At the centre of the archipelago of Indonesia is the sprawling island of Sulawesi. You will be enchanted by the diverse landscape of rolling highlands, forested hills and beautiful beaches. The majority of the 15 million inhabitants of the island live in the South in the area surrounding the port of Makassar. Yet the first real stop for most travellers are the highlands of Tana Toraja.
The highlands of Tana Toraja are hidden behind sweeping volcanos in the centre of Sulawesi. It’s a fairytale landscape, with building shaped like the horns of buffalo set between emerald green rice fields. If you like the outdoors you’ll enjoy your time here. Spend a few lazy days trekking around the countryside and make sure you set aside some time to visit the local coffee plantations where you can sample the delicious Torajan coffee.
Further to the north of Tana Toraja you will discover a region covered in thick jungle and inhabited by unusual creatures, like the nocturnal tarsiers that look like gremlins (before they turned). The majority of tourists that visit come to explore the hundreds of tropical islands that surround Sulawesi.
One of the most famous and easiest to reach of the islands surrounding Sulawesi is Bunaken. The island is a 20 minute boat ride away from Manado making it ideal for a weekend break. More distant and harder to reach are the island chains of Wakatobi and Togean that attract avid divers from around the world.
Transport and Infrastructure
Flores is relatively underdeveloped and sparsely populated. The cities of Makassar and Manado, both of which have international airports, are the main entry points to the island. Most of the smaller cities have airports, but the service is not reliable and the companies operating the routes are always changing. Public transport on the mainland is also limited and the distances between the main urban centres are large. It’s worth renting a car if you really want to explore Sulawesi.
You’ll need to do a lot of research if you plan to visit some of the more ‘off the beaten path’ islands that surround Sulawesi. Getting to popular diving destinations like Wakatobi or the Togean islands, while worth it, takes time. There are public and private ferry services operating to most places, but you’ll need to pay for private transport to get to the more remote areas.
Sulawesi: Local and City Guides
To help you arrange your trip through Sulawesi we collected a selection of our most useful resources for exploring the island. You can find a variety of city guides, hotel recommendations and itineraries in the links below. We hope you find them useful for arranging your holiday.