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The relatively unknown island of Sulawesi is a pearl of the Indonesian island kingdom. Melissa and Petra from the Indonesia blog Indojunkie took a closer look at the island.

Sulawesi things to do: the most beautiful places

Today they will show you six places and landmarks you should absolutely see on your journey through the orchid-shaped island of Sulawesi.

How to get to Sulawesi

The huge island of Sulawesi offers two international airports for arrivals by airplane. Sam Ratulangi (MDC) in Manado and Sultan Hasanuddin (UPG) in Makassar. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights from Europe or America to Sulawesi, so you will have to change to Sulawesi on your arrival.

The best connections as well as information on prices and tickets can be found on Skyscanner. Here you can check all options if you want to arrive by plane to Sulawesi.

Furthermore, a journey by boat or ferry is possible. The largest port is in Makassar, but also smaller ports like Bira are approached from the neighboring islands. You could take a boat for example from Flores, Kalimantan or Java. You can find further information on how to get to Sulawesi at 12go.asia.

Accommodation in Sulawesi – our hotel tips

Sulawesi is a fairly large island and there are countless places to visit. Your trip is likely to start in either Manado or Makassar. Thus, a night and a short stay in one of the cities is worthwhile – especially in the beautiful Manado. For a selection of hotels in Manado, visit here.

For a stay on Bunaken we recommend a bungalow with sea views in the MC Resort and Dive.

Sulawesi: Tours and tickets

1. Bunaken Marine National Park

The Bunaken Marine National Park attracts especially diver hearts with gigantic cliffs that are full of funky creatures. Rambo, the giant turtle, stays here and his entire crew will meet you almost everyday while you are diving and snorkeling around the islands. That is why the area is also known as the “turtle paradise”.

Those who do not feel like diving can climb on Manado Tua, an extinct volcano, located on Siladen in the National Park. Relax on the beach or on Montehage and learn about the life and culture of the sea nomad people.

The island of Bunaken near Sulawesi (Indonesia)

Sunset on Bunaken overlooking Manado Tua
Sunset on Bunaken overlooking Manado Tua

2. The vivid cities of Sulawesi

Sulawesi is a huge island. Accordingly, there is also one or the other larger city. Manado was named by Alfred Russel Wallace as one of the most beautiful cities in Asia. The largest city in North Sulawesi offers bustling markets, air-conditioned malls, delicious specialties, crazy characters and a vibrant life around the harbor.

Harbor in the city Manado on Sulawesi, Indonesia

Makassar is the capital of the province of South Sulawesi and is one of the five largest cities in Indonesia. The port “Pelabuhan Paotere” is a must-see with every Makassar visit. In the evening, you can end the day with live music on the beach “Pantai Losari”.

3. Tangkoko National Reserve

Worth seeing is the reserve especially because of the unique wildlife, which you can observe in peace. You will encounter the rare black crested macaques, the small nocturnal Tarsiers with their huge eyes, Cuscus bears, hornbills, snakes, spiders and other small animals.

Nature lovers should spend several days in the jungle reserve. The longer you stay, the greater the chance to see all the unique animals. Otherwise, there is also the faster version of a three-hour trek through the lowlands of the reserve.

Tarsier on the tree in Tangkoko National Reserve, Sulawesi

4. The Minahasa Highlands

The Minahasa highlands are pure adventure. Here the flower town Tomohon is waiting for you with its exotic market. In addition grilled dogs, cats, rats, bats and snakes are offered. But the area has much more to offer than this “nightmare market,” to which the city tends to be reduced.

There are a bunch of volcanoes that you can climb – whether Lokon, Klabat or Mahawu. The colorful lake Linow will enchant you and the lake Tondano can be discovered by kayak.

The Gunung Lokon volcano near Tomohon, Sulawesi
The Gunung Lokon volcano near Tomohon

But the culture of the area is also fascinating. Learn more about the Minahasa tombs, the Kabasaran battle dance, and the Woloan houses during your journey.

5. Togian Islands

A few days on the 56 beautiful Togian Islands is the highlight of every Sulawesi trip! On the many white dream beaches you will feel like Robinson Crusoe.

Whether Malenge, Una-Una or Kadidiri – every island is simply unique. And even if you are here for weeks, you will always discover new secluded beaches! The Togian Islands are a true paradise for beach lovers! The journey is difficult, but totally worth the effort.

Here you can dive, relax on the beach all day, snorkel in the jellyfish lake, get acquainted with the lake paradise culture, sing Indonesian love songs with guitar accompaniment at campfire, drink rice wine in the evening or go in search of the gigantic coconut crab. After that you will surely say “we found paradise!” and the departure will be hard for you.

Dream beach on one of the Togian islands at Sulawesi

Dream Beach on Kadidiri, one of the Togian Islands near Sulawesi
Pulau Kadidiri

6. The Tana Toraja land

The most famous area of Sulawesi is the Tana Toraja land. In the fairytale landscape colorful Toraja houses tower in the blue sky. Additionally, hundreds of horns of sacrificed buffaloes are hanging on the bamboo constructions.

The Toraja were cut off from the outside world for a long time in the highlands and developed their own rituals and traditions, which are still cultivated today in elaborate ceremonies. Especially the funeral ceremony of the Toraja is world famous.

Funeral ceremony and the typical Toraja houses in Tana Toraja
Funeral ceremony and the typical Toraja houses in Tana Toraja

The environment around Rantepao offers the ideal conditions for long scooter or hiking tours, passing by several Toraja houses, buffalo and rice fields.

Rice fields at Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

And now come to the island of Sulawesi, where adventure is still possible!

About the authors

Petra and Melissa from Indojunkie
Petra and Melissa

Melissa is a travel blogger, social media geek, rescue diver, backpacking enthusiast and Indonesia lover with love for the environment and nature. In 2013, Melissa successfully created a niche blog for Indonesia in which she regularly blogs about life, work and travel in the fascinating island kingdom. Her endless energy flows into her project, into yoga and diving, and finally into the expansion of her comfort zone by discovering the world with her backpack.

Petra is a filmmaker and photographer, radio geek, website creator, Southeast Asia lover, backpacking enthusiast, diver and confident vegetarian with love for animals and the environment. In 2014, Petra joined Indojunkie.com as a sound and video producer. Petra prefers to spend her energy on documentaries, radio, studying, playing the ukulele, and forging new plans for the wider world.

Plan your trip to Sulawesi now

More hotel recommendations for Sulawesi:

Popular routes to Manado/Sulawesi:

Have you ever been to Sulawesi? How did you like it and what are your personal highlights?

Photo 2 (sunset): © Visit Indonesia Tourism Office Germany
Photo 7 (Kadidiri) & 8 (Tana Toraja): Arian Zwegers/flickr (CC BY 2.0)