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Borobudur, Java

Luxury holidays in Indonesia

Borobudur, Java

By Southeast Asia specialist Mat

From staying in unabashed opulence complete with butler service to enjoying intimate cultural experiences that few others even hear about, there are many reasons why Indonesia is one of my go-to destinations for a luxury holiday. On this sun-drenched archipelago, you can stretch out on the pearly sands of a private beach, watch the morning mist rise over a UNESCO World Heritage Site from the comfort of your suite, and set sail in search of the country’s most curious creatures on your own private boat.

I’ve had the pleasure of indulging in the sheer luxury that a trip to Indonesia can bring so can help you find secluded island nooks, the rooms with the very best views, and the most knowledgeable local guides. My luxury holiday ideas for Indonesia span everything from white-sand beaches you may have already seen on postcards to remote forest-swathed islands that have stayed under the radar.

Luxury hotels & experiences in Bali

Sand as soft as sugar, misty hillsides shrouded in emerald foliage, and crystal waters rippling over pristine ribbons of coral… Bali is all about relaxation. There are, of course, very busy spots, particularly in the south of the island, but the most opulent hotels offer their own slices of solitude.

As soon as you fly into Bali, I’ll arrange a VIP service to whisk you through arrivals and straight to your hotel, so you can sink into serenity much sooner. Where you choose to stay will depend entirely on your tastes, but there are a few hotels I love that just ooze opulence.

Amankila: stilted suites overlooking the ocean

Amankila, Candidasa
Amankila, Candidasa

The first is Amankila, a tranquil resort in Candidasa, nestled in the hills beneath the towering Mount Agung with its own private stretch of honeyed sand. Every one of Amankila’s hillside stilted suites offers unspoiled scenery, but for an added dose of luxe I recommend one with sea views and your own private pool — the very best suite even boasts a private butler service.

Four Seasons & Raffles: solitude close to the hustle & bustle

Four Seasons, Jimbaran
Four Seasons, Jimbaran

Further south, overlooking the azure Jimbaran Bay, are the Four Seasons and Raffles, both ideal if you’d like to stay close to the airport and nearby restaurants while still tucked away from the crowds. Raffles is newer and perhaps slightly more modern in style, but both offer private villas, secluded gardens, and sweeping views of the water. While you’re there, I can arrange for you to take a private speedboat ride along the glittering shoreline to watch the sun sink into the Indian Ocean, Champagne in hand.

Mandapa: jungle retreat & cultural immersion

Mandapa, Ubud
Mandapa, Ubud

Finally, if you’d like to venture into the jungle-blanketed interior, I recommend the Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve along the peaceful Ayung River in Ubud, the cultural heart of the island. Here, it feels like you’re surrounded by untamed jungle, water rushing around you, but the town is close enough to explore if you want to. While the resort is larger than others in the area, staying in a riverside villa provides an intimate escape in nature, and personally, I think the views are better here than at the nearby Amandari on the hill.

In and around Ubud, you can really delve into Bali’s culture, from exploring lesser-visited temples with historian Bapak Enong Ismail to planting rice with a local farmer in a rural village and learning how to cook fragrant Balinese dishes with a chef from the area.

Luxury hotels & experiences in Java

Although Java is the most densely populated island in the archipelago, there are still many slivers of serenity to be found away from the crowds, and the luxe Amanjiwo hotel is one of my best-loved spots.

Amanjiwo: temple views & poolside tranquillity

Amanjiwo, Borobudur
Amanjiwo, Borobudur

Resting in the island’s canopied heartland, the elegantly designed Amanjiwo crescents around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. For the best experience, I’ll book you into one of the Borobudur suites so you can wake up to views across the temple and the mist-shrouded valley beyond, listening to the swirling calls to prayer reverberating from nearby mosques.

In addition to soothing spa treatments, poolside yoga overlooking the rice paddies, and sunset meditation, the hotel also offers an array of cultural experiences. You can visit Borobudur with guest-exclusive access at dawn (the very best time to explore), as well as other ancient temples that are strewn across the region. I also recommend joining the hotel’s resident anthropologists for a lecture in the evening to gain a greater appreciation for the local history, as well as enjoying a private home-cooked dinner in the candle-lit home of a Javanese local.

Wildlife spotting in Indonesian Borneo

Orangutan, Tanjung Puting National Park
Orangutan, Tanjung Puting National Park

After your stay in Amanjiwo, I encourage you to step away from luxury for three nights to enjoy a less-lavish yet equally extraordinary experience: encountering the wildlife of Indonesian Borneo. After a short flight from Semarang in the north of Java, you’ll step aboard a simple but comfortable private riverboat and sail along the Sekonyer River to Tanjung Puting National Park in the south of Borneo.

Here, 5,000 orangutans roam free, swinging expertly through the trees. While seeing them in the wild is never a guarantee, your guide will stay in touch with the local rangers who monitor the apes at various feeding stations to boost your chances. Along your journey, you might also see endemic proboscis monkeys, gibbons, crocodiles, and huge paper-kite butterflies. You’ll also get to visit Camp Leakey, a rehabilitation centre where you can see older resident orangutans up close.

I also recommend sleeping out on the deck, where your evening soundtrack will be the distant calls of orangutans echoing through the jungle. Away from the lights of island lodges, the skies are some of the clearest I’ve ever seen. You’ll be treated to a dazzling show of glittering constellations and clusters of glowing fireflies that appear like fairy lights along the river.

Luxury hotels & experiences in Sumba

Just an hour flight from Bali, Sumba is almost untouched by tourism in comparison, making a stay there all the more special. Here, aquamarine waters brush pristine, sun-gilded shores, dense forests carpet the mantled interior, and centuries-old spirituality is at the heart of the island’s culture.

NIHI Sumba: sustainable luxury by the sea

NIHI Sumba
NIHI Sumba

The remote NIHI Sumba resort is top of my list for Sumba. Not only has it been consistently accoladed as one of the best hotels in the world, but it’s also dedicated to evolving in harmony with the local people and environment. Its partner foundations set out to improve community access to clean water, provide nutritious lunches for school children, and train local people in hospitality so they can earn a higher income. You can visit some of these projects during your stay to learn more.

I recommend making the most of the resort’s roster of cultural experiences, too, from traditional ikat weaving with local women to a tour of the nearby markets laden with fresh produce and artisan wares. I can also arrange for you to visit the traditional village of Tarung, where you’ll see carefully carved megalithic tombs and tall thatched-roof houses while your guide teaches you about their spiritual significance.

On top of its commitment to philanthropy, NIHI Sumba abounds in laid-back luxury. Each of its 27 villas look out to the Indian Ocean, a butler is on hand to help elevate your stay, and there’s a holistic spa that involves sea swims, horse rides, and breakfast cooked on an open fire before your treatments even begin. The hotel is also located on one of the best surf spots in the world with its own exclusive stretch of ocean, and during low tide you can watch the resort’s horses cooling off in the water.

Luxury cruising in Indonesia

Going on a quest to find (Komodo) dragons during your very own private charter. Kayaking around isolated jungle-clad karsts before a refreshing cocktail (or three) on the sun deck. Rolling out of your deluxe suite and onto a pre-sunrise tender to spot the mysterious birds of paradise in the Raja Ampat islands. Cruising is one of the best ways to explore Indonesia’s more remote islands — and you can do so in complete luxury.

Private charter to Komodo Island

Komodo dragon, Komodo Island
Komodo dragon, Komodo Island

One of my fondest memories of Indonesia is the private boat trip I took to Komodo Island to see the dragons. My guide made sure we arrived well before the larger groups, so I got to see these ginormous leathery lizards basking on the sun-warmed sand and scrambling through the forest practically on my own.

The island scenery made the trip all the more dramatic: rusty-red volcanoes piercing into the clear sky, a pink-sand beach like something out of a fantasy film, and sapphire waters dappled with coral. Then, back on the boat, my guide took me to a secluded snorkelling spot where I swam among a school of 40 or so manta rays and a gentle swoosh of sea turtles.

It’s this feeling of being part of an intimate group of people exploring a tucked-away corner of the archipelago that’s led me to believe that cruising is the ultimate form of luxury in Indonesia.

Read more luxury trip ideas to Indonesia

Start thinking about your experience. These itineraries are simply suggestions for how you could enjoy some of the same experiences as our specialists. They're just for inspiration, because your trip will be created around your particular tastes.

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