Tentena is a charming small town in Central Sulawesi. This town sits on the road between Ampana and Rantepao (Toraja) at 680 meter above sea level. Tentena is the host of the annual Festival Danau Poso, the undisputed highlight of Central Sulawesi’s social calendar, in late August. Villagers from far afield gather for a colourful celebration of culture, with dancing, songs and traditional sports. The town itself could be easily overlooked if it were not for the number of guides and locals recommending it as a better option than Poso for the necessary overnight stop (due to connecting buses & challenging roads, it isn't really possible or comfortable to travel straight through from Rantepao to Ampana).
Tentena is the capital of North Pamona sub-district, and lies next to the serene Lake Poso, Indonesia's third-largest lake. Tentena is slowly becoming one of the more popular tourist stops in Central Sulawesi, for good reason. It is surrounded by clove-covered hills, has a sense of peace, and is a very easy-to-manage little town. It has several good places to stay, an interesting market, and some natural treasures to explore nearby. The climate of Tentena throughout the year is mostly humid and pleasant. It takes about 7 hours by bus or private car to reach this town from Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi.
The majority of population of Tentena are embracing Christianity, with a dark history of past conflicts with the surroundings Islamic villages. But for the past ten years, things have calmed down and a sense of peace has thankfully returned. In the recent years, tourists began to flock to this place again as the perfect stopover from Toraja to Togean.
The main street is a little underwhelming, but don't be dismayed - as you move to the lake you begin to notice the beautiful scene of various warungs, houses and home-stays built over the clear lake waters, which combined with the surrounding hills and rice fields give this charming little town a pleasing appeal! The community exists on two sides of the lake, connected by a busy concrete traffic bridge and a quieter, wooden foot bridge. The main side of the lake with the central street is the more commercial area, while the opposite side has a noticeably quieter and more homely feel.
The arrival point is the Bus Terminal - a simple drop-off point on the side of the road. From here its a 4km walk into the main areas of guesthouses and shops. A better option is to flag down a local Ojek (motorbike) to take you and your luggage in for a mere 10,000IDR (updated Sept 2014). Exercise caution with drivers as some have tried to overcharge or scam travelers.
If you are arriving from Rantepao, 'tourist guides' will be on hand to suggest accommodation options. They are likely to charge you double the normal rate for an Ojek (motorbike) ride; however the late arrival of the bus from Rantepao (anywhere between 8pm and 11pm depending on road conditions) means the touts can save you from a long walk in the dark.
Ojeks (motorbikes) can take you to most local spots for around Rp10,000. You can also rent motorbikes from some hotels for ~Rp100,000 for the day including fuel. This is a better option so you can explore the entire surrounding areas yourself.
The main attraction within Tentena is the lake Lake Poso, which has beautiful clear water, adjacent warungs (and some home-stays under construction at the time of writing, 2010) and a peaceful vibe. 2 parallel bridges exist to bring you back and forth. Its worth exploring the opposite side of the lake for guesthouses, homestays and warungs.
By all accounts the Tentena waterfall -while a little tough to reach - is one of the best available; notable for the lack of other tourists and businesses. There are approximately 10 drops, each of which you can bathe in. A nice relief from the heat of Sulawesi, and worth if considering if you have time.
There are also a cave, and a few beaches on the NW side of the Lake where you can swim.
Tentena is famous of some wacky dishes that are worth to try.
Samping Rumah d'cafe coffee is a trendy little place to eat, roughly 50m from the traffic lights on the Eastern side of town. Serves a well priced range of local food, as well as burgers, fries and iced drinks. More importantly, the owner is a friendly local who speaks reasonable English and has a number of friends in the area who enjoy helping out travellers.
Victory Hotel has good, clean rooms and have two kind of room. Standard (150,000 IDR) and deluxe (250,000 IDR with hot shower), all prices include breakfast. A good option for a single night. The manager, Oma, is absolutely lovely, and speaks english well. The best value place in town.
If you're in town for a few nights, clean and well priced options can be found on the oposite side of the lake. These include Tropicana (looked very run-down as of Sept 2014), Online Rock Cafe and others. The oposite side is worth exploring for the peaceful atmosphere (away from the traffic and 'bussle') superior views of the lake and nearby farmlands, and good range of warungs.
All connections in Tentena are made from the bus terminal, 4km out of town. Ojeks (motorbikes) are easily chartered to take you and your luggage to the Terminal for Rp 10,000.
Buses connect Tentena with Rantepao (10 hours, Rp 110,000).
To reach Ampana, Bemos will take you first from the Tentena bus terminal to Poso (2 hours, Rp 25,000) where you can board a bus to Ampana (a further 4 hours from Poso, Rp 70,000). Taxis and private vehicles will hover by the Poso bus station trying to convince you that the bus is not available. Predictably, once it is apparent you intend to wait for the bus, the price of taxis and private vehicles will become more competitive (sometimes the same price as a bus seat).
There are no buses from Tentena to Poso.