Banjarmasin is the biggest city in South Kalimantan. The city population was 625,395 at the 2010 census. Average temperatures vary from 24ºC to 32ºC. The weather is mostly hot and it still has rain even if it is hot season.
The official founding date of the city is 24 September 1526, but its history is older than that. From the time of the ancient kingdom of Nan Serunai, to the Buddhist kingdom of Tanjungpuri and the Hindu kingdom Negara Dipa and its successor Negara Daha, the rivers of Southern Kalimantan have always been a favorite spot of the Malay people. That’s why Banjarmasin's old name was “Bandar Masih”, meaning the port of the Malay in Dayak Bukit dialect. In the chaotic time of civil war between the rightful heir of Negara Daha, Pangeran Samudera, and his uncle, Pangeran Samudera was forced to flee for his life. At this time, Bandar Masih received him warmly, stopped paying tribute to his uncle and supported Pangeran Samudera’s fight to get his throne back. When his uncle finally surrendered, Pangeran Samudera decided to make Bandar Masih his new capital, converted to Islam, and began his rule over the new Islamic Kingdom of Banjar. His day of victory was then celebrated as Banjarmasin’s birthday.
The name "Bandar Masih" slowly changed into "Banjarmasin" as the water tastes salty when in dry season (salty is "masin" in Banjarese language). The kingdom flourished and back in its golden era, its power enveloped almost all of the area of what is now Kalimantan. After the fierce Banjar War which produced a lot of highly-revered local heroes such as Pangeran Antasari, however, it was forced to surrender to the Dutch, following the total destruction of the palace grounds and the capture of the last Banjarese Princess (Ratu Zaleha).
Banjarmasin continued to be the capital of Dutch Borneo throughout the colonial era. Even after the formation of the Indonesian government, Banjarmasin was the capital of Kalimantan province until Kalimantan was divided into four provinces (West, East, Central and South); then it became the capital of South Kalimantan. The capital of South Kalimantan was moved to Banjarbaru in 2022. Little is left of its previous glory, but Banjarmasin silently kept her forgotten charm in unexpected places for the persistent traveller to find.
- 1 Syamsudin Noor International Airport (BDJ IATA) (26 km from the city, about half an hour drive). Airline services are available from major cities in Indonesia (Jakarta (Soekarno-Hatta), Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Denpasar (Bali), Pontianak, Makassar, Balikpapan. For major cities, Syamsudin Noor Airport served by Garuda Indonesia, Batavia Air, Lion/Wings Air, Sriwijaya Air and Merpati Nusantara Airlines, and for small cities/town especially in Kalimantan served by Kal Star Aviation and Susi Air. The airport terminal has basic requirements such as ATM facilities, restaurant, cafe, and souvenir shops.
To go to the city, you can take a taxi (with fixed rate of Rp120,000 as of March 2016) or better yet, tell your hotel to pick you up. Or, if you walk about 2 minutes to the street outside of the airport, you should be able to share a mini-van which costs Rp15,000 to go to kilometre 6 terminal.
The roads of Trans-Kalimantan are in bad condition, but if you’re patient and adventurous you can try to reach Banjarmasin from the neighbouring provinces of Central Kalimantan and East Kalimantan by car.
Another alternative to get to Banjarmasin is by ship from various places in Indonesia to Banjarmasin’s main harbour, Trisakti. Be forewarned that the condition of passenger ship transportation in Indonesia is poor, albeit cheap, and you might want to consider that before spending the night (at least 1 night if you come from Java). You best bet is Express Ferry where it’s available, 8 hours from Java, and 2 days + 2 nights of sea trip from Jakarta Tanjung Priuk Harbor Passenger Terminal. Plus, there are ferries from Semerang and Surabaya, both on Java. There's a ferry every 2 days between Surabaya and Banjarmasin.
The ferry between Surabaya and Banjarmasin is 21 hours. If you have a problem with cigarette smoke, this is not a good method of travel. Smoking is permitted in the sleeping area. There are no cabins. Women travelling alone will receive a considerable amount of male attention. The food is not good.
Alternatively, if you are coming from the neighbouring provinces of East Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan, there are a lot of boat transportations through the rivers of Kalimantan. This could be an adventurous or boring ride depending on your taste. A range of boats are available, from slow moving boats to speedboats. It’s a great choice if you are extremely adaptable with the locals’ way of life.
Your best bet would be the metered taxi, insist the driver to use the meter if you have to. Alternatively, you can use “angkot” or “bamikro” or public shuttle microbuses (Rp5,000 per passenger), which are also called “taxi” by the locals. Also available is by "ojek" (motorcity taxi) and "becak" (tricycle rickshaw), that cost around USD2.00-2.50 or Rp15,000 - 20,000 for inner city trips. There are some really old orange-colored "bajaj' (auto rickshaw) on the city streets as well.
Another options is to hire a motor bike. Amelindo Bike Rent offers motorbikes from Rp75,000/day. And for a Rp40,000 service fee, they will bring the motorbike to or pick it from a given address.
With the arrival of "online taxi" transportation services like GoJek/GoCar, and Grab, visitors and locals alike can now get around the city at a much cheaper rate by downloading and using the associated mobile applications. A ride across town in a new car can be as cheap as Rp20,00-25,000. More traditional taxis are comparatively expensive in Banjarmasin (often charging a minimum fee of Rp50,000, even for a ride as short as crossing the street). Make sure you use Indonesian phone number! Good luck.
Banjarese, the name of South Kalimantan’s ethnicity, have a unique way of building their houses and other structures in harmony with nature. There are at least 12 types of traditional Banjarese houses, which have unfortunately lost their popularity in modern times. Still, you can see a few houses that were built with traditional techniques all over Banjarmasin if you really search for them. The palace ground was totally destroyed by the colonial Dutch, but you can still visit its remnants in Kampung Kraton, along Jalan Pangeran Samudera. There, you can see Masjid Sultan Suriansyah. Built during Pangeran Samudera’s rule, it is the first Mosque in South Kalimantan and contains the royal burial site.
- 1 Museum Waja Sampai Ka Puting, Jl. Kampung Kenanga. this was an old and genuine Banjarese traditional house in "Bubungan Tinggi" style (one of the 12 styles and the most bona fide one) before it was transformed into a museum.
- 2 Masjid Sultan Suriansyah, Jl. Kuin Utara. The oldest mosque in South Kalimantan, more than 300 years old.
- 3 Masjid Raya Sabilal Muhtadin, Jalan Jendral Sudirman No.1, ☏ . a giant modern mosque completed in 1981, the second largest in Indonesia. The name was taken from a very popular Classical Islamic Jurisprudence Written by Syeikh Muhammad Arsyad Al-Banjary called “Kitab Sabilal Muhtadin” means “the right path”.
Banjarmasin is abundant with wide and mighty rivers. The rivers have always been a part of Banjarese way of life. Every morning there are floating markets in which farmers and traders bring their goods to trade on boats. It has always been a farmers’ market and it’s interesting to see the river-based way of life. The rivers are also the main venues for boat races and other festivities. The main attractions are the waterlogged suburbs traversed by canals; much of the city's commerce takes place on water.
- Floating markets There are three floating markets in South Kalimantan. Trading is from dawn until around 09:00, so get there early. The journey takes around 20 minutes by boat.
- 4 Pasar Terapung Siring Banjarmasin, Jalan Siring Tandean, ☏ . One of the floating markets.
- 5 Menara Pandang Banjarmasin (Banjarmasin Observation Tower), Jl. Kapten Piere Tendean No.07. A four story observation tower of peculiar architecture from which you can view the Martapura River and expanse of Banjarmasin. It has a lot of resident cats as well and food vendors nearby. Comes alive with lights at night.
- 6 Siring Martapura River Park/Bekantan Statue (Taman Siring Sungai Martapura/Patung Bekantan). This is the promenade along the Martapura River where floating markets are found as well as captivating monkey statue (Bekantan Statue). The main component extends from the statue northward past the Menara Pandang.
- 7 Jahri Saleh Zoo (Taman satwa Kebun Binatang Jahri Saleh), Sungai Jingah. Menagerie in rather sad shape, for the animals anyway.
- Canal trips
There are many destination or ways for canal trips, for example along the Kelayan River or thr Kuin River.
- Pulau Kembang (lit. Flower Island) - visit the long-tailed macaques at the decrepit Chinese temple, 20 minutes by boat. You can buy nuts to feed them. The monkeys are quite aggressive if you have food and will try to steal it from you. There is an entrance fee of Rp 150,000 and on Sunday it is Rp 250,000 (prices correct as of January 2018).
- Pulau Kaget (lit. Surprised Island) - see the proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus), the mascot fauna of South Kalimantan. No guarantee you will have a good look at them, though, as they are really shy.
- Pulau Bakut Island under the bridge, here there is ɑlso proboscis monkey. Rp 600,000, which can be haggled down (price correct as of January 2018). You don't go onto the island but you can see from the monkeys from the boat.
To reach these islands, you will need to employ a local to take you by boat, "ketolok" (small motor boat), or other. Ask around and negotiate a price.
- Visit floating markets, like another called Siring Pierre Tendean, as noted above, especially on the weekends.
- Attend the Pasar Ahad weekend market on Sunday morning. Here locals have a tradition of walking, running, jogging, or cycling to a suburb called "Pal Tujuh" to attend the "Pasar Ahad" or "Sunday Market". Enjoy local treats such as Ketupat Kandangan and Apam for breakfast there.
- Fishing in the Martapura River for specimens like Haruan, Papuyu, Sapat, Patin, Lele and many more.
- 1 Waterboom Alfin, Jalan Tembus Mantui, Kelayan Selatan, Banjarmasin Selatan. Large outdoor swimming pool with some slides and other attractions.
Semi-precious gems and stones. Rattan products. You can buy original clothing from Banjarmasin, it calls "Sasirangan". Now, sasirangan fabric can be applied into other things like bags, shoes, veils, and so on.
You can also buy souvenirs like amplang, local labelled T-shirt, Accessories with Banjarmasin's logo/attributes.
- 1 Duta Mall Banjarmasin, Jl. A. Yani No.98, ☏ . 10ː00-22ː00 daily. Modern shopping mall with theater, hotel (Hotel Mercure), and restaurants.
Banjarese loves their local cuisine. While restaurants, malls, or foodcourts are fine for beginners, to find the real taste of Banjarese food, you might have to join the locals among hidden places on the streets.
- Warung Warteg Pal 2 -, Jl. Ahmad Yani No.92-143. Traditional local streetfood, made with lots of passion. If you like Banjarese food, this is the place to go.
- Food Court at Duta Mall, in the center of town.
Foods that are available throughout the year and are very popular with the locals:
- Soto Banjar - "Soto" is a type of Indonesian soup. Soto Banjar is a uniquely Banjarese variant of Soto, popular in other places throughout in Indonesia. Don't miss the chance to try the real and genuine taste in its place of origin! Soto in Banjar is uniquely served with lontong (rice cakes).
- Apam Barabai - like a pancake turnover. the Apam here has its own twist. Enjoy it sweet and warm, accompanied by tea.
- Bingka - tapioca cake, a specialty of Banjarese, it comes in many flavours. The pride of the Banjarese people, it's very sweet and creamy.
- Ketupat Kandangan - another rice cake recipe. It's actually a specialty of Kandangan, but you can also find it in Banjarmasin. Known as a festive food, especially favored during Eid al Fitr.
- Klepon buntut - similar to klepon palm sugar filled snacks coated with grated coconut found across Java, however, this one has a smoother texture and the filling is more liquidy.
- Nasi kuning Banjar - rice dish made with turmeric and coconut milk, quite tasty. Specially side dish of nasi kuning banjar is ikan haruan masak habang (snakehead fish cooked in traditional Banjarese red sauce).
- Mie bancir - red noodle dish with chicken and boiled duck egg in gravy.
In the month of Ramadan, the Banjarese go all out with their traditional delicacies. Heaps of wadai (traditional cakes) and other treats mostly unavailable throughout the year will suddenly appears in Ramadhan. Though most travel guides won't suggest you to travel during the month of Ramadhan in Indonesia, it's an amazing experience to see the emergence of many "Pasar Wadai" (Cakes Market) all over the city, with treats such as:
- Amparan Tatak - banana pudding, very sweet and creamy with coconut milk.
- Bingka Barandam - although named "bingka", it doesn't taste that way, more like a cupcake soaked in sweet syrup.
- Puracit - Banjarese pancake
If you have an interest to find tropical fruit there's one new agrotourism area near Banjarmasin, it's named Meek Farm in Banjarbaru. There, you can find and try some original tropical fruit that might be hard to find in another place like durian, avocado, keledang, and some kind of Kalimantan local mango and there is a restaurant too. the restaurant serves only Indonesian traditional food. Also, you may try fruit agrotourism by wooden boat on the Gampa River area of Banjarmasin. There is a farm of rambutan, mangosteen, rambai, cempedak, langsat, kecapi, and so on.
One should try the Banjarese tea, which is somewhat different with the teas found elsewhere in Indonesia. It is a strongly Muslim area, so don't expect to find alcohol outside large hotels.
- There are many hotels at Jl. Angkasa by the Banjarmasin airport, in walking distance to the airport.
- 1 Swiss Belhotel, Jl. Pangeran Antasari No.86A, ☏ . From USD67.
- Save Hotel
- Banjar Homestay This is a true homestay. Small rooms, but worth it for the laid back chats. Andri is a lovely friendly man, willing to show you around if you pay for petrol for the motorcycle. Blok N - O Jl. A. Yani No.129, +62 823 905 444 49, USD 4
- Hotel SAS
- 2 Hotel Victoria, Jl. Lambung Mangkurat No.48, ☏ . Lovely river views, restaurant/bar, free breakfast, wifi, a/c.
- 3 Hotel Roditha Banjarmasin, Jl. P. Antasari No.41, ☏ . Full air-con, free breakfast, slippers and cable TV.
- 4 POP! Hotel Banjarmasin, Jl. H.Djok Mentaya No.50, ☏ . This is quite the cheeky one with a yellow front and jazzy name, but it sports a bar and restaurant and wifi and a/c and has budget prices. Rp206280.
- Citra Raya Hotel. Full air-con, free breakfast for two. Rp147343.
- Losmen Permata (Permata Guest House), Jalan Kol Sugiono. Rp40,000 for a single room. Rp70,000 for a room for up to 4 people.
- 5 Golden Tulip Galaxy Hotel, Jl. A. Yani No.2, ☏ . This place has a gym, pool/hot tub, spa, restaurant/bar (buffet), wifi, a/c. The place kind of bespeaks luxury with its blue glass and white exterior. Rp 486233.
- 6 Pyramid Suites Hotel (Armani Suites), Jl. Skip Lama No.8, ☏ . A/C, wifi, indoor pool, hot tub, restaurant/bar. Pretty modern looking. Rp368358.
- 7 Best Western Kindai Hotel, Jl. Ahmad Yani Km.4,5 No.437, ☏ . This one has a rooftop pool and restaurant/bar with free breakfast buffet, plus a/c and wifi. Not bad for a BW. Rp545170.
- 8 Mercure Banjarmasin (Hotel Mercure), Jl Achmad Yani Km 2 N 98, ☏ . This is quite an opulent hotel attached to the Duta Mall with a pool and breakfast option, wifi and a/c. Rp589373.
- 9 City Home, Jl. Cemp. IV, ☏ . Not too much going on here, but they do have wifi and a/c.
- 1 Banjarmasin Police HQ (Polresta Banjarmasin), Jl. A Yani Km 3, Kebun Bunga, ☏ .