Tana Toraja and Lake Poso/Tentena (Sulawesi)

I didn’t know anything about Sulawesi but I didn’t expect being surprised like that! Sulawesi rocks more than Bali! It’s a crazy and beautiful place, and I really felt in love here.

On the ferry to Sulawesi
On the ferry to Sulawesi

I arrive by ferry in Pare Pare and take a bus to the Sulawesi’s capital Makassar. Makassar is a hot place. Too hot to stay longer than necessary. I spend only 3 days here and leave to Tana Toraja then.

Makassar 05.10.07


Tana Toraja – definitely not a place for vegetarians!

07.10. -11.10.07

I stay in the town of Rantepao and spend 5 days driving and walking through the valleys. One night I stay in a traditional village. There’s a sight every 10 km, the area is packed! And after each mountain there is a valley with rice fields and traditional houses much prettier than in the one you drove through before. Mamasa Valley
Mamasa Valley

Traditional Village
Traditional Village

Thousand rice fields between mountains

I have never seen such a wild place before. How can I describe what is going on here? The area called Tana Toraja lays in the South Sulawesian highlands and is home of the Torajan people. It’s a vast, pretty and mostly unspoilt area of traditional houses, unique architecture and fascinating culture. Go to a funeral ceremony here, and you almost forget Bali’s cremation ceremonies!! A funeral is the most important thing in a life of a Torajan and some people work almost all their life to earn the money for it. How is a funeral like here?

How big a funeral is depends on the social status of the dead person and his family. The more money there is, the more impressive the ceremony. And without proper funeral rites the soul of the deceased will cause misfortune to its family.

They build extra houses for all the guest that come and kill hundreds pigs and buffalos in sacrifices. The soul of the deceased will be carried by the animals to the afterlife. They bury the dead in graves, and if a baby dies before it was one (or three?) month old it will be buried in a tree and then grow with the tree. They make Tau-Tau, life-size, wooden effigies of the dead. Since it takes a long time for some families to save the money for the funeral, they “store” the coffin with the dead in the house sometimes up to 4 years! The body are prepared these days to eliminate the smell but in former times they weren’t!

I didn’t become a specialist in Torajan culture since I stayed only a week there. You better read a more reliable resource if you are interested. I am simply impressed, how much there was to see of culture, and how beautiful the landscape is.

Traditional Clothes at a funeral
Traditional clothes at a funeral

Rice fields Rice Terasses

Funeral Ceremony
Funeral Ceremony

Market in Rantepao
Live stock market in Rantepao

Animal sacrificing at a funeral
Animal killing at a funeral

Baby Graves Baby Graves

Stone Graves
Stone Graves

Cave Grave
Cave Graves

a very expensive Albino Buffalo
Very expensive albino buffalo – to be killed at funerals…


From Rantepao to Ampana


Leaving Toraja to the coast of Central Sulawesi takes days. The winding roads through the mountains remind me of Flores. But here the smell of the cloves they dry along the roads follows you.

After 16 hours in a bus I arrive in Tentena. It’s the end of Ramadan, and there’s no bus on the weekend. I’ll have to wait. The landscape around the village is pretty, there’s a nice lake and I wish I had a bicycle. It is also very quiet, and I am almost a bit bored… But in the evening somebody knocks on my door – it’s Alice, a french girl I already met in Makassar. She’s on the way to Ampana with some others and they have a car. Lucky me. I don’t have to wait now for the bus!

Cloves along the road
Cloves are being dried along the road

Lake Poso at Tentena


14 thoughts on “Tana Toraja and Lake Poso/Tentena (Sulawesi)

  1. hi pola,

    vielen dank für die kompromisslose aufnahme in deine blogroll 🙂

    weiterhin gute reise und bleib gesund!

    beste grüße aus münchen,


  2. Hey, i apparently found your story of my place!!! actually i am from Makassar..
    i think if u have time to Sulawesi again, maybe, if i’m in town,i will be happy to show you around…

    • Hi anty,
      I am Amir from Iran , I am going to come to makassar 3month later for civil engineering conference , please give me some information about makassar , sight seeings and enjoyable paces. I’ll be glad to meet you

  3. i’m pleased to read your story…

    i didn’t think that my place would make you surprised..

    wish,, you write much more about Toraja..

  4. HI Pola,
    It’s really nice to know your page with interesting thing.
    But i can’t guess which country in this place? Is it Indonesia?
    Please email me the country,
    Thanks so much,
    Oh, some information about me…
    I’m a young girl and from VietNam, have you ever visit my country?
    look forward to your reply,

    • Hi Carol,
      This story is about my place
      Tana Toraja means “the land of king”
      If you interested to visit
      please contact me and I will be more than happy to meet and help you

      Anton L

  5. i’m idham from makassar, indonesia…

    have you come to bantimurung at maros south sulawesi?

    that’s a great place..

  6. Salam. You should came to Turkey.. then you will see what is wonderful place on this eart.. in Turkey so many place that you will love… if you want to came just contac with me. i will feel a great gladness at heart… came came… 🙂

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