Indonesia & Laos: Nature
Our dive into the beautiful nature present throughout Southeast Asia continues with Indonesia and Laos. On opposite ends of the region, these two countries possess incredibly remarkable waterfalls, volcanos, and biodiversity that play off their own area’s environments.
The largest archipelago in the world, Indonesia is made up of 17,508 islands. With only 6,000 of them inhabited, the country’s nature is front and center for visitors to experience. Spread across the islands are over 100 volcanoes, with 15 in East Java alone. Alongside striking bodies of water, these incredible feats of topography tower over much of the country.
Kawah Ijen Volcano
Inside a complex of striking volcanoes on the eastern tip of Java, the Kawah Ijen Volcano stands out due to the otherworldly bright blue flames that it produces. This phenomenon occurs due to the volcano containing some of the highest sulfur levels of anywhere on Earth. The blue glow can be seen at night when the dense gas hits oxygen and is lit by lava. Visitors can descend into the volcano with a gas mask on to protect from sulfur fumes for an up-close look at the blue flames. Filled with electric turquoise water, the caldera lake at the volcano is quite a sight from the outside. The extreme acidity of the water and a high concentration of dissolved metals give it this color. In fact, it’s the largest highly acidic lake in the world at just over 0.6 of a mile across. It’s an incredible sight to witness!
Coban Sewu Waterfall
Six hours to the west of Kawah Ijen Volcano sits Semeru, the highest mountain in Java and another active volcano. In this case, it serves as a stunning background for the Coban Sewu Waterfall. Translated to mean “a thousand waterfalls” in the local dialect, Coban Sewu appears to pour from every crevice in the cliffs. Located in the East Java area of Lumajang, the waterfall is accessible via trails to the hills across from it or to its base for a refreshing swim.
Kabut Pelangi Waterfall
East Java is full of incredible waterfalls, ready to take your breath away. Seeing such feats of nature up close is always a remarkable experience, and the Kabut Pelangi Waterfall is no exception. The name itself means “rainbow mist” in Indonesian, already an enticing reason to go. Get up close to Kabut Pelangi via a 45-minute moderate hike through the forest. Adding to the feeling of entering another world, the waterfall is surrounded by overgrown shrubbery.
At the eastern end of Indonesia sits Flores, a primarily mountainous island with a stunning coastline for sunrise and sunset. Not to be overshadowed by its famous neighbor Komodo Island, it has plenty of draws. At Mount Kelimutu, tri-color lakes are on display, changing with the sulfur’s oxidation levels. In 2004, a cave was discovered with a 3.2-foot human skeleton dating back 18,000 years, creating an entirely new breed of humanoid, the homo floresiensis. The skeleton is now on display in a local museum. With much of the island still minimally explored, it’s a fascinating place to enter.
A trip north to Laos brings more waterfalls and opportunities to connect with nature.
If there’s one thing a visit to Laos requires, it’s visiting waterfalls. As the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, Laos more than makes up for the lack of coastline with striking waterfalls and glistening pools spread throughout the country. In the north, be sure to visit Kuang Si Waterfall, which also has a butterfly garden nearby. In the south, take in Tad Yuang Waterfall, another stunning natural creation.
Kuang Si Waterfall
While the Kuang Si Waterfall is a bit off the beaten path, that only makes taking in its beauty more spectacular. Comprised of three tiers, Kuang Si drops over 150 feet over rocks. Just 29 miles from Luang Prabang, in northern Laos, drivers wait in the town to bring visitors there for a small fee. Once at the falls, escape the jungle heat by splashing in the vibrant blue pools that gather at the bottom.
Kuang Si Butterfly Park
While many people visit the Luang Prabang area to see the Kuang Si Waterfall, just 1,000 feet before its entrance is a special treat: The Kuang Si Butterfly Park. Since 2014, the park focuses on preserving and researching the butterflies that naturally reside in the area. Visitors can witness their beauty first hand throughout the park. Stop here on the way to the falls or dry off at the end of your visit, while looking at these fantastic creatures.
Tad Yuang Waterfall
No matter which end of the country you’re in, there’s a waterfall worth exploring. Cascading over a 131 feet high cliff, the Tad Yuang Waterfall is surrounded by nature on the Bolaven Plateau in Southern Laos. During the dry season, it’s possible to walk up to the base of the waterfall and swim in its pool. Escape into the forest and relax as the waterfall serenely runs beside you.
Throughout Laos and Indonesia, visitors can splash in waterfalls, explore volcanoes, and learn about the flora and fauna that make each country unique and naturally so beautiful.