Exploring South Sulawesi’s Mountainous Torajaland
The best known destination in South Sulawesi is Tana Toraja and for both adventurous types and travelers looking for more comfort, this is the top place to visit on any Sulawesi itinerary. Due to the naturally mountainous terrain, the region’s ethnic Toraja people have lived in relative isolation for centuries and this has led to their unique system of traditions and beliefs.
Torajans believe there is a common ‘thread’ or lolo that links all humans, animals and plants together in one ‘system’. All need to be taken care of, and if one of the three parts is harmed or damaged; the others parts can also suffer. This philosophy is called tallu lolona, and despite a certain amount of modernization within today’s Torajan culture, Torajan people still strive within their everyday lives to maintain this spiritual balance.
Known as Tongkonans, Torajan houses are also a part of this spiritual balance and are considered to be like small ‘universes’ of blood-related family clans, known as to m’arapu. Nowhere else on earth is death celebrated as lavishly as in Tana Toraja. Here it is not associated with sadness. On the contrary, it a Torajan’s ultimate goal in life and the funeral ceremony, or rambu solo, is therefore a grand and lavish event, reflecting its essential cultural significance.
During each funeral ceremony a number of water buffalo are sacrificed and the more respected a Torajan person is within the community, the more buffaloes are sacrificed on his behalf, providing him with the means to enter more comfortably into the afterlife. All the meat from the sacrifice is then shared among funeral guests and villagers
Getting to Toraja is usually done by a 7-hour drive from South Sulawesi’s provincial capital Makassar, or a one-hour flight from the city’s international airport, plus a 2.5-hour drive. Once there you’ll want to stay several days to truly immerse yourself in its culture. We suggest three nights at least or even up to a week, as there’s plenty to see. Besides visiting the local houses, burial sites and caves – and whenever possible, join in a funeral ceremony – Khiri Travel has some unique activities in Tana Toraja to take part in, such as chocolate making, cycling or even rafting and camping.
- Cultural discovery
- Trekking, from half day to multiple days with overnight at a local house
- Easy rafting, full day or multiple days, with camping
- Tempe Lake boat trip, with a meal in local home
Accommodation: We recommend the Toraja Heritage Hotel, where you can stay in a traditional Torajan Tongkonan house and Toraja Misiliana Hotel, where many (former) Indonesian Presidents have stayed, including current incumbent Joko Widodo.
For more information about our trips and authentic experiences with us, please contact [email protected] or Herman — see the information in the yellow box below.