15 Facts About Indonesia – Some Interesting, Some Surprising & Some Funny

If you are looking for interesting, shocking and funny facts about Indonesia, keep on reading!

Recently I spent four weeks traveling through Indonesia. Unfortunately, I ended up in an Indonesian hospital after getting Dengue fever in Bali and didn’t get to see half as much of this large and diverse country as I hoped.

But, I learnt a lot about Indonesia and wanted to share some interesting, useful and sometimes surprising facts about this unique archipelago.

15 Facts About Indonesia

Indonesia Fact #1: The Country

facts about Indonesia

Indonesia is the largest country in the world comprised solely of islands.

Yes, Indonesia is huge! With around 18,000 islands (nobody knows the exact number) covering approximately 1,919,440 square kilometers, it takes over 12 hours to fly from one end of the country to the other.

Of all of Indonesia’s islands, only around 6,000 are inhabited.

Also Read: 10 Things Not to Miss in Indonesia – Tips From an Insider

Indonesia Fact #2: Population Size

Indonesia facts
Population size – Indonesia facts

Indonesia has a population of over 270 million people. This makes it the fourth most populous country in the world (after China, India and the USA).

The island of Java, home to about 60% of the country’s population, is the most populous island in the world.

Indonesia Fact #3: The Economy

Indonesia facts: poverty & agriculture
Source: fastcompany.com – interesting facts about Indonesia

Almost half of Indonesia’s population lives on less than $2 USD a day.

The country’s economy centers around agriculture and oil, with approximately 90% of the population involved in agriculture.

Indonesia Fact #4: Religion

interesting facts about Indonesia

These I found some of the more interesting facts about Indonesia…

The Indonesian government only recognizes six religions: Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Confucianism.

Every citizen must officially subscribe to one of these religions, regardless of what he or she may actually believe. Two individuals with different religions are not allowed to marry, unless one of them converts.

Indonesia is home to approximately 12.7% of the world’s Muslim population. That makes it the world’s largest Muslim country, with over 87% of the country’s population identifying themselves as Muslim.

Indonesia Fact #5: A Young Population

facts about Indonesia's population
facts about Indonesia’s population

Indonesia has the largest ‘young’ population in the world.  The median age of the population in Indonesia is only 30.2 years of age.

And at the last national census, only 6% of the population was aged over 65 years.

Indonesia Fact #6: Flora & Fauna

Indonesia facts: flora & fauna
Source: goodnewsfromindonesia.org

Indonesia is home to thousands of different flora and fauna, making it the country with the second-highest level of biodiversity in the world (number one is Brazil), and a popular ecotourism destination.

Some of the flora and fauna are truly rare, such as the Sumatran tiger, the Javan rhinoceros, and the Rafflesia – the world’s largest flower, which weighs up to 7 kg (15 pounds). Its petals grow to 0.5 meters (1.6 feet) long and 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick.

Some animals, like the Komodo dragon, are endemic only to Indonesia. The Komodo dragon is the largest lizard in the world, growing up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) in length.

Indonesia Fact #7: Frog Legs

facts about Indonesia you didn't know
Picture by Kimberly Vardeman – facts about Indonesia

Now this I’m sure is a fact about Indonesia you didn’t know: Indonesia is the world’s leading exporter of frog legs!

During the last decade, Europe alone imported 4,600 tons annually, with France, Belgium, and The Netherlands being the main importers.

Indonesia Fact #8: Cat Poop Coffee

weird facts about Indonesia

Indonesia exports the world’s most expensive and without a doubt most unique coffee: Kopi Luwak.

Kopi Luwak is coffee made from coffee beans eaten and defecated by an Indonesian cat-like animal called the palm civet.

Allegedly the action of the civet’s stomach enzymes gives the coffee an unrivaled richness of flavor without any of the usual bitterness. As a result, Kopi luwak is the world’s most expensive beverage, costing around $1,000 per pound.

Note: Because it’s one of the weird facts about Indonesia I wanted to list it here. I am however NOT suggesting you should buy this coffee. This article in The Guardian explains well why you shouldn’t and this is one quote I’d like to share here:

“The naturally shy and solitary nocturnal creatures suffer greatly from the stress of being caged in proximity to other luwaks. And the unnatural emphasis on coffee cherries in their diet causes other health problems too; they fight among themselves, gnaw off their own legs, start passing blood in their scats, and frequently die.”

Indonesia Fact #9: Volcanoes

volcanoes in Indonesia

Indonesia is home to some 400 volcanoes.

They make great tourist attractions but the country does experience around one volcanic eruption per year and a total of 127 volcanoes are active, which is about a third of all the world’s active volcanoes.

Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world. The lake’s supervolcanic eruption 70,000 years ago was the largest known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, it killed most humans living at that time.

Indonesia Fact #10: Headhunting

Indonesia facts: headhunters
Source: dailymail.co.uk

Headhunting; the practice of taking and preserving a person’s head after killing the person… Apparently it hasn’t died out completely yet!

The Indonesian side of Timor is said to be home to some of the last-remaining headhunting villages.

The Korowai, a Papuan tribe in the southeast of Irian Jaya, live in treehouses, some nearly 40 meters high, presumably as protection against a tribe of neighboring headhunters, the Citak.

Indonesia Fact #11: Traffic Jams

facts about Indonesia's traffic
Picture by Seika – facts about Indonesia

Capital city Jakarta is known as a major global city but it still has no high-speed railway system.

Its population of over 10 million people relies on private cars and busses to traffic around the city – resulting in some of the worst traffic jams known to man.

Indonesia Fact #12: Bali

facts about Bali Indonesia

The small Indonesian Hindu population mostly lives on the island of Bali.

Balinese Hinduism is rich with ancient superstitions. One that endures to this day is not letting a baby’s feet touch the ground for the first six months. It’s done to prevent the devil from entering the child and as a result, infants are continuously passed from relative to relative.

Another fun fact about Bali is that a large number of people in Bali have had their teeth filed down. The practice is rooted in the belief that the six vices (anger, confusion, jealousy, drunkenness, desire, and greed) all enter the body through the top six teeth. By filing away the demonic ends, the vices are easily thwarted.

Indonesia Fact #13: Corruption

Indonesia facts: corruption
State Secretariat of the Republic of Indonesia

According to the 2004 Global Corruption Report, former Indonesian President Suharto, holding the office for 31 years until his resignation in 1998, was the most corrupt leader of all time, embezzling between 15 billion and 35 billion USD.

One of the more disappointing facts about Indonesia is that corruption is still widespread in the country.

In January 2012 it was reported that the country had lost as much as US$238.6 million to corruption the year before. A study conducted by Indonesia Corruption Watch said that embezzlement accounted for most of the money lost and that government investment was the sector most prone to graft.

Indonesia Fact #14: Gold

facts about Indonesia's gold

The Grasberg mine, located near Puncak Jaya, is the largest gold mine and the third largest copper mine in the world.

Indonesia Fact #15: Buddhist Temple

What not to miss when traveling to Indonesia: Borobudur temple, Java

The Borobudur temple on the island of Java is the largest Buddhist monument in the world, decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. 

It resembles a nine-tiered “mountain,” rising to 113 feet (34.5 m) tall. It is said to have taken 75 years to complete.

Some Final Quick Facts About Indonesia

Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia is a country in Southeast Asia, between the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Official Language: Bahasa Indonesia
Capital City: Jakarta
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah
Main Religion: Islam
Time Zones: UTC +7 to +9
Calling Code: +62

I hope you enjoyed these interesting facts about Indonesia!

For More (Travel Related) Information About Indonesia:
  1. 10 Things Not to Miss When Traveling to Indonesia
  2. A Digital Nomad’s Guide to Bali, Indonesia
  3. Dengue fever in Bali, Indonesia
  4. The Ultimate Indonesia Travel Guide
  5. Things to Do in Yogyakarta
  6. Things You Can Only Do in Indonesia

 

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Sanne Wesselman

Author: Sanne Wesselman
A traveler, wanderer, digital nomad, and entrepreneur. Owner of marketing company A to Z Marketing.
I spend most of my time living and working abroad and use this website to share "the good, the bad and the ugly" of traveling and living abroad. Visit the About Me page for more info.

24 thoughts on “15 Facts About Indonesia – Some Interesting, Some Surprising & Some Funny”

  1. I’ve been to Bali and it is such an amazing place! I didn’t know a lot of these, I would have loved to see the volcanos!
    xx

    Reply
  2. Great article, thanks for the tips! As the largest archipelago in the world, Indonesia is a fascinating place to visit. However, there are also quite a number of crooks who target tourists in the country.

    Do be wary of the unlicensed tour guides/temple touts, Kuta beach touts, blessing scam, Jalan Malioboro batik/art scam, sarong touts, market (Ubud/Kuta art market) scam, pickpockets, Ubud monkey forest scam, fake bus ticket, modern bus bait and many more!

    Reply
  3. This is a great post! We are actually considering visiting Indonesia next month. My husband is from the neighboring country of Malaysia and every year we travel back to his home and make it a point to also visit a Malaysian island for “relaxation”. And this time we want to try something new. Being that I’m from Arizona and he’s from Malaysia and have been living in Germany for 14 years, requires us to travel to be with family. But travel has turned into a passion! Thanks for sharing! It gives us a bit more insight to go with 🙂 Robin

    Reply
  4. Nice article Indonesia is one place we haven’t been yet but we plan to hopefully soon. I often see the advert on TV for amazing Indonesia and it looks so enticing. Thanks for the great read.

    Happy Travels
    Alan

    Reply
  5. So many things to see in Indonesia. I have never been there but you gave me reason why to go as soon as possible. It is so beautiful place where different experiences can be get..

    Reply
  6. What a cool place to visit… hopefully one day sooner than later. Didnt know that Indonesia was so big on frog legs. The traffic sounds insane!

    Reply
  7. Just got back from Indonesia and I can attest to the fact that the traffic jams are horrible….and I didn’t even go to Jakarta! I didn’t know that Indonesia had the world’s largest gold mine and is the world’s largest exporter of frog legs. Interesting!

    Reply
  8. This is really useful basic information for people looking to go to Indonesia! I didn’t know it was so big. I also found the bit about religion particularly insteresting- how they must choose one of the six religions.

    Reply
  9. This is an awesome list everyone should read before an Indonesian trip. I can attest to the horrific traffic. A six-hour trip turned into a 13.5 hour trip the last time I was there! I think your list is spot on from what I experienced there. Really enjoyed the list and found it very informative.

    Reply
    • Thanks Christine!
      And I agree, I have had some relatively short trips turning into very long trips as well due to the crazy traffic especially on Java!

      Reply
  10. Such interesting facts! I was most intrigued by the “cat poop coffee.” I have heard that the civets are kept in tiny cages and mistreated in order to gather their poop to create coffee. Is this true? I’m hoping it’s just a rumor!

    Reply
    • I have heard that as well unfortunately 🙁
      The one I went to was really nice and very small scale but I can imagine the ones who go for large scale export could be quite different.

      Reply
  11. I knew a lot of this, but 7, 8 & 10 were the biggest surprises. My only trip to Indonesia was Bali, which is not representative of the country as a whole. I’m hoping to visit Jakarta & Cirebon someday!

    Reply
    • Yes, it’s definitely worth it! Do make sure you plan your trip well though. I definitely underestimated distances within the country and the time it takes to get from one place to the next can be a lot more than what you might expect!

      Reply
  12. I had no idea about most of these… Indonesia is the largest country in the world comprised of islands? Who knew?! Love these types of posts that make me excited to visit a place, but also learn a little something about it as well.

    Reply
  13. Interesting post! I never heard about the head hunting thing happening in there. The volcanoes are really impressive – visited Mt. Rinjani earlier this year and absolutely lived it!

    Reply
    • Yeah I wish I knew about those head hunting villages before I went to Indonesia… I would have loved to have visited one of them. 🙂

      Reply

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