Lombok Island, a mere stone's throw from the idyllic beaches of Bali in Indonesia, is an alluring island destination for beachgoers and nature lovers alike. Over the past two decades, Bali has experienced a remarkable tourism boom that has brought tens of millions of visitors to its shores; yet comparatively, little attention was paid to Lombok until quite recently – if at all! So here is my mini travel guide to Lombok, an island you should visit.
With fewer developments, more tranquil villages and more compact resorts on offer, Lombok remains an absolute must-see destination. And while they may be relatively unexplored compared to other regions in Indonesia – let alone other islands within the archipelago – there are still ample opportunities for relaxation at the beaches. Add to that some of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever witnessed – which even rival those found across Bali!
Flying from Bali to Lombok is probably the quickest and cheapest means of getting to Lombok. The flight time is only 30 minutes and fares start from approximately $35 USD one way. Lombok is also well connected to Jakarta and some international destinations like Kuala Lumpur the hub of Air Asia and Singapore the hub of Scoot.
You can purchase tickets directly from the airline counters at the airports if you are a spur-of-the-moment traveller, or take a look online at Garuda Airlines, Lion Air, and Air Asia.
If you wish to take to the high seas and enjoy a slower boat trip to Lombok then you have the choice of the slow travelling public ferries or the fast boats.
The public ferries depart from Padang Bai Harbour (in Bali) every hour, arriving at Lembar Harbour (Lombok) approximately 4-5 hours later. The trip costs US$3 one way.
There are many companies now offering fast boat services from Bali to Lombok. BlueWater Express depart every day from Padang Bai Harbour and also from Serangan (Benoa Harbour). If you are returning to Bali your fare includes a complimentary hotel transfer. A one-way fare will cost on average US$32.
Gili Getaway also offers fast boats from Serangan Harbour (Bali) to Lombok. A one-way fare will set you back US$50 while a return will cost US$100.
Short Hikes to Beautiful Waterfalls
A short hike through Indonesia's beautiful jungle to untouched natural waterfalls and lagoons is a refreshing change from the standard Kuta beach party scene holiday (however, the latter is still awesome let's be honest).
The Sindang Gile waterfalls is located near Senaru village. It can be found at the foot of the beautiful Mount Rinjani. As you start your hike you will notice the air temperate drop and the peaceful surroundings will relax you. This short trek is approximately 10-20 minutes and is all downhill on the way to the waterfall. The track itself is clearly marked and well developed with paths, handrails and steps constructed.
The Tiu Kelep waterfall is another 40 or so minutes from Sindang Gile waterfall (which you will arrive at first). This trek requires crossing a few small rivers. Although the water is quite shallow the rocks are quite slippery making it quite the adrenaline-pumping experience.
Tiu Kelep waterfall is about 50 metres high and has beautiful pools you can swim in at the foot of the fall. Keep in mind the water is quite cold.
There is a small fee to enter the area, and you pay at the large gates at the start of the trek. It is also possible to get a guide for your trek, which is a good idea if you are unsure of your ability to cross a river.
If you are interested in getting an inclusive tour, from your hotel to both the nearby monkey forest (where you can feed the monkeys), Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep and to the traditional village of Senaru take a look at Lombok Outdoors. They have an 8-hour tour including hotel pick up, transport, guide and entrance fees covering these destinations from $65 USD (this price excludes lunch).
Climb Mount Rinjani
The majestic Mount Rinjani is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Lombok. The ascent all the way up to the summit at over 3700 meters can take between 2 and 3 days which includes the descent, and is depending on your fitness level.
Normally the schedule is as follows: on day 1 you climb to the crater lake and camp on the black sand beach. Rest here and sleep early so as to wake up at 1 AM to climb all the way to the summit to be there in time for the sunrise. After you descend the summit you can rest and sleep at the crater rim. On day 3 you do the final descent.
You will need to purchase a special permit in advance if you wish to climb the mountain. This permit costs US$10 and can be obtained from the police office in Mataram.
There are various tour operators that offer guided trips to the summit of Mount Rinjani. Prices start from US$50 per person.
If you want to climb Mount Rinjani without any help, there are also a few trails that lead up to the summit that are accessible without permits or guides.
Kuta (not to be confused with Kuta Beach on Bali – there is one on Lombok too!) is the main touristy area in the south of Lombok. The small touristy village is set up along the beach, with restaurants, hotels and hostels, bars, souvenir stalls and of course tour and dive booking offices.
The vibe here is surf – and the accommodation is overflowing with budget options. There are a few small more upmarket hotels, as well as one resort.
If you are looking for a surf destination a little more laid back and relaxed than Kuta Beach in Bali, then Kuta Beach is a great place to stay and the nearby beaches are a very good option for swimming and surfing.
Kuta Beach itself, for swimming, relaxing and photographs aren't the best compared to nearby beaches such as Selong Belanak Beach (one of my all-time favourite beaches ever) and Mawun Beach. Both of these are a very short drive from Kuta Beach.
Selong Belanak Beach
Selong Belanak Beach is such a beautiful beach for relaxing, swimming or learning to surf. The water is clear, warm and calm enough with children.
The bright greens and blues of the water, the clean, white and flat beach and the mountainous backdrop make for such a beautiful destination.
There are a handful of small beachside local restaurants set up, as well as a few bars, and umbrellas and beach chairs for hire.
Mawun Beach is also very close to Kuta Beach. The beach here is popular with surfers who commonly gather at the far corner of the bay area. The water here is deeper and the beach itself is rather steep. This beach is also smaller with fewer local snack stalls.
Senaru Traditional Village
Senaru Traditional Village is home to the Sasak people. You can walk through the village, visit inside traditionally built homes, and learn about the community of the Sasak people and the various uses of buildings in a village.
Senaru is also the main entrance (and most popular starting point) to the Gunung Rinjani National Park – Indonesia's second-highest peak. If you are also looking at doing a trek, the Rinjani Trek Centre is located next to the traditional village.
Sade Traditional Weaving Village
Just a one-hour drive from Mataram City, and a half-hour from Lombok Airport you can find Sade. A small hamlet in the village of Rembitan in Central Lombok. The Sade Village has a traditional village atmosphere. Traditional housing, village buildings and outdoor areas are all still evidently being used, with cows and goats tied to trees and ducks in handmade wooden pens.
Life as it has been for centuries still exists in this village. Traditional customs are still followed. Young girls in Sade Village must learn to weave garments from a young age. Once the girl can weave she is then able to be married and must make traditional woven garments for herself, and both her husband and mother-in-law.
Something interesting – a traditional Sasak house is made of clay and cow dung. Cow dung is used to keep mosquitoes away. However, only about 10% of the people of Lombok still live in such Sasak homes.
There is a shop in the village (of course) selling traditionally made woven sarongs, scarfs, pillowcases and an array of other items. Even if you are not wishing to purchase any souvenirs it is still worth taking a quick look at all the beautiful colours, patterns and designs.
The Gili Islands are one of the most popular destinations on Lombok for visiting backpackers. The Gili Islands are made up of three small islands, and with companies such as Blue Water Express operating direct transfers from Bali, the destination sees thousands of travellers each year.
Gili Air is the island that is closest to the mainland of Lombok. The pace here is very laid back, with accommodation options ranging from hotels to budget homestays. The overall mood here is relaxation – you can go diving or swim during the day and enjoy the small number of local restaurants mostly offering seafood barbecue-type menus. There are a small number of bars.
Gili Meno is the middle island of the three and is the least developed and most quiet island. The perfect place to go if you are looking for great swimming and snorkelling beaches, deserted beaches, and great dive sites nearby. There are a few small upmarket hotels on the island as well as many beach bungalows for the more nature-loving budget traveller.
Gili Trawangan (or Gili T as it is commonly referred to) is the most famous island of the group. Just 10 minutes by speed boat from Lombok's mainland. The island is an up-and-coming travel destination – with a plethora of upmarket restaurants, villas and hotels being developed over recent years.
However, Gili T still caters to a large number of backpackers who spend their days diving, snorkelling or relaxing in the many bars on a very small budget. Due to the popularity and development of Gili T – this would be the island to stay on if you are looking to stay somewhere with more facilities, tours, services and activities available.
Keen to do some diving while visiting the Gili Islands? The two most popular and raved-about dives and companies are the Manta Dive Gili Air and the Blue Marlin Dive Gili Trawangan.
For more information on Manta Dive (on Gili Air) you can see their website here or their reviews on Trip Advisor here.
If the Blue Marlin dive off Gili Trawangan is of interest, you can see their website for more information, or you can read Trip Advisor reviews on the Blue Marlin Dive here.
Where to Stay
Keen to hit up the dive scene on the Gili Islands and on a budget, check out Gili La Boheme Sister on Gili Trawangan. Here you can get a dorm bed under US$20 with free coffee, tea and banana pancakes in the morning.
Interested to surf some waves and spend some time in the laid-back area of Kuta Beach, check out Kuta Baru Hotel. Here you can get a private twin villa room with a bathroom for just over US$20 per person.
Couple or honeymoon travellers looking at doing some day trips in Lombok, wishing to stay within reach of the beautiful waterfall hikes and maybe a day trip to the Gili Islands while spending just as much time relaxing? Then check out the beautiful Lombok Holiday Resort near Senggigi.
Senggigi is one of the main tourist areas for accommodation, restaurants, general stores, money exchange booths and tour booking offices on Lombok. It is about one hours drive from the Lombok International Airport.
All the major attractions can be reached by trips from the Senggigi area making it also a practical place to stay. The main street, by no means, compares to touristy streets in Bali but is the most lively area on the island.
Where to From Lombok Indonesia?
From Lombok, Garuda Indonesia also flies to Flores Island, the gateway to the Komodo National Park. Here you can see real-life man-eating dragons (I am not joking).
As always, I hope this post is helpful to those thinking of visiting Lombok Indonesia but unsure of where to visit or stay – or have already planned a trip to Bali and wanted to also visit another island for a few days during your stay.