Lombok

Tagged as the less touristy version of Bali, Lombok features exquisite landscapes like white sand shorelines and hillside rice terraces.

Lombok has everything you could ask for in an Indonesian island getaway. There are exquisite rural landscapes with concertinaed rice terraces across steep hillsides, mountain ridges cloaked in cloud forest, and scorched shorelines studded with lontar palms and hemmed with white sand. There is culture too, with red-brick Hindu temples, glittering mosques and ageless villages of bamboo and thatch, plus a good deal of adventure, from the high, windswept slopes of Gunung Rinjani to the roaring surf of the south coast.

Lombok is no overcrowded tourist trap, and it attracts a variety of visitors. Sleepy Senggigi on the west coast has show-stopping sunsets and a soporific charm; the three offshore Gili Islands – Air, Meno and Trawangan – run the gamut from Robinson Crusoe-style isolation to pulsing party scene; and the wild surfers’ shore around Kuta has low-key hang-outs and hidden corners.

You’ll find no shortage of luxury in Lombok either, with sumptuous resorts, boutique hideaways and some high-quality dining. But 'the real Indonesia' is only ever a stone’s throw away; with minimal effort you can be far from the beaten track, chatting on a bamboo veranda with local Sasaks in some remote upland community, or hunting out spicy street food in the markets of Mataram.

Lombok has long laboured in the shadow of its fabled western neighbour, tagged as 'a less touristy version of Bali' in brochures and guidebooks. But this is a place that deserves a spot on your travel wish-list in its own right, whatever style of island adventure you’re looking for.

 

When to go

Lombok is drier than many western parts of Indonesia, but it still gets its fair share of rain during the wet season, from November to April. Trekking on Rinjani is not an option at this time, the diving is not at its best, and there is little surf on the south coast. But if you're not coming for sports it can still be a good time to visit - it rarely rains all day.

Visa requirements

Singaporeans and citizens of other ASEAN member states can visit Indonesia for 30 days without a visa. Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months and that you have a return or onward ticket. Visitors from many other countries can get a 30-day visa on arrival at Lombok International Airport for US$25.

Money

Indonesian rupiah. There are ATMs and currency exchange counters at the airport. You'll find ATMs in Mataram, Senggigi and on Gili Trawangan. There are money changers on the other Gilis and at Kuta, but their exchange rates are not the best.

Transport

There are metered taxis at the airport to take you to any corner of Lombok. There are also regular air-conditioned buses operated by DAMRI from the terminal to Mataram and Senggigi. Metered taxis, operated by Bluebird and Express Taksi, are easy to find in Mataram and around Senggigi; elsewhere you'll probably have to resort to public minibuses or ojek (motorbike taxi). Rattletrap local buses and minibuses traverse most of Lombok's roads - they are hot and crowded, but good fun. Many travellers hire motorbikes to explore the island, and rentals can be arranged in Kuta or Senggigi. Lombok's roads are much quieter than those on Bali, but riding a motorbike is still potentially dangerous.

Health and safety tips

Lombok is generally a safe and friendly place. However, this is one of the poorest parts of Indonesia, and the benefits of tourism have been patchy, so there has been some petty crime targeting tourists over the years, mainly around Kuta. Take care of your valuables and be careful about where you park rented cars and motorbikes in this area. There is a potential risk of both malaria and dengue fever in Lombok.

Emergency details

The nearest Singapore consulate is in Jakarta (tel: (62)21 2995 0400).

Senggigi has its own tourist police with a station on Jl. Raya Senggigi (tel: (62) 370 632 733). The main police station for the rest of Lombok is at Jl. Gajah Mada No. 7, Mataram. In an emergency call 110.

Basic greetings
English Indonesian
Hello Halo!
How are you? Apa kabar?
Fine, thanks Baik, terima kasih
Goodbye Selamat tinggal
Excuse-me! (to get attention) Permisi!
Thank you Terima kasih
Yes Ya
No Tidak
OK OK
What's your name? Siapa nama anda?
My name is… Nama saya…
Nice to know you Senang berkenalan dengan anda
Are you on Facebook/Twitter? Anda ada di Facebook/Twitter?
Where’s an internet café? Warnet [warung internet] di mana?
Where can I get a taxi? Di mana saya bisa mendapatkan taksi?
Where is the bus/train station? Stasiun bis/kereta di mana?
A one-way/return ticket to… Tiket sekali jalan/pulang-pergi ke…
Do you have a room for one/two? Ada kamar untuk satu/dua orang?
When's check out? Kapan waktu check-out?
Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar? Bisakah anda menyarankan restoran/bar yang bagus?
A table for two, please Tolong meja untuk dua orang
A menu, please Tolong minta menunya
The bill, please Tolong minta bonnya
Where's the toilet? Kamar kecil di mana?
Help! Tolong!

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Gili Trawangan

The hippest dot of land between Bali and Australia, Gili Trawangan has legendary status on the travellers’ circuit. The westernmost of the three islets off the northern tip of Lombok, it is ringed by blinding white beaches and shallow coral seas. Originally a hideaway for itinerant backpackers looking for low-key hedonism, today it still hosts a thriving party scene and myriad cheap lodgings. But Gili Trawangan has grown up, and there are also top-notch eateries, boutique villas and a sophisticated diving scene. And despite its tiny size, the island still has plenty of quiet corners for wannabe castaways.

Pura Lingsar

Lingsar, Kec. Narmada, Lombok Barat

The Pura Lingsar temple complex in the farmland east of Mataram is the place to get an insight into Lombok’s unique cultural blend – the place is sacred to both the Hindu Balinese community, and to traditionalist Muslim Sasaks. It was built 300 years ago by the Balinese king who was then overlord of the island. The Hindu shrine looks towards Rinjani as its place of orientation, while the Sasak courtyard encloses a sacred pool. There are a few trinket sellers in the outer courtyard, but the place is usually very quiet on weekdays.

Kuta

On a perfect horseshoe bay, Lombok’s own Kuta Beach is a world away from its Bali namesake. This is the island’s skeleton coast, a wild littoral facing the Indian Ocean, with high palm-cloaked headlands sheltering strips of untrammelled sand. For years the only outsiders to come here were intrepid surfers, and the waves still draw a steady stream of devotees each dry season. Since the opening of Lombok’s new airport the pace has picked up a little, and there are now some excellent upmarket hotels and boutique guesthouses, but there’s still a wonderful frontier feel to the place.

Tetebatu

Perched on the southern slopes of Gunung Rinjani, the beautiful area of Tetebatu is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the simple pleasures of rural Lombok. There are several low-key guesthouses scattered around the rice fields, and endless opportunities for walks along the meandering field boundaries. The nearby Taman Wisata Tetebatu is a stretch of protected forest, home to macaques and a few shy ebony leaf monkeys. There’s also a beautiful waterfall, Air Terjun Jukut. Above all, the little hamlets that stud the hillsides are perfect places to get a glimpse of the traditional Sasak way of life.

Gili Meno

The quietest of the Gili triumvirate, tiny Meno is an oval of low land floating in the warm waters of the Bali Sea. While just across the water the hipsters of Gili Trawangan are cutting loose to tropical beats, here there’s little to do but laze under the palms and casuarinas, kick back on the clean white sands, or stroll the network of sandy lanes inland where a small community of Bugis settlers still farms coconuts.

Gunung Rinjani

Rising 3,726 metres (12,224ft) over the rice fields, Gunung Rinjani dominates Lombok. The mountain is Indonesia’s second-highest volcanic peak, and one of its most prized trekking destinations. The route to the top is no stroll in the park, and most visitors take three days to tackle the trek. Along the way you get to explore deep forests, rolling grasslands, hot springs and the cool clear waters of the Segara Anak crater lake. But the real high point – literally – is seeing the sun rise from the summit, with a view stretching from Bali to Sumbawa.

Shop

Asmara Collection

Jl. Raya Senggigi, Senggigi

Attached to a fine restaurant of the same name, the art shop Asmara Collection houses a more discerning collection of local arts and crafts than most of the nearby competitors. There are fine batiks from the remote islands of Nusa Tenggara, exquisite woodwork and rattan items from the craft villages of Lombok itself, and teak furnishings from Bali and Java. Prices are higher than in some other boutiques nearby, but the quality is excellent.

Budget $$$

Labuapi Craft Village

Labuapi, Mataram, Lombok Barat

Around 10km (6.2 miles) south of Mataram is Labuapi Craft Village, famed for its traditional woodwork. Several hundred villagers are employed in the dozens of workshops here, producing fine carvings and furnishings for sale across Indonesia and beyond. Most of the workshops have their own small showrooms where you can bargain for beautiful inlaid boxes, quirky carvings, and the classic long-faced masks that turn up in boutiques and souvenir shops across the region.

Budget $$

Mataram Mall

Jl. Pejanggik, Cakranegara, Mataram

Lombok has largely escaped Indonesia’s national addiction to upmarket shopping malls, but Mataram does have a few modest multi-storey emporiums, with Mataram Mall foremost among them. It includes a large department store, a good range of clothing and technology outlets, and some decent mid-range restaurants. It’s the place to head at the weekends if you want to rub shoulders with the city's middle-class youth.

Budget $$

Nur Hikmah Pearls

Jl. Nurhaksa No. 10, Karang Anyar Taman PLTD, Mataram

Lombok has a reputation for fine pearls and the showroom of local company Nur Hikmah Pearls in Mataram is an excellent place to find strings, rings and unique made-to-order pieces using natural pearls from the surrounding seas. Lombok has pearl farms tucked into quiet inlets around its coast, and a number of foreign jewellers source their pearls here and on neighbouring Sumbawa.

Budget $$

Pasar Cakranegara

Jl. Selaparang, Cakranegara, Mataram

Part traditional market, part budget souvenir centre, Pasar Cakranegara is a sprawling complex in the heart of Mataram, and a great place for a wander. You’ll find cut-price handicrafts and cheap trinkets, as well as local specialities of better quality such as traditional ikat cloth and wood carvings. This is also a good place to hunt out local snack foods.

Budget $

Pasar Seni Sayang-Sayang

Jl. Jendral Sudirman, Sayang-Sayang, Mataram

Pasar Seni Sayang-Sayang is a complex of stores selling arts and crafts from workshops in the surrounding hamlets, as well as from further afield in Lombok. Situated north of Mataram, it is a great place to hunt out traditional souvenirs. Wood carvings and small pieces of furniture are the major speciality, but you’ll also find fine local pottery and good quality hand-woven ikat cloth – the trademark fabric of eastern Indonesia.

Budget $

Dine

Blu d'aMare

Gili Trawangan

Rustic Indonesian meets rustic Italian in Blu d'aMare, a charming little beachfront café on Gili Trawangan. There’s authentic homemade pasta, home-baked bread with excellent olive oil, and some super-fresh seafood. The small dining area is open-sided to catch the sea breezes, and the service is friendly. There are also some pleasant bungalows to stay in behind the restaurant.

Budget $$

Ko-Ko-Mo

Gili Trawangan

Inside the resort of the same name, the sleek Ko-Ko-Mo restaurant does upmarket dining while still maintaining something of Gili Trawangan’s tropical castaway atmosphere. There are plenty of prettily presented fish dishes, including fine seafood antipasto and sashimi, and some excellent imported Australian beef and lamb on the main course menu. Deserts are tasty too, with crème brûlée, panna cotta and other classics to choose from.

Budget $$$

Square

Senggigi Square, Senggigi

A sleek and sophisticated spot on the brink of the wild spaces of Nusa Tenggara, Square in central Senggigi is one of the best places to eat in Lombok. The menu features a range of professionally executed Modern European dishes, with occasional Asian accents, as well as some stand-alone Chinese and Indonesian options. There’s excellent imported meat, including foie gras and Australian steak, and some rich, chocolatey dessert options. The decor is modern and understated, the service is smooth and there’s a decent wine list.

Budget $$$

Taliwang Irama

Jl. Ade Irma Suryani No. 10, Cakranegara, Mataram

The best known dish from this part of Indonesia is Chicken Taliwang, and Taliwang Irama in central Mataram is a fine place to sample it. A spring chicken is grilled on the bone with a fiery marinade of chilli, coconut, shrimp paste and secret spices and served with fresh greens. There are plenty of places serving the dish in this part of town, but this is one of the best; they also serve excellent grilled fish and good vegetable side dishes. It’s a short taxi or public minibus ride from Senggigi.

Budget $

Warung Bule

Kuta

Warung Bule means 'Westerners’ Café' and this little place on Kuta's main drag looks like any other basic backpackers’ eatery, with bamboo furniture and a basic menu. But the quality of the food sets it apart, for the kitchen is run by a former five-star hotel chef who serves a mix of European and Asian fare with considerable finesse. There are good versions of Indonesian classics, fresh seafood, and excellent tom yam soup, and the atmosphere is relaxed.

Budget $$

Warung Paradiso

Jl. Raya Mangsit, Senggigi

On the beach at Mangsit, a little way north from the main Senggigi strip, the cute little café Warung Paradiso has candlelit tables on the beach and well-cooked seafood. The atmosphere is casual and laid-back but the food is a cut above the standard no-frills backpacker fare, with good fish, rice and noodle dishes, and some very cold beers.

Budget $

Stay

Desa Dunia Beda

Gili Trawangan

Standing aloof from the east coast party scene, the secluded little eco-resort Desa Dunia Beda stands in glorious isolation at the northern tip of Gili Trawangan, with its own stretch of blinding white sand sloping down to the clear waters of the Bali Sea. The rooms come in the form of traditional joglo bungalows, with towering tiled roofs, and inside there is plenty of natural woodwork and fabric. It’s a peaceful spot, but the busier parts of the island are just a gentle bicycle ride away.

Budget $$

Qunci Villas

Jl. Raya Mangsit, Senggigi

Just over the headland which separates the main Senggigi strip from the next bay at Mangsit is Qunci Villas, one of the finest hotels on the west coast. The cheaper rooms come in the form of pretty little bungalows set in a verdant garden, with open-air bathrooms and shady verandas. The more expensive rooms come with their own small swimming pool, while the luxury villas are sleek and stylish with epic ocean views. There are in-house restaurants and a spa, and the whole place opens straight on to the beach.

Budget $$$

Raja's Bungalows

Gg. Arjuna, Jl. Raya Senggigi, Senggigi

And old favourite in the sleepy heart of Senggigi, Raja's Bungalows has been welcoming budget travellers for years. The bungalows are simple but well-maintained with comfy beds, mosquito nets and tiled, open-air bathrooms. The staff are exceptionally friendly and there are some lovely seating areas in the garden for relaxing on a sultry afternoon.

Budget $

The Oberoi Lombok

Medana beach, Tanjung

On a secluded promontory at the northwest tip of Lombok, looking out towards the Gili Islands, The Oberoi ranks among the best luxury resorts in Asia for location, service and accommodation. There are pavilion rooms and individual villas with their own pools and ocean views. The style here is not the stark modernism of many upmarket villas in the region; instead there are elegant teak furnishings, local artworks and fabrics, and traditional carpets. There are spectacular sunset views, Gunung Rinjani rises inland, and on a clear day you can see the mountains of Bali.

Budget $$$

Villa Casa Mio

Gili Air

On quiet Gili Air, the rustic resort of Villa Casa Mio is full of quirky colour. The accommodation is in thatched bungalows, built in the style of traditional Sasak rice-barns but spiced up with splashes of decorative paintwork, with coloured tiling and bohemian artwork. The open-air bathrooms are like little gardens in their own right, and there are fine views from the beachfront dining area.

Budget $$

Yuli's Homestay

Kuta

A stand-out spot amongst the many guesthouses in Kuta, Yuli's Homestay is a family-run place. Pretty little bungalows sit in a tidy garden with a pair of small swimming pools. The rooms are simple but spotless, with air-conditioning and plenty of natural light. Generous breakfasts are included in the price, and there’s a kitchen in case you want to rustle up something for yourself.

Budget $

Bau Nyale

February/March

Traditional festival held at Kuta a week after the second full moon of the year, when thousands of edible sea worms emerge from the deep to spawn and are washed into the shallows. For local Sasaks the volume of worms indicates the prospects for the year’s harvests. The event is marked by parades, dances, contests and music.


Independence Day

17 August

A nationwide celebration of Indonesia’s declaration of independence, with marches, sporting contests, music and red-and-white flags flying everywhere.


Mulang Pekelem

November

At the start of the rainy season local Hindus trek from the village of Senaru to the great Segara Anak crater lake of Gunung Rinjani, where they throw elaborate offerings into the waters.


Nyepi

March

Lombok’s large Balinese Hindu population marks its New Year with a day of silence. Unlike in Bali much of Lombok stays open for business during Nyepi, but you can watch spectacular parades of ogoh-ogoh – giant effigies – paraded through Mataram the night before the festival.


Perang Topat

December

Held in mid-December at the Pura Lingsar temple outside Mataram, this festival involves Lombok’s Muslim Sasak and Hindu Balinese populations hurling rice cakes at each other in a good-natured battle designed to give thanks for the harvest.


Senggigi Festival

July

Held over four days, this festival brings all kinds of entertainment to Lombok’s main resort, with parades of local Sasaks in traditional dress, music and dance performances, and a chance to watch Lombok’s stick fighting contests.


Adventure

From mountain heights to ocean depths, Lombok is brimming with adventure. You can head out to explore the back roads by motorbike, snorkel over sharp coral or surf surging reef-breaks. The biggest adventure of all, however, comes in the form of the mighty volcanic peak that dominates the island, so head for high altitude for your first step into the wild. Set out for Gunung Rinjani from the trailhead village of Sembalun Lawang, then tackle the gruelling ascent to the summit the following morning. Start from the high campsite at 2am to make it across the final scree slope in time for dawn.

Once you’ve traversed the crater rim and descended into the forest at Senaru you’ll probably be in need of some R&R;, so head back to sea level and the clear waters of the Gili Islands. There are great underwater adventures here, with a good chance of sighting sharks and turtles. If you want to get truly off the beaten diving track, however, head for Lombok’s remote Southwest Peninsula, where a handful of secluded resorts give access to pristine reefs.

There are thrills and spills on the ocean surface around Kuta – one of Indonesia’s prized surfing venues. This is not the spot for absolute beginners, and the heavy waves at Mawi, Ekas and Tanjung A’an are for experienced surfers only. But the friendly A-frame at Grupuk is a great place for intermediate wave-riders, and the relaxed vibe of the area keeps many surfers coming back year after year.

 

Places to visit:
Gunung Rinjani, Gili Islands, Southwest Peninsula, Kuta.

Culture

The rice fields of Lombok form the backdrop for a rich and varied culture. Three distinct threads are interwoven: the Hinduism of the island’s one-time Balinese overlords, the orthodox Islam of the Sasak majority and the indigenous beliefs that endure in remote mountain villages.

Start your cultural odyssey in Mataram, at the Museum Negeri Nusa Tenggara Barat. The airy halls house relics from Lombok and neighbouring Sumbawa. Once you’ve explored the museum swing by Pura Meru in the east of town, one of Lombok’s most important Hindu temples with a towering nine-tier central shrine. After that it’s time to hit the road, tracing a route through Senggigi and into wilder northern Lombok.

The little village of Bayan, nestled under the slopes of Rinjani, is the centre of Lombok’s ancient Wetu Telu belief system, a syncretism of Islam and older cultural threads. The Mesjid Bayan Beleq here is Lombok’s oldest mosque, though it bears little resemblance to an orthodox house of worship. If you ask around, villagers may take you to other mysterious shrines in the surrounding jungle, places with no perceptible link to Islam whatsoever.

From Bayan trace the beautiful mountain road through the Sembalun Valley, then drop back down towards the plains of central Lombok. If you’re visiting in August stop off in Kotaraja to watch traditional stick-fighting contests; otherwise head west to the beautiful Suranadi Temple, a major focus for local Hindus. End your journey in the quiet courtyards of Pura Lingsar, a temple sacred to both Balinese Hindus and Wetu Telu Sasaks.

 

 

Places to visit:
Museum Negeri Nusa Tenggara Barat, Pura Meru, Bayan, Suranadi Temple, Pura Lingsar.

Foodie

Lombok means 'chilli' and the island’s cuisine lives up to its fiery name. Adventurous foodies will find great street food along the lanes of the regional capital, some sophisticated international cuisine in the resorts, and fantastically fresh seafood at every turn.

Begin your culinary wanderings with some authentic local flavour in Mataram. Chicken Taliwang is Lombok’s signature dish. There are dozens of roadside stalls selling it in the Cakranegara area of town, but head for Taliwang Irama on Jl. Ade Irma Suryani if you want to eat in a more sophisticated setting. Chicken Taliwang is often served with plecing kangkung – blanched water spinach served with a spicy tomato paste and beansprouts. The best place to try it is RM Dua EM (on Jl. Transmigrasi). All over town you’ll also find roadside stalls serving sate bulayak, marinated beef cooked on skewers over charcoal and served with lontong, steamed rice cakes cooked in banana leaves.

Once you’ve had your fill of traditional cuisine head north to Senggigi for more sophisticated dining. Alongside the numerous cafes serving banana pancakes and other backpacker favourites are the good upmarket eateries of Try Square or De Quake, serving quality international cuisine.

Finally, cross the sea to Gili Trawangan for the best in beachfront dining. There are plenty of cuisines on offer here, but if you’re eating this close to the water’s edge then fish is the only way to go. You’ll find the catch of the day laid out on ice at eateries along the main drag.

 

 

Places to visit:
Mataram, Senggigi, Gili Trawangan.