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Balikpapan is a sophisticated city located in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. Very few tourists visit Kalimantan, making it an ideal destination for travelers looking to get off-the-beaten path. This province is filled with mountains, forests, river, and small villages, as well as incredible opportunities for viewing wildlife, with animals such as orangutans, macaques and sun bears. Balikpapan is a major transit point for those heading to Samarinda, Banjarmasin or the Mahakam River.
Offshore oil reserves have made Balikpapan Kalimantan's wealthiest city. It serves as the headquarters for several international oil companies, mining companies and numerous related industries. The city offers a high standard of living, with clean streets, extensive shopping areas, and luxury hotels with relatively affordable rates. Free of the usual smog typical of many major cities in Asia, Balikpapan's pace is relatively laid-back, and the locals are polite and reserved.
Most hotels, restaurants and shops are found at the intersection of the city's main roads, Jalan Ahmed Yani and Jalan Sudirman. Getting around is best done by taxi or by taking small minibuses called angkot.
Not far from Balikpapan is Borneo Samboja Ecolodge (BOS), which is run by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, and serves as home to rescued orangutans and sun bears. You can spend the day viewing the wildlife, stay at the ecolodge, or participate in a multi-week volunteering course, which allows you to spend time with these interesting animals.
Other attractions include the rainforest and hanging bridges in Bukit Bangkirai, and the Crocodile Farm in Teritip. Balikpapan also has some lovely beaches, including Manggaar and Lamaru in the south east, as well as Kemala and Melawai in the south west.
Some popular local dishes to try include soto banjar, which is a chicken soup with egg, as well as cotto makassar, which is a peanut soup with beef. Check out Kebun Sayur Market for traditional souvenirs and stone jewellery. Balikpapan also offers large shopping malls, including Balikpapan Plaza and Mall Balikpapan Baru, where you'll find department stores, food courts, movie theatres, and game centres.
Country travel information is available at our Indonesia Holidays guide.