Sulawesi is one of the five main islands in Indonesia. It is a geographical tapestry of coastlines, jungles, highlands and tropical islands surrounded by coral reefs. While the island is less popular than Java and Sumatra there are a lot of things to do in Sulawesi. You would need a few months to truly explore the wonders of the island.
To help you plan your holiday in Sulawesi and discover the best places to visit we created a list of 13 places to visit in Sulawesi that will quench the explorer in you. Lets get started with the real highlights, here is the essential list of things to do in Sulawesi.
Essential List of Things to do in Sulawesi
1. Tana Toraja
If you’re wondering what to do in Sulawesi, then visiting Tana Toraja should be on top of your list. Tana Toraja is in the highlands of Sulawesi. The region is famous for its elaborate funeral rituals and burial grounds. There are funeral sites where the dead are embalmed in living trees, cliff face burial grounds and you can even find mummified dead bodies in everyday houses. The large funeral ceremonies are usually held from June to August. The other thing that Tana Toraja is famous for are the Tongkonan houses and the delicious highland coffee.
Another one of the top places to visit in Sulawesi is Wakatobi, a UNESCO Marine Biosphere Reserve diving park located in the Coral Triangle. The name Wakatobi comes from combining the name of four different islands (Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko). These islands are internationally renowned as offering some of the best coral reef dive sites in world. While these islands are remote and hard to reach, they are worth visiting.
3. Togean Islands
The Togean Islands are another tropical island outpost in the southeast region of the Tomini Sea. While not as famous as Wakatobi the islands have plenty to offer to visitors willing to make the journey to visit. There is plenty of opportunity for diving around the colourful coral reefs (though many reefs have been damaged by dynamite fishing). You’re surrounded by mostly untouched nature, virgin forests, and welcoming villagers. It might take a lot of patience to get here, but leaving will be more difficult after you’ve spent time in a hammock and wondering what you did to deserve such a beautiful place.
Bunaken is the most popular and famous site for diving in Sulawesi. The island is just off the coast of Manado in the north of Sulawesi. It is easy to reach. Many local airlines have fligts to Manado Airport. There is regular ferry transport to the island and lots of offers the chance for a simple getaway. The island is definitely one of the easiest places to visit in Sulawesi.
5. Tangkoko National Park
The Tangkoko National Park is on the north eastern tip of Sulawesi. It’s a beautiful place to get away from it all and isolated enough that there aren’t too many visitors. The park is famous for Tarsiers, one of the smallest mammals in the world, which look a bit like gremlins. You can also find Black Macaques here. Make sure to stay by the beach if you do visit Tangkoko National Park, I promise you’ll enjoy it.
Ideas for Things to do in Sulawesi
6. Rammang Rammang
Rammang Rammang is a village in the middle of the Maros Karst. The place can leave you in awe for days. First of all, this karst is the second largest in the world, thus a UNESCO protected area. You can take boat rides along the rivers and lakes that weave through the karsts. It is one of the best things to do in the South of Sulawesi. If you love taking photos, this picturesque area is perfect for you.
Tomohon is a town in the highlands of North Sulawesi. The town lies between Mt. Mahawu and Mt. Lokon volcanoes. The tourism highlight of Tomohon is the market. It is not a place for the faint-hearted. You might want to prepare yourself for this, especially if you are a dog lover. Rats, bats, and dogs are all sold – not alive, but grilled at the Tomohon Market.
8. Sangihe Island
The Sangihe Islands are a small set of island near the Philippines that are becoming a popular tourist destination for travellers looking to really get away from it all. It takes 12 hours to reach the island on an overnight ferry from Manado. You’ll find almost no tourists when you arrive, but plenty of beautiful deserted tropical islands. There are worthy adventures here to make you include it in your things to do in Sulawesi list. You can trek to the crater head of Mt. Awu with a guide, chill at the beaches in Tamako, jump to the jungle gate of Lelipang, which also houses Tedunang Waterfalls.
Gorontalo is a quaint town packed with history and a lot of sights to see. If you include this in your things to do in Sulawesi list, prepare to visit the Lombongo hot springs, the Limboto Lake which can be viewed from the Tower of Majesty, the Otanaha Castle and the Ayuhulalo Waterfall. There are also plenty of beaches, amongst many others that you can visit.
Bitung and the Lembeh Strait is an area popular with muck diving enthusiasts. No, this is not your ordinary dive – muck divers do not wonder at the coral reefs, instead they are actually after the rare fish species and other underwater creatures that can only be found in that location. Aside from the muck diving Bitung is also where you will find Tangkoko National Park.
11. Lore Lindu National Park
The Lore Lindu is in the mountainous highlands of Central Sulawesi and is a popular area for jungle trekking. The park is a UN Man and Biosphere Reserve with rich biodiversity. You can find over 77 species of birds as well as large mammals like the TonkeanMmacaque and Dian’s Tarsier, among many others. There are also megaliths scattered everywhere. A really interesting place to visit if you are looking for things to do in Sulawesi.
12. Selayar Island
Selayar Island is an unspoiled tropical getaway where you can relax and get away from it all. The island is an excellent diving spot and the world’s third largest coral atoll is just offshore. If you aren’t a diver or a snorkeler, the beach area still offers serenity – just chill on a hammock and enjoy a drink.
If you have the time you really should explore Sulawesi. The people of the island have a culture that is unique and different to that found in other parts of Sulawesi. From the unique architecture of the Tongkonan in the highlands of Tana Toraja through to the colourful coral reefs of Wakatobi, Sulawesi enchants travellers. I’m sure after reading this list you can see why.
Have you visited Sulawesi before? What did you like visiting? Share your thoughts in the comments below.