Families seeking an offbeat, culturally-rich adventure in Indonesia will love discovering South Sulawesi, a part of the country that many travelers overlook. Best suited to older kids and teens, this 10-day adventure begins and ends in the city of Makassar as you venture deep into the remote Sulawesi heartland. Along the way, you'll witness fascinating ancient cultures—such as the eerie funeral traditions of the Toraja people—with some of Indonesia's most beautiful rural and coastal landscapes.


  • Learn about the Toraja people's unique funeral rites
  • Explore remote villages steeped in ancient traditions
  • Visit floating villages on Lake Tempe
  • Relax on the beaches of Bira and Liukang Island

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Makassar, Transfer to Rantepao Rantepao
Day 2 Sulawesi Highlands & Funeral Rites Tour Rantepao
Day 3 Village-Hopping Tour Rantepao
Day 4  Visit Traditional Homes, Nature Walk Rantepao
Day 5 Transfer to Sengkang, Visit the Floating Villages Sengkang
Day 6 Transfer to the Beaches of Bira via Kajang Village Bira
Day 7 Boat Trip to Liukang Island Bira
Day 8 Tour the Tana Beru Shipyards Bira
Day 9 Transfer to Makassar Makassar
Day 10 Depart Makassar  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Makassar, Transfer to Rantepao

Houses bearing the distinctive tongkonan architecture of Sulawesi

Welcome to Sulawesi! After your arrival at the airport in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi, your driver will meet you and your family and transfer you to Rantepao. You have a long drive ahead of you, so get comfortable and take the chance to rest during the seven to eight-hour journey. You'll pass many sites of interest along the 195-mile (314 km) route, including the colorful stilt houses and the villages of the Tana Toraja Regency, home to the Toraja people.

The next few days will be spent exploring this fascinating region, which is home to some of Indonesia's most beautiful landscapes and interesting traditional cultures. After checking into your hotel, you and your kids will probably want to have some dinner and then head to bed after a long day.

Day 2: Sulawesi Highlands & Funeral Rites Tour

Your family can learn about Sulawesi's unique funeral and burial traditions

You'll waste no time on your first full day in Sulawesi, heading straight out into some of the region's most fascinating villages and cultural sites. Meet your driver in the morning for a road trip through the scenic highlands to Lemo, Suaya, Kambira, Londa, and Kesu-Kesu. In these villages, you'll encounter the unique Toraja funeral ceremony called Rambu Solo. Toraja funeral rites are drawn-out processes that begin at the moment of death. Families continue to live with the preserved remains of their relatives until they can plan and afford an elaborate ceremony, which is when they send their loved ones into the afterlife.

Each village honors its deceased in a slightly different way. In Lemo, effigies of the dead, known as Tau-Tau, sit on raised balconies. In Kambira, there is a tree cemetery where infants are interred. Londa is known for its burial caves and hanging tombs. If it's the right time, your guide might be able to arrange a viewing of one of these ceremonies. Be warned that animal sacrifices are typically involved, and younger children may be scared by some of the sights today, so this tour is recommended for families with teens only. If your kids are sensitive, it would be wise to observe these sites from a distance and enjoy the general atmosphere of the villages and the landscape.

Day 3: Village-Hopping Tour

Explore local villages and learn about rural Sulawesi life on today's day trip

After breakfast, you'll go village hopping around Tana Toraja again, visiting more fascinating sites that will pique your kids' curiosity. The first stop is at Tinombayo, where you'll enjoy superb views of terraced rice paddies. Then, continue to Palawa, one of the oldest Toraja villages and a great showcase for the traditional architecture of the region, known as tongkonan homes. The distinctive local architecture resembles a curved boat and is raised up on high stilts; some have thatched roofs, although these days this has sometimes been replaced by corrugated iron. 

The village of Sa'dan is another highlight. Known as the weaving center of Toraja, the residents here are famous for producing handcrafted fabrics of the highest quality. Parents might want to pick up some beautiful souvenirs here. The last stop of the day is at Bori, home to ancient, UNESCO-listed megalithic standing stones called menhir. Curious kids will enjoy speculating about what these ceremonial megaliths might have been used for.
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Day 4: Visit Traditional Homes, Nature Walk

Friendly local kids will come out to greet you when you arrive in Siguntu

Today, your personal driver will pick you up for the ride to Marante, a village with many traditional homes and rice barns. The rocky limestone hills surrounding the village are adorned with hanging coffins, which the locals call erong. Then, continue to Siguntu, home to some of the oldest tongkonan homes in the region. Nestled between green hills and overlooking rice paddies, this is a great place to stretch your legs on a scenic nature walk. You're sure to meet many locals along the way, especially kids who are always curious about foreigners and like to stop for a chat. 

Day 5: Transfer to Sengkang, Visit the Floating Villages

Check out the floating villages on Lake Tempe
Check out the incredible floating villages on Lake Tempe

Start the day with a visit to Ke'te Kesu, a historic village hidden in the mountains. Surrounded by a vast expanse of rice fields, the village is over 400 years old, making it the oldest settlement in the Sanggalangi district. Take a tour of this living museum, getting a first-hand experience of the culture and traditions of the ancient Toraja people.

After this visit, say goodbye to Tana Toraja country and embark on a five-hour transfer south to the town of Sengkang. Located in the heart of South Sulawesi, it sits on majestic Lake Tempe, famous for its floating villages. Upon arrival in Sengkang, you'll hop into a motorized canoe for a sunset ride to one of these floating villages. Kids will love seeing how the fishermen live and work as they catch glimpses of local life and spot plentiful fish and birds along the way.

Day 6: Transfer to the Beaches of Bira via Kajang Village

Make your way down to Bira for a few days of beach r&r
Enjoy some family downtime on Bira's white-sand beaches

It's time to leave Sengkang and Lake Tempe for the sandy beaches of Bira. Located at the southern point of South Sulawesi, this tropical beach town is known for its rocky cliffs and turquoise waters that run up to long stretches of powdery white sands. It's a six-hour drive, during which you'll enjoy stunning countryside scenery and a few stops along the way.

The first stop is in a remote village where the Kajang people, a minority ethnic group, live in isolation. They're still very much attached to their ancestral traditions, in particular, the custom of only wearing black. Black represents their philosophy of life, signifying the journey from the darkness of the womb to the final grave. Make some other stops en route to Bira to see how palm sugar is made and to visit a rubber plantation.

Upon arrival at Bira, check in to your hotel and perhaps take an evening walk on the beach. After almost a week of deep cultural exploration, you and your kids will be ready for some leisure time in this idyllic beach destination.

Day 7: Boat Trip to Liukang Island

Take a boat to beautiful Liukang Island

There are many beautiful islands just off the coast of Bira that are worth visiting. In the morning, hop on a boat for a half-day visit to Liukang Island. This lovely, uncrowded isle boasts crystalline waters and white-sand beaches fringed by coconut palms. There's also a charming village here, whose residents practice the ancestral art of weaving. After taking a stroll through town and having lunch at a local restaurant, head to the beach for relaxation, paddling, and snorkeling. Enjoy some quality family time together here without the need to rush around doing anything too strenuous.

Day 8: Tour the Tana Beru Shipyards

See boats being made the traditional way on today's excursion

On today's family outing, head to the salt marshes and shipyards of Tana Beru, where you can witness the construction of traditional wooden boats called phinisis. Kids interested in making things will love seeing how these Indonesian sailing vessels are made. Phinisi ships were traditionally crafted and used by the seafaring Buginese and Makassarese people of South Sulawesi and were wind-powered. Now, the word more generally refers to Indonesian wooden boats, most of which are now motorized.

Day 9: Transfer to Makassar

Travel to South Sulawesi's capital, Makassar, and see landmarks like its 99 Domes Mosque

Today you leave the idyllic beaches of Bira and head back to Makassar with your family. It's a quick trip so depending on your children's interests and needs, you can either choose to spend most of the day at the beach before driving to the city, or you can head to the city earlier on to check out some of its attractions.

This is a historic port city with a rich and important past, so if you and your kids are interested in learning more about its place in Indonesian history, head to the Museum Balla Lompoa or the La Galigo Museum in Fort Rotterdam. Architecture lovers won't want to miss passing by the dramatic Great Mosque of Makassar, with its ornate tiered minaret.

Day 10: Depart Makassar

Farewell Sulawesi!

All too soon, your family trip to South Sulawesi has come to an end. Depending on the time of your departure flight, there may be time for some last-minute sightseeing in Makassar or to pick up some souvenirs. You can pick up Toraja handicrafts and textiles here if you didn't get a chance to earlier in the trip. When it's time, your driver will transfer you to the airport for your onward flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Indonesia's South Sulawesi for Families: Tana Toraja, Bira & Makassar - 10 Days
Map of Indonesia's South Sulawesi for Families: Tana Toraja, Bira & Makassar - 10 Days