The reasons to visit Lombok
Travellers sometimes ignore Lombok due to its proximity to its big, famous brother Bali. However, this is a pity as it is a treasure which is still less busy and less discovered by tourists. Therefore, the big advantage is the authenticity of the island. Furthermore, it is an allrounder in terms of the activities and sights available. There are beautiful beaches, volcanos to climb, waterfalls to discover, cultural sights to visit. Read more below in our guide to traveling in Lombok.
Things to know before traveling in Lombok
☆ When climbing the volcano Mount Rinjani (second highest volcano in Indonesia), do not forget warm clothes (including gloves & wool socks) as it is freezing up there, particularly at night.
☆ Be careful with the water and ice cubes that you consume as the “Bali belly”, a gastrointestinal disease, is quite commonly occurring among tourists. Stay safe, drink beer 🙂 Also, be careful in beach bars. There had been cases where bootleg liquor was sold in famous branded bottles or used in cocktails which cost the lives of people. Once again, stay safe and drink beer.
☆ Bluebird taxis are relatively inexpensive, and they normally use meters. You can use them for longer distances in case you do not want to rely on local buses.
☆ Lombok is mainly Muslim compared to Bali where Hinduism is dominant. Please make sure that you respect the Islamic rules
☆ Do not forget to take insect repellent. Depending on the time of the year, there might be mosquitos.
Surfing and beach life around Kuta and the west coast
We started our trip in Kuta which is in the south of Lombok. We fell so much in love with the place that we used our spare days at the end to spend more time in this town. Kuta is about a relaxed lifestyle where hippies and surfers alike get stuck and spend days, weeks or even months. It has very nice small restaurants and bars where the locals play life music on weekends to hang out and relax. When traveling in Lombok, you have to try as much Indonesian food as possible. The most lovely place to eat that we found in Kuta is called Kenza. It is a very stylish cafe/restaurant with amazing food located at one of the main intersections. For breakfast, we recommend one of their delicious, trendy Acai bowls as shown below. For lunch, they have very own delicious and healthy interpretations of Lombok food which is presented colourful and creative.
The highlight around is the beautiful little bays and beaches which can be reached by scooter. The beaches have crystal clear water, white sand and sometimes cool bamboo beach bars. Surfers will find a variety of beginner and advanced breaks. Kuta is a must when traveling in Lombok.
Top 3 beaches around Kuta
☆ Tanjung Aan: This beautiful beach has crystal clear water and a white sanded beach like on a postcard. You will find a mix of locals and tourists relaxing at some bamboo beach bars and in the water. Furthermore, there are some of the famous swings from Indonesia for beautiful holiday photos. Approximately 200m out in the bay, you will find a beginner surfing wave. It can be exhausting to paddle all the way out but there are some boats that offer to bring you there. It is very convenient from Kuta as it is only a 20 minutes drive by scooter.
☆ Selong Belanak: This beach is famous for its beginner waves close to the beach. In Kuta, many surf schools offer their service and bring you to Selong Belanak. We did a surf class there in order to fresh up our skills and it was amazing that each one of us basically had an own teacher. Apart from the surfing, it is a very beautiful bay with a nice wide beach perfect to chill and relax even without surfing. To get there it takes approximately 40 minutes with a scooter.
☆ Mawun: This jewel is a less crowded beach on the way to Selong Belanak. If you want tranquility and less beach vendors, then this is the beach for you. It is a beauty equally pretty as Tanjung Aan. It takes approximately 20 minutes to get there by scooter.
The coast along Senggigi
On the west coast of Lombok there is a long stretched coastline around Senggigi which can be explored on a scooter. It is located 20 min north form the capital Mataram. Senggigi was the traditional tourist destination in Lombok, however, it is now supplanted by the Gilis and Kuta. There are many beautiful cliff and beach restaurants to stop by and watch the sunset. Furthermore, there is a small Hindu temple 2km from Senggigi named Pura Batu Bolong (“rock with hole”) on the cliffs. It is worth a visit, especially during sunset. There are no tickets needed, you only have a to give a donation at the entrance.
The best accommodations, according to our experience, are on the mountains a few hundred meters away from the beach. There are mostly villas which have beautiful infinity pools with a view over the sea and the surrounding tropical forests. You will there find a quiet place to spend your holiday and you are flexible with a scooter, since Senggigi is not far away. From Senggigi there are many speedboats (scoot for example) which will take you to the Gili Islands. Prices are around $12-17 per person one way. The cheapest way, however, is to get to Bangsal and take a ferry at 8.15am or 4.30pm which costs around $2-3. Many buses go from Senggigi to Bangsal and you can ask for more information at any tourist stand in the city.
The waterfalls around the volcano
Although having a lot of coasts, the massive volcano plateau Mount Rinjani dominates the island. Nearby the city of Senaru, there are fairly well accessible waterfalls you can hike to in 30 minutes to 1 hour. Particularly, Tiu Kelep is a jewel surrounded by steep walls on three sides and thick jungle. It is one of the most beautiful waterfalls that we have ever seen. Out of 42 meters, a beautiful water fountain shoots down in perfect form. It gets quite busy after 11am, so make sure you get there aroun 8-9am. We spent more than 2 hours just staring at the beauty of this place. Furthermore, on your way to the majestic Tiu Kelep you will find a smaller waterfall called Sendang Gile. It is only 15 minutes from the entrance of the park. The water falls in two steps down and it is surrounded by thick greenery.
Senbalum is the starting point for most of the hikes to Mount Rinjani. In our opinion, it is worth to sleep there instead of Senaru as it is a nice small town within the mountains. Our highlight were some rice fields view points just outside of the city. You need to ask for Bukit Selong to find the place. Senbalum is not a tourist destination so rather keep a photo of this place to ask locals. Bukit Selong has several viewpoints with magnificent views over the rice fields, which create a colorful and unique patchwork. Particularly for sunrise or sunset, it is amazing to stay up there. Depending on your time you can additionally climb to higher viewpoints. To reach the star as shown below, you just need a 10 minutes easy climb from the entrance gate. There is a small fee of $2 to access the view points.
The volcano Mount Rinjani
A very spectacular activity to do when traveling in Lombok is to climb the volcano itself. Mount Rinjani is 3,726m high and the second biggest volcano in Indonesia. Please be aware that it is an intense physical challenge. However, it is a lifetime achievement to climb a volcano and worth seeing the sunrise from the top. The view includes the whole island, the volcano crater with the lake, Bali with its volcano as well as the Gili islands. The track is 36 kilometres long and you need to climb 3,000 meters in altitude in order to reach the top.
The exhausting last section of the climb is a bit frustrating. Parts of the path lead over volcano sand which let you slide down so you need a lot longer to climb a short distance. For the locals it is a once in a lifetime to-do to climb there, so you will see many of them. During July and August, up to 500 people climb the volcano at the same time. There are caravans moving up the mountain. We climbed the volcano in May and there were already many groups, but it was still alright.
Different alternatives to conquer Mount Rinjani
There are different hiking packages and most of them start Sembalu. The most intensive one is a 2 days 1 night climb. The first day you will start climbing at 8am. Usually everyone gets to the base camp (2,600m) by 3pm. At the base camp, the local carriers build up your tent in order to sleep a few hours before ascending the last part to the top. The carriers will also prepare all your meals and some warm tea. The last day, everyone wakes up at 2am in order to get to the top before sunrise. This last part is the most extreme, due to the wind, soil surface and altitude. For this trip, we paid $150 per person.
Other packages include 3 or 4 night stays at the crater lake and other sights. These tours are longer in overall distance, but the daily distances are shorter and therefore better to deal with.
Despite the intensity of the climb, you can do it without a guide, but you need to rent a tent as well as sleeping bag and bring your own food. Do not worry about the way. There are so many groups that you will always find the way. When doing the hike, you will discover that there is a lot of trash on the mountain. If you are able to, please take extra bags to carry some trash down and make sure your carriers do not throw yours into nature.
How to get there and around
Lombok has an international airport and airlines provide flights from various different countries. If you are coming from Bali or the Gili islands, there are several public ferries and fast boats available. Traveling in Lombok is relatively easy and inexpensive. There is the choice of taxis (e.g. Bluebird), fast boats, ferries or buses. Furthermore, you can always rent a scooter to be flexible in short distances and in order to explore the region you are staying at (rent is approximately $3-4 a day, depending on the area).
If you want to read about Lombok in a comprehensive Top Things To Do article then please click here