• Highland rice terraces after rain - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Pig gift, Torajan funeral  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland - village - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy
  • Torajaland -  - © William Mackesy

Key information: Torajaland

  • Walk between the unspoilt villages of this remote area of a remote island.
  • Extraordinary culture and customs; see boat-shaped, stilted homes and granaries, cliff burials and, if lucky, a positively Homeric funeral or festival (not for the squeamish).
  • Beautiful scenery and forest in the mountains: rice terraces, traditional agriculture lower down.
  • Muiti-day if you head up to the hills (remote, so come prepared), delightful day walks in the main valleys.

Walkopedia rating

(Top 100)
  • Walkopedia rating93
  • Beauty31
  • Natural interest14
  • Human interest17
  • Charisma31
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating93

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Maximum Altitude: Variable
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
Pig gift, Torajan funeral  - © William Mackesy


High in the remote central mountains of the spice island of Sulawesi, a remarkable culture has survived with its traditions and graceful, boat-like wooden houses and granaries virtually intact.


This obscure area of animists and head hunters was never absorbed into the spreading Muslim world, eventually falling to Christian domination in the late 1880s. The locals have created a fascinating fusion of these traditions, with the funerals of bigwigs lasting for days amid Homeric scenes of fire and feast as people gather from miles around with pigs and buffalo for the slaughter. Funerals can be held years after the death, and cost the family dear. Other festivals bull fighting (between buffalos, with little or no lasting damage) or the celebration of completing a new house, perhaps are absolutely not to be missed, as is the weekly market at Rantepao, the main town.


The old style of building is still much in evidence; highly decorated houses and granaries built on stilts, with unique swooping roofs that are reminiscent of sailing craft. Their panelled little rooms are reminiscent of antique sailing ships cabins.


Immaculate rice terraces cling to the surrounding hillsides.  In the valleys, water buffalo churn up the paddies, women totter under poles carrying rice seedlings and grannies sit on steps of houses watching the children play in the dirt. A group may be huddled around a cockfight.


The valleys wind between karst outcrops where, on high ledges and in caves, the effigies of their ancestors stare implacably across the verdant paddy fields.


As you climb to the highlands, you will trudge up tracks between fantastic rice terraces, an extraordinary memorial to generations on generations of back-breaking toil. You gain huge views of whole hillsides of terraces topped by ridges of thick jungle.


The upland villages are particularly intact, both physically and culturally. On one memorable evening, we sat in the grubby village "square" watching cockfights (again, not lethal, for the squeamish) with what seemed like the whole population shouting encouragement. We then slept in a panelled room in the all-wooden stilted house - it felt like a cabin in a Napoleonic warship, albeit perhaps more sparsely furnished. Amazing.


You can walk through rice fields and timeless villages in the valleys, or take to the hills, crossing the jungle-smothered ridges from valley to perfect valley. Walks vary from straightforward day walks from hotels in the valleys; or tougher overnight treks, staying in old wooden houses in high, remote villages.


You need to spend several days here, with at least one day walking in the main valleys and two including an overnight stop in an upland village in the high country. Your choice of guide will be vital, and check what festivals are on before your make any arrangements.


This is steamy country, with frequent showers, so you will often enjoy the misty aftermath of the downpour you just endured.


Our walks had some extraordinary highlights.

  • The almost painfully verdant beauty of the lower valleys, with their lovingly tilled rice fields dotted with comfortable looking villages.
  • A buffalo fighting festival; a housewarming (with a priest conducting a ceremony surrounded by more trussed-up pigs than people); and a vividly memorable funeral, with a square of temporary shelters housing brightly dressed visitors who had walked there from miles around, while mass slaughter was being done outside, the ground by mid-afternoon as slippery with blood as a Roman amphitheatre. Behind the scenes, the entrails of dismembered carcasses emitted a torrent of writhing parasites.
  • The beauty of a deep mist-wreathed valley from a ridge high above, where steep rice terraces pushed up to the jungly gulleys between the cracked limestone cliffs.
  • Crossing a jungle ridge, the path descending through thick forest, past rushing streams, into a deep valley with impossible rice terraces.
  • A man sitting on a rock amid watery rice terraces, the next morning, huddled in his bright blanket against the cold, rising clouds.

Other accounts: share your experiences

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Torajaland -  - ©William Mackesy

share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Torajaland -  - ©William Mackesy...

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