Traditionally, a Toraja settlement consists of a compound of houses, granaries, burials, ceremonial grounds with menhirs, rice-fields, bamboo forests and grazing ground for buffalos and pigs. Kete Kesu is a complete settlement where all these components are still in place. It is one of the sites nominated for the UNESCO Heritage List.

Tongkanan at Kete  Kesu

6 traditional houses (tongkonan), some of them some 300 years old, are facing 12 granaries. The houses always face north: The old beliefs say that the ancestors came from the north, and that’s where everybody will go to.

Rich carvings cover the houses, each ornament has its own meaning – Chicken for example represent justice: The chicken that wins in a cock fight was believed to belong to the person in right.

Kete Kesu is one of the first villages of Toraja. The houses in the 17th and 18th century were scattered in the mountains. Only in 1919 they were moved to the present location to form a village so that people easily could gather and work together.

At the outskirts of the village lies the burial ground, built into a vertical cliff. Different styles of graves can be marveled at all in once.

While the graveyard is over 500 years old, modern graves have been erected at the entrance of the graveyard, formed in the shape of houses of different types and sizes, all containing coffins with the deceased.

Modern Graves
Hanging Grave

‘Hanging graves’ are the characteristic of Kete Kesu’s burial place, where coffins are suspended mid-air on wooden beams sticking out from the cliff. While some are still in place, others with time disintegrated and fell down. Along the cliff side, old coffins and their remains lay scattered all around. According to beliefs they cannot be removed without a new ceremony but have to stay (about) where they fell.

Most coffins are boat shaped, others represent houses, pigs or buffaloes. Tau Taus watch from their, adding to the spookey atmosphere. Several deep holes lead into the rock, providing rooms for whole families to rest in peace. Skulls and bones are everywhere, together with cigarettes, food and soft drinks left for them and their journey to a new life.

Coffin and Remains


The village itself is very easy to enter and explore. The burial site due to some steps is more difficult to visit, but possible with assistance – if needed- by our team. For detailed information with photos about accessibility at Kete Kesu contact us.