Looking to get off the beaten path in Indonesia…?
Then look no further than the Toraja Region in South Sulawesi…
While it’s no easy task to reach this particular area of the country, it’s 100% worth the journey! I was fortunately given the opportunity to spend two days exploring Toraja on the recent “Trip of Wonders” with Wonderful Indonesia, and this was actually my favorite part of our two-week cultural adventure!
With very few tourists in sight, plenty of interesting cultural aspects, and stunning natural scenery: Tana Toraja is the perfect destination for travelers looking for something different!
Being buried underground is overrated…
Or at least that’s how they think about it…(Well, not exactly)
The most fascinating part about visiting Toraja is learning all about their unique views on death, funeral festivities, and burial customs.
So our first stop of the day was to visit Londa: the famous cave cemetary of Toraja. As we looked over this massive stone rock (that actually had hanging coffins built into it), our friendly tour guide gave us a quick run through of the cultural history and their unique beliefs.
One important aspect to understand is that death is not looked at as a sad occasion in Torajan culture; instead it’s looked at as a celebration, and the most important part of an individuals life. Funerals aren’t a one-day event where loved ones grieve for their loss, but a rather lengthy process in which their family members onto what they believe to be “heaven”.
When family members die, they’ll embalm the bodies, and place them deep inside this cave grave, or build a separate “house grave” for them to rest.
Then there’s actually a yearly celebration in Toraja when they bring out their deceased family members embalmed bodies and change their clothes!!
Don’t believe me…? Check out this video. *DISTURBING IMAGES*
Learning about all of this was a bit crazy, but then the time had come for us to enter inside this famous cave grave! The entire experience is a bit hard to explain, but definitely one of the most interesting things I’ve done along my travels.
**Since I greg up in Anaheim, California, I’ve been to Disneyland on numerous occasions. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve ridden the legendary “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride, and seen countless skulls and skelatons. For some reason, that’s what this reminded me of**
Walking through these caves and seeing actual human skulls laid next to coffins was super interesting (and just a bit creepy)! This wasn’t some fake attraction made out of fancy Hollywood materials…this was the real thing. Pretty crazy, huh?
KE’TE KESU’ VILLAGE
After our walk among the dead, our adventure moved onto the livelier Ke’Te Kesu’ Village, a stunning place with traditional houses, rice fields, and a bit of souvenir shopping.
It was here that we got to witness the “The Happy Ceremony”, which is when all the members of the clan would get together, donate something to feed the community, and celebrate the successful building of a new house (to be used to as a house grave).
The ceremony was eight men (wearing epic traditional headwear) walking in two lines, ringing bells, and yelling happy exclamations. :-)
We got to have our own little photoshoot wearing these heavy headdresses, and then spent 30 minutes strolling the beautiful property and hanging with water buffalo.
Scenic Drives & Lunchtime views
Indonesia is filled with natural beauty everwyhere you look.
I was actually in awe when we were driving from the airport to Toraja through these misty mountain roads! The majority of the 2-hour journey was outstanding, and thankfully we got to pull over the bus for this epic view point.
Come to think about it, I’m actually surprised that I had never heard about Tana Toraja before this “Trip of Wonders”. I’ve always wanted to visit Sulawesi, but that was mainly for beach purposes.
During our time driving around Toraja, I couldn’t help but stare out the window and appreciate the lush green landscape and massive rice fields found around Toraja. While we did experience a bit of rainy / cloudy weather, it was still completely beautiful.
It was also pretty awesome enjoying a delicious Indonesian meal at THIS restaurant. Not a bad place for meal! :-)
Gembogan Making at Gianyar Village
Our final stop in the Toraja area was to watch local women make these amazing woven blankets. They were so happy and friendly, but more importantly — so talented! I literally have no idea how they make these things so flawlessly, but kudos to them. If you’re ever in the area, make sure you go buy one to support them! They only cost around 200,0K Rupiah!
Some Practical Travel Information
Trying to plan your own Toraja adventure…?
Well as previously mentioned, this really isn’t the most accessible place in the country. First things first, you need to book a flight to Makasar, the biggest city in South Sulawesi.
From there you can either take a 9-10 hour bus ride up to Toraja, or book a budget flight from Makasar – Papolo Airport (and take a 2-hour bus ride). It really just depends on how long you have, and your budget. Flights from Makasar only cost around 600,000K rupiah.
While we did most of our Toraja explorations via bus, it’s actually a fantastic area to rent a scooter, and explore on your own! It’s pretty common, and will add a bit more adventure to your visit!
Finally — if you’re looking for a place to stay, then I’d highly recommend checking out the Toraja Heritage Hotel! The property really was amazing, and they provide these massive hats instead of umbrellas to block rain cover. The rooms were also massive, the food was delicious, and (while I didn’t get to swim in it) the pool as gorgeous.
Anyways, the entire visit to Toraja was an experience I’ll never forget.
THANKS FOR READING!!