An island next to Bali, Lombok is what you’d imagine an unspoiled Bali to be before the tourism boom took over. In fact, with its unspoiled beaches and lush forests, Lombok is exactly what many tourists still mistakenly think Bali to be.
The tropical island, inhabited by the local Sasak people, has long been overshadowed by its neighbour. Although in recent years, there has been a steady hum that drifts into the ears of travellers seeking for untouched natural landscapes. With lesser urban developments, fewer large scale hotels and small peaceful villages, Lombok is definitely worth visiting, and sooner rather than later.
The best way to get to Lombok would be to take a flight from Bali which takes around 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can take a speedboat which can take around 2 hours from Bali’s Serangan and 1.5 hours from Padang Bai. And if you are on a budget, you can take the slow boat option which takes about 12 hours.
The best time to visit would be during its dry season between May to September. However, Lombok is a lot less humid and wet than Bali during its rainy season, which makes its wet season somewhat appealing as well.
There are many ways to get around Lombok, including taxis and horse-drawn carriages, however the most convenient way would be to rent and travel around with a scooter. Many hotels and guesthouses would be able to arrange for bike rentals at about 50,000 IDR per day. Wear helmets and be careful when driving around the island! Although main roads are well paved, Lombok has hilly terrains with winding roads. And on small roads, the roads are usually rough and unpaved.
Attractions in Lombok
Lombok is perhaps best known for its clear cerulean waters and untouched beaches, especially on the Southern Coast. Many of these beaches are just a short ride away from one another and you can easily spend a day beach-hopping between them. They are truly worth a visit, and we say sooner rather than later, as it’s only a matter of time before the resorts and big hotels turn these places into a tourist mill. In fact, there are already some initial construction work going on at some of the beaches. So go now, before they lose the untouched charm that they’re known for!
Not to be mistaken with Bali’s Kuta, Lombok’s own version of Kuta Beach has to be one the most popular amongst all its beaches. There’s a bit more people here as well as some construction works going on. There are also a lot of local touts that can be a bit pushy – women selling sarongs and t-shirts, and children selling string bracelets. In fact, we were approached so many times that it got a little annoying after awhile. Despite that, Kuta Beach is still worth checking out with about 7 km of coastline and surrounding hills that you can climb for a vantage view point.
Selong Belanak Beach
With soft white sand, crystal clear waters and rolling small waves, Selong Belanak is a great place to chill out, sunbathe and also learn surfing. But if surfing isn’t your thing, you can also take a dip and swim here. Although there are many fishing boats, they’re too far away to really cause a problem to swimmers. This spot is also a great place to watch the sun go down with a beer in hand, although it was a tad cloudy on the day that we were here. With the mountainscape in the distance, Selong Belanak truly makes for a beautiful destination.
Tanjung Aan Beach
Looking like a paradise out of the Caribbean, Tanjung Aan has a very expansive bay and you can surely find a remote spot for yourself. Like Kuta Beach, it has its fair share of local touts, but I suppose this is a part of life in Southeast Asia, and especially in Southern Lombok where tourism is still gaining traction. We heard from some locals that in the coming years part of Tanjung Aan will become a private beach for an integrated resort, so it’s all the more reason to visit right now.
Ayunan Mandalika Beach
Mandalika was named after a royal princess of the Sasak tribe, and we were pleasantly surprised when we stumbled upon this beach while on our way to Seger Beach. There was absolutely no one here, and we essentially had a private beach all to ourselves! With a swing erected in the water, it’s a beautiful place to get that wide angle Instagram shot that will bound to grab the attention of all your followers.
If you have some experience in surfing, you can catch some waves at Seger Beach when the conditions are right. And much like the other beaches on this list, Seger Beach is also terribly picturesque, and you can also climb up Seger Hill for a magnificent view of the cerulean waters and its surrounding greenery. You’ll find quite a number of people up here when it’s time for the sun to set!
Mawi has reef breaks and we saw some pretty big waves while we here. Other than its popularity as a surf spot, there are some stunning black cliffs that you can climb up for some great photos (just make sure to watch your footing). As compared to the other beaches, Mawi Beach is a bit harder to get to since it’s further away from the main road, and there’s almost no reception here so make sure to download offline maps when you have good cell reception.
With its magnificent beaches, many visitors to Lombok often overlook its waterfalls. Since many of the falls sit at the foot of Mount Rinjani, they might require a long ride to get to, especially if you’re staying at Kuta, Mataram or Senggigi. But you’ll pass through deserted fields, small villages (where the enthusiastic locals and children will often welcome you with a “hello!” as you pass by), plantations and plenty of greenery. Long story short – the journey will be well worth it.
Located in Aik Berik Village, it’s about a 10-minute downhill hike to get to Benang Stokel. The roads are paved, so you don’t really need a guide to get here. It’s name translates to a bundle of thread, and the water do actually look like threads as they make their cascade down! Coming from a river that’s upstream on Mount Rinjani, here you can swim and frolic in refreshingly cold pool.
About 1 km away from Benang Stokel, Benang Kelambu consists of two to three levels. “Kelambu” stands for curtain, named after the plants that frame the waterfall. You can trek here from Benang Stokel which takes about half an hour to 45 minutes, or hire an ojek (motorbike taxi) for 35,000 IDR and get there in less than 10 minutes. There is a man-made pool at Benang Kelambu where you can take a dip in, as well as a “curtain” of water that you can tuck yourself behind! Makes for a very Instagram-worthy photo.
Like many Indonesian waterfalls whose names are tied to local legends, Mayung Putek is no exception. It was said that long ago, a white stag was spotted bathing and drinking here, thus its name which translates to “white stag”. The water is also believed to have healing properties due to its sulfur content. To get to the waterfall, you will need to hike for about 30 minutes, crossing a river and passing through a hill. Going back out will be a bit more difficult, so take a break and soak in the water for some relief.
Not a fan of treks through the jungle? Tiu Teja has to be the friendliest falls to get to in Lombok, which makes it great for those who want to witness a waterfall without the tiring treks that come with it. And during a certain time of day, the sun hits in such a way that creates a rainbow at the bottom of the falls (trivia: Teja stands for “rainbow” in Sasak language!) If you want to catch the rainbow, time your visit to be in the early afternoon and hope for cloudless skies. And despite its easy access, Tiu Teja isn’t very popular amongst visitors, so there’s a good chance you might get this place all to yourself.
Lombok is home to Indonesia’s second tallest volcano and Mount Rinjani is definitely one of the highlights of the island. Standing at over 3,500 m tall, Mount Rinjani dominates Lombok’s landscape. Within its caldera there is a crater lake named Segara Anak and a natural hot spring. Come prepared if you want to conquer the hike, for it’s not meant for those without a certain level of physical fitness.
Few people actually make the very strenuous effort that is required to reach the actual summit of the volcano, but instead stop at the crater rim which offers a mindblowing view of the crater lake. Typically, the hike to the crater rim requires two days and one night on the mountain and the longer ascent to the summit involves three to four days and two to three nights on the mountain. For safety reasons, you can only to the hike with a certified guide. Come with sturdy shoes or hiking boots, head lamps and a windproof jacket to protect you from the cold. At over 2,000 m above sea level, you definitely won’t feel like you’re still on a tropical island.
Maybe you don’t feel physically fit enough for overnight hikes, or you might not have enough time, yet you still want to get up close to Mount Rinjani? You can do that at Bukit Pergasingan, which offers one of the most picturesque scenery on the whole island of Lombok. Here, you can catch a glimpse of the almighty volcano along with patches of rice paddy fields. No great views come without some effort on your part – you do have to hike upwards to an altitude of about 600 metres and the hike can take anywhere from three to four hours. And if you set up camp here, you can also catch the sunrise coming up behind Mount Rinjani!
No trip to Lombok is complete without a visit to a traditional Sasak village. Although some of these villages have turned into tourist traps since the locals have learnt that tourism can be a big source of income, these visits can still make for an interesting experience, as they offer a chance to catch a glimpse into the daily lives of the local inhabitants and learn about their cultural values.
Located in the Kuta area, Sade is the most visited village and you are usually met with a guide at the carpark area. Known for its handicrafts and traditional weaving processes, you’ll see many houses selling souvenirs of all kinds. The guide will take you through parts of its villages and you will get the chance to see the inside of traditional Sasak houses which are made out of clay and cow dung! (Surprisingly, there were no funky smells.) You can pay the guide any amount that you wish, and at the end of the tour you will be asked to make a donation to the village, although you are not obliged to do so.
In the south of Mataram, pottery is the specialty in Banyumelek Village. You’ll learn about the pottery-making process and see local Sasak women moulding a future pot skillfully with her muddy hands, as well as many other potteries in various stages of drying process. There are also rows of art shops with a variety of pottery for sale. You’ll find ashtrays, pots, trash bins, vases and many more. The prices can vary, depending on its size and the complexity of its making process.
Whichever way you choose to spend your time in Lombok, you will not be disappointed by this alluring island. Have you already been to Lombok? What were your favourite attractions? Share with us in the comments below!