In this post we share with you how to explore the top places of the amazing region of Tana Toraja. This region offers loads of interesting places where you can learn and understand about this intriguing culture and also enjoy of its beautiful scenery.
We chose the village of Rantepao, as a base camp to start our adventure because is a well-situated village to explore the whole region. The number-one thing to do whilst in Toraja is to visit a funeral Ceremony. Death is the most important event in this culture and everything is related to it. Please feel free to read Tana Toraja’s bizarre funeral rituals to help you understand this culture into detail.
What else can we do? Visiting traditional houses is another main attraction; houses are the most iconic symbol of Tana Toraja. These are shaped like boats and all face North, symbolising the legend of the origin of the Torajans, as coming by sea from Cambodia. This region also offers spectacular countryside with peculiar burial sites carved on stone cliffs.
The market in Rantepao is unique and every Friday is converted into trading Water-Buffaloes market “PASAR BOLU”. Villagers from both around the area, and far away come to sell and buy their Water buffaloes and pigs, most of them to be sacrificed in their bizarre funeral ceremonies.This is not small business, believe me! . Small black buffaloes cost around $500 whereas a big one will be around $1500. Cost will increase if is a stripe buffalo (Tedong Bonga) $2000-$5000, but only wealthy families can afford an Albino or White Water-buffalo which can cost as much as $30000.
How to explore around Tana Toraja
In order to help you, we have made a list of all places worth visiting. Obviously, you will need to find out where a funeral ceremony is taking place when you are visiting.
We explored all these top places by motorbike. Roads are narrow but not too bad, and to get to the different locations you can help yourself with a GPS –We used an app on our phone “maps.me” which doesn’t need to be connected to internet, as it works with the phone aerial and GPS- If lost or run out of battery, you can always go back to the traditional way: asking directions to the locals.
Another way of visiting these places is to go with a local guide. By doing this you’ll be helping the local community and they will tell you all about the culture and protocol in funeral ceremonies.
If you have time and prefer to do it by local transport, we have also thought about you and we tell you how to get from a to b as the locals do. Happy travels!!
Top places to visit South of Rantepao
Located 6 km away from Rantepao city it is the most popular and touristy village of traditional houses. In addition you can also visit the oldest tombs stone in Tana Toraja (approx. 700 years old). At the entrance there is a small market to buy handcrafted souvenirs.
In our opinion Kete kesu was a little too touristic for our taste, but absolutely worth to see if you are short of time and are not going to explore around to see something similar.
Entrance fee Rp10,000
Distance from Rantepao: 6 Km
How to get there? If for some reason you are not able to get a scooter, local Buses run from Rantepao city.
This is one of the most visited places in Toraja. It is an amazingly intriguing place that feature two burial caves, where you will see piles of human bones scattered all around and old wooden coffins hanging from the cave walls. When visiting take a torch with you otherwise you will have to rent a oil lamp (Rp30,000)
Entrance fee Rp20,000
Guide fee Rp50,000
Distance from Rantepao: 9-11 Km.
How to get there? By pete-pete that bounds from Rantepao to Makale (fare: Rp3,000). Get off right on the road to Londa, and then walk approximately 20 minutes or 5 minutes by car or ojek (around Rp10,000)
Kambira baby grave
It is believed to be the oldest burial site for babies in a tree. Most commonly known as a ‘Baby grave’ it is the burial site for infants. Square spaces are carved in the live tree, and baby bodies are placed in. This is a practise from Aluk Todolo believers (animism) They believe that as the tree grows so will the infant soul and that they will get into heaven at the age of , when a ceremony is celebrated.
Entrance fee Rp20,000
Distance to Rantepao: 17km
How to get there? Get on a pete-pete that goes to Sangalla from Rantepao and ask the driver to drop you off at Kambira (about 40 minutes drive Rp10,000)
Also known as ‘King stone grave’, this is yet another unique burial site. Although the place doesn’t seem very cared for, here, buried in carved spaces on the cliff are the tombs of the royal family of Sangalla. What makes this burial site unique is the number of Tau Tau (more than 40) realistic wooden statues that represent the deceased. Furthermore, old coffins and bones can be seen in a closer look to the small hut that acts as a museum just on the right-hand side on the site. In our visit this little museum was closed but you could still see through the glass, the remains of past royal lives.
Entrance fee Rp20,000
Distance from Rantepao: 19km
How to get there? Kijang (Toyota Kijang or a car with a yellow plate number) bound to Makale. Just before Makale, the driver will ask you to leave the vehicle. From there you are able to take on a pete-pete (blue or yellow van) to Sangalla’. From there on, travel by ojek (motorbike taxi) to Suaya.
Top places to visit North of Rantepao
The panorama that you can enjoy from Palawa is absolutely out of this World with stone burial sites scattered along the way till reach Lembang (Tonga Riu)
A perfect start for this route is a visit to this beautiful traditional Torajan village. With 11 Tongkonan and 15 granaries aligned in parallel lines, these traditional houses are original and you can tell by their roof, where natural grass and moss grow.
Entrance fee Rp20,000
Distance from Rantepao: 13 Km
How to get there? Pete Pete to Palawa from Rantepao Bolu market , ask the driver to stop at Palawa.
This is a beautiful natural area; the road climbing the Sesea Mountains is so stunning that your eyes will hurt of so much beauty from the landscape. The mountain slopes dressed with rice fields, traditional villages and huge rounded stones everywhere, that strangely looks like fallen from the sky. The locals also use these stones to bury their love ones and they are all around.
Distance from Rantepao: 20-24 km
How to get there? Public transport goes to Batutumonga from Bolu terminal. ( Rp10,000 to Rp15,000) or by ojek (fare depends on negotiation). It takes about 1 hour by motorbike.
An impressive giant stone with more than 100 graves carved in it. This unique burial site is on the way from Batutumonga to Lembang Tonga Riu. Local people have buried their love ones here since the 14th century and still do this today. The position of the grave is relevant to the importance or wealth of the person buried. The higher the chamber the more important or wealthy the person buried was.
Distance from Rantepao: 30 Km
How to get there? Public transport from Rantepao to Lo’ko’mata is around Rp20.000
How to get to Tana Toraja and where to stay
Our first destination in Sulawesi was Makassar airport and we decided to go straight to Tana Toraja. From the airport we got on a bus that was bound to Makassar city (Rp27,000), and asked the driver to drop us off where big buses depart to get to Rantepao. From there we got on one of the sleeping night buses, saving time and hotel money. The journey is 8 hours with a cost of Rp150,000 with Bintangan Timur Company among others.
Once you get to Rantepao and get off from the bus locals will be waiting for you offering accommodation and services as a guide during your stay. There are several hostels and guesthouses across the town. We stay at Monton guesthouse for Rp120,000 double rooms, quite nice and close to Rihana guesthouse, where we rented a motorbike for Rp70.000 (from 7am to 7pm) This hotel also offers a good price-quality accommodation.
We hope this post was helpful to you and please if you have any questions about this post, leave us a comment below or privately write us an email.