Lombok, our perfect escape!
A few days at the end of our month-long trip across Indonesia that felt like being in Paradise. Combine it with a couple days in the Gili Islands and you won’t want to leave!
After our time in Bali (read all about it here), we felt things couldn’t get better… but we were so wrong! Lombok is a «hidden» gem that is already attracting the tourists that start feeling overwhelmed by the crowded Bali.
We met amazing people from all over the world, surfed awesome waves with very few people in the line up, chilled on empty white sand beaches and enjoyed the rainforest and waterfalls that tropical dreams are made of (check the following video if you don’t believe us 😉
We wish we could have stayed longer than just four days!
A BIT ABOUT LOMBOK
Not your typical wikipedia description, but our own impression and general notes on Lombok:
Before our trip we heard so many people say Lombok was like Bali before tourists got there, and although there is some truth to it and Lombok is developing fast, there are great differences: the first one being that Lombok has a muslim majority and Bali is all about hinduism. This shapes their character, their people, their architecture… Also Lombok has great differences in its landscape and vegetation between the south coast, shaped by the indian ocean and its winds, and the North, lustful and tropical, where you can see where the comparison to Bali comes from.
Home to the beautiful Mount Rinjani, Lombok has a bit of everything: white sand beaches in the South, quiet and traditional villages in the centre, a hectic capital in Mataram, a more touristic area facing West, near the Gili Islands…. and it’s developing very quickly!
If you are a surfer, but don’t enjoy the crowded line ups of Canggu or Uluwatu in Bali, you’ll find quite the opposite here. South Lombok has some amazing breaks, with friendly locals and a healthy and growing community of foreigners who’ve established theirselves in the island. Kuta Lombok, the main town in the south side, is their base. Chilled vibes, good food and almost all you could need.
GETTING THERE. Boat or plane?
We’d made no plans on how to get to Lombok, and we thought a speed boat from Bali could be a great option. It’s what most people use, but they’ll mostly leave you on the West side of Lombok, near the capital Mataram or by the Gili Islands. Since we decided to stay in Kuta Lombok (south), we realized the airport was much closer to it than the harbours available from Bali. So we decided to fly to Lombok.
We usually book our flights well in advance on Skyscanner.net, but for this one, which we booked only two days in advance, we found the best rate in Ticketindonesia.info. It turned out to be cheaper and faster than the boat! Only 21€ per person from Denpasar to Lombok with Lion Air.
FLYING LION AIR. Some accidents have occured on Lion Air flights since we were there. Our impression was that it’s a good airline, with pretty new airplanes and good customer service. Never felt unsafe, neither in this one nor in any of the other internal flights we had in Indonesia.
Once you land in Lombok, there’ll be plenty of people offering you a taxi ride. If you head out past the first wall of drivers, you’ll find a few desks of the official taxi companies that operate in Lombok. We paid 90.000 IDR (5,40€) in advance for a 1/2 hour ride from the airport to Kuta Lombok. Just tell the driver the name of the place you are staying in, they’ll probably know it.
WHERE TO STAY
Batu Bambu is as close to what we were looking for as it gets. Founded and managed by Elisa, a german girl who’s made Lombok her home, they give back to the community a percentage of their profit, use local craftsmen and building techniques, and even teach and take care of the children in the area through the Batu Bambu Kids Foundation.
We couldn’t recommend it more!
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN LOMBOK
There’s plenty to see if you want to move around, and also plenty to not do if you just want to relax by the beach. We needed a bit of both after an intense couple of weeks, so here’s what we did, what we liked the most and what we wish we would have done!
1. SURF YOURSELF OUT!
Lombok offers plenty of quality breaks for Indian ocean groundswells and, although not as know as the ones in Bali, there are gems for those who look for them!
GERUPUK. A big bay east of Kuta with several pointbreaks that work on different types of swells and seasons. Consistent all year round, head to some of the surf rental places in Gerupuk town, where you can rent your equipment, book lessons, or get a boat ride to the nearby spots. We surfed Don Don and Inside Left with Elisa and other Batu Bambu guests, and even got some lessons from Oki, their awesome surf coach!
EKAS. Deep bay that offers two different spots: Inside and Outside Ekas. Friendly, long lefts over a not too aggressive reef, with the occasional shorter right. Attracts all levels of surfing, so it can get a bit more crowded than other spots despite being farther East from Kuta. No need to drive around the whole bay, head to Awang harbour and find a boat to the peak!
ARE GULING. Best during wet season, Are Guling can be challenging at times, with strong currents and fast take off. Not suited for begginners, it offers a long, rolling righthander. YOu can choose to paddle out (warm up those shoulders), or hook up with a local boat ride.Are Guiling is the first beach West of Kuta.
SELONG BELANAK. The perfect spot for begginers. A lovely white sand beachbreak with very little hazards (apart from huge swells, of course). The beautiful scenery and mellow waves will make you fall in love with surfing… and with Lombok! Head West from Kuta for around 40min (on a scooter). You won’t miss it… unless you decide to stop on another postcard perfect beach before!
BONUS SPOT only for experts: Desert Point! A staple in some of the most amazing surf clips you can find online (although it was more present a couple decades ago on magazines when it was discovered), this is one of the best waves in the planet. A perfect left hand barrel that works only on the best swells and is full of hazards: fast powerful waves over shallow reef being the main one. Fancy a surf there?
ENOUGH SAID 😉 There are plenty more great breaks for all kinds of surfers, but you’ll need to get to Lombok and either explore or make good friends that will tell you about their secret spots!
2. WATERFALLS IN NORTH LOMBOK.
Have you seen the video at the beggining of the post yet? If not, go back and we’ll wait, it’s only 45 seconds. But those 45 seconds are pure waterfall porn! Tiu Kelep and Sendang Gile are some of the most beautiful waterfalls we’ve ever seen. The only caveat is getting to them if you’ve decided to stay in the South (easier to reach from West Lombok).
How to get to Tiu Kelep from Kuta. We rented a car in Kuta for the day: drive past the airport towards Mataram, and cross its hectic traffic with as much dignity as you can. From here the scenery starts getting better: the scarce vegetation of the south turns into lustful rainforest, and the road gets steeper and twisted. Then down again, overlooking the Gili Islands before cruising along the sea on the North coast. Turn right when you reach Anyar and start driving towards Mount Rinjani (directions are not very clear or easy to find, but ask for Tiu Kelep to anyone on the road and they’ll at least point you in the rigth direction). You’ll soon reach Senaru, the area from wher most treks up to Rinjani start, along the road Jl. Pariwisata. There is a small parking area right in front of the Rinjani Guest House where you can start your hike.
*Car rental was 300.000 IDR (20€) for the day, but if you ask in a couple more places than we did, you may find a cheaper price.
Walk down the stepped trail until the river bed and then follow the river up towards the mountain (or down to the smaller waterfall of Sendang Gile, also quite beautiful). At the end of the trail you’ll see, feel and hear your reward. Tiu Kelep has a main stream that projects out of the top with tremendous force, and a ring of lower streams that seem to come from inside the mountain. You can swim underneath, although we don’t recommend you walk under the main stream!
DRIVING IN LOMBOK. On a side note, after our excursion to North Lombok, we spent so much time mesmerized at the beauty of the waterfalls that we had to drive back to Kuta at night.
Four hours of night driving in Lombok are probably one of the worst experiences of the whole trip (only comparable to driving at night in Cuba). Bad visibiltiy, narrow roads, scooters without any headlights, people walking on the only road… We are not easily scared, but we couldn’t help but thinking accidents must be very common in North Lombok!
Once you reach Mataram, things get better, with wider roads and good lighting.
3. TREK UP TO MOUNT RINJANI.
If you ask us what would be the ONE thing that we wish we’d have done in Indonesia but we didn’t do, it’s without a doubt the trek to Mount Rinjani. We’ve seen countless pictures of the beautiful caldera and lake, and we are in love with it. We just didn’t have enough time…
If you want to do it, you’ll need AT LEAST two or three days, depending on the type of trek you want to do, and how far you want to go (there are treks of up to 6 days and 5 nights).
Head to Senaru (in the North) or Sembalun Lawang (in the East) villages, where all the trekking tours depart from. Plenty of shops and accomodation will welcome you and offer the trek and equipment.
It’s not an easy trek, and they include at least one night on the edge of the caldera, but the sunrise view from the top must be something you’ll never forget!
4. BEACH HOPPING IN SOUTH LOMBOK.
Apart from the Gili Islands, we didn’t find a more satisfying place for our favourite activity than South Lombok. All you need is a scooter!
If you are stayin in Kuta, you just need to choose if you want to go left or right. And there’s no wrong choice. Go East and you’ll find:
SEGER BEACH. Within the bay of Kuta, and facing West, it’s a great place to watch the sunset (see below). We parked the scooter on the beach in front of the Novotel Resort, and crossed the bridge on foot towards the last beach. You’ll be welcomed by an army of kids trying to sell you bracelets, and they’ll try to impress you by telling you the capital city of every country on earth. We couldn’t find one they didn’t know!
TANJUNG AAN. The jewel of the crown. 15 minutes East from Kuta, it’s for us the prettiest beach in Lombok. Locals will be spending a family day on the weekends, which makes it even more charming. You can relax by one of the warungs near the parking lot, and use their umbrellas and sun beds if you order some snacks or drinks. Our favourite is the Turtle Warung! Or you can jsut walk up and down the beach and swim in its tourquoise waters around the fishermen boats. Perfect place to spend the afternoon.
MAWUN. Beautiful protected bay 15 minutes West of Kuta. A few small warungs, but not much more on offer, which is good since you can walk towards the ends of the beach and you’ll be pretty much alone!
TAMPAH / LANCING. Long white sand beach recommended by our hosts in Batu Bambu. A postcard perfect setup with no one in sight. Right after Mawun if you keep going West.
SELONG BELANAK. As well as the perfect surf spot for begginers, Selong Belanak is, along with Tanjung Aan, one of the best beaches in South Lombok. Here you’ll find warungs, surf rentals and mostly all you need for a day at the beach. Local families and tourists have this as their go-to beach, so don’t expect it to be empty, but still there is enough room in the bay to find your quiet spot! Around 40 minutes West of Kuta, it’s definitely worth the ride.
5. NIGHT VIBES IN KUTA, LOMBOK.
Don’t expect a crazy clubbers nightlife, remember Kuta Lombok is a pretty chilled place. But make sure to head out for dinner in one of the many restaurants in town, which cater to every taste out there (after a month in Indonesia, we were happy to find some international food places too). Live music is also a common thing in the bars of Kuta.
Here are some dining recommendations that we really enjoyed:
Milk Espresso. Right on the main street of Kuta, Jl. Raya Kuta, you’ll find a place that has something for every time of the day. Coffee shop with delicious breakfasts in the morning. Expat vibes for dinners with international food (their pasta specials are something else, and they have 2×1 on Sundays!. We had chicken pesto, and pumpkin&spinach for just 80.000 IDR (4.80€)). And amazing cocktails to end the night with friends in its beautifully decorated interior.
El Bazar. A mediterranean/moroccan place also on the main street of Kuta. The food is delicious, although expect to pay a bit more than you’re used to in Indonesia. It gets really busy, so either you go a bit earlier o a bit later than everyone else. You may have to wait a little bit, but we found it was worth it! Dinner and cocktails for two was 330.000 IDR (around 20€).
Yogi Bar. Our friends at Batu Bambu recommended us to try the vegan lasagna from this place, and they were right. It was really nice, and the rest of the menu looked also very good! Not as busy as the other two, as it’s located right off the main street (turn left at the end of it and you’ll stumble into it). We sat upstairs in the open lounge and can only say good things about it and it’s staff! 200.000 IDR (12€) for a full dinner for two.
6. WATCH SOME SUNSET PORN.
PANTAI SEGER. Read above (beach hopping) on how to get there. Very close to Kuta and easy to reach, many people will head here for sunset from town. Climb up to the hill at the beggining of the beach and you’ll be treated to a great view of the bay! It ca get a bit windy up there, so bring something to keep you warm as the sun sets.
BUKIT MERESE. The other go-to place for a perfect sunset in South Lombok. Head to the west end of Tanjung Aan and go up the hill on the peninsula that separates it from the next beach. The indian ocean will welcome you in all its glory. Location.
7. VISIT THE SASAK VILLAGES
The Sasak are the native tribe of the island of Lombok, and they preserve their original settlements and traditions. Although to us it feels a bit staged for the visitor, it still makes for quite an interesting when you get tired of so many idyllic beaches (…as if someone could ever get tired of that!).
The most known of this villages is Sade, which you’ll find on the road between Kuta and the airport. If you rent a car to move around the island, it’s a very convenient visit, as you won’t have to get far from your route.
The Sasak actually live in the village, so you’ll get a glimpse of their daily activities like weaving, farming… but mostly they live off their interest as a tourist attraction (which is great too, since it’s helped maintain their traditions and show them off daily).
8. BONUS: SPEND A FEW DAYS IN THE GILI ISLANDS.
Some will tell you they love the Gilis, while others hate them. It depends on what are your expectations and where you decide to stay. Each one of these three little slices of paradise has a unique character. Gili Trawangan is busier and full of young people looking to have a good time, Gili Air is more chilled and relaxed, and Gili Meno is basically empty, with very little exceptions. Which one is for you? Find out in our full post about our time in the GIli Islands! (coming soon)
EARTHQUAKES. The week after we left Lombok in July and August of 2018, a series of devastating earthquakes shaked the North part of the island, causing hundreds of deaths and leaving many people int hose areas homeless. South Lombok, however, was not severely affected.
Tourism is the way of life for many of these people, so we encourage you to visit this paradise and help with your presence so they can rebuild their homes and ultimately their economy.
Elisa, our host in Batu Bambu, launched a fundraising campaign to help rebuild the villages of the people who helped build the guesthouse. Here’s a link to the GoFundme page in case you want to #helplombok
That’s nearly all we can tell you about our experience in Lombok. We are certain it won’t dissapoint you. It was so special for us that we’ve even thought about leaving everything behind and moving to Lombok for a while.
We hope this gets you inspired to book your tickets to Lombok or, at least, include it in your Indonesia itinerary (just like we did)!