Indonesia is the largest group of islands in the world, made up of an incredible collection of no less than 14,000 jungle-covered islands that float off the coast of Asia. Five of them are considered larger islands due to their enormous size, and the rest are spread over 30 smaller Indonesian archipelagos.
From Flores, in the Lesser Sunda Islands, to New Guinea – the only Indonesian territory in Oceania – and everything in between, here are the biggest islands in Indonesia if you measure their total area.
1. New Guinea (785,753 km2)
The huge island of New Guinea stretches for more than 1,500 miles surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Coral Sea and the Arafura Sea in the eastern Malaysian archipelago. It is the second largest island in the world, surpassed in size only by Greenland.
Indonesia shares possession of the island with independent Papua New Guinea, but its own section is known as West New Guinea, which is made up of the provinces of Papua and West Papua. Interestingly, the island is the only Indonesian to be found in Oceania.
2. Sumatra (473,481 km2)
Sumatra, also known as Sumatera, is the sixth largest island in the world. It is part of the Great Sunda Islands, in western Indonesia, and is located west of Java and south of the Malay Peninsula. Sumatra is an island revered for its incredible biodiversity and its gigantic volcanic crater lake, the largest in the world.
Within its tropical forests and volcanic terrain, there is an astonishing fauna, such as the Sumatran orangutan, the Sumatran rhino and the Sumatran tiger, all listed as critically endangered species.
3. Borneo (748,168 km2)
Indonesia shares the claim of Borneo, the third largest island, with two other countries: Brunei and Malaysia. However, most of the island is in Indonesian territory.
Located in the heart of Southeast Asia and over 100 million years old, Borneo’s rainforest is one of the oldest on the planet. It’s home to elusive wildlife, like the Bornean orangutan, a species of great ape found nowhere else in the world.
4. Halmahera (18,040 km2)
The volcanic island of Halmahera, formerly known as Jilolo, is the largest of the Malucas Islands in Indonesia. It is the largest island in Indonesia outside of the country’s five main islands.
Situated in a chain of active volcanoes that encompass the Raja Ampat Islands, the K-shaped island of Halmahera is characterized by its beautiful sandy beaches, seemingly unspoiled forests, and mountain views.
5. Sulawesi (180,681 km2)
Sulawesi, also called Celebes, is one of Indonesia’s four Sunda Islands. It is the eleventh largest island on the planet and stretches over no less than four peninsulas separated by three gulfs. Therefore, this uniquely shaped island is better connected by sea than by road.
The Makassar Strait separates the island of Borneo at its western end, and a series of islands to the south, including the Selayar Islands, contribute to the island’s six provinces. Though overshadowed by Bali and Lombok, Sulawesi offers similar temptations, from glorious beaches to bustling local markets.
6. Sumbawa (14,386 km2)
Sumbawa Island is located in the heart of the Lesser Sunda Islands archipelago in Indonesia. With a history stretching back hundreds of years, the island, with its volcanoes, rice fields and dry savannah, is renowned for its local sources of honey, sandalwood and sapan wood.
Sumbawa is home to two fascinating cultures, divided between those who speak Sumbawaré in the east and those who speak Bimané in the west. Yet despite the island’s good location for getting around Lombok, Bali, and Flores, Sumbawa is largely (and fortunately) off the tourist radar.
7. Timor (28,418 km2)
Although not only part of Indonesia (it shares it with the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste), the coffee region of Timor is located in southern maritime Southeast Asia. It is located above the Timor Sea, which separates it from the Australian mainland.
The name of Timor means “east” in Malay; It owes its name to one of the easternmost islands of the Indonesian archipelago of Sunda Minor. Unlike the rest of the archipelago, Timor is not volcanic and is much older.
8. Seram (17,454 km2)
Seram is the largest and most important island in the Indonesian province of Maluku. It is an important natural point and a tropical oasis with immense mountains and limestone karsts dotting its surface, and it has great biodiversity in its tropical forests and coasts.
Seram Island is home to the country’s deepest cave and one of the largest underground rivers on the planet, the Sapalewa River. Over 100 different species of birds inhabit the island, 14 of which are endemic. There are several endemic Australian mammals and marsupials that live in the rainforest, as well as saltwater crocodiles that lurk below the water’s surface.
9. Island of Flores (14,154 km2)
Located east of Komodo and west of Lembata, the island of Flores (which means “Flowers” in Portuguese) is part of the Lesser Sunda Islands, a group of islands in the eastern part of the Indonesia. At the last count in 2010, the island had 1.8 million inhabitants.
The island of Flores is not only one of the largest in the country, but also the tenth most populous. But there is a reason for the crowds – and many more reasons to visit Flores. The island is best known for its huge Kelimutu volcano, with its three multicolored crater lakes, which allow for adventurous excursions.
10. Java (138,794 km2)
Due to its large size, since it is the thirteenth largest island in the world, it is no surprise that Java is among the five largest islands in Indonesia. Surrounded by the Indian Ocean on one side and the Java Sea on the other, the island is home to more than 140 million inhabitants, more than half of the Indonesian population combined!
The island of Java is a mixture of different cultures, languages and religions. Home to countless Hindu-Buddhist empires and Islamic sultanates, Java has always been the scene of historical significance and bloody battles.