Top 50 Interesting Facts About Indonesia and Indonesians

Indonesia stands out as a quintessential Southeast Asian nation, embracing similarities with its neighboring countries while maintaining a unique identity steeped in distinctive customs, rich history, and vibrant culture. In this article, we’ve curated 50 captivating facts about Indonesia and its diverse inhabitants, offering insights to help shape your initial impressions and inspire an engaging itinerary for your vacation in this fascinating archipelago.

50 Interesting Facts About Indonesia and Indonesians

Let’s embark on a journey through the compelling history, cherished traditions, and remarkable sights of this extraordinary country.

Historical Facts

1. The roots of human presence in the Indonesian archipelago trace back 65 thousand years, with our distant relatives, the Javan monkey-man, inhabiting the region 1.5 million years ago.

2. From the 2nd millennium B.C., waves of Mongoloid and Protomalayan ethnicities started to migrate to the islands.

3. The emergence of the first state, Srivijaya, occurred in the 7th century AD, encompassing Sumatra, parts of Java, and the Malacca Peninsula, with a predominant influence of Buddhism.

4. Until the 12th century, Hinduism and Buddhism were the prevailing religions in Indonesia, with significant Indian influence. However, Islam gained dominance by the 16th century.

5. The 16th century witnessed the arrival of the Portuguese, initiating a spice trade that was later overtaken by the Dutch in the 17th century. The Portuguese retained control only over the eastern part of Timor Island.

6. The Dutch East India Company asserted control over the region, establishing the capital, Batavia (now Jakarta).

7. Occupied by Japan during World War II, Indonesia gained independence on August 17, 1945, following Japan’s defeat.

8. The young republic faced challenges defending its independence against invasions by the British, Dutch, and Americans for the next two decades.

Indonesia Today

9. Present-day Indonesia is a presidential republic comprising 36 provinces and 2 special territorial districts.

10. The name Indonesia was officially coined for these lands in the early 20th century, translating to «Island India.»

11. The capital, Jakarta, boasts a rich history dating back to the IV century when it was known as Sunda Kelala, the capital of the Taruma Kingdom. Officially founded in 1527, the city was named Jayakerta, meaning «City of Victory.»

Современная Джакарта

12. Jakarta is not only the historical heart but also the most populous city in the republic, serving as its business and cultural center, with over 11 million residents.

13. Indonesia shares land borders with Malaysia on the island of Kalimantan, Papua New Guinea on the island of the same name, and East Timor. By sea, its neighbors include Singapore and the Philippines.

14. As the world’s largest island nation, Indonesia covers an area of 1.9 million square kilometers, home to a population of 270 million people.

15. The official currency is the rupiah, formally divided into 100 sen, though the sen coin is no longer in use.

16. Indonesia’s economic landscape is characterized as industrial-agrarian, with major exports including coal, oil, timber, and rubber.

17. The country features a relatively inexpensive labor force and a high unemployment rate (13%). Average salaries vary significantly by region, ranging from $300 a month in Java to $100 in some areas of Sulawesi.

18. Indonesian is the official language and serves as a means of interethnic communication, while over 700 languages are spoken among national minorities.

19. Indonesia is a diverse nation with more than 300 ethnic groups. Prominent groups include the Javanese, Sundanese, Madurians, and Minangkabau.

20. Despite being a secular state, around 80% of the population is Muslim. Additionally, there is a significant Christian community (up to 10%) and approximately 3% practice Buddhism and Hinduism.

21. Indonesia spans three time zones, from +7 to +9 UTC, putting it 7–9 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. For example, Bali’s time is 8 hours ahead of London.

Attractions of Indonesia

22. The standout attraction of the country is the renowned Borobudur Temple in Java, an ancient Buddhist temple that attracts millions of tourists.

23. Indonesia boasts a wealth of ancient temples, including the Prambanan complex near Yogyakarta, consisting of 200 temples.

Комплекс Прамбанан

24. A highlight is the island of Bali, offering a diverse appeal to tourists, from stunning beaches and unique nature to ancient temples and distinctive customs.

25. The archipelago’s distinctive sights include its active volcanoes. Many of them feature well-established hiking trails, with popular choices being Mount Bromo, Mount Rinjani, Mount Batur, and others.

26. Jogjakarta, the cultural capital, stands out as the most authentic city in the country. The Sultan’s Palace, featuring a water temple that once housed the harem, is a notable cultural site.

27. Tana Toraja in Sulawesi is renowned for its funeral rites and unique cults. The ceremonies involve cattle sacrifices and the creation of Tau-Tau dolls, believed to house the souls of the departed.


28. An iconic symbol of the country is Komodo, a small island transformed into a national park, home to ancient Varanus lizards and giant mantas swimming in the surrounding seas.

Character, Traditions, and Customs of Indonesians

29. Modesty stands out as the main character trait among ordinary Indonesians. Boasting about successes and flaunting wealth is not customary in their culture.

30. A distinctive feature indicating success among Indonesians is the custom of growing long fingernails, with the rich having more extended nails, symbolizing lesser engagement in physical labor.

Зажиточный индонезиец

31. Delicacy is expressed in the reluctance to give a direct refusal. The word «no» is seldom used, with hints being employed in about a dozen ways to convey refusal.

32. Indonesians are generally known for being friendly and smiling. They warmly welcome tourists, always mindful of personal gain.

Улыбчивые индонезийцы

33. Religious customs and restrictions play a significant role in shaping local traditions. Similar to other Eastern cultures, the left hand is considered impure and is not used for serving, eating, or touching others.

34. Many Indonesians practice ancestral and animistic religious beliefs. This influence is evident in various customs, particularly those related to death rituals.

35. In Bali, the deceased are placed in bamboo cages near sacred trees, with periodic removals to make room for new bodies.

36. In Hindu-dominated areas, an initiation rite involves filing the teeth of adolescents when they turn 14, marking their transition to adulthood.

37. Marriage customs vary across Indonesia. While cities follow European customs with no polygamy, some places practice matriarchy, where men continue to live in a shared house even after marriage, fully subordinate to their spouses.

38. Papuan tribes on New Guinea historically practiced ritual cannibalism, with recorded cases even in the last century. While cannibalism is no longer practiced, some remote areas still proudly display skulls of defeated enemies.

39. Another nearly forgotten custom among Papuans involves cutting off finger phalanges as a sign of grief for deceased relatives.

40. Indonesia’s culture is diverse and unique. Folk ensembles predominantly use percussion instruments, and traditional puppet shows (Wayang) based on ancient Hindu epics are popular.

41. The culinary traditions of Indonesians are equally fascinating, shaped by the influences of various peoples and distinct across different islands. Javanese, Padang, and Peranakan cuisines are particularly renowned.

Nature of Indonesia

42. Situated along the equator, Indonesia straddles both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, experiencing a typical equatorial climate characterized by high humidity and year-round warmth.

43. Boasting a coastline stretching 54 thousand kilometers, Indonesia holds the second position globally in this regard, surpassed only by Canada.

44. The country’s many islands are adorned with impenetrable jungles, harboring remarkable wildlife, including Sumatran elephants, Javanese rhinos, orangutans, and diverse exotic birds.

Орангутан на Суматре

45. Known as the «country of volcanoes,» Indonesia ranks second globally in the number of active volcanoes, surpassing even Japan. It holds the unfortunate first place for the number of eruptions causing human casualties.

46. While most islands feature high mountains, Mount Jaya on New Guinea stands as Indonesia’s highest point, reaching 4884 meters. It hosts the only glacier in Oceania on its summit.

47. Three Indonesian islands – Kalimantan, New Guinea, and Sumatra – are among the world’s ten largest. Sulawesi closely follows, just outside the top three.

48. Indonesia’s archipelago comprises 17,804 islands, with approximately 6 thousand inhabited and nearly 10 thousand unnamed islands.

49. The country’s longest river is the Kapuas in Kalimantan, extending over 1100 kilometers.

50. Indonesia is home to the world’s most unusual and largest flower, the Rafflesia. With flowers exceeding 120 centimeters in diameter, it stands as a unique botanical marvel.


Friends! If you are aware of more intriguing facts about Indonesians and Indonesia, kindly share them in the comments. This country is rich in captivating stories, culture, and traditions, and many people would appreciate learning something new. Your contributions are highly valued!

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