Lombok is often referred to as the sister island of beautiful Bali. Although only a 30 minute flight from Bali, this larger Indonesian island is often overlooked. Yet there is plenty this bigger sister island has to offer for those willing to go off the beaten track.
Where is Lombok?
Lombok is located east of Bali and can be reached via boat or plane from Bali. Most people, particularly backpackers, are familiar with the Gili Islands which are in fact a part of Lombok island. So if you’ve been to the Gilis or you know where they are, keep heading east 20 mins on a boat and you’ll be at Lombok!
Why you should go there?
In all honesty, Lombok has everything (ish) that Bali has but with without being worn down by tourism. Despite being so close to neighbouring Bali, tourism has yet to take off at the same rate. The beauty is that the island complete with waterfalls, volcanoes and beaches are unspoiled by crowds. That’s right, there is no fighting others for an inch of room with your selfie stick. What this also means is that there is no traffic as well.
In addition to the above, Lombok offers a more tranquil, rugged look with more mountainous and arid terrain. It is a place tourists go to escape bustling Bali. It is a place to relax.
What’s there to see?
Lombok has some simply stunning beaches. As I mentioned before, one of the greatest appeals to the Lombok beaches is that they aren’t crowded. It is quite possible to have a beach all to yourself. Most of these beaches are located in the south of the island around Kuta (nothing like Bali’s Kuta). In addition to secluded beaches, visitors can also expect to find black sand beaches in Senggigi, white sand beaches (Selong Belanak and Tanjung Aan) in the south of the island and even a pink beach in the south east. Bali, on the hand, does not have any pink beaches.
Equally important to the beaches on mainland lombok are of course, the pristine beaches of the Gili islands. Located in the North West of Lombok, and in the South West in the region of Sekotong, the Gili islands are certainly one not to be missed.
There are many waterfalls to see in Lombok, mostly located in Rinjani National Park. All of these waterfalls can be accessed on your own but we took a guide to see two of them. Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep in the Rinjani National Park are about 2 hours away from Senggigi. The first of the two waterfalls can be heard within walking down the steps towards the falls. Within 15 mins you are standing in front of Sendang Gile. A further 45 min trek will take you to Tiu Kelep, which is slightly larger. To swim in either of these waterfalls you will need to bring your bathers. Be warned: it is refreshingly chilly. One of the most exhilarating natural experiences you will feel!
Have your bathers on underneath your clothes getting to the falls. There are no changing facilities at the foot of the falls. However, upon returning back to the entrance, you can change at the nearby restaurant.
Bring non-slippery shoes. It is slippery and you do occassionally have to wade through water over rocks (only ankle/knee deep).
If you want to swim in the falls, don’t think about how cold it is. Take a deep breath and take the plunge! Overthinking it will result in missing out 😉
As with most of Indonesia, Lombok is largely Muslim. This means that rather than visiting Hindu temples typical of Bali island, colourful mosques are￼ the thing to see. Lombok is quickly gaining a reputation of being the island of 1000 mosques as they increase their tourism to appeal to Muslim tourists. The most striking of the vast collection is the Islamic Centre in Mataram. Other mosques visitors may want see are scattered across central Lombok (Great Mosque of Praya and Masjid Kopong) and Eastern Lombok (Masjid Al Akbar and Jamiq Mosque).
It is important to remember to dress modestly and respectfully when visiting religious sites.
Mount Rinjani is an active volcano located in the North of Lombok. It is the second largest volcano in Indonesia and part of the ring of fire. What’s more, within the caldera, there is a lake called Segara Anak. On the lake a smaller mountain has formed from recent eruptions. This gives the impression of a little volcano, sitting in a lake, within a bigger volcano which is kind of cool! It is possible to climb Mount Rinjani but it will take two days and one night at the very least. Sadly I was unaware of this when planning my trip and didn’t h ave enough time to make the climb. Although, my fitness level would hardly have been adequate for me to make the climb! In addition, the park was actually closed until just a day or two prior to our arrival. This was due to a recent eruption.
For those that do want to make the climb, there are a few options. Visit the national park’s website for more details. Entrance to the park costs 150,000 IDR per person.
The Sasak people make up 85% of Lombok’s population. They predominantly follow the Islamic faith, while some practice the pre-Islamic religion originally found on the island. The followers of Wetu Telu, pray three times a day to honour the three human rites of birth, marriage and religion. However, the majority of the Sasak people follow Wetu Lima or the ‘five times’ religion, in line with Sunni muslims.
There are a few traditional Sasak villages around the foot of Mount Rinjani. Many of the villagers are farmers or fishermen. Similar to neighbouring Bali, Sasak festivals and ceremonies are a mix of modern day (Islam) and old religion (featuring animism and hinduism). If you are lucky you may witness a festival or ceremony as you pass by. We spotted a Sasak wedding on our Sunday drive around the island.
How to get there:
It is possible to fly into Lombok at Bandar Udara International airport in the south of the island, from major international cities.
In addition, you can also arrive via boat into Sengiggi harbour or Bangsal harbour. However, I highly recommend avoiding Bangsal harbour at all costs. The harbour is run by pirate taxis who prevent hotels from sending their taxis to pick you up. Consequently, they will charge you an extortionate amount to get you out of the harbour area. Be prepared to haggle if you do end up in Bangsal.
We stayed in popular Sengiggi at the Alam Mimpi boutique hotel. There are plenty of hotels to choose from on the beach and in the hills.
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