Raw natural magnetism, historic sites and amazing beaches: Lombok is ready to steal the spotlight as Indonesia’s next island darling.
Previously recognised simply as Bali’s sister island, Lombok is now a full-grown destination with its own set of discernable charms. Each year, more people are skipping Bali for Lombok’s pristine, unspoiled nature. Some say Lombok’s exotic beaches remind them of what Bali looked like decades ago – and that doesn’t include the island’s hidden, untouched spots still waiting to be discovered. Make sure you read Culture Trip’s ultimate travel guide to Lombok before you book your flights.
An introduction to Lombok
Lombok is sandwiched between the world-famous island of Bali and the remote, uncharted Sumbawa Island of West Nusa Tenggara. Despite rising popularity and growing development, there is still much to discover in this island beyond the now mainstream spots.
Unlike the Hindu-majority Bali, the residents of Lombok are predominantly Muslim. That religious background impacts the island’s landmarks and culture, making Lombok more than just ‘another Bali’. Before the independence of Indonesia, Lombok was mainly ruled by chiefs of the indigenous Sasak tribe, which still dominates the local population at about 85%.
Many local people in Lombok make concentrated efforts to uphold their traditions, with strong adherence to cultural rituals. Other communities practice a unique, fascinating mix of Islam and animistic beliefs.
How to get there
Most Lombok travellers hail from Bali, which welcomes more international flights than virtually anywhere else in the country. From there, you can either board a connecting flight to Lombok International Airport (starting from $25 USD in low season) or head to Padangbai port for a cheaper public ferry (less than $4 USD per person any time). It takes about 30 minutes to reach Kuta beach in Lombok from the airport and one hour to Senggigi beach. Meanwhile, the Lembar port in Lombok is approximately an hour away from both points.
Public transportation only operates in bigger towns in Lombok, like Mataram. Beyond that, renting a car or motorbike is pretty much your only option, especially if your itinerary involves exploring.
An intricate scheme of switching buses and minivans may get you from the airport to the island’s main destinations and ports, but it’s not the most time-effective method of getting around. Also, some of the transportation is sparsely run, operating only at certain times that make them unreliable. Check with your accommodation to see if they can arrange airport transfers, which will make everything a whole lot easier. While visiting the island, either rent your own vehicle or sign up for organised tours.
What to pack
Expect tropical weather at most times – even in monsoon season Lombok has less chance of rain than Bali. That means light breathable clothes, sunscreen, sunglasses, sun hat, or anything else that will protect you from the sun’s glare. Swimwear and flip-flops for the beach but maxi-coverage clothes for the towns, as Lombok is a Muslim-majority region.
A sarong can be used in more ways than one, so buying one at a local market is always a good investment. You can use the sarong for sunbathing and to cover up when needed, and it makes an excellent souvenir too.
Always have a decent amount of cash with you. Credit cards will only go as far as the most modern establishments, and trust us when we say you’ll want to try that satay from the street food stall.
Take care of your own personal necessities, such as medicines and tampons. Once you venture off outside the main towns, it will be much harder to find these items.
Lombok has a wide diversity of landscapes. It has some of the most exotic beaches, picturesque hills, and Mount Rinjani – Indonesia’s second-highest volcano. Make sure you plan ahead in order to pack accordingly. If you’re up for hiking to the top of Rinjani, prepare your gear and logistics for a three to four day hike.
Where to go
Not to be confused with the excessively crowded Kuta in Bali, this area on the southern coast of Lombok is an idyllic getaway with beautiful views and peaceful atmosphere. The place has become significantly more crowded in recent years, with new hotels and establishments built along the shoreline. Recent developments bring you a great selection of modern accommodations and restaurants, without forgoing the laid-back island vibe (just yet).
Kuta also serves as an ideal hub for some beach-hopping along the southern coast, which is home to some of the most scenic beaches on the island. Tanjung Aan and Batu Payung beaches are both less than 30 minutes away from Kuta.
Senggigi is not like the rest of the island. As Lombok’s earliest tourist hub, this area is relatively well-developed compared to the rest of the island, dotted with great hotels and bars packed with mostly foreign tourists. It’s not hard for European travellers to get a familiar, authentic dinner in one of the restaurants. The coastal area is also home to some beautiful beaches to kick back and watch the sunset.
The second-highest volcano in Indonesia is certainly a daunting one to conquer, but the journey rewards you generously. The view along the hike is unparalleled and the mountaintop Segara Anak lake alone is worth the three days toil. If you’d rather save that kind of adventure for another day, the national park area just at the base of the mountain has beautifully picturesque hills and majestic waterfalls that make for an excellent day trip.
The three sister islands just off the coast of Lombok are probably much more popular than the mainland. For decades, the Gili Islands have become a renowned destination for partying, diving, and everything you could want from an island getaway. Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are accessible via fast boat from Teluk Kodek or public traditional boat from Bangsal.
The renowned ‘turtle capital of the world’ offers a myriad of things to see and do, and there’s something for everyone. Daredevils can try extreme watersports at Gili Air, while zen-seekers may opt for a serene morning doing aqua yoga. Enjoy beach side healthy bowls in the morning and party hard at night – a day in Gili Islands is more eventful than most.
Mataram is the capital city of West Nusa Tenggara and probably the single most lively urban area in Lombok. This is where you’ll find shopping malls, modern restaurants, and majestic houses of worships – including the glorious Pura Meru. Mataram has been a centre of civilisation since ancient empires ruled the land, leaving traces of history in the forms of buildings, landmarks and other historic sites.
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