Tana Toraja is a mountainous region of about 3200 km²
in the southern part of central Sulawesi in Indonesia, located about 300km north of Makassar. It is a mountainous area with an altitude averaging between 1300m and 1600m, including mountain peaks with an altitude above 3000m. The Rantepao valley is crossed by the Sadan river and is the most populated area of Tana Toraja.
Tana Toraja is a picturesque rural area with rice fields, small villages and farms.
The Toraja people live in the Tana Toraja area (a total of about 1 million people, of which about 500000 live in Tana Toraja). These people have their own special culture.
Villages consist of Tongkonan houses with a characteristic bullhorn or boat-shaped roof. Then there are special rites for burying people. The dead are placed in coffins inside caves or chambers carved into huge rocks or cliffs. Sometimes coffins are even attached to cliffs. After some time, the deceased's bones are collected and displayed outdoors. Funerals are complex social ceremonies extending over several days. Typically large numbers of people wearing traditional attire come to these events, even if they live in outlying areas. Buffaloes and pigs are sacrificed and eaten during these funerals.
Because of the beautiful scenery, pleasant climate and interesting local culture, many tourists visit Tana Toraja every year. The city of Rantepao is conveniently located in the centre of the Tana Toraja area, allowing quick access to most sights in the region. There are, however, not so many travel agencies offering trips to the area. For visitors who are not coming on a prearranged tour, an option is to ask in the tourist restaurants about drivers who can bring tourists to the tourist attractions. Another option would be to rent a motorbike, which requires knowledge of the location of the various sights.
Most sights (entrance fee of 20000-30000 IDR) can be visited in a couple of days without rushing. An additional day gives the option to visit a funeral.
How to get to Tana Toraja
There are daily flights from Makassar (getting from the Toraja airport to Rantepao takes a bit over an hour). The other option is to arrive overland from Makassar by bus or private car. In principle, it's also possible to arrive from central Sulawesi (Tentena), in case somebody is travelling along the north-south "gringo trail" from Manado to Makassar.
Rantepao has a good number of hotels, most of them bookable via international booking portals.