Bintan Island is quickly becoming one of the favourite holiday destinations in Indonesia. This beautiful island in the Riau Archipelago has much to offer for anyone seeking a memorable island getaway. For centuries, migrants have flocked to Bintan and that has transformed the island into a melting pot of cultures. Today, it's easier than ever to reach the island, it being only a 45-minute ferry ride from Singapore.

    From spiritual temples and bustling markets to masterful golf courses and diverse landscapes, Bintan Island has it all. Thrillseekers, history buffs, nature lovers and everyone in between can be assured of a fantastic time. Check out the list below and see the best things to do in Bintan.

    What are the best things to do in Bintan?

    1

    Trikora Beach

    The most popular stretch of sand on Bintan Island

    • Families
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    Trikora Beach’s white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters provide the ideal environment to relax and unwind in the sun, remaining isolated and tranquil despite its popularity. There’s also a fishing village nearby marked by a number of mobile kelong (stilt houses built by fishermen to breed or trap fish) along the horizon, and a small boat-building workshop, where visitors have the opportunity to watch how a boat is made from scratch.

    During the holiday seasons, you can often find several attap beach huts doubling up as stalls lining the beachfront, selling local snacks and refreshments.

    Location: Malang Rapat, Gunung Kijang, Bintan, Riau Islands 29115, Indonesia

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    photo by Adamina (CC BY 2.0) modified

    2

    500 Lohan Temple

    Study the unique facial expressions of each statue

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    The 500 Lohan Temple (also known as the Thousand Face Temple) dazzles visitors with each statue’s peculiar facial expressions and physical characteristics, making it one of the most interesting places to visit on Bintan Island. The temple is only a 20-minute drive from Tanjung Pinang and offers an excellent day trip.

    As you walk around the Buddhist temple, notice the garden of lifesize statues and marvel at each one’s unique features. Within the collection of stone statues, try to find legendary characters from Chinese folklore or simply admire the fascinating architecture of the temple. The shrines are open to those who wish to pray but the stone figurines make this temple stand out among the rest for the photo opportunities it offers.

    Location: Batu 13, East Tanjungpinang, Tanjung Pinang City, Riau Islands 29125, Indonesia

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 7 am to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

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    3

    Play Golf at Bintan’s world-class resorts

    Tee-off on seaside courses designed by championship golfers

    • Luxury
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    Teeing off in Bintan means playing on some of the most beautiful golf courses in Southeast Asia. Golf enthusiasts will be in heaven playing in fabulous seaside resorts on courses created by several notable golfers. In total, Bintan Island has 4 wonderful golf courses to practice your skills underneath the warm sun on.

    Bintan Lagoon Resort boasts 2 courses with the others located in Laguna Bintan Golf Club and Ria Bintan Golf Club. Legendary PGA golfer Jack Nicklaus designed the Sea View course at the Bintan Lagoon Resort, which is perched along the coastline. The well-placed water barriers, rolling hills and gorgeous vistas attract many of the best golfers and those simply looking to relax on the green.

    4

    Enjoy a sunset dinner and cocktails in Bintan

    Relax at one of the island’s scenic floating restaurants

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    Bintan Island’s prime location in the South China Sea makes it a haven for delicious seafood. What better way to taste the local flavours than watching an enchanting sunset with your dinner? There are tons of eating establishments ranging from fancy eateries to vibrant beach bars.

    The Kelong Seafood Restaurant is a classy floating restaurant that offers a delectable menu of Indonesian and Chinese selections. Right beside the restaurant, the Calypso Floating Bar serves refreshing drinks with a laidback Caribbean vibe. Sit on the patio of the Treetops at Banyan Tree Bintan for an excellent seaside view. The Patio Bar and Restaurant is part of the renowned Treasure Bay resort and features soothing cocktails with breathtaking sunset vistas.

    photo by Frank Starmer (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    5

    Tanjung Pinang

    Explore the capital of Bintan

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    A trip to Bintan Island wouldn’t be complete without a visit to its capital, Tanjung Pinang. A tour to this small and friendly town is a good exercise in learning more about the island’s culture, inhabitants and lifestyle. Plenty of bargains can be found here, from local handicrafts to priceless antiques, sold by street peddlers and in shophouses.

    Padang restaurants are also in abundance around town, with a concept similar to that of a tapas bar; an array of small dishes are laid out on a table for customers to choose from, and you pay only for what you eat. The most famous delicacy here is otak-otak - fish meat, cooked in coconut milk and a variety of Indonesian spices, which is then wrapped in coconut leaves and grilled over a charcoal stove.

    Location: Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands 29115, Indonesia

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    6

    Penyengat Island

    A tiny island rich in history

    • History
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    Time seems to come to a standstill in Penyengat Island. Once the epicentre of the Malay Riau-Lingga empire, the island is steeped in history – full of historical monuments and interesting relics of the past. It was also known as the cultural capital of the Malay community in the 19th century, with many scholars and writers setting up base here.

    An impressive stone fortress in the west serves as a reminder of Raja Haji’s (the island’s then-ruler) ongoing battle with the Dutch. Dotted all over the island are royal graves and old palaces, and an old citadel in the middle that commands an amazing panoramic view of the island and its surroundings.

    Location: Penyengat, Tanjungpinang, Riau Islands 29133, Indonesia

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    photo by a_rabin (CC BY 2.0) modified

    7

    Raja Haji Fisabilillah Monument

    A tribute to a Malaccan ruler

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    The 28-metre-tall Raja Haji Fisabilillah Monument was erected in memory of the namesake Malaccan ruler, who is a national hero. He died in a battle against Dutch colonialists when a historical sea battle took place over 2 centuries ago. The battle was fought on 6th January 1784 and ended with a Dutch defeat.

    Location: Jalan Hang Tuah, Tanjungpinang Kota, Kota Tanjung Pinang, Bintan, Riau Islands, Indonesia

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    photo by a_rabin (CC BY 2.0) modified

    8

    Sei Carang

    Marvel at this incredible engineering feat, day or night

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    Sei Carang is one of the most spectacular manmade structures on Bintan Island. Only a 10-minute drive outside the sprawling capital of Tanjung Pinang, the bridge provides a magnificent backdrop for numerous cultural events like the annual Dragon Boat Race and river cruise. Witnessing the boat race is one of the most exciting spectacles on Bintan Island. Teams from around the world compete and its usually a thrilling photo finish.

    The bridge is a phenomenal sight during the day, but it's night-time when it truly shines in the spotlight. Bright colours sparkle from the bridge and illuminate the sky throughout the evening.

    Location: Jalan Raya Tanjung Uban-Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Uban, Bintan, Riau Islands 29152, Indonesia

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    9

    Kijang Blue Lake

    Gaze at the aqua-blue waters of this pristine lagoon

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    Danau Biru Kijang (Kijang Blue Lake) is one of the most picturesque spots on Bintan Island. This sparkling lagoon is encircled by white and red-hued dunes, beautiful trees and the bright shades of blue glisten underneath the sun. Surprisingly, this heavenly sanctuary is not a natural location but manmade by mining activity.

    You can find the lagoon near the eastern coast of the island, about a 35-minute drive south of the popular Trikora Beach. Since it was not particularly made for tourism, tourists are largely absent from the area. Pack a lunch and have a relaxing picnic to bask in the tranquil environment.

    Location: Gunung Kijang, Bintan, Riau Islands 29151, Indonesia

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    10

    Tanjung Uban

    Bintan’s second most important town

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    Tanjung Uban in North Bintan serves as a take-off point for the nearby island of Batam. Along the coast is a unique pelantar system, where houses, shops and restaurants are built on stilts over the sea, all interconnected by boardwalks.

    There's also a variety of shops selling local arts and crafts, as well as a local market that sells all kinds of edible goods, from local tropical fruits to dried shrimps.

    Location: Tanjung Uban, North Bintan, Bintan, Riau Islands 29115, Indonesia

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    photo by Dj Onces Saputra (CC BY 3.0) modified

    11

    Busung Desert

    Climb the mesmerising sand dunes in this striking desert landscape

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    With much of the island being lush tropical rainforest, finding the desert of Gurun Pasir Busung (Busung Desert) is truly a bizarre discovery. The otherworldly terrain is located just off Jalan Raya Busung, only a 5-minute drive from Jembatan Busung (Busung Bridge). There's no public transport to reach the desert, which has kept the spot a hidden secret for years.

    The area was formerly the home of a mine, but the quarry transformed into a dazzling landscape after the removal of its sand became forbidden. Contrasting shades of white, yellow and red highlight the craggy formations and offers tons of beautiful photo opportunities.

    Location: Jalan Raya Busung, Busung, Seri Kuala Lobam, Bintan, Riau Islands 29152, Indonesia

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    12

    Banyan Tree Temple

    Discover Bintan’s peculiar sacred site

    • History
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    True to its name, the Banyan Tree Temple is easily recognisable by the massive Banyan tree over it that has, over time, become part of its structure. More than 2 centuries old, the temple carries with it a fascinating story, in which an old man’s wish to die and be buried in his own home caused the Banyan tree’s roots to grow around the house as if enveloping it in a protective embrace.

    Over the years, the house has become a sacred temple, with devotees from as far as Thailand coming over for an annual pilgrimage. It is said that the temple can grant wishes and bring good fortune to those who visit it.

    Location: Senggarang, Tanjungpinang, Riau Islands 29133, Indonesia

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    13

    Mount Bintan

    Trek through tropical jungles and spot native wildlife

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    Even though the summit of Mount Bintan is only 400 metres high, the trek is an exhilarating adventure through the island’s tropical environment. The mountain rises above the Bekapur Village Bintan Buyu and its lush surroundings play a critical role supporting the ecosystem. Native flora, incredible wildlife and a vibrant rainforest highlight the hiking paths to reach the mountain.

    The journey to reach Mount Bintan is far off the beaten path and is perfect for those looking for an expedition away from the crowds. A modest 2 hours is all it takes to reach the peak and you are greeted with glorious panoramic views of the island. Admire the verdant trees, cascading waterfalls and other gorgeous scenery around the mountain.

    Location: Gunung Bintan Besar, Bintan, Riau Islands 29133, Indonesia

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm

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    14

    Bintan Center Traditional Market

    Shop like a local and feel the heartbeat of the island’s capital

    • Shoppers
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    Cash rules the day at the energetic Bintan Center Traditional Market. Roughly 10 km east of the Tanjung Pinang ferry terminal, this is where residents haggle for all their daily needs. Shop for seafood, fruits, vegetables, electronics, handmade crafts and authentic souvenirs. This is the place to be for delicious local snacks such as fish maw and sea snail crackers.

    The stalls get quite rowdy during the day, but the festive environment is much more authentic than the lavish markets closer to the resorts. You’ll find tons of great deals and support the local economy shopping at the vendors here. Take care when browsing around, as the ground can often be wet and slippery.

    Location: Air Raja, East Tanjungpinang, Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands 29125, Indonesia

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 4 pm

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    15

    Lagoi Bay

    Taste succulent seafood with gorgeous coastal vistas

    • Families
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    Lagoi Bay is one of the most popular places on Bintan Island and is a favourite spot for sampling many of its coastal treats. Try local seafood snacks like goreng pisang keju (cheese banana fritters) and satisfy your taste buds on the freshest local fish, lobster, crabs and mussels. If you’re more in the mood for international dishes, there’s a diverse range of restaurants spread across its 1,300 hectares.

    Once your belly is full, roam the lively Plaza Lagoi for some retail therapy or go for a leisurely stroll around the picturesque Lake Lagoi. After a busy day of shopping and culinary treats, sit back and watch a dreamlike sunset at one of its cosy cafés or bars.

    Location: Sebong Lagoi, Teluk Sebong, Bintan, Riau Islands 29125, Indonesia

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    16

    Panglong Village

    Admire the wooden stilt houses of the local sea gypsies

    • History
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    • Budget

    Panglong Village, on the northeast section of Bintan Island, transports you back to a simpler time. The inhabitants of this rural fishing village first moved to the island hundreds of years ago and have preserved their traditions to the present day. The local Sea Gypsies earned their livelihood at sea, and the villagers are unplugged from modern society.

    Watch local fishermen build their own boats and see the charming stilt houses in which they reside. It’s not uncommon to see villagers coasting back home with a large catch of fresh fish inside their boat. Spending time with the friendly locals will give you a glimpse at their way of life and put your mind at ease.

    Location: Berakit, Teluk Sebong, Bintan, Riau Islands 29151, Indonesia

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    17

    Santa Maria Cave

    Discover the grotto near Trikora Beach

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    Santa Maria Cave, opposite Trikora Beach, was built in the 18th century by a Dutch priest. This well-preserved and well-maintained place of worship has a statue of the Virgin Mary standing on a half-globe at its entrance. A huge number of devotees throng the cave on Sundays to pray, as well as for a chance to meet other devotees in an informal weekly social gathering.

    Location: Malang Rapat, Gunung Kijang, Bintan, Riau Islands 29151, Indonesia

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    18

    Senggarang Chinese Fishing Village

    Believed to be the first home of Riau’s Chinese immigrants

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    Senggarang is one of the most prominent Chinese villages in the Riau Archipelago, offering a rustic vibe with rows of fishermen’s stilt houses lining its coast. Beyond this coastal settlement, you’ll also discover a collection of ancient Chinese temples, providing you with a whole day of fun sightseeing with glimpses into the colourful history and rich Chinese heritage of the Riau Archipelago.

    Some of the landmarks in Senggarang are outright peculiar and not to be missed, such as a century-old temple sitting under a massive banyan tree. This temple, Tian Shang Miao, also referred to simply as the ‘Banyan Tree Temple’, is overgrown by roots of the banyan, resulting in a peculiar scene much resembling that of the famous Ta Prohm Temple in Angkor, Cambodia.

    Location: Tanjungpinang, Riau Islands 29151, Indonesia

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    19

    Snake River Temple

    A mysterious temple opposite Tanjung Pinang harbour

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    The 300-year-old Sun Te Kong (Snake River Temple) is located at the mouth of Sungai Ular (Snake River) in Tanjung Pinang. The temple stands in the middle of nowhere, isolated and mysterious, and is only accessible by the river. Its walls are adorned with interesting paintings depicting scenes from Chinese hell, including unspeakable horrors and various torture methods.

    Location: Senggarang, Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands 29115, Indonesia

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    Daniel Grenier | Contributing Writer

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