Located just a short ferry ride away from Singapore, Bintan Island is a favourite vacation spot for those looking for a quick getaway that is both fun and relaxing. Not only does it have all the ingredients that make a great holiday like sun, sea and sand, there is also much to explore here beyond the usual touristy sightseeing.

The next time you are planning a trip to Bintan Island, try exploring these fun off-the-beaten-track parts instead:

1. Interact with locals at Panglong Village

Panglong Village is located close to Tanjung Pinang and is mainly occupied by the Sea Gypsies. This rustic village is an eye-opening experience as houses here are built on stilts and most of the occupants are fishermen who use ancient rituals and practices in their daily lives. Take a stroll and watch as time stands still here as local fishermen weave fishing nets and cast them out to sea.

2. Hike to the Grotto Santa Maria

Close to Panglong Village, you will find a small chapel after hiking through a forest trail. This chapel is known as the Grotto Santa Maria or the Santa Maria Cave and was originally built by a French pastor in the late eighteenth century. You will find a well-preserved statue of Santa Maria in the chapel as well as several other sculptures leading up to the cave from the forest trail.

The chapel is quite a sight as it is painted brightly amidst the lush greeneries of the forest, and you can walk around the area to discover different relics that are contributed by the Catholic community from Vietnam and East Timor over the years. If you come on a Sunday, you can even join the mass and meet new friends from the island!

3. Enjoy A Panoramic View At The Peak of Mount Bintan

Besides the cultural sights of Bintan Island, there is also much to do if you are adventurous and would like to be in nature. Away from the beaches and crowd, the island is covered in lush tropical jungle with hiking tracks leading up to the Bintan’s highest peak: Mount Bintan.

At 340 meters, this is a manageable 3 to 4-hour hike suitable for everyone including beginners. Hikers will be rewarded at the summit with an incredible 360-degree view of the entire island so this is definitely a must do in Bintan Island!

4. Visit the traditional market at Tanjung Pinang

Tanjung Pinang is the largest town in Bintan Island and is where most of the locals live. There is a lot to do here including visiting the traditional morning market where you can find local delicacies, fresh fruits and dried seafood and shop for arts and craft.

You will also find several seafood restaurants here so do stop by for a scrumptious and fresh seafood lunch or dinner! Come nightfall, there is also a food market at Rimba Jaya where you will find affordable local food and dishes so be sure to stay for that as well.

5. Explore Pulau Penyengat

A great place to visit in Bintan Island for something a little different is Pulau Penyengat which can be accessed from Tanjung Pinang using a water taxi (a fun and quick trip in itself!). This is where the old royalty resided and currently rests and there is a lot to see here such as the palace ruins and the royal mausoleums.

Pulau Penyengat used to be the glorious cultural capital of the Malay world and you will also find a grand mosque here that was used by the royals and built in the nineteenth century by the late Raja Ali Haji. It’s no wonder the attractions on the island are pending listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, given their cultural and historical significance.