HalalBooking guide to halal-friendly holidays in Indonesia
Indonesia is a vast country, comprising an archipelago of around 18,000 islands and extending over 5,000 kilometres from east to west. With one of the world’s longest coastlines at over 54,716 kilometres, it is not surprising that it is known for its beautiful beaches. Indonesia is a favourite spot for Muslims wishing to enjoy a relaxing beach holiday. It is known for its romantic scenery and luxury halal-friendly hotels, which make it popular for honeymoons.
Indonesia is the world’s 4th most populous country with 265 million inhabitants and has the world’s largest Muslim population at around 230 million (87% are Muslim and approx. 10% Christian). Most Indonesians, aside from speaking the national language, are fluent in at least one of the more than 700 indigenous local languages. According to the country’s Ministry of Tourism around 12 million foreign tourists visited Indonesia in 2016, a significant proportion of which chose the destination for its halal-friendly attributes. The government is keen on developing the halal tourism sector and has even appointed a ‘Halal Tourism Development Acceleration Team’ to help achieve its goals.
You will soon become familiar with the phrase “Selamat Datang”, which means “Welcome”. The local people are extremely welcoming to their Muslim guests and are very friendly. Being surrounded by so many happy, smiling faces will definitely be a highlight of your holiday in Indonesia.
Top 5 reasons for Muslims to visit Indonesia
1. Beautiful beaches
Indonesia is known for its picture-postcard perfect beaches with fine white sand, framed by palm trees and lush greenery. The islands of Bali and Lombok are famous for their beaches, and although there aren’t any women-only beaches here, it is common to see women wearing burkinis on beaches as well as in the local waterparks. One of our favourite Bali beaches is Nusa Dua, which is a hidden gem comprising miles of pale sand without the crowds. Jemeluk, also on Bali, boasts clear waters and is great for snorkelling along the coral reefs just off the shore. Lombok’s beaches may not be quite as well known, but they are every bit as beautiful. Selong Belanak Beach enjoys fine white sand lapped by azure seas surrounded by lush scenery and is a lovely place to watch the sun set. On Lombok’s south coast, approximately 20 minutes east of Kuta, Mawun Beach boasts calm waters, sheltered by two headlands perfect for swimming. Nearby Tanjung Aan Beach is a picturesque crescent of white sand and rocks.
Those who are visiting Bali on honeymoon should make sure they head to Balangen beach near Kuta, a favourite place to enjoy the sunset and take romantic pictures from the cliffs above.
2. Luxury halal hotels and villas
Bali and Lombok are known for their high standards of accommodation. If you are seeking luxurious halal hotels then Indonesia should be top of your list. Some of the hotels featured by HalalBooking.com have rooms with private pools, which offer complete privacy for you and your family. Some also feature spas which are open to women only at certain times. Another option is to choose a halal-friendly villa with its own private pool, which is not overlooked. The hotels in Indonesia, which are featured on HalalBooking.com, consistently score high ratings from HalalBooking’s guests.
3. Wildlife and beautiful scenery
Indonesia boasts a megadiverse eco system, which is home to a wide variety of animal species, some of which are not found anywhere else in the world, including the terrifying Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard. With its white sandy beaches, lush rainforests and clear seas it is a natural paradise, perfect for halal holidays. Indonesia has 139 volcanoes, some of which can be climbed, which add to its eye-catching landscape. There are also 8 World Heritage Sites including the Komodo National Park, the Rainforests of Sumatra with their orangutans and the Lorentz National Park, home to Indonesia’s highest peak, Puncak Jaya.
4. Islamic lifestyle
One of the main reasons why Indonesia is so welcoming to Muslim visitors is because it has the largest Muslim population in the world. This means that it is easy to find halal food and places to worship and that the local population is aware of the requirements of Muslim travellers. HalalBooking’s guests especially appreciate the friendly, attentive service offered to them by the local people.
5. World-class diving locations
Without doubt, Indonesia is one of the most popular destinations in the world for diving holidays. Its clear, warm waters and abundant marine life ensure that it remains a favourite. Lombok, in particular, is very popular with diving enthusiasts. It is renowned for its biodiversity and nearby islands such as the Gili Islands are well known for their pristine natural beauty. Expect to see stunning reefs, with beautiful coral, and a wide variety of creatures and sea life including eels, sea snakes, anemones, reef sharks, hammerheads, rays, box fish, turtles and seahorses. Other popular diving locations in Indonesia include Raja Ampat and Bunaken Island.
Halal food and restaurants in Indonesia
It is easy to find restaurants in Indonesia which serve halal food, although not all of them are officially certified as halal. Indonesia has passed laws, which guarantee that as of October 2019 all meat imported into the country (except for pork) must be halal. From this date, halal certification will be compulsory not just on food but also beverages, cosmetics and medical products. Many international fast-food chains already only serve halal meat in Indonesia, so these are a good option for those on a budget.
It is also relatively common to find alcohol-free restaurants, since such a large percentage of the population is Muslim. Even in those places in Indonesia which do not have large Muslim populations, it is very easy to find vegetarian restaurants or places serving only fish and seafood.
Local dishes are extremely tasty and the halal food is sure to be a highlight of your holiday.
Halal dishes to try in Indonesia:
Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest producers of rice, and it is a staple food of the country. In addition to the regular white variety, you will find yellow rice, cooked with turmeric, which is frequently served at celebrations. Local varieties also include red rice and even black rice which turns purple when cooked. One of Indonesia’s most popular dishes is Nasi Goreng, which literally means ‘fried rice’ in Indonesian. It is a delicious rice dish with pieces of meat and vegetables added, usually seasoned with sweet soy sauce.
Mie Ayam and Mie Goreng (noodle dishes)
Mie Ayam is a popular dish of yellow, wheat noodles, seasoned with spices and topped with chunks of tasty halal chicken. Mie Goreng are noodles, fried in a wok, often hot and spicy with chicken, meat or prawns added. The dish is sometimes topped with a fried egg. Mie Goreng Ikan has fish added instead of meat. ‘Ikan’ means fish and is often followed by the specific type of fish.
If you happen to be in Indonesia during Ramadan you can try this sweet dish, which is a favourite for breaking the fast, during the iftar meal or buka puasa, as it is known locally. It is a sweet soup made from banana, sweet potatoes and sometimes pumpkin, soaked in coconut milk mixed with palm sugar and vanilla. It can be found throughout the country, and restaurants often serve it for free.
Ayam Balap Puyuh
This halal chicken dish is a speciality of Lombok comprised of fried chicken, vegetables, fried coconut, spicy shredded chicken, fried soya bean, chilli paste and plain rice usually served on a banana leaf. You may also wish to try the spicy grilled chicken known as Ayam Taliwang.
This seasoned grilled meat served on skewers is extremely tasty and is typical of the local Indonesian cuisine. It is usually served with white rice.
This delicious spicy soup is made from beef or goat ribs, served with plain rice. As with most Indonesian halal dishes it is liberally seasoned with chilli and is often enjoyed with a squeeze of lemon.
Top 3 places to stay on a halal-friendly holiday in Indonesia
The island of Lombok may not be as well known as its neighbour, Bali, around 30 miles to the east but it is a favourite amongst Muslim travellers. Known as the island of one thousand mosques its population is 90% Muslim, and it is recognised to be one of the world’s best halal-friendly destinations. On Lombok virtually all of the food is halal and you are never more than 5 minutes from a mosque. Most hotels and restaurants have their own prayer room and many restaurants are alcohol-free.
· Masjid Bayan Beleq is the oldest and most historic mosque on the island
· Breathtakingly beautiful beaches such as Selong Belanak Beach, Mawun Beach and Tanjung Aan Beach
· Trekking to Mount Rinjani, a 3726 metre high active volcano, one of Indonesia’s highest.
· Pasar Mandalika is a charming, traditional market, full of atmosphere, selling spices, vegetables, fish and meat.
· The Gili Islands can be visited by boat on a daytrip.
Known for its pale sandy beaches, Bali has something for everyone. In contrast to Lombok, the majority of Bali’s population is Hindu, with only a relatively small Muslim population. Nevertheless, it is very welcoming to Muslims and is a popular destination for halal travel. Ubud is the island’s cultural capital, which is lush and green. The island is also home to some of Indonesia’s best known cultural and natural attractions.
· Pura Lempuyang is a scenic temple in the Eastern part of Bali. It’s a steep 1,700 steps up to the top, but well worth it for the views.
· The Tegalalang rice terraces are around 20 minutes from Ubud, boasting picturesque scenery, typical of the region – a lovely place for a walk.
· The Temple at Tanah Lot overlooks the Indian Ocean, and is the finest place on Bali to see the sun set.
· The Sea temple in Bali at Uluwatu is another place which is popular at sunset, watch out for the monkeys, they are notorious thieves!
· Waterbom Bali is a vast, water adventure theme park which children will love – it’s common to see women wearing burkinis here.
Jakarta is Indonesia’s capital city. 10 million people live here and another 8 million come here to work every day. It may be busy and chaotic but this is all part of its charm. It blends the old and new in a melting pot of cultures, resulting in delicious cuisine and diverse architecture, from vast shopping malls to gravity-defying skyscrapers.
· Jakarta Old Town gives an insight into the history of the city and its Dutch roots, museums shops and restaurants. It is a good place to try some of Jakarta’s delicious street food.
· Merdeka Square Monas or National Monument is a symbol of the city and the struggle for independence 137 metre high tower, topped with a 14.5 metre bronze flame, covered in gold leaf. Take a trip to the top in a lift for stunning views over the city.
· Taman Mini Indonesia Indah is a cultural recreational park that offers a perfect introduction to the country, its architecture and culture, with pavilions featuring each province. Visitors can see its handicrafts, clothes, artefacts and experience cultural performances, spread across 100 hectares.
Mosques in Indonesia
Due to the large Muslim population, it is easy for visiting Muslims to find places to worship in Indonesia. Indonesia’s mosques reflect the blend of ancient and modern, history with cutting-edge design, which is found throughout this country.
Istiqlal Mosque Jakarta
The national mosque and the largest in south-east Asia this mosque was built to commemorate Indonesian independence. Named after the Arabic word for Independence, it stands opposite Jakarta Cathedral next to Medeka Square and has room for over 120,000 worshippers. The vast courtyard, which surrounds it, can accommodate thousands more. The building is on 5 floors spread over 9 hectares. It has a simple but impressive interior decorated with Arabic calligraphy.
Dian Al Mahri Mosque, Jakarta
Opened in 2006, this mosque is set on the outskirts of the city and is famous for its shining golden dome.
Masjid Raya, Bandung, West Java
Also known as the Grand Mosque of Bandung, this mosque was first built in 1812 but has seen many renovations, which have enlarged the old structure. The mosque now encompasses several floors, domes and towers. Climb to the top of the towers to enjoy panoramic views over Bandung city.
Al-Irsyad Mosque, Bandung, West Java
This contemporary cube-like building is highly unusual in that it doesn’t have a dome. It is an example of some of the most innovative architecture in Indonesia and its interior is just as beautiful as its modern exterior.
Menara Kudus Mosque, Central Java
This is one of the oldest mosques in Indonesia dating back to 1549. Unusually, it combines both Hindu and Islamic architectural styles and from the exterior it resembles a Hindu temple.
Baiturrahman Grand Mosque, Banda Aceh
This mosque is over 130 years old. It boasts intricate Islamic architecture and has an elaborate white exterior, with domes and minarets.