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One Day Makassar Itinerary: Top Things to Do

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1 month ago

Makassar sadly isn’t going to win many beauty awards. For travelers to Indonesia, the capital of Sulawesi island is often a launching point for more exciting places on your Indonesia travel itinerary.

I’m not here to convince you to include Makassar on your vacation to Indonesia. But, I realize many travelers often pass through this city on the way to Tana Toraja, diving sites in Sualwesi and further afield to Ternate and other Maluku islands.

Makassar is Indonesia’s fifth-largest city and the capital of South Sulawesi province. To truly understand a country, I believe you need to delve deeper into all its complexities: even the less pretty reality of chaotic urban centers. For the intrepid traveller to Indonesia, there’s certainly enough to fill one or two days in Makassar – and if you’re considering whether to do it, the excellent food should be enough to convince you.

Here are some of the top things to do (and eat) when planning your Makassar itinerary.

How to get to Makassar, Indonesia

As one of Indonesia’s largest cities, and the capital of South Sulawesi, Makassar is a major transit hub.

By plane

Makassar (Airport code: UPG) has a huge airport which is extremely well connected to Indonesia’s domestic flight network, with regular flights to Jakarta, Bali, Surabaya. The city is also the major domestic gateway for flights to the Maluku Islands, including Ternate and Ambon (for the Banda Islands and Kei Islands).

Travel tip: Make sure you have a window seat on the left-hand side of the plane for your approach into Makassar.

The plane descends over some of the most magnificent rice terraces in Southeast Asia.

Makassar airport is often referred to as Ujung Pandang (the city’s historic name). Don’t get worried when you don’t see ‘Makassar’ written on the airport departure board!

By boat

The infamous Pelni ferry network uses Makassar as a major hub, which means you can connect to Makassar by ferry from most major cities in Indonesia – even as far afield as Labuanbajo, Flores (for the Komodo dragons) or Sorong, Papua (for Raja Ampat).

1-Day Makassar Itinerary: Top Things to Do

1. Visit the fishing port and market

Start early and take a Grab (the Southeast Asian uber) to Pelabuhan Paotere, the major port in Makassar. The port is extremely active, which means there is usually a colorful mix of characters and industrial grit here.

With decaying and heavily rusting ships, lots of colorful fish for sale and hordes of people, this is one of the most photogenic places in Makassar and a dream for urban photographers.

2. Learn about colonial history at Fort Rotterdam

Fort Rotterdam is one of Indonesia’s grandest Dutch military forts. Interestingly, the Dutch fort was built on top of a local sultan’s fort – which itself was built to fend off the Dutch!

Within the fort, you can find many well-preserved examples of Dutch colonial architecture and the small Museum Negeri La Galigo. The museum (interestingly) does not cover the history of the fort, but rather a most random assortment of dinosaur artefacts, Tana Toraja crafts and Buddhist statues. If you have spent much time off-the-beaten-path in Southeast Asia, you will know exactly what I’m talking about…

3. Go gold shopping on Jalan Somba Opu

Jalan Somba Opu is the unofficial gold market of Makassar and home to many small gold shops. It’s an interesting place to walk through and people watch, with lots of groups of young women admiring the jewelry and street vendors offering their services to weigh your new purchases. You can also find a handful of craft and souvenir shops (mainly reselling Torajan crafts), like the Sulawesi Art Shop.

Jalan Somba Opu is also home to one of my favorite cafes in Makassar: Kopi Ujung. I can’t decide if the coffee truly is world-class or if I simply love this café for its strong air-conditioning.

Regardless, this hipster coffee offers excellent ice coffees made from local Indonesian beans and offers lactose-free milk alternatives. The small gift shop attached is a great place to purchase souvenirs from Makassar.

4. Take in the sunset over Masjid Amirul Mukminin and Masjid Kubah 99

Any Makassar itinerary must include these two mosques, which are often considered to be the icons of Makassar city. Both are extremely beautiful and, in my opinion, best viewed from the shore of Losari beach (pantai in Bahasa Indonesia).

I recommend visiting this area toward the late afternoon. You’ll find many hawker halls and fish warungs out on the shore, with lots of young families walking and enjoying the (relatively) cooler weather. Buy a coconut, grab a seat, wait for the call to prayer and watch the sunset over the mosques. The perfect end to a perfect day in Makassar.

5. Eat unique Makassar foods

Makassar is famous for a number of unique foods and what better way to spend a day than to go on a little DIY food tour.

The most famous dish from Makassar is coto Makassar, a unique beef soup. Local friends swear by Coto Nusantara, a small and extremely cheap hole-in-the-wall coto Makassar speciality eatery. Vegetarians in Makassar will be excited to know that you can experience a vegetarian coto Makassar at the pure vegetarian restaurants of Rumah Makan Veggie Food and D’Smile Resto.

The second most famous dish from Makassar is epe pisang or grilled bananas, which is grilled savory style banana which are then flattened and topped with sweet palm sugar syrup.

You can also find little stalls selling more creative fusion versions, like Oreo or chocolate crunch. The best place to try epe pisang in Makassar is Rumah Makan Muda Mudi, but if you’re tired of Makassar traffic and don’t want to hop in another Grab, the small stalls across from Pantai Losari all offer an equally delicious version.

Fish and seafood are central to Sulawesi cuisine. Every evening along the shoreline from Fort Rotterdam all the way down to Pantai Losari, you will find small warungs selling various grilled fish in local sauces and soups.

6. Indulge in a massage

It’s no secret that Indonesia is a very affordable destination for Western visitors. Small luxuries like massages are extremely cheap, with 2-hour massages often being between 210,000 and 300,000 IDR ($13 – $18). My favorite place for massages in Makassar is Bambuu Bali – it’s extremely clean and with all the trappings of a high-end Bali massage parlour (slippers, warm tea and soft music).

Where to stay in Makassar

There is a good chance you are in Makassar waiting for an onward flight or boat to somewhere more remote and, let’s be honest, exciting.

If you are traveling on a budget, RedDoorz and the Ibis are well-priced and centrally located. Although, I think Makassar is one of the best value-for-money places in Indonesia and I’d recommend splurging for the Novotel Makassar Grand Shayla or the Hyatt Place which can often be as cheap as $50 a night. If you are continuing on to rural Sulawesi, you’ll be grateful for a night of hot water and strong Wi-Fi!

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