Tana Toraja

Tana Toraja
Asia : Southeast Asia : Indonesia : Sulawesi : Southern Sulawesi : Tana Toraja

Tana Toraja, literally "Torajaland", is a highland region of Southern Sulawesi in Indonesia.
Tongkonan, Ke'te' Kesu'.
Tana Toraja, the famed "Land of The Heavenly Kings", lies about 328 km north of Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi Province, in the central highlands of South Sulawesi.

Manganda' dance is performed at Ma'Bua' ritual.
Manganda' dance is performed at Ma'Bua' ritual.
The land of the Toraja people, many notionally Christian but most in practice animist, is above all famed for their spectacular (and rather gruesome) burial rites. After a person's death, the body is kept — often for several years — while money is saved to pay for the actual funeral ceremony, known as tomate. During the festival, which may last up to a week, ritual dances and buffalo fights are held, and buffaloes and pigs are slaughtered to ferry the soul of the deceased to the afterlife (puya). The deceased is then finally buried either in a small cave, often with a tau-tau effigy placed in front, inside a hollow tree or even left exposed to the elements in a bamboo frame hanging from a cliff.

Tana Toraja has unique culture set in stunning scenery. Globalisation and tourism may have impact, but if you venture away from the tarmac roads you will find soon a way of life that has not changed much in the last 100 years.

Traditional Tongkonan houses stand proudly in this setting. These intricately decorated houses with upward-sloping roofs are the center of all Aluktodolo ( Torajan religion before the coming of missionaries; the ancestors belief ) rites; from storing the harvest in the carved rice barns, "alang", to slaughtering sacred water buffaloes at a week or more-funeral ceremonies. Tana Toraja's beauty is also reflected in its people. Although they are devoutly Christian ( there are small number of Moslems especially in the southern area), they combine this religious belief with magic and mysticism, and welcome visitors to witness their ceremonies.

Tana toraja is a sleepy rural region cultivating rice, cacao, coffee, and clove most of the year. Toraja's arabica coffee carries a high reputation and is something that visitors may be interested in trying. These all change during the dry season,, from June until September, when Children are home from school, the rice is harvested and it's time for a "rambu solo' ", a complex funeral ceremony of the ancestors. During the time, Rantepao is transformed into a major tourist resort for national and international visitors.


At 300 to 2,880 metres above sea level, Tana Toraja combines tropical lushness with alpine freshness, with daily temperatures between 16 degrees Celsius to 28 degrees celcius.

Bright green rice terraces, tall limestone outcrops and bamboo graves are set against a backdrop of blue misty mountains.


Toraja is in the UTC+8 time zone (known in Indonesia as WITA, Waktu Indonesia Tengah), same as Western Australia, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bali and one hour ahead of Jakarta.


Electricity is supplied at 220V 50Hz. Outlets are the European standard CEE-7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko" or the compatible, but non-grounded, CEE-7/16 "Europlug" types. American and Canadian travellers should pack a voltage-changing adapter for these outlets if they plan to use North American electrical equipment (although a lot of electronics with power adapters will work on 220 volts, check your equipment first).

Get in

Prime funeral season is after the harvest in July to October.
By plane
Pongtiku airport, Toraja.
Pongtiku airport, Toraja.
From the Hasanuddin Airport in Makassar, one can fly to Tana Toraja or vise versa. The name of the airline is SMAC ( Sabang Merauke Air Charter ). The flight schedule is Tuesday and Friday, leaving for Tana Toraja at 10AM and back to Makassar at 11:30AM. The flight takes about 55 minutes. The ticket price is Rp 204,000 (excluding airport tax). The flight uses CASSA type airplanes. For the time being, the flight is being stopped.

By bus
Tana Toraja is a solid 300-km, 8-10 hour drive from Makassar. The cost is 80,000 Rupiah on an air-conditioned bus from Makassar to Rantepao. There is usually a morning or an overnight bus. Frequent mikrolets/bemos leave from Makassar to the bus terminal and take about 40 minutes. The bus from Makassar to Tana Torajo is very clean and comfortable. Please note however, that if you intend continuing further north, the buses are generally slower, in poorer condition and far less comfortable.

By taxi or charted vehicle
A chartered car usually costs about 850,000 - 1.200.000 Rupiah one-way from Makassar. It is possible to find one for a few hundred thousand less if you can coordinate with someone who is driving in that direction. If you plan on staying for a few days and would like the return trip as well, a driver with car should cost about 550,000 Rupiah per day.

Get around
Bemo/mikrolet rides run from 2,000Rp for short rides of a few kilometers up to 10,000 Rp. A guide is useful for some of the more distant villages.

Tombs in Tana Toraja
Tombs in Tana Toraja

Most hotels will put pressure to hire a local guide for 150,000+ Rp a day. Although it can be expensive if you are on a budget, a guide can provide a lot of insight into the local practices and customs.

It is still possible to visit most of the famous sites and funerals on your own, although information can be hard to find from most hotel operators. Tora Tora Primitive Art Gallery has a very friendly English-speaking owner who provides free maps of the area. It is on the main street in Rantepao.

Pallawa — Pallawa site is also a compound of houses and granaries. In total there are 11 houses and 15 granaries.
Bori Parinding — The site of Bori Parinding is a combination of ceremonial grounds and burials. The ceremonial ground is an open space used for traditional ceremonies, including rituals for the dead and thanksgiving.
Kande Api — The site of Kande Api consists of a compound of houses and granaries, ceremonial ground and burial places.
Nanggala — Nanggala site is principally a compound of 2 houses (tongkonan) and 16 granaries (alang), arranged in rows and aligned east-west.
Buntu Pune — Formerly, the sites of Buntu Pune and Rante Karassik belonged to one integrated settlement.
Rante Karassik — The site of Rante Karassik is a ceremonial ground on a sloping hill.
Ke'te Kesu' — Among the nominated sites, Ke'te' Kesu' is the most complete settlement. The site consists of a compound of houses and granaries, burial place, ceremonial ground, ricefields and water-buffalo pasture.
Pala' Toke' — The site of Pala Toke is principally a burial place located on a towering limestone hill, from where a rice field extends to the north, east and west.
Londa — Londa is a grave site where two methods of burial are customary.
Lemo — Lemo is also a cliff burial site with galleries of ancestor statues.
Tumakke — The site of Tumakke displays a distinctive traditional house built on a raised terrace.

There are many walks (1-3hrs) that pass by many different types of gravesites, including the most popular sites. Most can be reached by short bemo rides from Rantepao and do not require guides.

There are some restaurants in Rantepao and Makale. They serve menus of Indonesian, Chinese and western food. Torajan specialties, such as pa'piong (chicken/pork or fish cooked with vegetables in bamboo tubes) is also available and usually must be ordered in advance. Local Torajan palm wine, ballo', is also easily found.

Some restaurants in Rantepao and Makale :

Wae Rumbang, Main Road to Makale, Pao Rura
Rama, Main Road Makale - Rantepao
Padang Restaurant, 58 Diponegoro st., Rantepao
Idaman Restaurant, 28 Merdeka St. , Makale
Mambo restaurant, 34 Ratulangi St., Rantepao
Flamboyan, Main Road Makale - Rantepao
Riman, A.Mappanyukki st., Rantepao
Rahmat, Ahmad yani st. , Rantepao
Sallebayu, Ke'te kesu' st.
Celebes, Palopo st. , Rantepao
Saruran, Ahmad yani st. , Rantepao
christo, Landorundun st. , Rantepao
Rimiko, A. Mappanyukki st. , Rantepao
Pong Buri' , Monginsidi st. , Rantepao
Damai, Main Road Makale - Mengkendek, Makale

Ballok. Buy it on the street. The darker, the stronger but be warned, it can be very strong.

The Tana Toraja region is famed for its coffee. In your local coffee house it will cost a small fortune. Drink the real thing here for a fraction of the cost.

Besides Makassar, Tana Toraja is the only area in the Province of South Sulawesi which owns several star hotels. Some widely known star hotels in Tana Toraja are Toraja Heritage Hotel, Toraja Misiliana Hotel, Toraja Prince Hotel and Toraja Sahid Hotel and Tongkonan Layuk Lion.

There are also a number of non-star hotels, home-stays and local residences available for accommodation.

Most of the hotels provide standard facilities such as single and double bed, hot and cold water, telephone line, entertainment, meals while some provide additional ones like sports facility, spa and massage, laundry and others.

Stay safe
International phone operators: 101. International Direct Dialing prefix: 001, 007, or 008.

Directory inquires
108 (if using a cell phone locally dial 0423 108)

Ambulance: 118.
Police stations:
Polres Tana Toraja, Jl. Bhayangkara, Makale. Tel: 0423-22100
Polsek Rantepao, Jl. Budi Utomo, Rantepao. Tel: 0423-21358
Army Headquarter:
Kodim 1414 Tana Toraja, Jl. Pong Tiku, Rantepao. Tel: 0423-21255

Lakipadada Hospital, Jl. Poros Makale - Rantepao. Tel: 0423-22118,22023,22264
Fatimah Hospital, Jl. Nusantara. Tel: 0423-22058
Elim Hospital, Jl.Jend. Ahmad Yani. Tel:423-21258
Marampa' Childbirth Hospital, Jl. A.Mappanyukki. Tel:0423-21036

The hospital is fairly serviceable by developing world standards, however, for serious problems you should return to Makassar.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your info about our restaurant, Mambo Restaurant, we are very thankful for that. Our restaurant served Chinese, Indonesian, Torajan, and also European food. We also provide Mexican food such as Guacamole for Avocado lovers. :) Wi-fi is available and free. Hope you can visit us again in the future. Thank you. Kurre Sumanga'.