. Rantepoa is conveniently close to many places of interest and features a busy regular market (Pasar Bolu). Lots of recreational activities present themselves within the outlying hills, with hiking trails around the Gunung Singki and the villages of Marante and Naggala.
Togean Islands (Togian Islands)
Indonesia's famed Togean Islands really do offer the sun-seeking, beach-going holidaymaker nothing short of a tropical paradise. The beaches here are peaceful and uncommercialised, while the water presents plentiful coral reefs and endless opportunities for you to try your hand at either snorkelling and scuba diving. This scenic archipelago is comprised of a series of volcanic isles, rich in wildlife and has a choice of homestays within the various friendly, local communities. On the island of Pulau Batu Daka, Bomba is an appealing resort, with guided tours of its spooky bat caves being popular. Nearby, Wakai is the biggest settlement of the Togean Islands and features some good hiking trails. From Wakai, boat trips connect the spectacular beach on Pulau Kadidiri, which really is hard to better, anywhere in Indonesia. Other noteworthy Togean Islands include Pulau Bolilangga, Pulau Malenge, Pulau Tomken, Pulau Una Una and Pulau Walea Kodi.