The provincial capital of Sulawesi is a city of contrasts, and many would say it is rather a place to ‘scratch the surface’ than linger. The 5th largest city of Indonesia, as one would expect, it is crowded, noisy and not exactly ‘polished’. From modern high-rise buildings to shocking slums, the coastal metropolis of Sulawesi is the gateway to most of its attractions.

Anyhow, Makassar is one of the culinary hotspots of Indonesia. The colourful blend of cultures made the local cuisine very interesting, although vegetarians might struggle to find a meatless meal.

Makassar is a city of contrasts


Local Cuisine – try some of the local specialities which typically include pig intestine, liver, lungs, chicken hearts, tripe, or cow brain, fish heads and other goodies (Coto, Konro, Kering or Pallubasa are definitely nothing for vegans)

Fort Rotterdam  – old fortress from Dutch colonial era, one of the few historical things to see in Makassar

Losari Beach – Losari is a lovely spot worth of an evening stroll and sunset watching with Laguna evening food markets

Khayangan & Samalona Islands – take a short boat ride to one of these beautiful isles with soft, white stretches (visit the islands unless heading to the north, there will be truly stunning ones!)

NOTE The Westerners might well be an attraction themselves for the locals. So, don’t get surprised when you find yourself surrounded by young locals with cameras asking you to take a photograph with them. This is Sulawesi – a place where tourism is still in nappies!

Losari Beach, Makassar 


At the bottom of the South Sulawesi, the country is defined by jaw-dropping scenery and almost untouched nature. From the rugged Malino Highlands and picturesque tea plantations to the idyllic coast of Bira and its pristine coral reefs, Sulawesi`s southern regions boast natural attractions.

The area does not often see Western visitors, and not even locals travel much hence it hardly ever gets crowded – this is a paradise for road trippers who don`t mind getting out of their comfort zone.

Kebun Teh tea plantations, Malino Highlands


Hire a car/motorbike in Makassar and drive to Tanete, via the highlands of Malino and past the staggering mountain of Moncong Lompobatang (2874 m). Then continue to Bira – the southernmost tip of east Sulawesi. Bira is a splendid beach and diving destination, and although it takes some efforts to get here it is absolutely worth it!

Bira Beach, South Sulawesi


The locals claim that Bira is the most beautiful beach in the entire Sulawesi. Scuba divers will certainly want to spend a few days in the nearby Selayar Islands (dugongs, manta rays, parrotfish, scorpionfish, cuttlefish and zebra batfish) and Tanah Beru is also a lovely beach town to visit for the famed Phinisi boats.


To get to the Selayar Islands, can be a bit of an odyssey. You can catch a bus from Makassar to Bima if you don`t drive and a ferry from Bima to Pamatata, then get an ojek to arrive at the capital town Benteng where most of the dive resorts are. Visiting the islands will definitely pay off, though!

Selayar Islands


Lembah Ramma – camping, hiking, nice nature reserve

Malino Highlands – waterfalls (Air Terjun Parangloe, Air Tanjung Lembanna, Air Tekapala) and tea plantations (Kebun Teh Malino)

Moncong Lompobatang (2874 m) – climb the mountain via Puncak (2,870 m) which is known for the tomb of the King of Gowa (1-2 day hike)

Bira Cape – enjoy the white sands and turquoise seas, snorkelling and scuba diving tours available, good tourist infrastructure

Apparalang Beach – north of Bira, spectacular scenery, rugged coast, cliffs and rock formations

Bissapu Waterfall – one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Sulawesi, ideal for photographers and nature lovers (access from the village of Bonto Saluang)

Selayar Islands – world-class dive locations: Pulau Kambing, Selayar Atoll and Selayar East

Tanah Beru – pay a visit to the small coastal village of Lemo Lemo to watch the local shipbuilders crafting the famous Phinisi boats in a traditional way

Traditional Phinisi Boats in Tanah Beru


This wonderful wilderness area, located just 50 km north of Makassar, was first explored in 1857, and for its vastness, it was then divided into several wildlife sanctuaries and protected areas: Maros-Pangkep Karst, Bantimurung, Gua Pattunuang, Bantimurung, Karaenta, and Bulusaurung.

There are two main reasons to come here – spectacular karts landscape and exotic butterflies.

Karts scenery in Rammang-Rammang

The region is home to almost 300 pre-historic caves, waterfalls and unique animal collection, including Sulawesi moor macaque, the red-knobbed hornbill, cuscus and palm civet and bats and the endangered Tarsius fuscus (one of the world`s smallest mammalians).

The Leang-Leang area is where the oldest dated hand stencil in the world and possibly the oldest figurative depiction in cave art were found.

Tarsius Fuscus is one of the world`s smallest primates 


Rammang-Rammang – this limestone area will blow your mind away with its karst formations, caves, waterfalls, forested mountains, paddy fields, lakes and rivers – this is a perfect spot for nature lovers, climbers and photographers

Green River – rafting, canoeing, kayaking

Bantimurung Waterfall – known for unique species of butterflies

Bantimurung Cave – gorgeous stalagmites and stalactites

Bantimurung Butterfly Park – a collection of native butterflies, found nowhere else on earth

Maros & Bone Caves – 33 ancient caves throughout the two of regencies, lovely waterfalls, Stone & Dream Caves are known for tubing

Petta Kere Cave – the oldest dated hand stencil in the world – a female babirusa animal, (located 12 km from Maros, the entrance to the cave is 30 m above a rice field, access by ladder)

Leang Leang prehistoric park, Maros


Tempe Lake is just another great place for photography and eco-tourism. Sengkang, once the capital of the ancient Bugis Kingdom, is a town with great historical and cultural heritage.

Bustling markets are selling silk, local hand-made art and craft products, and the region preserves its customs and traditions. The city overlooks Danau Tempe lake and its shallow waters fringed by wetlands which are dotted with traditional floating huts and birdlife.

Blossoming eco-tourism attracts more and more Westerners, particularly the local fishermen villages that can be easily reached by boat from the main port.

Sengkang city, Lake Tempe


Singkang Local Markets – traditional silk weaving, textiles and craft

Floating Villages – have a cup of tea or coffee with locals and learn about their life on the water, fishermen villages can be visited from the Temple Port via a small rowing boat

Bird Watching – Lake Tempe is home to a large population of migratory birds (best to watch from a boat, tour available from Sengkang)

Lake Tempe, floating village


Gunung Latimojong (3,478 m), known as Mount Rantemario, is often dubbed as the ‘Roof of Sulawesi’ and obviously, so, it is the islands highest peak.  

The summit of Rantemario can be climbed from the village of Kerangan, and it is not a very difficult hike; the route has 8 designated “Pos” staging points, and the peak can be reached within 4 hours (starting at 1400 m). The starting point is the town of Baraka, near Tana Toraja.

Gunung Latimojong (Mount Rantemario, 3478 m)


Sulawesi`s major attraction and Indonesia`s icon of ecotourism magnetises hundreds of adventurers and photographers each year, for so much has been spoken and written about the local culture and its peculiar customs.

The National Geographic named Tana Toraja ‘a place where death doesn`t mean goodbye’. Indeed, the region is famous for bizarre funeral ceremonies, eerie cemeteries, ‘walking’ mummies, skull bones and skeletons – a place where superstitious beliefs continue to grow, where families live with dead bodies for weeks, and live beings are regularly sacrificed. The reason is that the indigenous people here celebrate death a little bit differently from us – Westerners.

Rantepao is the epicentre of Tana Toraja with excellent tourist infrastructure.

Tana Toraja, traditional Tongkonan houses


Rantepao – the gateway to Tana Toraja and a town where to hire a local guise who will take you around the region. Every guesthouse and hotel offers a wide range of tours and guides (cultural tours, trekking tours, waterfall & jungle tours, funeral tours)

Batu Lemo – the most famous burial site, a cliff carved with small stone graves and tau-tau effigy

Kete Kesu – a well-known hanging grave site and beautiful Tongkonan houses, Rambu Solo festival, Rambu Tuka festival

Makale – Kambira baby tree graves (20 km from Rantepao)

Bori Kalimbuang – 24 large megaliths, 54 smaller megalithic stones, a UNESCO site (5 km from Rantepao, in Sesean)

Sillanan – drive through the highlands of Sillanan to encounter remote villages, megaliths, Tongkonan houses and try Torajan coffee on the way

Batutumonga – beautiful scenery, stunning views, drive through the countryside

Cave Graves, Tana Toraja


Sulawesi is home to 6 extremely rare and endangered species of animals that can be seen nowhere else on earth. For instance, Anoa (something between water buffalo, deer and goat, only 5000 anoas are still in existence), Babirusa (wild deer-pig), Maleo (a peculiar flyless bird that looks more like an exotic cockerel, 10 000 animals left), Kuskus (a marsupial resembling a small bear and it prefers a lazy lifestyle similar to koala), Celebes Black Macaque (the primate is close to extinction due to illegal hunting, sadly it is a very popular bushmeat for the local people, 4000 animals left) and Tarsius Tarsier (one of the world`s smallest primates).

The critically endangered Celebes Black Macaque


The Southern Sulawesi has reasonably good roads and travellers can easily self-drive. Travelling independently will give you the opportunity to enjoy breathtaking scenery, and get an authentic experience. Besides, South Sulawesi has OK roads and good tourist infrastructure.

If you hire a car/motorbike in Makassar, you can do a loop trip around the southern province (or even the whole island circuit if you dare, but the further north you drive the worse the road conditions will be. NOTE Self-drive ONLY in the dry season as that is the only time when roads are passable. Also, travelling in Sulawesi can be time-consuming, so your itinerary should be flexible.

Self-drive is the best way to explore the country of South Sulawesi


The best time to visit South Sulawesi is the dry season (June-October).


Fly to Makassar.

For all international flights visit or

For all domestic flights check out Lion Air, Garuda Indonesia or Sriwijaya Air

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Eva Bodova

Sunday 26 August 2018

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