Some 250km north of Makassar, a steep wall of mountains marks the limits of Bugis territory and the start of Tanah Toraja’s highlands, a beautiful spread of hills and valleys where sleek buffalo wallow in lush green paddy fields. With easy access and one of Indonesia’s most confident and vivid cultures, Tanah Toraja is planted firmly on the agenda of every visitor to Sulawesi. Tour groups tend to concentrate on key sites, so it’s not hard to find more secluded corners.
Tanah Toraja’s main town, at least as far as tourists are concerned, is Rantepao, 18km north of the regional capital, Makale. It’s a popular base for travellers, most of whom descend for the major festival season between July and September. Expect hot days and cool nights; there is a “dry” season between April and October, but this is relative only to the amount of rain at other times, so bring non-slip walking boots and rainwear.
Tanah Toraja is known as Tator in the local idiom, and you should look for this on transport timetables. There are buses to Rantepao from points all over Sulawesi, including night buses from Makassar.