Discover the best of Sulawesi with Khiri Travel
One of Indonesia’s largest islands, Sulawesi’s rich mythical cultures, mountainous highlands, stunning lakes, ancient megaliths and spectacular endemic wildlife, make it a destination not to be passed up.
In less than a week one can discover some of the great highlights of Sulawesi. Thanks to flights between the Sulawesi capital of Makassar and Palopo, visitors don’t necessarily need to do the seven-hour drive between Makassar and Toraja to discover this mythical culture in the remote highlands of South Sulawesi. Instead, they can take the one-hour flight between Makassar and Palopo airport, from where it is only a two-hour drive to Toraja.
However, Khiri recommends making the journey between Makassar and Toraja a multiple-day discovery trip with lots of intriguing stops. For example, after staying for one day and night to discover Makassar’s attractions we head north. We stop to visit the stunning limestone cliffs of Maros with the Malino Highlands as an option. From there we continue to Sengkang where we board motorized canoes on the Walennea River leading to Tempe Lake.
We visit the local people living in stilt houses on the lake and share a meal with them.
Once we arrive in Toraja we recommend a minimum stay of three nights. There are a handful of comfortable hotels. To really experience this destination we recommend some soft trekking and staying in a remote ‘Tongkonan’ (local house). On transport, for those who prefer the comfort of a car, most of the highlights in Toraja are reachable by car. The surroundings are also ideal for an easy cycling adventure.
Whenever possible Khiri Travel always adjusts the itinerary so that visitors can join the well-known and lavish funeral ceremonies of Toraja. The funeral ceremonies have given Toraja a unique reputation around the world.
After cultural immersion in Toraja we take visitors for the two-hour road transfer to Palopo airport, from where it’s a short one-hour flight to Makassar, which connects to many Indonesian destinations and Singapore.
For those who are OK with more basic accommodation and infrastructure, Central Sulawesi has a lot to offer. (For those seeking comfort and moderate luxury, we would recommend bypassing Central Sulawesi and going straight to North Sulawesi, specifically to Tangkoko National Park and Bunaken.)
To enjoy Central Sulawesi, we head north from Toraja on a scenic ride through rice terraces and lofty mountains to Pendolo, a small town on the Lake Poso. We stay there for the night. After a waterfall stop, the next day we overnight in Tentana before we reach our main destination. Here we board a 4wd vehicle to discover this mysterious Bada Valley (also known as Napu Valley).*
The area is famous for its megaliths situated in the Lore Lindu National Park. Only discovered by outsiders in 1908, the Bada Valley megaliths, deep in Central Sulawesi, are scattered around the park. Little is known about who built the megaliths or their purpose. The megaliths have been carved by an ancient civilization, made in different shapes and sizes. Some are standing. Others lie on the ground, which adds to the mystery around them. We overnight at a local homestay.
We then head to Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi from where we fly to Makassar, or Manado in North Sulawesi.
* As an alternative Central Sulawesi option to the Bada Valley, visitors can choose to head northeast to the unspoiled Togean islands. From Tentana, we continue to Ampana on the north-facing coast of Central Sulawesi. From there guests take a fast boat over to the Togean islands. Here the accommodation and infrastructure is basic, but the perfect place ‘to get away from it all’. On the Togean islands, guests can visit the local Bajo people who live out at sea on stilt houses. We discover secret beaches, go for hikes and wade or swim in lake full of harmless jellyfish. Coming back from the Togean islands we either fly from Luwuk back to Makassar or on to Manado in North Sulawesi.
Besides the world-class snorkeling and diving sites in Bunaken National Park, there are many reasons to visit North Sulawesi. One of them is Mahawu. Early in the morning, we drive up to Mahawu volcano, which last erupted in 1999. We hike from 1,000m altitude and reach the peak at 1,300m not long after. On the top, guests find a beautiful crater – 180m wide and 140m deep – which is still steaming and misty.
We then return down the mountain to visit local flower and vegetable markets and explore Tondano town. We make stops in Pulutan pottery village and have lunch in a fish restaurant on the edge of Lake Tondano. We take a short walk near the colored sulphur lake of Linow.
The magnificent Tangkoko National Park is easily reached from Manado or Tomohon. In Tangkoko national park which is covered by dense virgin rain forest we look for the black macaque, and other primates, amongst which is the spectral tarsier, the smallest primate in the world.
From Manado there are direct flights to Makassar, Bali, Jakarta and Singapore.
Sulawesi as a whole can easily be reached on Garuda by daily direct flights from Singapore, Bali and Jakarta. For those wanting to extend their off-the-beaten track Indonesia experience, Khiri Travel can create Sulawesi combinations with Flores, Kalimantan or a cruise to Komodo or Raja Ampat with Sea Trek.
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