I’m going to start with the gorgeous island of Lombok as it could not be more worthy of your precious holiday time. This lesser known island just over the Lombok Strait from Bali and packs a huge punch when it comes to beauty and natural attractions. It’s gorgeous. Other than its beauty, Lombok has plenty more in its favour too. There’s traditional culture, lush forests, superb beaches, great hiking tracks and Indonesia’s second largest volcano.
The best part about this is that Lombok is incredibly easy to reach from Bali and has what I would consider the perfect level of tourism. There are great resorts/private rentals and everything is easy to arrange, but the wonderful thing is, you can always find a spot to yourself. It doesn’t have the huge traffic Jams like Bali and has a much more laid back approach. There is much to love about this island.
On Lombok’s southern coast is the small town of Kuta, Lombok. This town should not to be confused with Kuta, Bali – they are nothing alike.
Home to a lovely set of beaches, Kuta is a place that does not have a lot but has enough of everything you need for a stay. There are a few shops, a selection of places to stay for different budgets, a few places offering laundry, a couple of places offering massage and a selection of restaurants and bars.
There’s also a few shops offering help with transport or organising diving or snorkeling trips to nearby beaches.
Even though there isn’t much around, this is a great place to base yourself and mingle with the locals.
Selong Belanak beach
Selong Belanak is a gorgeous, beautiful beach on the south coast of Lombok. Beach bums and people in Lombok with kids should definitely be including this on their Lombok list of things to do.
It is picture perfect with beautiful sand, water and views. The local stallholders also make a big effort to keep this beach clean so you should also respect this while you are there. Lots of counties in Asia have problems dispersing of waste; especially on Islands but this beach is a real pleasure to be on.
There are lounge chairs, which you can pay to use, as well as plenty of places to eat and drink. It is a great place to take a surf lesson and there is no need to book prior.
It’s really worth trying to get to this spot. We took our scooters out there but you can easily arrange a private transfer. I would recommend tying it in with in with a trip to the Traditional Sasak Village.
Traditional Sasak Village
Another of the wonderful things to do in Lombok is to visit the Traditional Sasak Village. Sasak is the name of the indigenous people of Lombok who make up the majority of the population of this island.
In the southern part of the island, not far from Kuta, you can visit the Traditional Sasak Village. It’s set up for tourists but it is still very much a lived in village, which gives it an authentic feel.
You can find some great English speaking tour guides in the area, just chat to some
locals and offer them a donation for their time. This way you will get a much better insight into their way of life. You may get to look inside some of their homes, visit their temple, see how they store food etc…
You can ask questions and learn about some of their traditional customs, like what they do when they want to marry somebody. Similar to the Romani’s in Europe, the man kidnaps the woman as part of the ritual. This is a risk for the male as his potential bride can say no, which results in him having to pay a hefty fine. Even though it is quite touristy, it is still cultural and a great place to see.
The view of Tanjung Ann’s great beach from Bukit Merese
Tanjung Ann, a little east of Kuta, has some hills from which you can watch the beautiful sunset. You can ride a scooter up the hill and walk over the grass at the side and watch the sunset with an epic view.
In all honesty the beach itself isn’t all that flash however there are a few nice restaurants lining the waterfront. The Office restaurant does lovely food and is a nice place to watch the sunset. There are plenty of other beaches around to explore but you can always jump in for a quick splash to cool down.
Climb Mount Rinjani
For active people, you may want to consider hiking up Mount Rinjani, an active volcano and the second largest in Indonesia. I must admit, I haven’t actually taken this tour as for the duration of my stay in Lombok I woke up with a fuzzy head thanks to all of the easily accessible cheap beer! The crater looks absolutely beautiful though and I will most definitely head up there with my camera on my next trip.
The Gili Islands are amazing! I have been on lots of tropical islands around the world but the Gili Islands certainly have their own unique flavour that resonated with me immediately. The first thing I loved was that there are no motorised vehicles, you just ponder round the sandy lanes or go by horse and cart. I hadn’t been anywhere else quite like it. These islands really are beautiful, the beaches are pristine, the diving/snorkelling is wonderful, the food is great (so are the magic mushroom shakes apparently) and the all over island vibe is amazing.
Before I really get into the beauty of the islands, here is a little introduction as to where you are hopefully heading.
The Gili Islands sit just off the North West coast of Lombok meaning they are inbetween Bali and Lombok (although far closer to Lombok). There are three islands – Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan.
The islands are all close together, but you will need to catch a boat to get between them. There are no airports and the only way to get to the Gili Islands and between them is by sea. If you are staying in Lombok you can charter a boat for cheap and go between the three islands for the day, however I would recommend staying over in Gili Trawangan for a couple of days if you can.
Gili Trawangan is the biggest and most popular of the islands. If you want action, this is where to go. Gili Meno is the least populated and least busy island. This is the place to go to escape. Gili Air is somewhere in the middle, I haven’t spent much time there but I heard it’s popular with families.
Given that Gili Trawangan is where I spent most of my time (and it happens to be my favourite) here are my recommendations on things to do.
Soak up the atmosphere
As I mentioned above, this place really does have a different set of characteristics than other tropical islands that I have spent time on. Simply wonder around and get a vibe for the place… it’s hard not to in somewhere like this! You will come across lots of restaurants, bars and shops but if you fancy relaxing then why not have an ice cream and take advantage of a super cheap massage.
One of the most popular (maybe most popular) things to do on Gili Trawangan is to party. There are signs and bars everywhere! The island is packed full of young people but if you aren’t in your twenties the don’t let this put you off-you should still 100% visit this island.
If it’s your thing, there are plenty of places advertising magics mushrooms, there is no effort to hide it! Mushroom shakes are extremely popular over here but I’m not speaking from personal experience- I just heard that they are pretty strong!
Watch a ‘stick fight tournament
For something a bit different on Gili Trawangan, you can watch a stick fight! This is a traditional form of combat between two people and is often accompanied by music. The two fighters have a stick and shield. This happens on a Sunday afternoon at the marketplace.
There is a good break off the southern coast of Gili Trawangan. You can rent surfboards at Surf Bar opposite the break by the hour or by the day.
Eat at the night market
One of the best things to do on Gili Trawangan is to eat at the night market. It starts about 6pm and is a wonderful option for eating on a budget and has a great selection of food.
Walk up to the view point
This is something else that I haven’t actually done myself but there is a small hill on the southern part of Gili Trawangan which is meant to have epic views over the rest of the Gili Islands, Lombok and Bali.
Now you are probably wondering how to get there from Bali? I will keep this short and simple…FLY!
It is a 30-minute flight and you can pick up flights for as little as $50! There are boat options, which are extremely popular, but I honestly wouldn’t bother! There is a fast boat and a slow boat, so unless you are on an extremely tight budget then you would have to be crazy to take the slow boat. It can literally take you all day! The boats aren’t very comfortable and the ocean can be extremely choppy. FLY FLY FLY! If you do choose to go by boat then BlueWater Express is your best option.
Getting to the Gili Islands from Lombok is a short 25 minute fast boat ride, right to the island of your choice. But if you have time to spare and you want to experience how the locals live, then jump on the public boats from Bangsal Harbour.
Landing in Lombok from overseas and catching a boat to the Gili’s on the same day takes some coordination, unless you intend on chartering a speedboat or making a deal with an outrigger boat. The cheapest way to get to the Gilis on the other hand is on the public boat, which costs less than $1 and departs in the morning at 7.30am, and in afternoon at around 4.30pm.
In conjunction with my Bali blog I hope these tips assist you in creating the most wonderful Indonesian adventure.