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Sulawesi, Tana Toraja, Lake Poso and Bada Valley

It's been some years since I traveled to Sulawesi. My goal at the time was to visit Tana Toraja with it's mix of Christian and animistic beliefs was a major reason. The plan was to travel all the way to Manado but around Lake Poso that plan changed for the better. A jungle trekking to Bada Valley followed. Sulawesi is still on my top 5 of best visited places. There's still a lot of magic in Sulawesi. Here's my story.

A little boy in Gimpu, Central Sulawesi
Little boy in Bada Valley, Central Sulawesi

I arrived in Makassar (from 1971 to 1999 it was officially named Ujung Pandang) by flight from Jakarta.

My flight had 24 hours delay but as I had to wait in Jakarta, I had hardly any delay in arriving in Sulawesi, formerly known by the Portuguese and the Dutch as Celebes.

Makassar was a sleepy town. During the day the streets of the town were mostly empty. The heat is too much and people shelter inside their houses and sleep.

I found a nice little guesthouse where I slept most of the day (I had arrived in the early morning after 24 hours flights).

Now it was time to sort out my plans. I had decided I would spend about 4 weeks in Sulawesi and then travel to Java before flying back to the Netherlands.

Getting there and away

Sulawesi is one of the four larger Sunda Islands of Indonesia and is situated between Borneo and the Maluku Islands.

There are several airports in Sulawesi but most travelers enter either at Makassar or Manado. The other airports are: Gorontalo City (north Sulawesi), Kendari, South East Sulawesi, Poso, Central Sulawesi, Makale (for Tana Toraja) and Palu, Central Sulawesi.

A real treat to travel in Indonesia is travel by pelni, the local ferries that connect all of Indonesia. My advice is to do at least one journey by pelni as it is such an excellent experience. Economy class is the cheapest, if you can get a ticket for it and it also brings you the closest to the local travelers. But 1st and 2nd class cabins are available too if you book in advance.

The pelni routes of Indonesia
The pelni routes of Indonesia

Waterbuffalo dressed up for the funeral at Tana TorajoAlthough Sulawesi's roads are in miserable state, the main attractions are good connected. They are certainly good for riding your bicycle.

The traffic is minimal and the people are usually curious to see a traveler passing by.


Accommodation at Sulawesi outside the main tourist areas as Makassar, Tana Toraja and Manado is pretty basic and not always clean. In Makassar, Manado, Tana Toraja and some other cities, you will find good modern hotels suiting the international tourists. However, if you are on a tiny budget, small guesthouses are always available.

Tana Toraja  The mourning ceremony at Tana Toraja
Waterbuffalo dressed up for the funeral at Tana Toraja

Places to visit

It's quite easy to spend 4 weeks in Sulawesi. In fact, I spend 4 weeks without having the time to visit the far north with Gorontalo and Manado. Instead I spend some time in the south and central parts.

The mourning ceremony at Tana Toraja

The mourning ceremony at Tana Toraja

A good loop to make is starting in Makassar, travel up to Tana Toraja and if you are adventurous, travel to Lake Poso, Poso and Bada Valley and the Lora Lindu National Park. It's a bit of a journey but worth all the effort.

Children welcomed us after 50 km jungletrekking to Bada Valley
Children are always the first to contact us, then the parents follow, here we were welcomed after 50 km jungle trekking to Bada Valley

Here is more about the routes I traveled in Sulawesi

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Jungle trekking to Bada Valley

This was an amazing and not in advance organized part of my journey. But it was really great. And Bada valley had some amazing things to show me: the Megaliths.

Jungle trekking to Bada Valley

Jungle trekking to Bada Valley

Tana Toraja

The most famous place to visit in Sulawesi is Tana Toraja. The spectacular cave burial areas and, if you are lucky, a memorable few days of a funeral which is an amazing experience.

Makassar, Parepare and Watambone

Although few travelers take the time to visit Parepare and Watambone these two towns certainly have their charms. Even if it is for being away from the main tourist trails

Makassar, Parepare and Watambone

Lake Poso

Again a place most travelers skip. Lake Poso is an amazingly beautiful lake where time seems to have stand still. The area is not easy to travel so facilities are sparse but it is all made up by the beautiful people who, if you are in for it put you on a jungle trekking to Bada Valley

Lake Poso

Map of Sulawesi

map of Sulawesi
Map of Sulawesi