More than 300 kilometres north of Makassar in South Sulawesi lies Tana Toraja, or the “land of heavenly kings”. The beautiful area of the Christian, animistic Toraja, is especially known for the spectacular, chilling funerals that you can simply attend as a tourist. As soon as someone dies, the body is only buried once enough money has been saved. This can sometimes take years. In the meantime, the deceased lies in the house. To prevent the stench, the body is now injected with formaldehyde.
Cultural highlight of the Toraja: the funeral ceremonies
During the funeral ceremony, which can last a week, the next of kin perform ritual dances. In addition, buffalo fights take place. They also slaughter buffaloes and pigs. This is done from the conviction that the soul of the deceased can make a good crossing to the hereafter. After this, the body is buried in either a small cave, a hollow tree or a kind of cage made of bamboo. This is then suspended above a cliff. Most ceremonies take place in July and August, but nowadays they are also there all year round.
Tana Toraja has so much to offer the traveller besides these ceremonies, that you can easily stay there for a week. So, you can visit special villages, markets, hot springs, coffee plantations and rock tombs and enjoy the local cuisine. If you want to be more active, we advise you to go rafting or cycling, or to go on lovely walks through the fantastic landscape of rice fields, waterfalls and mountains.
The area is also known for its traditional Tongkonan houses, wooden houses on stilts with the ends of the roofs high in the air. They are still there from the time before the arrival of the missionaries. The rice harvest is stored in them and the water buffalo slaughtered there.
There are many resorts, hotels and homestays in Toraja. Some suggestions:
- Homestay: Mama Tia Family Homestay, located in Rantepao, for the adventurous traveller. Do not expect luxury, but for very little money a fine night with a very hospitable and friendly family.
- Hotel: Toraja Misiliana Hotel, located more than three kilometres outside the city of Rantepao. The rooms are in the traditional ‘Tongkonan’ style. The latter also applies to the Toraja Heritage Hotel, a well-maintained hotel in a beautiful location.
- Resort: Luta Resort, a fine resort in the city with beautiful views.
You can also sleep in a traditional Tongkonan, located outside the city, where you usually have beautiful views over the mountains and rice fields. An example is Tongkonan Layuk Lion, located a few kilometres from Rantepao.