Drive from Makassar to the Tana Toraja Heartland

sHARE TO facebook twitter mail
expdetail

Tongkonan in Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi. Pierre Doyen / Creative Commons

The regency of South Sulawesi contains the ancestral land of the Bugis people who are now scattered across Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Another distinctive culture remains, and still flourishes in the highlands: the Toraja, a mountain people who were only “rediscovered” in the 19th century.

Fly in via East Indonesia's biggest city and main air gateway: Makassar. You can plan a whole excursion around the city, from diving around the islands off the coast; admiring the fishing prahu and phinisi schooners coming and going from Paotere port; visiting Fort Rotterdam and the Museum La Galigo within; and spending a romantic evening along Makassar's Pantai Losari esplanade.

About 50 kilometres from the city centre, the Bantimurung Bulusaraung National Park provides an accessible outlet for nature/adventure fans: a 43,000-plus hectare reserve with three ecosystems that shelter rare species of birds and butterflies. The 15-metre-high Bantimurung Waterfall is the Park's most scenic spot.

From Makassar, you'll take an eight- to ten-hour ride to the Tana Toraja heartlands, past Buginese villages and scenic coastal roads, until you reach the terminus at Rantepao.
The Toraja have a unique cultural mindset that celebrates both life and death with equal splendor. At the 400-year-old village of Kete Kesu, eight tongkonan (Toraja houses) with their distinctive upturned roofs stand at the centre of a vibrant rice-farming community. A menhir-lined path leads from the tongkonan to the hill of Bukit Buntu Ke’su, a 700-year-old burial area with crypts dug into the cliff faces above.

The Toraja believe that the road to Paradise is easier for souls whose bodies are interred higher above the ground; they also construct tau-tau – effigies of the dead – to stand guard outside the tomb. Finally, the creative Toraja hang intricately carved, animal-shaped coffins from the cliff faces.
The Toraja dead are interred in elaborate funerary celebrations that occur after the last rice harvest between July and September: travelers who come during the funeral season get to see Tana Toraja at its most festive.
If Toraja funerals don't float your boat, then whitewater rafting down the Sa'Dan River certainly will – literally!


Tongkonan windows in Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi. Image courtesy of the Indonesia Ministry of Tourism.


Pantai Losari, Makassar, South Sulawesi. Image courtesy of the Indonesia Ministry of Tourism.


Tau-tau overlooking Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi. Evarista2012 / Creative Commons.

Similar Southeast Asia Experiences
If you're interested in mountain treks and welcoming encounters with local tribes, try these other experiences: visiting the scenic Rice Terraces of the Philippines; hiking through Sarawak and Sabah in East Malaysia; visiting Laos' mysterious Plain of Jars; and Brunei's Tutong cultural and ethnic experience.


TOUR packages

View All
From Lake to Delta Down the Mekong
tour packages

At the Phnom Krom pier near Siem Reap in Cambodia, you’ll board the charming 10-cabin Toum Tiou luxury cruiser. Sail to...

VIEW DETAILS
The Turn Back Time Tour
tour packages

Yogyakarta and Bali. Begin at Southeast Asia's city of the future, Singapore: a cultural melting pot and technological w...

VIEW DETAILS
Jungle to the Beach, from Cambodia to Thailand
tour packages

Tour immerses its guests in Thailand and Cambodia's natural jewels: Kirirom National Park and Koh Kong in Cambodia, and T...

VIEW DETAILS

MASTERCARD'S PRICELESS EXPERIENCES

View All
Angkor Village Resort, Siem Reap
tour packages

Conveniently located halfway between the town center and Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The hotel's restaurant...

VIEW DETAILS
Gaya Island Resort, Borneo
tour packages

PADI Underwater Digital Photography Class - A two-part introduction course to digital underwater photography centred around t...

VIEW DETAILS
Lanson Place, Bukit Ceylon
tour packages

One bedroom Residency Min 2 nights stay 2 breakfasts at 163 Lounge inclusive daily inclusive of one day KL tour (...

VIEW DETAILS

AIR AND CAR BOOKINGS

View All
The Best Way To See Asean
tour packages

Go on an epic Asean journey with AirAsia Asean Pass, a travel pass that allows you to book our base fares at least 14 days or...

VIEW DETAILS
Hertz Car Rental Deals
tour packages

Rent a car for 2 days or more at participating locations in Asia and enjoy up to 15% off

VIEW DETAILS

HOTEL DEALS

View All
Hotel Royal
tour packages

Hotel Royal is strategically located right in the heart of Singapore's most exclusive district and is only minutes away f...

VIEW DETAILS
One Farrer Hotel & Spa
tour packages

Reach for the sky with our exclusive deals! Enjoy a peaceful and leisurely stay in our Skyline Hotel, and wake up to beautifu...

VIEW DETAILS
Grand Park Orchard
tour packages

Stay in style at the Grand Park Orchard in Singapore. Boasting a prime location in the heart of Singapore’s premier sho...

VIEW DETAILS