Once ruled by pirate princes and seafaring sultans, the busy trading port of Makassar was the centre of the Dutch spice trade. Today, the city is a common entry point for those wishing to explore south Sulawesi.
With great transport links between east and west Indonesia, Makassar has always been strategically placed as a maritime trading port, from the spices and iron traded by the Dutch in the 16th century, to the Bugis of the 21st century who continue to export their goods in their red, white and green prahu, traditional boats with distinctive upcurved prows. Enjoy a pleasant walk around Paotere Harbour, before visiting one of the city’s most popular attractions, Fort Rotterdam, built by the Dutch in 1667. This impressive well-restored colonial building still has sections of the original walls. After walking the ramparts, visit the Museum Negeri La Galigo housed within the Fort, to see prehistoric artefacts from Tana Toraja, Polynesian and Buddhist statues and traditional costumes.
Losari Beach is just 15-minutes away by becak (cycle rickshaw) and although there’s no direct access to the beach, the boardwalk is a lively stretch of activity where, among the snake charmers and food vendors, you can see the ‘floating’ mosque, built to look like its rising up from the water. We’d also suggest a trip to Maros Karst, to see the amazing limestone landscape which has been eroded by water to create fissures, sinkholes, protruding ridges and towers. The best way to experience this limestone forest park is by canoe, as travelling on the waterways makes it easy to see the mangroves and interesting rock formations. Another highlight of this area is Rammang-Rammang village, from where you can access the Leang-Leang cave system to see some of the world’s oldest cave paintings.
While Makassar’s attractions may not be immediately obvious, there are many hidden gems to uncover in this city, which remains largely untouched by modern tourism.