Living in the shadows of its tourist-infested neighbour, Lombok has remained an underrated paradise. The little Indonesian island has everything you’d expect from a tropical paradise without any of the negatives brought on by the toxic hordes of convenience-demanding tourists. With just a dash of civilization and a generous amount of undisturbed natural beauty, there are plenty of highlights hidden amongst the landscapes of Lombok.
This little island packs a big punch! Though you could spend many weeks exploring the countless number of things to see, for those on a time limit, here are the top 15 highlights on Lombok.
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Placed precariously along the ring of fire, Indonesia has many incredible volcanoes! The Balinese believe there are three sacred mountains; Bali’s Agung, Java’s Bromo, and the most beautiful of them all, Mount Rinjani on Lombok.
Indonesia’s second-tallest mountain is sacred to both Hindus and Sasaks who regularly leave offerings to the gods at the Rinjani’s crater. There’s no wonder why, as Rinjani is vital to the well-being of the island! Its peaks attract steady streams of rain clouds, and its ash emissions fertilise the island’s crops.
Inside Rinjani’s enormous crater is the stunning, 6km-wide, turquoise lake Danau Segara Anak (Child of the Sea). In the middle is the mountain’s newest cone which only formed a few hundred years ago, it’s a volcano INSIDE a volcano!! Oh, and it’s still active! It’s been coughing out smoke constantly for the last 10 years as an eerie reminder of its devastating potential.
Most treks last a few days and involve camping along the crater’s edge. The trails to the 3726 meter-high peak are tough and have tricky landscapes to tackle. You must travel with a guide and can only visit (legally) between April-January. Either way, plenty of guides will still take you, but you might have to sneak past some policemen waiting at the trail’s entrance.
Tiu Kelep & Sendang Gile
Every tropical paradise needs a stunning waterfall, luckily Lombok has plenty! Two of the best are hidden in the thick rainforest at the base of Mount Rinjani; Tiu Kelep and Sendang Gile. The latter is a steady stream which freefalls down before crashing to the ground to a fine mist.
Tiu Kelep, one of the biggest highlights in Lombok, is a further 45 minutes away. The trail leads through an emerald maze filled with knee-high rivers and uneven boulders with the soundtrack of long-tailed macaques cheering you towards the big pay-off at the end!
The thunderous falls can be heard way before its seen! At the end of the trail is the monstrous 45-meter-high stream which crashes into the enticing pool below. After such a strenuous trek, why not cool yourself off and have a swim? You won’t regret it! It’s also the perfect time for a shampoo advert photo-op!
Nestled amongst rice paddies east of Mataram is Pura Lingsar, one of Lombok ‘s biggest highlights. Though the island is mostly Islamic (like the rest of the country), the complex has a temple for both Balinese Hindus (Pura Gaduh) and one for Lombok’s unique take on the Islamic faith (Wektu Telu).
Wektu Telu temple has the star attraction; a lily-covered pond dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Within the murky waters are eels which are thought to be holy. It’s actually lucky to feed them, which can be done with hard-boiled eggs that are sold nearby.
Pura Gaduh has a slightly more humble collection of shrines. Two of which are for the volcanoes on Bali (Gunung Agung) and Lombok (Gunung Rinjani), thought of as the seats of the Gods of the islands. Another shrine is for the union between Bali and Lombok.
Just off the western coast of Lombok is a set of islands which have become highlights in their own right, the Gili islands. The most famous of which is Gili Trawangan, a place of complete opposites.
The island’s east side is the most developed and the party-goers favourite with plenty of restaurants, bars and small hotels. It’s also the best spot to try some snorkelling, scuba diving and even kayaking. The west side, on the other hand, is relatively quiet with a few luxury resorts spread across pristine beachfront, great for families or a romantic getaway.
For the most part, Gili T is a party island which does have a dark side. Indonesia is a highly religious country, one which executes serious drug criminals. Gili T on the other hand is seen as the grey area, kind of their equivalent to Amsterdam. Drugs are by no means legal, but the law isn’t heavily enforced. Magic mushrooms are advertised openly on the streets and dealers wait on the edge of streets for your custom. Whether that’s a pro or con is up to you.
If you prefer a more relaxed pace, then Gili Meno is the island for you. This is the smallest and by far the quietest of the three, becoming the most popular amongst lovebirds. Encircled by immaculate white beaches and some of the most abundant reefs in the country, Gili Meno is the perfect venue for your very own tropical getaway.
Just like Goldilocks, the last one was just right. Gili Air has that deserted island vibe while still having just a dash of Gili T’s hustle and bustle. The white-sand beaches surrounding the island are lined with bamboo bungalows on the edge of turquoise seas filled with turtles and all manner of aquatic life. The island offers some of the best snorkelling opportunities in the whole country!
Air Kalak Hot Springs
A bit of a cheat here as its found next to Mount Rinjani’s crater, but it deserves its own mention! About 200 meters away from the main campsite are the Air Kalak Hot Springs, the perfect way to end an exhausting hike!
The toasty waters are said to have medicinal properties due to the high amount of volcanic minerals inside. Many locals come just to collect the water they believe can cure skin diseases. It’s the ideal way to soothe the aches and pains you’ll surly feel on the way up the mountain!
Benang Kelambu Waterfall
At 20 meters high Benang Kelambu Waterfall crashes to the pool below before flowing haphazardly out from the surrounding rainforest. Here you can also swim in the lower pool, and even get behind the curtain of water for a different perspective on the power of nature.
Every tropical paradise has to have pristine beaches! Even though it’s in the island’s “touristy” spot, Sengiggi Beach remains tastefully simple. Other than a few humble hotels and restaurants that line the coast, the quiet enclave remains peaceful and tranquil. During the dry season, the beach is brought to a whole new light as countless fishing boats line are moored along the beach.
Narmada Water Park (The Water Palace)
Pretty rare coming across a former palace turned into a local pool, but that’s what you’ll find at Narmada Water Park! It was built in 1727 under the guidance of King Anak Agung Ngurah and used as his elegant summer home. Ever since it has been an important religious and spiritual site for Hindus.
Not only is the park filled with lush gardens, architectural relics and, most notably, a few natural springs, it’s also been turned into a public swimming pool! At the bottom of the park, you’ll see local families frolicking amongst the ancient relics. Kinda surreal!
Selong Belanak Beach
The south of Lombok is an up-and-coming tourist hotspot, gaining a reputation as one of the island’s best highlights! Of the many beaches on offer, Selong Belanak Beach is one of the prettiest! The golden sands of the beach wrap around the uneven coastline in front of spectacular rolling mountain ranges.
There are also a couple of stalls nearby that offer simple rice and noodle dishes as well as the stereotypical fresh coconut for you to enjoy on your day at the beach.
This is possibly Lombok’s best-kept secret! This pleasant, little nature reserve is the perfect place to stroll through the island’s rainforest along rugged trails for a few hours.
Along the way, you’ll come across rare butterflies and howling black monkeys as you make your way to a pair of beautiful yet simple waterfalls known as The Princess Twin and Swallow Cave waterfalls. Though they might not be that impressive, it’s the exclusivity that makes them special.
Another Gili?! You better believe it, but not many people know about this one, hence its nickname of the “Secret Gili”. The laid back little island has remained free of the tourist hordes and has kept its authenticity. Locals say its some of the best snorkelling in Lombok! So if you want an even more exclusive desert-island experience, Gili Layar is the island for you.
Mangku Sakti Waterfall
Another waterfall?! Yes! And this one is amongst the most beautiful! Rather than being one big fall, Mangku Sakti is a series of turquoise cataracts that join together before pouring down into a scenic gorge. You’re also able to swim here, but you’ll need to be more careful. Getting there takes you through yet another wonderful trek through the island’s thick jungles along winding pathways.
Lombok has one of the most diverse mix of cultures anywhere in Indonesia. The island is still home to traditional indigenous villages which belong to the Sasak culture, who practice a pre-Islamic form of worship. Beleq Village is one of these villages which gives the best opportunity to learn more about the culture!
Dating back to the 14th century, Belaq village and has a wide range of traditional Sasak houses that aim towards educating visitors. Little has changed since it was first formed.
A Welsh university drop-out on a mission to travel the world for as little money as possible. My adventures have taken me through over 30 countries across Europe, Asia and Oceania, and the list keeps on growing! From classic backpacking to working and volunteering, I have found all sorts of ways to maintain a life on the road.