Tana Toraja, a must visited place in South Sulawesi for both domestic and international travelers. located around 8 hours to north by bus from Makassar. In this article, I’d like to share what are the things to do in Tana Toraja.
The uniqueness of Torajans’ traditions had magnified the world. I would say that this is the only original culture that can be found in the entire world. Most of the Torajans are Christian. They were celebrating 100 years Christian faith entered Tana Toraja when I came there.
How to get to Tana Toraja
Many buses depart daily from Makassar to Tana Toraja. The buses run several times between 9 in the morning to 9 in the evening. The total journey will take around 8 hours ride.
The price for taking bus is around Rp 100,000-Rp 150,000. The seats are generally comfortable with air conditioner. Bus can be taken from the station in Jl. Perintis Kemerdekaan or Daya Station. These are some bus companies or providers from Makasssar to Tana Toraja:
- Bus Metro Permai, telephone number: 0411-582734 / 0411-584015
- Bus Charisma Transport, telephone number: 0411-580808
- Bus Bintang Prima, telephone number: 0411-4772888
Where to stay in Tana Toraja
Rantepao as the capital of North Toraja Regency is the gate for travelers and tourists to start their journey. Cheap accommodations, motorbike and car rentals, food, tourist information can be accessed in Rantepao. Normally, the bus from Makassar will stop at Rantepao as well.
You can check out these accommodations for your stay in Tana Toraja:
Starting from Makassar
My journey started from Makassar accompanied by a friend, Bang Wahyu. In the middle of the night, around 2 a.m, we were picked up by a car and set off to Enrekang (Bang Wahyu’s hometown). Around 7 in the morning we arrived to Enrekang, rest for a while, took Bang Wahyu’s motorbike and continued our journey to Rantepao.
It took us approximately three hours from Enrekang to Rantepao. Along the way, we stopped for a while and enjoyed the scenery of Buttu Kabobong, or its popular name is Gunung Nona which was amazing, yet erotic?
People said that this mountain looks like “vagina”. It was funny how people could think that way, but it’s true though lol. There are plenty food stalls along the way, we stopped at Bambapuang Villa, on the road side. It’s nice to rest, drink coffee and enjoy the wind flow messing up my hair.
It was really enjoyable looking at the wonderful scenery on the way to Tana Toraja. I love all the green hills showing off themselves and whispering “look at me”. I couldn’t even glance for a while because it’s just too wonderful.
After another half an hour ride, we finally saw the gate “Welcome to Tana Toraja” with its special shape, Tongkonan. Tongkonan is the traditional house of Torajans which shaped like saddleback roof.
We passed Makale, southern part of Tana Toraja and saw this huge statue in the middle of the pond. It is Pongtiku Statue. Pongtiko was an Indonesian Hero who had important role in fighting Dutch colonialism long time ago.
Bad luck, it was raining hard when we reached Makale and continued till Rantepao. I was stubborn at that time, thinking that the rain will stop soon, so we didn’t buy rain coat. As result, we were wet along the way to Rantepao.
Things to Do in Tana Toraja
1. Kete Kesu
Second day, it’s time to explore. Pretty easy to go to the famous attractions since the signs are pretty clear.First stop was Kete Kesu, one of the popular destination in Tana Toraja. Well-cared traditional houses genuinely showed Torajans’ culture. Buffalo horns were framed nicely with a buffalo head in the middle of Tongkonan.
The more the horns they had, means the higher class or status that the person had. There’s one museum in one of the Tongkonan. On the backyard, there’re hanging graves which can be only found in Tana Toraja. The graves were created in the wall or big stone. Skulls and bones spread everywhere, coffins, stuffs inside the caves, dolls as the replica of ancestors. Weird but unique.
Entrance fee for local/domestic : Rp 10,000; Entrance fee for international/foreigners Rp 20,000
We went up to Sadan where there are some villages as well with Tongkonan, but I think it’s not as well-managed as Kete Kesu. Sadan area is popular with weavers. Try to take a look at the women weaving and the woven fabrics.
Next stop at Batutumonga, a higher land where you can see Rantepao town also rice field along your way. It’s located around 24 km from Rantepao. You can see some stones and burial sites in these area.
Lokomata is a unique burial site where the graves of the ancestors were sitting on a gigantic rock. This site is located near the Batutuomonga. On this one big rock, some caves were carved as the burial site for the Torajans.
5. Bori Parinding
Finally the cold night had passed. Another beautiful shiny day to explore Tana Toraja. We drove our motorbike to some unexplored sites. First destination was Bori Parinding, a burial and ceremony site. Hundreds of megalith stone stand representing a feast of merit performed in the past by a person with high status.
Two grandmothers were looking after the place. They were humble and nice. Talk to them and you can get information about this place. There are some Tongkongans, burial site at the back, and also baby grave.
The unique thing about baby grave is the body was buried inside the tree. A popular site for baby grave is in Kambira. Pete-pete (public transportation) passes this area, so you can get here by taking pete-pete to Bori and ask the driver to stop you here. Beautiful view of rice field and Mount Sesean won’t make your journey boring.
Entrence fee is Rp 10,000 for domestic and Rp 20,000 for international tourists.
Londa, a famous burial site located 5 km south from Rantepao. Big bold wall as the burial site designed with chambers for the highest status on the wall. While normal people coffins are put inside the cave.
Skulls and bones are everywhere. Eerie moment when you enter the dark cave with skulls and coffins around. I couldn’t imagine if one of the coffin moved and a vampire chase after me haha.
Entrance fee again Rp 10,000 for domestic Rp 20,000 for international visitors. Make sure you bring your lights or get the guide with lamp to show you the way.
Last destination we visit was Lemo. Similar with Londa, it’s a cliff burial site, the difference is the coffins are not kept in the caves. I like this place. It’s unique and different. Somehow, I can’t understand how cultures can be so distinct between one and another. Even it’s still the same country, Indonesia has many different amazing cultures.
Entrence fee is Rp 10,000 for domestic and Rp 20,000 for international tourists.
8. Pasar Bolu
In a glance, Bolu Market seems like a normal market. Normal in weekdays but different on Sunday where you can find the activity of trading buffalo. Buffalo has high value in Tana Toraja. People believe that buffalo will escort the spirit of the deceased to Puya (the world of spirit).
The more the buffalo, the faster the spirit reach Puya. Buffalo is slaughtered during Rambu Solo ceremony by a single swing using Golok (traditional Razor).
The price of the buffalo depends on the age, and the type. Buffalo with stripe cost higher than black/brown buffalo.The small black buffalo cost around $500, big one cost $1500, the famous one with stripe (Tedong Bonga) cost around $2000-5000 and the rare one, albino buffalo cost the same as a car.
9. Rambu Solo’
A funeral tradition awaited by most visitors in Toraja are Rambu Solo. Torajans gave high last appreciation to the deceased. The cost of the funeral are so expensive, that’s why after the death, the body will be kept for months even years until the money is collected and all the family members can attend the funeral.
Highest peak when Rambu Solo’ is held is between July-August. You can find Rambu Solo in normal days, it’s quiet often held in Toraja. Ask the people around to get information about Rambu Solo.
Tips to visit Toraja
- Ask around whether Rambu Solo Event is held or not.
- Renting motorbike for a day cost Rp 60,000 but if you want to use ojek/motorbike with driver to take you a day trip it cost Rp 120,000. You can finish all main destination in a day by ojek.
- Try Torajans sweet cake/snacks, if you wanna buy souvenirs you can easily find it in the town.
- Take care of your belongings when traveling overnight.
Read also: 11 Beautiful Beaches in Bali to Visit
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