Best Kept Secrets of the Riau Islands: Guide to Bintan

Things to do in bintan
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Bintan, an Indonesian island offbeat to the world and popular to nearby locals, makes for a real getaway from touristy destinations in SE Asia.

It’s no more than a 2-hour ferry ride south of Singapore. Unlike its industrial hub neighbor – Batam Riau – the pace of life is noticeably slow here. When I visited, it felt more or less like a countryside visit.

Most people go to Bintan to relax at its sparkly serene beaches. Apart from relaxing and cafes, honestly, there isn’t much to do here. But I found those few places to visit worthy to experience.

So here goes my list of things to do in Bintan! In this article, I’ve also added itinerary tips and handpicked recommendations to make the best of your trip.

Things to Do in Bintan: Heads Up!

Many are usually doubtful about visiting Bintan. So here’s more about the place before you go:

Is Bintan Worth Visiting?

Yes, Bintan is definitely worth visiting! Apart from the fantastic beaches, it’s the low-key air with less traffic, serene temples, and homely accommodations that make Bintan all worth it.

Most shores are also backwaters in Indonesia making for calm waters as well. Also, it’s the unique local experiences close to Bintan like the Senggarang water village that make Bintan attractive.

bintan resort beaches
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Things to do in Bintan: Morning view of Bintan’s shores

How to Get to Bintan?

Ferry is the most convenient route to get to Bintan. From Singapore (Tanah Merah terminal), take the Bintan Resorts Lagoi Ferry to the Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal on the North of Bintan.

It takes 1 hour and 30 minutes from Tanah Merah depending on the route and costs SGD 90 for a round trip (weekends are higher).

I recommend booking the ferry tickets online using Klook.com for better-discounted deals and earning points to save on other Bintan day trip packages. Grab your Bintan tickets today!

Klook.com

From Batam Riau, get on the ferry from Punggur Ferry Terminal to Sri Bintan Pura Ferry Terminal in Tanjung Pinang. Another adventurous alternative (I recommend it) is the speedboat service that takes you to Tanjung Uban Domestic ferry terminal.

Keep in mind, that Tanjung Pinang is Bintan’s capital. Tanjung Uban is a rural side with more village-like homestays rather than resorts. I’ve been to both, but I preferred Tanjung Uban. It’s less touristy.

Which is better, Batam or Bintan?

Batam and Bintan both have amazing beaches and resorts. But Bintan has way more options to pick from and has more attractions. Thus Bintan is a better pick!

On a day’s trip to attractions around Batam, there isn’t much to explore in Batam aside from its malls, shopping complexes, and eateries (Read my Batam blog post). However, Bintan has plenty of places to check out and also gives more of a town-life experience. Batam, on the other hand, is a city.

To those who love food-hopping or have a larger variety of options, I recommend Batam’s restaurants.

Is Bintan expensive? Compared to Batam, Bintan is around the same range itinerary. On both islands, transport gets expensive as public transportation isn’t very reliable.

Guon Gong temple
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Things to do in Bintan: Hello from Guan Ti Gong Temple, Bintan!

Guide to Picking Bintan Tour Packages

As mentioned earlier, transportation in Bintan (taxis and private charters) gets expensive. So when you’re here, I’d recommend picking day tours to Bintan’s attractions to save more.

You see Tanjung Pinang is easy to get around for local eateries and shopping. But places like the Blue Lake, Mangrove River, and 500 Lohan Temple are far from the city and simply cost too much for taxis.

Rental vehicles are one option. Another great option is booking these day trip packages. I recommend Klook.com to book Bintan Tour Packages as they’re acquainted and offer budget-friendly packages.

I handpicked day-trip packages that I believe are worth the penny:

Klook.com

Top Things to Do in Bintan

Some things like the Blue Lake and sitting by beaches are must-visits. But I’ve compiled this list of things to do in Bintan based on experience. Feel free to drop them in the comfort of your itinerary.

But it’d totally be worth it if you could make it to most if not all of them!

Suggested post to read next: This Batam resort has no road connectivity!

Explore the Blue Lake and its Dunes!

Never having looked up at the blue lake prior, the first time I saw the blue lake – it was surreal. The pictures are unbelievable, but visiting is even more. And fun fact, this is NOT man-made! …well, kind of.

This ‘lake’ was once a mining site and the residue minerals made the waters here bright blue. While harmless, they however don’t let visitors swim here. But even straining my eyes, I couldn’t see the bottom through thick blue. So that was convincing enough not to jump.

Another popular thing is the ‘desert’ here. It isn’t a real desert and another outcome of the mining spot but it made for picturesque dunes. Oh, and ATVs are pretty popular here.

Use Klook.com to book all Bintan attractions in one place. It saves you lots! Book your Blue Lake round trip today:

Klook.com

When we asked for pricing, they were quite expensive. Anyway, the blue lake amidst the dunes is quite a sight. But there’s this small cute boat on the lake that makes it cooler (we paid for a ride, it was a little boring).

Suggested post to read next: My experience of Nuvasa Bay Batam

Go on a Bintan Mangrove River Tour

The Bintan Mangrove River tour is a 60-minute boat ride through the Sebung River. This forest lies in Northern Bintan and an hour away from Tanjung Pinang, thus making for an authentic nature experience.

With the silent mangroves rich with living habitats, the animate beings are super-noticeable here. Nevertheless, I highly recommend taking the 7:00 / 8:00 pm slot – the Mangrove River is famous for its pretty evening fireflies.

The night sky stars bright due to non-existent city-light pollution here is just another cherry on top! The night ride is simply wonderful.

Speaking of the tour, most agencies offer pickup and drop from Tanjung Pinang, so you needn’t worry about the transport hustle here.

Klook.com

Visit the Vihara Avalokitesvara Graha

This is a Chinese Buddhist Temple close to Tanjung Pinang, Bintan. One reason I urge you to visit is because of the wondrous size of the garden areas, the temple itself, and the statue of Dewi Kuan Yin.

The enormous space is one thing. But the expensive build of the temple’s pillars, paintings, wall carvings, and dozens of marble statues are worth exploring. Another fun fact – the Dewi Kuan Yin statue at the main temple is 16.8 meters high and made of 40-ton copper. It’s further plated with 22-karat gold.

Suggested post to read next: Indonesian Language Basics – Travelers’ Guide

vihara avalokitesvara graha temple pillars
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Things to do in Bintan: Look at this fantastic pillar!

I remember visiting as a kid and visiting it again in 2023, and it looked exactly the same! It tells a lot about the preservation and maintenance of the temple over the years.

Stay by Offbeat Shores of Bintan

This is my favorite part about Bintan – staying at a homestay-style accommodation in the offbeat parts. While most people prefer resorts with white sand beaches, pools, and villas, I recommend staying one night in a seaside homestay.

I stayed at one in Tanjung Uban and loved it! The seashore didn’t have white sand but these clear backwaters were filled with seashells, corals, and a variety of fish. The evening orange sky with gentle waves lapping against the shore was magical.

I had a little extra adventure when I noticed local farmers holding out nets in their hands at midnight. They walked far into the low tide with their pant rolled up and torches in their hands – they were catching crabs!

Suggested post to read next: Indonesia Visa for Indians: A Detailed Guide to Scoring One!

beaches in bintan
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Things to do in Bintan: Staying by offbeat shores.

Take a boat ride to Senggarang Island, a Water Village

The Senggarang island is also called the floating village and is well-known for its historic bits in Bintan. This small fishing village that lies on the waters saw its first settlements by early Chinese immigrants. Thus it happens to have the oldest temple here in Bintan.

Explore the daily lives of local farmers and fishermen and strolling narrow concrete and wooden boardwalks that connect stilt houses. It reminded me of Abang Island village in Batam. Two key attractions here are the Banyan Tree temple (yes, the tree literally hugs around the tiny temple), and the Vihara Dharma Sasana built by the early settlers.

I recommend taking along a guide to explain about Senggarang. This tour is a boat ride away from Bintan and it’s best to book a package tour to save individual costs.

Book your Senggarang Water Village tour from Klook.com today:

Klook.com

Relax at Nirwana Resort Beach

Bintan Guide – The Nirwana Resort is only an option among the many 5-star hotels in Bintan. In this Bintan blog, I handpicked resorts and spas that people look forward to most along with their reviews. Some offer great pools and others offer canopy-style accommodation:

Nirwana Resort Hotel

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Image Source: Booking.com

Nirwana Resort is a 4-star luxury hotel with all-rounder facilities like amazing spa and fitness centers. It also has a magnificent infinity pool in full view straight from the rooms! It also offers a variety of continental cuisines.

Banyan Tree Bintan

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Image Source: Booking.com

Though pricey, the Banyan Tree Resort in Lagoi, Bintan offers the best seaside views through its Balinese-style villas. The accommodation seamlessly blends in nature elements with its luxury facilities. Added to it, it boasts its world-class spa and an outdoor pool.

Anmon Resort Bintan

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Image Source: Booking.com

Anmon Resort stands unique with its tent (canopy) rooms while being equipped with luxury amenities – thus considered a 4-star hotel. The unique style of rooms and its mix with elegant bathrooms is worth the stay.

Natra Bintan/ Treasure Bay Resort

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Image Source: Booking.com

Natra Bintan is no doubt a treasure with its outdoor pool considered to be the largest in Southeast Asia. It’s so large that I thought it was the sea at first! Its impressive canopy-style accommodation comes with bathrooms well-blended with their gardens.

Check out the 500 Lohan Temple

Bintan Guide: The 500 Lohan Temple aka the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Vihara is one of the recent additions to the Buddhist temples in Bintan. However, it has gained crazy traction within the short span – among both locals and tourists.

As the name suggests, you’ll find 500 Arahat(in simple terms – Enlightened Beings) sculptures that are life-size and all possess unique facial expressions and postures. Placed perfectly distanced from one another in a semi-circle, it’s an enigmatic view.

500 lohan temple bintan
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Things to do in Bintan

Through the Vihara’s entrance is an enormous statue behind which you’ll pass by a super-impressive archway where most people end up getting Instagrammable shots.

Notice the beautiful gardens and ponds here and don’t forget to check out the main temple on the right side of the Arahats at the top of the garden hill.

500 lohan temple
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Things to do in Bintan: Temple at hilltop of 500 Lohan Temple

Shop like a local at Tanjung Pinang!

Last but not least, go crazy with shopping in Tanjung Pinang! And I am serious about being ‘local’. Some packages take you to the big malls of Bintan, but I highly recommend visiting the local markets for an authentic experience.

Bintan Guide – Some things to keep an eye out for are handicraft souvenirs, traditional Indonesian clothing, and cheap local street food. The best part is both shopping stalls and street delicacies usually lie in the same markets.

There are many to pick from but some popular market names are Pasar Oleh Oleh (Pasar means market!), Rimba Jaya Night Market (yes, Bintan has a night market), Pujasera Shopping Center (best for local seafood), and Plaza Lagoi (ideal for families on the weekends).

bintan tanjung uban
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Things to do in Bintan

Less Popular Things to Do in Bintan

These are some more things to do in Bintan if you’ve got all the time in the world. Places that wouldn’t hurt to miss or some that you would find in any part of Southeast Asia.

  1. Local Seafood: When in Bintan, don’t miss out on well-known local seafood places. Some are included in the package tours, make sure to pick them!
  2. Vihara Guan Ti Gong Temple: Another Buddhist Temple that features a 15-meter tall statue of Guan Yu behind the temple. The lifesize turtle is another Instagrammic spot at its entrance.
  3. Visit the Elephant Park: This park features 7 Sumatran elephants. There are also plenty of other animals and an exciting park to check out here. I didn’t put it on the main list as I don’t wish to promote more people visiting a place where elephants are usually tortured to perform for the public.
  4. Vihara Dharma Shanti: Though smaller than other temples, I found this temple the most photogenic and well-detailed. This place boasts a large gold-plated statue of the Sleeping Buddha. It is easier to access when in Tanjung Uban, Bintan.
  5. Go Snorkeling on White Sands Island: Another offbeat one-day activity for sealife and snorkeling enthusiasts. People don’t prefer it as there are better snorkeling spots in Riau Islands or it costs too much. But those who visit it never regret it :)
Klook.com
bintan guide
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Things to do in Bintan: the Sleeping Buddha!

That brings us to the end of this Things to do in Bintan. I hope this article finds you well. Let me know how your Bintan itinerary went!

Happy Traveling :)

ooty trip itinerary
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Manas Patil

Hi there! I'm a 22-year-old dude all the way from India, I love traveling and building itineraries! Sign up and get your FREE COPY of my travel checklist to get the best of your next vacation!

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