Bandung is by no means a sleepy mountain town, though you can easily escape to one of the area’s many resorts if that’s what you’re looking for. As Indonesia’s third-largest city, there’s a lot going on inside Bandung and also plenty to explore on the outskirts.
To understand why the city was once given the nickname “Paris of Java,” you have to look back to when it was a Dutch colony. Prior to Indonesia’s independence on August 17, 1945, the Dutch planned to move the colony’s capital from Jakarta (then called Batavia) to Bandung. Cafes, restaurants, shops and luxury hotels were built, giving it the feel of Paris. Walking through town now, especially on popular Braga Street, you’ll see remnants of European Art Deco architecture from the early 1900s.
Gedung Sate is another architecturally interesting building from the Dutch era. Its design is neoclassical with Asian elements, like its central pinnacle that looks like a satay skewer (this is also where the building got its name, which translates to Satay Building). Tourists won’t be able to tour inside, as the West Java government now uses this landmark, but it’s still worth a visit to view the outside and surrounding gardens.
Masjid Raya Bandung, or the Grand Mosque of Bandung, is the provincial mosque of West Java and a highly recognizable landmark in Bandung. The mosque was first constructed in the early 19th century and has undergone a few renovations since, including the addition of twin minarets that flank the main building. For a small fee, you can take an elevator to the top of one of the towers for an incredible view of Bandung and the surrounding mountainscape.
The biggest draw to Bandung isn’t its storied past. Quite the opposite, it’s discount clothing at factory outlets. You’ll find pants, shirts, bags, shoes and more from name brands like Zara, Mossimo, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and New York and Company. You can easily make a day (or two or three) of shopping in the outlets around town, namely in Dago, Jalan Setiabudi and Jalan Riau, which have the greatest concentration of stores. Many people fly to Indonesia just for an inexpensive shopping spree at factory outlets (the excellent dollar-to-rupiah exchange rate makes it even better for Americans)!
Outside of town are the region’s famous tea plantations, with fields of verdant tea leaves as far as the eye can see. Many of the plantations offer tastings and on-site guided tours around their estate and through the tea fields. You can learn about the entire process from planting to picking to production. Malabar Tea Estate, one of the most well known plantations, has overnight accommodations and a small restaurant for guests.
Visiting a volcano while in Indonesia is a must, which is why the stratovolcano Mount Tangkuban Perahu is a popular day trip from Bandung. There are three craters that visitors can walk among and explore. The first, Kawah Ratu (Queen Crater), is the only one that can be reached by car. After walking the rim of the crater for about 20 minutes, you’ll arrive at Kawah Upas (Upas Crater). The third crater, Kawah Domas (Domas Crater), can be reached after walking through the jungle and has hot springs that you can dip your feet into. Click the image above to find flights to Indonesia.
Just as popular is Mount Patuha, south of Bandung near Ciwidey. The main attraction here is Kawah Putih (White Crater), a volcanic crater lake. The sulfuric lake is a milky turquoise color and surrounded by high crater walls covered in forests. A short drive away is picturesque Patenggang Lake, surrounded by tea plantations. It’s a nice stop if you want to take a boat out on the water or just relax and enjoy the scenery. The surrounding area in Ciwidey Village is full of strawberry fields, and you can handpick fresh strawberries at one of the local farms.
Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights from the U.S. to Indonesia. If you want to travel from Jakarta to Bandung (BDO), round-trip airfare can be as low as $100. Those coming from Bali can find direct flights for less than $100 round-trip!
Alternatively, you can drive or take the train from Jakarta to Bandung. Both options will take a few hours, though the trip may be longer for drivers if there is road construction or increased traffic, like over the weekend or during a holiday.
No matter which route you choose, the view will be amazing since you’ll be heading out to the mountains!