Manado – Forgotten diamond of Sulawesi

In a country like Indonesia, where the territorial waters cover more than the entire land area, Manado was necessarily a town overlooking the sea. And yet, very few of those traveling to discover Indonesian beauties decide to stop by this beautiful city.

Most travelers who come to the capital of North Sulawesi don’t pay attention to Manado as much as it deserves. Usually, they just make a quick stop at its airport and depart to nearby islands. That’s probably the reason why Manado has been preserved as a non-touristic city. Even though there are no significant tourist attractions, the friendliness of its inhabitants is not just a pose to please the tourists and keep them in the city.

Basic info

This city of Manado is also famous for its incredibly pleasant climate. Except for the months of December and January, when heavy rains conquer the place, the weather here is warm and humid, ideal for a delightful stroll in short sleeves throughout the entire year.

Manado has some important religious features that make it different from the rest of Indonesia. Islam here is residual, with 80% of Protestants and only 20% of Catholics. However, people of Manado built the statue of Christ the Redeemer, a huge figure made of stone and metal located in a residential neighborhood of Citraland, and it is the building they are most proud of, since it is the second highest building of its type in Asia.

Tour of the city

Like many Asian cities, Manado is not a place that can be easily toured by walking, since sidewalks are often interrupted by changes of altitudes, low walls, rocks, etc. At some point, you may get the feeling that you are transforming into Super Mario, but it is not a thing that cannot be solved by wearing light and comfortable shoes. Or getting any type of transportation.

For example, there are air-conditioned taxis; but the best way to get around the city are the thousands of blue microlets, small vans, which work on the basis of collective taxis, taking you wherever you want for about 2,000 rupees (about 20 cents).

The side door of the van remains always open, to facilitate entry and exit of travelers. That is a much easier way to go through the city, especially if you suddenly decide to jump out and visit the colorful shopping center or the market nearby.

That’s right – if Manado is presumed to be something, then it’s a great place for shopping. Travelers here can find a wide variety of technological gadgets, but also handicrafts and traditional clothing, and their prices are usually pretty low. Especially interesting places for shopping can be found in the Merciful Building, which works non-stop.

It is very curious to find buildings of all sizes, colors and architectural styles. In the streets of Manado dotted with the most abundant vegetation, your attention will certainly be caught by numerous churches. Quirky, tiny or huge, with traces of Portuguese influences, they will all make you want to visit them, or at least take some interesting pictures.

A little bit of history

Portuguese influence noticed in Manado is not far-fetched at all. Even though their stay didn’t last long and it was followed by the centuries of Dutch and British colonial rule, Portuguese succeeded to influence the history and looks of the city. However, the city was founded by the Spanish people, in the late sixteenth century. Today, there are many Spanish people who visit it, and you can find them literally anywhere, all the way from the airport to the resorts of its islands.

Why visit Manado?

Get in touch with its nature

Especially adored attractions of North Sulawesi are its striking seabed and impressive coral reefs. Manado and neighboring Bunaken Island are the most representative places where you can enjoy observing marine reefs and species. On this remote island which stands on the edge of the modern world and the world known in earlier times, a few kilometers north of the equator, near the Philippines, you will be able to see an intriguing animal species. With its huge eyes and interesting fingers, tarsier, the world’s smallest primate will occupy your attention.

Diverse food in night life

There is no better way of spending the night in Manado than tasting local fast food, visiting nightclubs and karaoke bars (with free wi-fi!). Here you’ll also be able to see unique little trains in the shape of a giraffe or a cow, making tours along the coast.

Despite the abundant supply of fast food, it is worth searching for local strong and spicy flavors. The most famous dish is a special porridge called Bur Bur, which consists of spinach, corn, rice and is often accompanied by spicy fish. For dessert, you should have a Klappertart, a sweet made with Dutch reminiscent of coconut, nuts and raisins. Finally, order a good espresso to complete your meal.

Interesting sights of Manado

When it comes to exploring the area which surrounds the city of Manado, we strongly recommend you not to be afraid of leaving the center of the city, since you won’t lack interesting places to visit. Some of the most impressive sights which are definitely worth visiting are:

  • The Pinawetengan Museum and the House of Fabrics, where you can learn interesting facts about local traditions.
  • Pinawetengan Watu, the whimsical set of megalithic stones, about 60 kilometers away from the city, is widely popular because of its interesting and unique shape.
  • The Waruga Park, where the Minahasa tribe buried their dead in the squatting position. This park is positioned about 40 kilometers away from Manado, in the Sawangan village.
  • The Linow Lake, which is two hours driveway of the city center. Observing this lake is a thrilling experience because of its constant color changes during the day, depending on the light. These color changes happen because of the high percentage of sulfur in the water.
  • Tangkoko Nature Reserve is a special place, as well, since it is a home to dozens of species of mammals, birds and reptiles and more than two hundred different species of plants. The most spectacular inhabitants of this reserve are the white-crested macaque and the tarsier.
  • National Marine Park of Bunaken Island and Lembeh Strait should be the crown jewels of your visit to Manado. Lembeh Strait is one of the most famous diving destinations in Indonesia.

How to get to Manado

The capital of North Sulawesi is well connected with the rest of the country by efficient airlines: Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, Sriwijaya Air and Batavia Air fly from Manado to many Indonesian cities. You’ll need about three hours by plane to Jakarta, the capital, where the clock has to be delayed an hour. About four hours on the plane will be needed for you to get to the famous beaches of Bali, via Makassar route.

If you are a traveler who is genuinely interested in exploring various areas of Indonesia, Manado is not the place that you should miss. Maybe it is not as popular as some other destinations in Indonesia since it isn’t a typical tourist city, but this place has the soul which will charm you if you are willing to spend some time exploring its hidden beauties.

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