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
Up the Malacca Strait Onboard the SuperStar Gemini
tour packages

Enjoy a 50 percent discount on cabin fare for two, applicable on selected two- to three-night cruises that explore the jewels...

VIEW DETAILS
Passage to Viet Nam
tour packages

Grand tour of Southeast Asia begins in Singapore and skips through Malaysia's urban highlights before covering Viet Nam a...

VIEW DETAILS
Viet Nam and Myanmar by Air
tour packages

Trip through Viet Nam and Myanmar's top tourist spots.

VIEW DETAILS

MASTERCARD'S PRICELESS EXPERIENCES

View All
The Scarlet Singapore
tour packages

Indulge in a sensuous boutique experience with complimentary breakfast, three-course Italian dinner, mini bar and more.

VIEW DETAILS
Luang Say Residence
tour packages

The city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 because of its religious and colonial significance. The city ...

VIEW DETAILS
137 Pillars House Chiang Mai
tour packages

Experience picturesque Chiang Mai in an exclusive hot air balloon ride, paired with a romantic champagne breakfast.

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
Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa
tour packages

Experience exotic Langkawi, Malaysia with this amazing offer. Swim in white sandy beaches, taste local delicacies and experie...

VIEW DETAILS
G Hotel Kelawai
tour packages

Deluxe Room, room only from RM420++, with buffet breakfast from RM445++ Executive Floor (Rates are inclusive of breakfast an...

VIEW DETAILS
Park Hotel Alexandra
tour packages

Park Hotel is one of Asia Pacific’s best hospitality groups. Whether it is a business trip or a leisure getaway, P...

VIEW DETAILS