Indonesia is a sprawling archipelago comprising over 13,000 islands in a patch of the Pacific and Indian oceans just north of Australia and southwest of the Phillippines. It is the world’s largest island country and most populous Muslim nation.
Europeans first explored the archipelago in the 16th century and it soon became the focus of intense competition between the colonial powers who had dubbed them the ‘Spice Islands.’
The largest islands of Indonesia are Java and Sumatra and both reflect the deep, complex history of this part of the world, particularly in Java where the world’s largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur, has become the nation’s most visited tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Perhaps better known, in the minds of westerners at least, is the island of Bali. Situated just east of Java, Bali’s very name evokes a kind of south sea exoticism. Bucking the surrounding Islamic tide, this relatively small island has been able to maintain its Hindu culture and identity, and, in fact, is one of only three places in the world where Hinduism is the dominant religion. (The other two? India and Nepal.)