• Bangladesh!

    Bangladesh: Traditional houses. Go Now!

    This low-lying country has historic ties to India and Pakistan, but today maintains a wholly unique culture. Explore Bangladesh!

  • Indonesia!

    Indonesia: Lombok. Go Now!

    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

  • Jordan!

    Jordan: Petra. Go Now!

    Tucked away in this Middle Eastern country, the famed city of Petra (pictured) links the past to the present culture. Explore Jordan!

  • Mongolia!

    Mongolia: Desert. Go Now!

    This vast country has a culture that spans past and present... a nomadic life shifting to a modern & sedentary society. Begin Your Journey!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Indonesia


The ethnicities within Indonesia number in the hundreds, if not thousands and each island has a fairly distinct ethnic makeup. The most populated islands also comprise the largest ethnic groups, including the Javanese (40% of the population) and Sundanese (15%), both of whom live on the island of Java, but spread to other islands. These two groups, along with the many other groups, are nearly all in the same ethnic family as they are most closely related to the Malays and other people from the larger Polynesian group.


Bahasa Indonesian is the only official language of Indonesia; this language is very similar to Malaysian and, like that language, is part of the Polynesian language family. As a very large and diverse country, there are dozens of other languages natively spoken by the people of Indonesia as many islands have their own language or dialect. Despite the dozens of native languages in the country, most people communicate from island to island in Bahasa Indonesian.

Dutch and English are common second languages in Indonesia, but primarily only university-educated people speak these languages with any fluency. In business and tourism these languages are widely spoken as are other popular international languages, but in much smaller numbers.


About 85% of Indonesia's population is Muslim, making it the largest Muslim country in the world in regards to number of adherents. Among the last 15% of the population, about a third of them are Protestant Christian and there are also smaller numbers of Roman Catholics and Hindis.

Islam (the name of the religion, whose followers are called Muslims) is a monotheistic religion, whose holy book is called the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the word of God spoken through the prophet Muhammad from 609-632 CE (Common Era is preferred over AD (Anno Domini or "year of the Lord") since the Islamic world doesn't believe Jesus was the messiah). Islam believes Muhammad was the last prophet sent to earth by God, the last in a long line of prophets, which includes Moses, Abraham, and Jesus among others.

Muslims follow five pillars of their faith: testimony, prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage. These pillars, and other tenants of their faith, can give great structure to their lives as some foods, like pork, are forbidden and every Muslim is expected to pray five times a day. However, the level of participation in each of these pillars and to what degree Islam influences an individual's life varies from person to person and community to community. Generally speaking, Indonesia is fairly liberal in how they practice Islam.

This page was last updated: May, 2014