Leang Leang Maros: Karst Cave Paintings By Makassar, Sulawesi
Leang Leang Maros is a karst mountain geopark in Sulawesi with ancient limestone caves and Indonesian cave art.
The prehistoric caves in this area are known for having the oldest cave paintings in the world. I went and saw some of these human hand prints up close on my first trip to Sulawesi in 2018, and it was completely fascinating!This travel guide will explain how to get there, and everything you need to know before you go!
History Of Leang Leang
The limestone mountains at Leang Leang Maros make up one of the biggest karst areas in the world, right behind the Tsingy area in Madagascar and Shilin in China.
You’ll also notice some similarities to Krabi in Thailand, and Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, although this one’s not underwater anymore!
Naturally the limestone erosion is great for creating caves, so there are hundreds of them at Leang, and a bunch were inhabited during prehistoric times.
The caves at Leang Leang were discovered by two Dutch explorers in the 1900s, but it wasn’t until recently that people realized just how old and valuable the artwork is.
The current estimate is that the Indonesia cave paintings here are 40,000+ years old, making it the oldest figurative artwork in the world, and also the oldest known hunting scene.
More caves and prehistoric art are still being discovered in this area, and Indonesia has applied to UNESCO to have it recognized as a world heritage site.
Leang Leang – What To Expect
The cave paintings at Leang are in a high cave that can only be reached by climbing 25 steps up a metal staircase built into the rock.
Watch your step, because the passage is narrow and the smooth rocks at the mouth of the cave can be slippery.
At the top, suspended on a cave wall, you’ll see half a dozen primitive paintings showing human hand prints and babi rusa (wild boar).
If you look around, you’ll also find seashells embedded in the rocks, indicating that this whole area used to be submerged in the Java Sea.
It’s an interesting and thought provoking place. A long time ago, someone left their mark here.
Karst Rock Garden
When you’re done exploring the caves, there’s a rock garden outside with lots of unique shaped limestone rocks.
These are naturally formed rocks with weird and cool shapes, including a dog, heart, and a few different rock windows you can look through.
- Foreigners: 20k IDR (~$1.50 USD)
- Indonesians: 5k IDR
How To Get There
Leang Leang Maros is located in south Sulawesi, Indonesia.
The nearest airport is Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport (UPG) in Makassar, which has direct flights from Bali (DPS) or Kuala Lumpur (KUL).
Leang is a 1 hour drive from the Makassar airport, or a 1.5 hour drive from the city center.
The two best transport options are with a day driver or a taxi (more info on this below).
Our Makassar Driver
The easiest way to visit Leang is to book a driver from Makassar for the day, which should cost about 600-650k IDR ($45 USD) for the whole car and driver (for 12 hours).
We booked a trip with Dodo Mursalim from Makassar and he was punctual and helpful. You can contact him on his Facebook page or via WhatsApp at ☎ +62 812-4129-913.
Best Time To Visit
The best months to visit Leang Leang Maros are in the dry season, especially from April to August when things are greenest.
You can visit outside of these months, but it may be more dried out (at the end of the dry season) or rainy (in the middle of the wet season).
The best time of day to visit is early in the morning, before the heat picks up.
EXTRA: Rammang Rammang
When you’re visiting Leang, there’s another karst geopark near Makassar called Rammang Rammang.
This place has huge karst mountains, jungles, and even more caves to explore. It’s one of my favorite places in Indonesia.
If you have time, check out both Rammang and Leang!
More info: Rammang Rammang Maros
Where To Stay
We stayed in Makassar city instead, and I think that’s generally your best bet, because Makassar has lots of restaurants and nice hotels in all price ranges.
The Makassar hotels below are some of our top recommendations! You can see more options here.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the 3-star Pesonna Hotel in Makassar city, and paid $20 USD for a private double room with cold A/C and hot shower.
They have a restaurant on site, and a nice pool. My only gripe is that the WiFi is really slow. Still, I haven’t found a better value in the Makassar area! It’s hard to beat this price for a clean double or twin room.
Prices may fluctuate from time to time, so just keep an eye out for a good deal.