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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|How are you?||Apa kabar?|
|Fine, thanks||Baik, terima kasih|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Permisi!|
|Thank you||Terima kasih|
|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?|
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gunung Rinjani, Gili Islands, Southwest Peninsula, Kuta.
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.
Museum Negeri Nusa Tenggara Barat, Pura Meru, Bayan, Suranadi Temple, Pura Lingsar.
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.
Mataram, Senggigi, Gili Trawangan.