Last Updated on March 15, 2024

Map of Belitung

Belitung is a group of islands between Sumatra and West Kalimantan.  It is just north of the island of Java.  We spent five nights on the island that is named Belitung and it was unforgettable.  The island was mainly visited by domestic tourists when we were there.  We only saw two “bolehs” (white people) during our stay.  It is a refreshing destination after spending a few days in tourists heavy Bali, Lombok and even Flores.

White Sand Beaches

Belitung’s northern and western beaches are the whitest of all the beaches we visited during our almost two months of travel in Indonesia.  Basically, the area between north of Tanjung Pandan and west of Sidjuk are where the majority of the white sand beaches are.  The sand is sugary fine in most places.  The water rivals that of the Caribbean, having that cyan and teal color indicating that it has sandy bottom.

Pantai Bebilai (near the Sheraton Resort)
Pantai Palonggarona (north side of island)

Some beaches have large boulders that reminded us of the island of La Digue in the Seychelles.  Belitung island is the only place we have seen in Indonesia that has those large granite boulders.

Unfortunately, the people do not respect the land nor take care of their beaches.  Besides the trash that washes on the shore, people just leave their trash at the beach.  The concept of pack it in and pack it out does not seem to exist here.

What To Do In Belitung

One of the popular things to do in Belitung is to explore the islets to the north.  We went to Tanjung Kelayang Beach and were approached by fishermen that provided the boat tour.  We already had an idea of what the boat tour would cost by watching a Youtube video posted by Alexander White.  We also asked another local and our hotel about the expected boat tour cost.  We were actually surprised that the fisherman quoted us a cheaper price, 600K for the boat, snorkel and mask included for two people.

The tour actually makes plenty of stops, six in all.  The duration at each stop was all up to us.  We just told our boat captain if we wanted to leave and he would haul the anchors and motor to the next destination.

The first stop was the nearby rock island by Pulau Kelayan.  Our captain said it was not allowed to get on the rock island but we could do so on our next stop which was Pulau Layar.  Pulau Layar is a small island with large granite boulders. The third stop was Pulau Pasir.  Pulau Pasir is a small sandbar that is exposed during low tide.  It is totally submerged during high tide.

Pulau Layar
Pulau Pasir

Fourth stop was snorkeling.  We snorkeled from the boat.  The snorkeling area is as big as a basketball court with soft and hard corals.  There were plenty of fish but not many colorful reef fish.  The fish were used to feeding as they immediately congregated around us when we were in the water.  Some people were standing on the coral though.

Feeding fish in the snorkeling area

The fifth stop was Pulau Kepayang which has the lighthouse.  There were some large rocks on the islands. We even saw a large monitor lizard.  Our last stop on our tour was Pulau Kelayang for lunch.  It was almost 2 PM by then.  After lunch, our captain walked us over to the cave on one side of the island.  It was not an actual cave but a cavity between boulders.  

Pulau Kepayang lighthouse
Monitor lizard in Pulau Kepayang
Late lunch at Pulau Kelayang
Colorful boulders at Pulau Kelayang

Our captain asked us if we wanted to do more snorkeling.  So, there would have been a seventh stop had we said yes.  Our boat captain’s name was Ah-Ah.  He can be reached on his WhatsApp number +62 878 964 99216.

Gypsum Mining Site

Now why on earth would you want to see a gypsum mining site?  The short answer is that the site has cyan to turquoise color (depending on the time of day) lake that has formed from the excavation.  Across the street from the excavation site is the hill of gypsum that attracts visitors to take photos.

Colorful lake at gypsum mining site
Gypsum hill

Tanjung Pandan

Tanjung Pandan is the only city on the island.  Tanjung Pandan is actually a fairly good sized city.  It even has a KFC.  Unlike the cities in Bali or Labuan Bajo, Tanjung Pandan’s roads do not have any traffic jams nor are packed with people on motorbikes.  It is a very motorbike friendly city.

We actually had fun exploring Tandjung Pandan.  We strolled through their markets, sipped fruit tea at Momoyo (a popular place where locals go) and found cheap travel items at Mr. DIY store.

East and South Belitung

In a nutshell, we did not find any nice beaches at east and south Belitung during a day of exploration.  

We first stopped at Penyabong Beach which is to the south and west of the island. We wanted to see the beach because it looked nice in the photos shown on Google Maps.  The gigantic granite rocks on the beach do look amazing but that was about it. The wind was blowing and the water was wavy.  Although the water had a teal color, it was not clear.  The beach was also littered with trash that had washed ashore.  There were some neglected structures by the beach indicating that the area had seen better days but has fallen into harder times.  Plus we had to navigate about 15 kilometers of narrow road that was wide enough for one vehicle.

Large boulders at Penyabong Beach

Our next stop was Wisata Tanjung Gembira which is a few kilometers west of Penyabong Beach on the west side of the island.  Tandjung Gembira is a well maintained beach with ample picnic tables and covered shelters.  There are also shade trees by the beach.  The beach is free of debris (at least the maintained area).  The sand is golden brown in color and the water is calm though not clear.  It is a nice beach to just chill.  There is a per person fee and a parking fee.  We were the only ones at the beach.  There is also a restaurant.

Wisata Tanjung Gembira

We checked out two more beaches to the east which were Pantai Nyuir Melabai near the town of Manggar and Pantai Burung Mandi.  Nyuir Melabai’s water had the teal color, not clear and wavy just like Penyabong Beach.  The beach is within a park so it was somewhat clean. The beach sees more use from the locals being near the town.  There are trees that provide shade.

Burung Mandi’s water is the same as Nyuir Melabai – teal color, wavy and not clear.  The beach is also somewhat clean but there are a lot of colorful boats tethered from shore.  There are operational warung here unlike Nyuir Melabai which had none.

Colorful boats at Burung Mandi

Independence Day

When we arrived in Indonesia in July, we noticed colorful banners of red and white lining some of the streets. It looked really festive especially in small towns and villages. The colorful banners are one of their ways of remembering their independence day which is August 17th.

We were in Belitung during their independence day and totally enjoyed watching the locals hold games for young, old and everybody in between. Here are a couple of pictures where teenage boys work together to climb a bamboo pole to get the prizes tied to the top. It is a good thing that the pole is in the water as many slip and fell making the attempt.

Getting Around Belitung

We used a motorbike for three days to explore the different white sand beaches between Tandjung Pandan and Sidjuk.  The roads in Belitung are all in good condition.  Being mostly flat, the roads are mainly straight which makes traveling easy.  The roads are not busy either.  Sometimes there are hardly any motorcycles or cars on the road.

We rented a car for one day to explore the south and eastern part of the island. It took us over two hours to get to Penyabong Beach from Sidjuk as the roads were one lane of traffic each direction and passes through villages.

When to Go

Belitung has distinct dry and wet seasons according to locals.  The rainy season is from October to December, in general.  Beaches may be off color during those times.  The months that sees the most visitors are May, June and July.  The best months to go is April and September. August was fairly quiet but was warm.


Belitung is an island about an hour plane ride north from Jakarta.  It is a good sized island, pretty much takes a whole day to drive around.  

Belitung’s northwestern shores have sugary white sand beaches.  These beaches are scattered between the city of Tanjung Pandan and the village of Sidjuk.  The waters are calm and very inviting with its cyan and teal color just like in the Carribean.  The only downside is that the beaches are littered with trash that people left behind.

Boat trips to the northern islets are what most visitors do.  The boats shove off from Pantai Kelayan which in itself is a beautiful beach.  There are six to seven stops on the boat trip depending on how hardy you are.  Overall, the tour is a good value for the money as it is really inexpensive compared to other tours we have done in Indonesia.

Motorbiking in Belitung is enjoyable.  The roads are not packed with vehicles or motorcycles, even in Tanjung Pandan.  The roads are not winding nor hilly.  Most of the roads are single lane each direction and wide enough for a regular sized car.

Overall, Belitung is a nice destination to get away from the madness of tourist-heavy destinations such as Bali.  It is seldom visited by foreigners so it makes a great destination to get away for some quiet rest and recuperation before going on to the next adventure.