Rammang Rammang & Toraja – Road Trip Through Southwest Sulawesi

Rammang Rammang & Toraja – Road Trip Through Southwest Sulawesi

Sulawesi, the fourth largest island in Indonesia, is renowned for its distinctive shape, which resembles a bizarrely shaped letter ‘K’. Sulawesi isn’t a popular tourist destination, due to it’s rawness and many underdeveloped regions. Even if less comfortable than the other stops on our 3 week adventure in Indonesia, for us, Sulawesi turned out to be a captivating island with unique culture, breathtaking landscapes and the warmest hospitality. In this article, we’d like to take you on a road trip through Southwest Sulawesi. It is an unforgettable journey filled with discovery and wonder. From Makassar, the dynamic capital city, through the stunning limestone formations of Rammang Rammang to the fascinating culture of the Toraja people in Rantepao. Every stop uncovers a new layer of Sulawesi’s rich heritage.


Our road trip starts in Makassar, the energetic capital of South Sulawesi, once known as Ujung Pandang. As most Indonesian cities, Makassar is bustling and chaotic. For this reason, we decided to skip the visit to the city all together and used it only as arrival and departure port. However, if you have an extra day, visiting this vibrant place would be an interesting experience. Don’t miss the most impressive sight of the city- the 99 Domes Mosque situated on Losari Beach. Right next to it, you can find Amirul Mukminin, known as the Floating Mosque. And at the heart of the city lies the Fort Rotterdam, a formidable fortress steeped in centuries of colonial history.

 TIP: Makassar airport serves both national and international flights. From here you can continue your journey to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur or travel to Java for a week-long adventure.

Rammang Rammang: Where Limestone Meets History

The first stop on a road trip through Southwest Sulawesi is Rammang Rammang. This hidden gem tucked away in the karst landscape lies just 1h drive from Makassar. Here, towering limestone cliffs blend with lush greenery, creating a surreal backdrop. Wandering around this area seems like traveling back to Jurassic Era. You almost expect a Tyrannosaurus Rex to show up from behind every corner. But Rammang Rammang is more than just a scenic marvel; it holds a significant place in Sulawesi’s history.

Dating back millions of years, these limestone formations have witnessed the passage of time and the evolution of civilizations. Ancient cave paintings found within the caverns of Rammang Rammang offer glimpses into the lives of early settlers, depicting scenes of hunting, rituals, and daily life.

To get to Rammang Rammang you must take a 30min boat ride. It can be arranged by your accommodation. Try to visit early, around 7am. At that time you will be alone in the village.

 TIP: When visiting Rammang Rammang we highly recommend you to stay at the simple, but lovely home of Nahar and her family- Rammang Rammang House.

Torarja: Embracing Tradition and Culture

Our journey continues north. We pass beautiful landscapes, tropical forests and small cities. This drive will take half a day, so take your time. Make multiple stops, soak in the unique atmosphere and observe the life of the local people. In the evening you’ll arrive in Tana Toraja, a quaint village nestled among rolling hills and rice paddies.

Here, you will be welcomed with open arms by the Torajan people, renowned for their rich cultural heritage and traditional way of life. In all our travels around the world, we have never met people as open, friendly and kind as Torajans. Everywhere we went we were greeted with generous smiles and welcome gestures.

 READ: Exploring Toraja – Where Death Triumphs Life 

The Toraja: Unveiling the Mysteries of Life and Death

Visiting Toraja offers a glimpse into a culture shrouded in mystery and intrigue. The Toraja people are known for their elaborate funeral ceremonies and unique beliefs surrounding death. For the Toraja, death is not the end but rather a transition to the afterlife. Funeral ceremonies, known as Rambu Solo, are grand affairs that can last for days or even weeks, involving intricate rituals and elaborate feasts.

If you are visiting during the summer months you might attend such event. Remember to be respectful and try to understand the cultural significance of the funeral ceremony. Hire a local guide who will take you to funerals or other events happening that day. We hired Ino, a wonderful guide with whom we attended two funerals and discovered the natural beauty of the region (WhatsApp +62 852 98361065).

 TIP: In Toraja stay in a Tongkonan- a traditional ancestral house of the Torajan people characterised by a distinctive boat-shaped roof.

Exploring Lake Tempe: A Journey into Community and Connection

As we start our way back to Makassar, we will make a final stop at the city of Sengkang. Here, the calm waters of Lake Tempe are home to the vibrant community of fishermen and their families living in the floating houses.

Take a short boat ride to one of the floating houses, meet the local community and learn about their life and the challenges of living on the lake. There are only 20 families left continuing this unique way of life.

 TIP: You can WhatsApp Anjung Sengkang (+62 812 3733 2308), a guide we used to visit the floating village. He speaks no English, but with a help of google translate, we managed to communicate with him. Also the boat ride WILL get you wet, so take something to cover yourself.

After lunch in the floating house, continue your drive south to reach Makassar.

Best time to visit Southwest Sulawesi

The best time to visit Southwest Sulawesi is during the dry season, between June and September. This period offers the most comfortable weather conditions for exploring the region’s cultural attractions, natural landscapes, and outdoor activities.

Between July and September falls the funeral season in Toraja. If you would like to attend the Torajan funeral ceremonies you should travel during those summer months.

Renting a car in Sulawesi

Tourists can legally rent a car and legally drive in Indonesia, as long as they hold a valid driving license AND an International Driver Permit (the little blue book).

 NOTE: In Indonesia, you drive on the LEFT side of the road, just like in Great Britain or Australia.

You can rent a self-drive car in Makassar with Jayamahe Easy Ride. We rented a car with the same company also in Java and the process was easy. They have a website with available cars and rates in different locations in Indonesia. After reviewing our options for a car rent in Makassar on their website, we contacted them via WhatsApp.

We agreed on the price, I was informed that we will pay everything in CASH on the day of the rental. I sent pictures of my passport, driving license and IDP, a selfie, a screenshot of my Instagram account and a picture of my credit card (I covered half of the digits). 20 min later they sent me a link with a form to fill with my informations. And it was confirmed.

For 4 days car rental we payed 1 550 000 IDR (90 EUR) plus 3 000 000 IDR (180 EUR) deposit which was returned to us after the rental (we actually made an agreement to leave the deposit in euros instead of rupee).

 READ: Everything you Need to Know About Renting a Car and Self-Driving Across Java

Driving in Sulawesi

Driving in Sulawesi was a real pleasure. Especially comparing to driving in Java. We encountered some chaos and traffic only while leaving Makassar. Since we didn’t stay in the city, it wasn’t a problem. The roads along our road trip through southwest Sulawesi from Rammang Rammang all the way to Toraja, were in very good conditions. The were a few parts that were under construction, but it wasn’t problematic at all.

The tranquility of the drive was simply sublime. The same as the amazing and ever changing landscape behind the window. We stopped for lunch in a cute cafe with the most amazing mountain view. We watched the architecture of local houses change as we drove further north. People looked at us, two tourists in their small Toyota Aygo, waved and smiled as we drove past them. It was a perfect road trip.

 NOTE: Google Maps are sufficient for directing your way around Sulawesi. However, we recommend that you keep to the main roads only. Do not try to take shortcuts or to improvise. We made that mistake. And the drive from Lake Tempe back to Makassar, which should take just over 4h, took us 9h…

Other transport options

Driving is not the most popular transportation method in Sulawesi- we might have been the very first tourists who rented a car and self-drove to Toraja. However, if you like road trips we definitely recommend that option. If you prefer not to drive, you can take the bus from Makassar to Toraja. The journey takes apx 10h and the ticket costs around 15 EUR pp. one way.

To get to Rammang Rammang from Makassar you can either get a taxi, or rent a scooter and drive yourself.

What to Bring During Your Road Trip through Southwest Sulawesi

For a road trip through southwest Sulawesi to Rammang Rammang & Toraja, it’s essential to pack light and breathable clothing. However, it’s also a good idea to bring a light jacket or sweater for cooler evenings, especially in the highland areas of Toraja. Make sure to pack insect repellent, especially for Rammang Rammang. Mosquitos there were the nastiest we’ve encountered in Indonesia. Don’t forget a sunscreen and your Grayl water bottle. Bring along some snacks and refreshments to keep you fueled during the road trip. And of course a camera to capture the stunning landscapes along the way.

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