But Indonesia is more than just its beaches, Buddhist temples, and outlet shops. There are so many natural wonders here, from its thousands of volcanoes, to seeing real dragons on Komodo Island.
Indeed, with over 17,000 islands, there are a lot of places I had yet to see in this archipelago, one of which was Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi.
Makassar is the biggest city in Sulawesi island. It’s a key transportation hub, and the main gateway to Eastern Indonesia.
If you find your way here, don’t forget to check out the following places to fully appreciate what Makassar has to offer.
Beat the heat at Bantimurung Waterfalls
Located about 50 kilometers from the city of Makassar, Bantimurung Waterfalls is as scenic as it is refreshing.
This 15-meter high falls, surrounded by limestone cliffs and lush vegetation, is part of the Bantimurung Bulusaraung National Park, once home to more than 250 butterfly species.
While you might still spot a few fluttering around the falls, the park’s butterfly population has been declining steadily since the 1970s, with butterflies being captured and sold.
In many cases, the butterflies are used in key chains, butterfly frames, and other souvenir items that are offered along the park’s entrance. (Which is why I don’t recommend buying souvenir items there.)
It was a weekend when we arrived at Bantimurung, so the place was packed. The mostly-local visitors found spots for their picnic, swam in the pools, or did what Bantimurung is best known for: riding down the rapids on tubes.
Before swimming, head to the cave first, which is around a kilometer away. The path is concrete, so the hike is easy.
Swim at Kodingareng Keke Island
Many of the islands in Indonesia are famed snorkeling and scuba diving spots. The Gili Islands in Lombok, for example, are highly popular with tourists because of its rich marine life.
Some islands, however, are simple stretches of land that’s good for swimming or lazing around. One example is Kodingareng Keke, just an hour from the city of Makassar.
Unspoiled and uninhabited, Kodingareng Keke is a stretch of white sand sprinkled with a few trees and shrubs around 13 kilometers from the coast of Makassar. There’s nothing much there — although there is a three-storey structure where people can sit and eat — except swim, snorkel, pose for pictures, and generally just have a relaxing time.
If you arrive early in the morning, there’s a good chance that you’ll have the island all to yourself. Note that there’s a lot of sea urchins, so don’t swim barefoot!
Appreciate history at Fort Rotterdam
Fort Rotterdam guards the harbor of Makassar. Originally built as a Gowanese fort in 1545, it was rebuilt during Dutch colonial times, only retaining the walls of the original fort.
Because it’s well-preserved, the enclave is one of the best places to visit for a glimpse of Dutch colonial architecture. Walk around the fort’s ramparts, find portions of the original walls, pass through arched entrances, and spot pitched red roofs.
Make sure to drop by the Museum Negeri La Galigo as well, which has an assortment of exhibits. Spanning two buildings, the museum displays items relevant to the culture and history of Sulawesi, with sailboats, ethnic costumes, rice bowls, kitchen tools, and musical instruments, among others, on display.
Watch the sunset at Losari Beach
The best place to be in Makassar when the sun goes down is at Losari Beach. It’s a long stretch of waterfront known for its sunset views, laid-back ambiance, and a range of dining options.
This hangout is also perfect for mingling with locals and taking a stroll. Watch out for a local group that meets there, bringing their exotic pets with them!
Come evening, food stalls are set up on the boardwalk of Losari Beach. Most of these seafront kiosks offer various must-try eats, including spiced cashews and pisang epe (grilled banana served with melted brown sugar and a chocolate or cheese topping), among others.
Enjoy Makassar’s delicious cuisine
Makassar is a port city, so there’s no shortage of seafood restaurants here. The city is in fact one of Indonesia’s culinary hotspots, with some of its most popular dishes unique to the place.
We went to R.M. Muda Mudi, where the bestseller is their pisang ijo. This sweet and creamy dessert is made up of bananas wrapped in green rice-flour pancake featuring fragrant pandan leaves.
Pisang ijo is served with shaved ice, plus vanilla syrup, condensed milk, and tapioca. I had a cough, so I just ordered jalangkote, a stuffed pie like empanada, but I still ended up eating half of a friend’s pisang ijo, unwilling in the end to say no to temptation.
Another dish that I also shared with my friend was nasi campur, a rice dish topped with beef, vegetables, peanuts, and eggs. So delicious!
Where to Stay in Makassar
We stayed two days at Aston Makassar, a very well-situated hotel that’s walking distance to a lot of restaurants, grocery stores, banks, and yes, even Losari Beach and the port if you’re willing to walk.
My room is spacious and the bed’s firm. The pillows were very soft, too!
What I loved most was their breakfast buffet. There’s a range of dishes you can choose from — from Indonesian cuisine to international options. Since our lunch and dinner meals were at local restaurants, I opted for just cereal and eggs for breakfast.
For other accommodation options in Makassar, search via Agoda:
Indonesia has so much more to offer, but given all these just in Makassar alone, a couple of weeks exploring Indonesia is really not enough.
We spent three days in Makassar, and all it left me with was a yearning to go back there and spend more time appreciating not only the city’s natural wonders, but also its history, culture, and culinary scene.