If you’re heading to Bali soon, then make sure not to miss it's neighboring island, Lombok. It is an easy long weekend trip from the famous “Island of the Gods” (Bali). Take a 20-minute flight or two-hour ferry from east Bali and you’ll be there in no time.
Lombok is one of Indonesia’s most fascinating islands, where Islam and Hinduism meet, and tropical rainforests merge with Austronesian savannah's. Long stretches of pristine white sand beaches with tall palm trees create a border between Lombok’s Mount Rinjani and the sparkling turquoise sea. In the center of the lush land lies a gigantic crater lake that is considered sacred by the Muslim Sasak (Lombok’s indigenous population), and Balinese Hindus. Its arid south has picturesque bays and coral reefs, which are ideal for snorkeling and diving.
Where to Stay:
Located on one of the most peaceful and idealistic beaches is Hotel Tugu Lombok. The gods from the ancient Indonesian Hindu legends inspire its spirit and decor. Every room in the hotel has meaning and history because all of the Indonesian antiques are authentic and true to the hotel’s theme.
Spending two days at Hotel Tugu Lombok, was like stepping onto my own tropical island paradise. My room was inspired by the wayang tales of Mahabharata, and was covered in gorgeous antique artwork. In the morning, I would wake up in a hand carved royal bed. I’d savor an outdoor bath in a modified river stone, then take a walk on the white sand beach directly in front of my room. In the afternoon, I’d snorkel in its turquoise waters, then lounge on artistically woven pillows, and enjoy delicious local cuisine. At night, I dined under the silver moon and a canopy of a million stars on my own day bed in the sand. It is truly a place where time stops and moments are created. HotelTugu.com
What to do:
- Take a cooking class: There is no better way to get to know a place than by its cuisine. If you’re already enjoying the local food, than a great way to bring it back home with you is to learn the recipes from an insider. I did a cooking lesson at Hotel Tugu Lombok.
- Go to the spa: Did you know that Indonesia is known as Asia’s spa center? One thing I couldn’t resist while in the country was saying “no” to a massage. After all, the majority of them are high quality and extremely cheap. Expect to pay no more than $20 USD for an hour-long massage. Some places even offer massages for less than $10. To get a luxury experience, check out the Hening Swarga Spa at Hotel Tugu Lombok. They have a massive hot tub filled with local herbs that make the water a deep ruby color. It’s quite the sight!
- Trekking on Mount Rinjani: This volcano is Indonesia’s second highest and has a beautiful crater lake in its center. The hike can take three to four days and should be done with a guide. It is too dangerous to do in the rainy season (December – March) so plan your trip accordingly.
- Visit Rinjani National Park: This park covers over 100,000 acres of lush rainforest and bizarre volcanic landscapes. It is home to unique flora and fauna not found anywhere else in Indonesia. This is because Lombok and Bali are separated by the Wallace Line; a border that separates the Asian and Australian primeval continent. In the park, you’ll find caves and hot springs that local people believe have magical powers. http://rinjaninationalpark.com/
- Snorkel or Scuba Dive: Lombok is right next to the Gili Islands, a group of three islands that are known for their picturesque beaches and colorful underwater world. From Lombok it is easy to take a half or full day trip to go snorkeling. I did a private snorkeling trip on an Nga Mesem (dragonhead) boat through Hotel Tugu. It was an incredible experience and surprisingly inexpensive given the one-on-one nature of it. For the four-hour private tour it was $100 per couple. Luis and I saw three turtles, and tons of neon colored fish and coral. It was the best snorkeling trip I’ve ever gone on!
How to Get There:
Getting to Lombok is easy. The least expensive way to do it is to take a slow ferry, however, the trip is 8 hours on rough seas so I don’t recommend it. A smarter way to travel is to take the speed-boats. Two great companies to use are Blue Water Express or Patagonia Xpress. Buy the tickets online (a few days in advance is fine), and then go to the ferry harbor listed on your ticket.
If you’d prefer to fly, you can take a 20-minute trip from Denpasar airport directly to Lombok. However, keep in mind that Lombok is quite large so if the airport is on the opposite side of the island from where you are staying then you might need to drive two hours to your destination. Click here to view the airport location.
Where to Eat:
El Bazar Cafe & Restaurant - Local favorite, friendly staff, and Moroccan, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern style cuisine. Facebook.com
Jali Kitchen - Cosy setting, and Asian, Thai, Fusion style cuisine. Facebook.com
Casa Vintage Beach - Setting is on the beach, and Caribbean, Jamaican, Vegetarian Friendly style cuisine. Tripadvisor.com
Hotel Tugu Dining: From parades to meals on the beach, Hotel Tugu offers the most impressive Indonesian dining experiences on the island. HotelTugu.com
Where to Drink or Go Out:
Because of the island's religion, there are not many bars. However, many restaurants serve alcohol to tourists. I always recommend that you bring a bottle of wine to the beach and watch the sunset. There is nothing better than that!
Everything I link to below is what I prefer.
Snorkel gear (Hotel Tugu provides this for free if you're okay renting)
Clothing you plan on wearing
Medicine (just in case)
Note: I recommend reading my article on what to pack for a round the world trip to get an idea of what medicine and toiletries you should bring. Read it here.