The first thing anybody will say about Java is that it’s the most populated island in the world. More than 140 million people live in Indonesia’s beating heart, in an area of just under 50,000 square miles. It’s also a thriving place for culture and food, art and adventure.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.
Related: The 2018 World's Best Awards
Java is truly a diverse island, offering a multitude of different experiences for travelers. Visitors can see everything from the major metropolis of Jakarta to the slow-paced fishing scene in Kepulauan Seribu National Park.
Java also has 112 volcanoes — 35 of which are currently active. Outdoorsy types can get a sense of the land at Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park. The park is home to two dormant volcanoes (both of which you can climb) and more than 85 square miles of beautiful rain forest.
No visit to Java is complete without a stop at Borobudur. Dating back to the eighth century, the Buddhist temple complex is one of most significant and oldest in the world. It is considered the single largest Buddhist structure on the planet. Wake up early and visit at sunrise for an unforgettable experience (and fewer crowds) at this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is home to more than 10 million people. One of the city’s most popular tourist attractions is the 433-foot-tall National Monument (called Monas) in Merdeka Square. It was opened in 1975 to commemorate the Indonesian struggle for independence from the Dutch, achieved in 1949. Today visitors climb to the top observation deck for a cityscape view of Jakarta.
For another window onto Indonesian culture, swing by Taman Mini Indonesia Park. The 250-acre park contains 26 replicas of traditional chieftain’s houses that would be found throughout all of the islands. The park also showcases Indonesia’s coexistence of religions. Several different faiths (Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu) have religious buildings in the park. Learn more about religious history with visits to the Istiqlal Mosque and the Jakarta Cathedral, some of Java’s most historically significant places of worship.
After Jakarta, take a train ride across the island to Yogyakarta. The eight-hour journey is popular among tourists as a way to take in Java’s countryside. Get a window seat and take in the views as the train passes small villages, lush green hills, and rice paddies.
And, of course, Java is famous for its beaches. For those who wish to escape to a hidden paradise, Karimunjawa Island is touted by visitors for its pristine white sand and impossibly turquoise sea. Go snorkeling among some coral and shipwrecks to experience the best of what Javanese waters have to offer.