Traveling Sulawesi – Indonesia Enjoy the full Indonesian experience

Traveling Sulawesi

Not everyone has the beautiful island of Sulawesi on their radar when planning a holiday in Indonesia. In this article, I would like to explain what is special about the island. Both beach lovers and those interested in culture will get their money’s worth here. Spoiler alert… Some places are not for the faint-hearted. The island of Sulawesi is one of Indonesia’s 5 large islands and the smallest after Java. Except for Manado in the north and the Toraja region, the majority of the population is Muslim. See this article for more information and top highlights for your holiday in Indonesia. A holiday in Sulawesi can be combined with a visit to Raja Ampat, one of the most beautiful places I have seen in my life.

Top highlights for your holiday in Sulawesi

In Sulawesi, it has to be said, there are 4 absolute cracker highlights for me, each special in its own way. There are also other nice places like Tentena, Gorontalo, Manado and Tangkoko National Park. But these 4 highlights simply stand out and must be seen – no shit!

1 Tana Toraja

Tana Toraja is a special adventure in every respect. The Toraja people inhabit the Tanah Toraja highlands. The area is located in the south of West Sulawesi. The Toraja are mainly known for their, I call them “unique”, funeral ceremonies and their wooden houses that resemble a ship, called Tongkonan. Tanah Toraja is an absolute must for every traveller on Sulawesi. You can reach Tanah Toraja after a 6-hour bus ride from Makassar in the most comfortable buses ever. As the Toraja are of Christian faith, you will also find beer and pork (babi) in the area.

2 Togian Islands

Forget the Maldives! On the Togian Islands you get the same scenery, only in a natural and down-to-earth setting. On the Togians, there’s no continental buffet, and no 500 employees to make every bit of dirt disappear in front of the tourists to make them think they’re in paradise. Here you get delicious local food, a spartan to luxuriously furnished bungalow, a hammock and an equally breathtaking underwater world. The food is prepared with love. This is the perfect place to unwind for a few days and has everything you need. You won’t find internet here… On the Togians you also have the unique opportunity to snorkel in a salt water lake with thousands of harmless jellyfish. If you fancy a trip to the Togian Islands, take a look at our page about it.

3 Bunaken

Island-wise, Bunaken stinks in comparison to the beautiful Togian Islands. The island is heavily built-up but only a stone’s throw away from Manado, the second largest city in Sulawesi. The special thing about the island is its fantastic reef, which is why it attracts so many divers. Well, I have already seen many turtles while snorkelling…. But 9 during a snorkelling trip?! I haven’t had that before, which is why Bunaken is absolutely worth a visit because of its reef. Similar to the Togian Islands, most accommodation includes 3 meals and you pay between €15 and €25 per night.

4 Tomohon

Tomohon is an extreme place. The Minahasa live here, where only a few creatures do not make it into the pot. At the Tomohon Extreme Market, pythons, bats, dogs, rats and many other animals are offered for consumption. Besides the Extreme Market, Tomohon is an ideal starting point for walks in the surrounding area. Tomohon is also known for its Flower Festival.

Itinerary through Sulawesi

Reiseroute durch Sulawesi

Recommended route from south to north:

Here is a suggestion for a route from the south to the north. This route is perfect for a onward journey to Raja Ampat.

Day 1: Arrival in Makassar
Day 1: Drive to Rantepao
Day 2-6: Tana Toraja
Day 6: Bus to Tentena
Day 7: Bus to Ampana
Day 8: Ferry to Wakai
Day 8-13: Togian Islands
Day 13: Ferry to Gorontalo
Day 15: Bus to Manado
Day 16-17: Tomohon
Day 18: Manado
Day 19-21: Bunaken

How to get to Sulawesi

The most common way to get to Sulawesi is, for better or worse, by plane. The journey by ship can take several days and it is not easy to get information about the exact departure times. We also sinned and got on a plane. If you want to travel through Sulawesi, you have 2 options. Either you start in the south or in the north, you wouldn’t have thought that, would you? Makassar is the capital of Sulawesi and in the north is Manado, the second largest city in the country. If you are still thinking of going to paradise, namely Raja Ampat, after Sulawesi, it is better to start in the south.

Transport for your holiday in Sulawesi


The most common means of transport on Sulawesi is the bus. I have rarely seen such differences in quality. From the luxury liners that connect Makassar with Rantepao to unair-conditioned, bumpy buses without air-con and mainly standing room, everything is there.


Taxis are mainly found in the larger cities. For certain routes, it makes sense to share a driver with other travellers.


Logically, the islands can only be reached by boat. A large ferry takes you to the Togian Islands, and smaller or longtail boats take you further.

The best time for your holiday in Sulawesi

Since Manado in the north of the island and Makassar in the south are almost 1000 km apart as the crow flies, the rainy season is also slightly offset. It should be said that it is warm all year round, but some months are marked by heavy rain. In the north of the island, the rainy season is from October to April. In the south of the island, the rainy season is from November to April. Overall, the best months for your trip to Sulawesi are from July to September.

FAQ traveling Sulawesi

3 weeks! To really experience Sulawesi, you should take at least 3 weeks.
For the whole island, the months of July to September are best for your holiday in Sulawesi.
Depending on your itinerary, you can fly into Sam Ratulangi International Airport in Manado in the north of Sulawesi or Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport in Makassar in the south of the island.

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We are Julian & Naomi and we love to travel the world and immerse ourselves in other cultures. We have an adventurous, spartan, sustainable and reflective travel style. In our opinion, the greatest adventures are experienced when you do things on your own and try to live like a local. The taste of a country is best captured on the road
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