Bangka-Belitung Province, better known as Babel, is one of Indonesia’s smallest provinces. It consists of the two main islands of Bangka and Belitung that lie off the east coast of southern Sumatra. The province is nice and quiet with great beaches.

The first and largest island you come to from the shores of Sumatra is Bangka, with Pangkal Pinang as its capital and the subsequent capital of the province. This is the busiest town and has the best tourist facilities although the beaches of nearby Sungai Liat (50kms north) are the main draw. Matras and Parai Tenggiri beaches boast white sands, clear blue waters and great swimming.

Belitung is even more laid back than Bangka, with smaller towns and even less visited beaches. Tanjung Pandan is the main town and comes with a distinct Dutch colonial feel. There are plenty of old buildings here, including an ancient lighthouse that was designed by the English and erected by the Dutch.

The best beaches on Belitung Island are Tanjung Tinggi and Tanjung Kelayang, where the snorkeling and swimming are superb. Tanjung Pandan also has a decent beach for those staying in the city - Tanjungpendam Beach. Island-hopping is a popular pastime in Bangka-Belitung Province owing to the myriad interesting islets dotted around and in between the main islands.

The small island province, which only split from South Sumatra in 2000 to become its own province, is popular with Jakartans on weekend breaks. The best time to visit is between April and October when it rains least. Pangkal Pinang, the capital, lies on the east coast, 600kms north of Jakarta.

Pangkal Pinang on Bangka Island is home to the main airport in Bangka-Belitung Province, but you can also fly to Tanjung Pandan in Belitung. Flight time from Jakarta is around 45 minutes; shorter from Palembang in South Sumatra. Banga Island is served by fast and slow ferries from Palembang, with hydrofoils reaching Mentok on the west coast in 3 hours.

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