Enjoy a perfect mix of culture, nature, and relaxation on this two-week tour of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Start among the rice fields and bamboo forests of Tana Toraha, where you'll discover ancient village traditions and hike through lush countryside. Head to the island's central coast to spend two nights in the tropical paradise of the Togian Islands, then fly to the far northeast to snorkel in the underwater wonderland of Bunaken Maritime Park.

Highlights

  • See traditional tongkonan houses in the Sulawesi highlands
  • Embark on a cultural tour of the Tana Toraja villages
  • Hike to scenic waterfalls, caves, and lakes 
  • Relax on the golden sands of the Togian Islands
  • Snorkel among diverse marine life at the Bunaken Maritime Park
  • Browse the traditional food & flower market of Tomohon

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Makassar (Sultan Hasanuddin Airport) - Rantepao Rantepao
Day 2 Rantepao to Batutumonga Countryside Walk Rantepao
Day 3 Rantepao - Discover the Secret Traditions of Tana Toraja Rantepao
Day 4 Rantepao to Tentena Tentena
Day 5 Explore Tentena & Poso Lake Tentena
Day 6 Tentena to Ampana Ampana
Day 7 Ampana to the Togian Islands Togian Island
Days 8-9 Relax & Explore the Togian Islands Togian Island
Day 10 Togian Islands to Gorontalo Gorontalo
Day 11 Fly from Gorontalo to Manado Manado
Day 12 Snorkel in the Bunaken Maritime Park Bunaken
Day 13  Explore North Sulawesi - Pagoda Ekayana, Tomohon & Tondano Lake Manado
Day 14 Transfer to Manado Airport & Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Makassar (Sultan Hasanuddin Airport) - Rantepao

Complex of old Tongkonan
A complex of old tongkonan dwellings

Welcome to Makassar!  You'll meet your guide at the airport to begin your roughly nine-hour journey to Rantepao, the capital of the North Toraja Regency and cultural center of the Toraja ethnic group. The area opened for tourism in the 1970s and has been the starting point for visiting the region ever since.

The roads become smaller and more winding as you go along, the air turning fresh and cool as you start to spot tongkonan traditional houses with roofs shaped like buffalo horns along the way. Once you arrive in Rantepao, you'll have the evening to yourself to wander around the local market, learn about area traditions at the Toraja Village, or relax in your lodgings.

Day 2: Rantepao to Batutumonga Countryside Walk

Rice Field in Rantepao
Traditional rice fields in Rantepao

Today you'll embark on a scenic 3-4 hour walk from Rantepao to Batutumonga, immersing yourself in the Toraja countryside and learning about the life of its inhabitants. After breakfast, your driver and guide will transport you to Sa'dan, a traditional village of weavers, and then on to Palawa, one of the oldest Toraja villages. It is from Palawa that you start your walk, crossing green rice terraces, bamboo forests, and plantations of cocoa and cocoa trees. Your destination of Batutumonga is one of the highest points in the region, and you'll spend the night here in a tongkonan, a traditional dwelling guest house.             

Day 3: Rantepao - Discover the Secret Traditions of Tana Toraja

Kete Kesu
Discover the village of Ke'te Kesu

This morning, meet your guide and head out on a cultural tour through the countryside of Tana Toraja. As you drive through the region, admire the tall limestone outcrops and rice fields dotted with the intricately decorated houses with their upward-sloping roofs, before stopping off in local villages to learn more about their rituals and traditions.

Steeped in history, this area is known as the "Land of Heavenly Kings" and is famous for its fascinating burial rites. After a person dies, the body is kept at home and treated as a member of the family while they save up to pay for the funeral—an elaborate and costly affair involving animal sacrifices, buffalo fights, and ritual dances. The deceased family member is then finally buried, usually either in a cave or a hanging tomb. Depending on when you visit, you might be fortunate enough to be able to experience a funeral ceremony.

Each of the Toraja villages has its specific traditions that you will learn about on your tour. In Lemo, you can admire the Tau-Tau—wooden effigies of the dead—from their cliff-side resting places. In Kambira, visit the tree-cemetery for babies, and in Londa, discover the caves and hanging tombs.

Continue to Sada to explore the old stone megaliths, and then to Nangalla and Ke'te Kesu to admire the traditional village architecture, before ending your tour with a visit to Suaya and Tansitolo to see the tombs of the royal family and discover the silk weaving workshops. You can also explore local markets in the villages, like the animal markets of Marante and Rantepao.

Day 4: Rantepao to Tentena

Hit the road again today and head north through the heart of the island to reach the city of Tentena. Along the way, you'll stop at Pendolo, a small village on the south shore of Poso Lake which marks your passage from South Sulawesi to Central Sulawesi. The scenic 8-9 hour drive takes you through sumptuous landscapes between mountain roads and tropical forests, reaching your hotel in Tentena at dusk. 

Day 5: Explore Tentena & Poso Lake

Lake Tempe
Explore Indonesia's third-largest lake

After breakfast, set off on an excursion to explore Tentena, a charming town planted among clove trees. From here, an easy walk takes you to the Pamona Caves and the beautiful Saluopa Waterfalls. In the afternoon, you'll have free time to relax and go for a swim in Indonesia's third-largest lake, Poso Lake.                    

Day 6: Tentena to Ampana

Wooden carts on the pier at Ampana
Wooden carts on the pier at Ampada

This morning you'll leave Tentena and drive to Ampana known for its lush vegetation of coconut palms and cocoa and clove plantations, as well as the point of departure to the Togian Islands.

Day 7: Ampana to the Togian Islands

Togian Island
Sunset over the magical Togian Islands

Today you'll board a ferry to the Togian Islands, a remote archipelago of golden sand beaches and diverse marine life off the coast of Central Sulawesi. The 5-hour journey by boat takes you to Wakai, the largest of the islands. From here, a traditional boat will take you on to Kadidiri Island depending on your accommodation.

Days 8-9: Relax & Explore the Togian Islands

Spend two days in the diving mecca of the Togian Islands
Spend two days in the diving mecca of the Togian Islands

The next two days are free to relax and explore this island paradise at your leisure. Spend your days unwinding on the beach under coconut trees, or exploring the pristine and biodiverse underwater world. Further activities such as excursions to the Gunung Colo Volcano of Una Una, diving and snorkeling adventures, and guided treks to discover local flora and fauna can be arranged.      

Day 10: Togian Islands to Gorontalo

Depart the Togian Islands today 

Bid your Togian Island paradise farewell today, as a local fishing boat takes you to Wakai Island and a public ferry transports you onward to the coastal city Gorontalo. Here you can get settled into your accommodation and spend a free afternoon exploring at your leisure.                  

Day 11: Fly from Gorontalo to Manado

The gateway to Klenteng Kwan Kong Temple in Manado
The gateway to Klenteng Kwan Kong Temple in Manado

This morning a private transfer takes you to Gorontalo Airport, where you'll catch a quick flight to the city of Manado on the far northeastern tip of Sulawesi. Here your private driver will welcome you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time, set out in the afternoon to explore the city and try some local delicacies.         

Day 12: Snorkel in the Bunaken Maritime Park

Bunaken
Explore the colorful underwater ecosystems of Bunaken Maritime Park

After breakfast at the hotel, board a boat bound for the spectacular Bunaken Maritime Park. On your arrival, you'll don a mask and fins and dive into this remarkable marine ecosystem. Snorkel through a colorful world of intact corals, colorful fish, dolphins, and turtles, spotting all the diverse species that make Bunaken such a special place. After a memorable day on the water, return to Manado in the afternoon.              

Day 13: Explore North Sulawesi - Pagoda Ekayana, Tomohon & Tondano Lake

Mount Mahawu dominates the North Sulawesi landscape
Mount Mahawu dominates the North Sulawesi landscape

After breakfast, set off to visit Pagoda Ekayana in the village of Kakaskasen. A place of worship for Buddhists, the pagoda also welcomes visitors to admire its beautiful architecture that blends with the surrounding nature. Afterward, you'll proceed to see the traditional food & flower market in Tomohon and to the small village of Woloan to see the Minahasan traditional-style houses being built, knockdown style, ready for delivery or shipping.

Have lunch on Tondano Lake while enjoying the serenity of the lake and its surrounding hills. After lunch, continue to Pulutan Village, an industrial village for pottery-making. On the way back to the hotel, make a last stop at the Bentenan weaving workshop, a must-visit, and see the local weaving traditions being practiced.                    

Day 14: Transfer Manado Airport & Departure

Bid Sulawesi farewell today and catch your departing flight

Say your goodbyes to the island of Sulawesi this morning as a private transfer takes you to Manado Airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels! 

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