This article breaks down Lombok’s top ten holiday experiences. If you’re wondering what you can do on this beautiful island, keep reading.
*Disclaimer: Due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19, some of the activities listed may be closed or have changed hours. Follow the latest health advice and contact individual businesses for information about their operations.*
When you think of the tropics, what do you picture? The hula dances of Hawaii? The joyful vibrancy of Bali? The postcard beaches of Fiji? Well, hold that thought. It’s time to add a new destination to the list – Lombok.
One of Indonesia’s hidden diamonds, this stunning island lies to the east of Bali, across the aquamarine waters of the Lombok Strait. Its interior is occupied by Mount Rinjani, a towering volcano which dominates the horizon and is Lombok’s most popular tourist attraction. Along its jungle-fringed beaches, visitors can swim in the pristine seas, while venturing further inland will open up a world of traditional villages, where centuries-old farming practices still hold sway.
In a time where Bali can seem over-crowded and just a bit too ‘touristy’, Lombok is a beautiful alternative – from the isolated beauty of its natural attractions to its still-thriving Indonesian culture, this is the perfect place to fulfil your tropical bucket-list.
“Wait!”, we hear you saying. “It sounds amazing, but what can I actually do there?” Don’t worry – we’re about to tell you about ten of Lombok’s most incredible experiences.
Lombok’s Top 10 Holiday Experiences
1. Swim with sea turtles
The Gili Islands lie just off Lombok’s northwest coast, and, as you approach them onboard the local ferry, it’s not hard to imagine that you’ve wandered into tropical paradise. This trio of gorgeous isles is composed of Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air, with each possessing their own fascinating character.
Think of Gili Trawangan as Bali’s younger, more attractive sibling – it pairs remote northern beaches with a booming partying scene to the south – while serene Gili Meno is the ultimate island getaway, with perfect swimming conditions and a ban on late-night carousing. Little Gili Air lets you tap into the slow-paced rusticism of traditional life – a perfect antidote for the overstressed and the overworked.
There’s a selection of activities ranged across the three Gilis, including snorkelling, swimming and beachside partying, but their true draw is the presence of the critically-endangered hawksbill and green turtles.
These beautiful animals swim in the islands’ temperate waters and nest on their beaches – depending on when you visit, you’ll be able to see locals protecting turtle eggs and tiny hatchlings.
Both Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno have turtle sanctuaries, but, if you’re up for a spot of snorkelling or diving, you’ll also be able to see adult turtles in the wild.
Some great spots to see turtles include:
- On the island’s eastern flank, just off the beach occupied by the Gili Trawangan Turtle Hatchery.
- Halik Reef
- Shark Point
- Goodheart Reef
- On the island’s north side, just off the beach occupied by the Clubhouse by the Beach restaurant.
- The Meno Wall dive site
- The Bounty Pier wreck
- Haan’s Reef
- The Gili Air Wall dive site
- Off the island’s north-eastern flank, between Sandy Beach Bungalow and Blue Marine Café.
2. Climb a volcano
This one’s for the thrill-seekers (and the relatively fit). Mount Rinjani might be a popular tourist attraction, but it’s also an active volcano, with the last eruption occurring in 2016. The flanks of this titanic mountain are heavily forested, and those who make the climb to its summit will be rewarded with incredible views and a look at the gorgeous Lake Segara Anak.
Because of Mount Rinjani’s sheer size, and the relative steepness of the hiking trails, we definitely recommend tackling it with the help of a local guide. Although you’re theoretically able to turn around at any time, most climbers spend at least a night camped on the mountainside, with some tour operators offering six-day excursions.
There are a couple of different ‘destinations’ on the mountain:
- The Sembalun crater rim, generally achievable by the first day of hiking. This is also the base camp for a summit climb.
- The Mount Rinjani summit. This brutally steep section will test your fitness, but you’ll have both the satisfaction of conquering the mountain and coming away with a selection of ’gram-worthy photos.
- Segara Anak, a stunning, aquamarine lake located in the mountain’s crater.
- Senaru Traditional Village, where you can explore sections of beautiful rainforest and experience the warm hospitality of the locals.
Are you ready to add ‘climbing a volcano’ to your bucket-list achievements?
3. Stand under a waterfall
Cascading, foam-flecked water surrounded by kilometres of dripping jungle? It’s pretty much a tropical holiday requisite, and Lombok has one of the best waterfalls imaginable.
Located in the island’s northern Senaru region, just outside Mount Rinjani National Park, the Sindang Gila Waterfall is a popular tourist attraction that can be easily accessed via hiking trails.
If you’re visiting in summer (or feeling particularly brave) you can stand under the streams of water pouring off Sindang Gila’s fern-hung grotto, and take a few awesome photos to bring back home.
Nearby Tiu Kelep is another fantastic waterfall – there’s a little bit of jungle hiking involved, but it has a deep pool at the bottom, so you can cool off with a relaxing swim. The beautiful landscapes around both waterfalls are littered with mossy rocks and shallow streams – when visiting, we recommend taking your time and walking carefully.
4. Visit a palace
As an avid traveller, visiting a palace once inhabited by genuine royalty is probably high up on your bucket-list.
Well, get ready to tick it off, because Pura Agung Narmada, or Narmada Palace, is a historic royal park that played host to the rulers of the Mataram kingdom. Narmada is a water park with a number of bathing pools and natural springs, designed as a retreat during the hot, dry months of summer.
Reputedly, its layout is intended to mirror Mount Rinjani – the on-site temple, Pura Kelasa, has steep steps which represent the ascent to Rinjani’s summit, while Telaga Ageng, one of the park’s largest lakes, symbolises Segara Anak.
Although you can explore Narmada’s ageing grandeur on your own, local guides are available to help you make the most of your palace experience. They can explain the original purpose of the park’s many buildings, as well as pointing out fascinating areas like the ‘awet muda’ or ‘Fountain of Youth’, a wellspring which is reputed to have potent healing properties.
We recommend visiting in the late afternoon – you’ll avoid the floods of early-morning tourists, and get to properly experience the park’s soothing, near-mystical ambience.
5. Sun-bask in the tropics
What would your bucket-list be without at least one sun-soaked getaway? If you’re dreaming of palm trees, perfect ocean and pina coladas, look no further than any one of Lombok’s amazing beaches. There’s a great line-up of spots to swim, surf and sun-bake; Pantai Aan, Mawun Beach, Tanjung Aan and Pink Beach are just a few of the options.
Pantai Aan is located on the southern coast of Lombok, and this tourist-friendly beach is renowned for its calm, sheltered swimming waters. Take a dip, or relax with a cocktail in one of the many palm-frond shelters that ring the bay.
Also on the southern coast is Mawun Beach, and, like Pantai An, it’s protected from the sea by rugged, hilly headlands. If you’re looking for a more remote beach experience, Mawun is definitely a good choice.
Tanjung Aan is just across the bay from Pantai Aan, but has a distinctly different character. Although you can still kick back in beach-side huts or recline on bamboo pool chairs, the nearby hills provide spectacular views of the surrounding areas, and there’s a number of options for eating and drinking.
Finally, the famous Pink Beach can be found in Jerowaru, Lombok’s south-eastern corner. This spectacular beach has red-hued sand that, in certain lights, can look pink or scarlet – photographers, get your cameras ready.
Aside from happy snaps, you can also go swimming or boating; we recommend visiting during sunrise or sunset, when natural light enhances the sand’s stunning colour.
6. Visit a temple by the sea
As an experienced traveller, temple-hopping is probably nothing new to you, but Batu Bolong is truly unique. Straddling a rocky outcrop on Lombok’s western coast, this ancient Hindu temple is easily accessible from nearby Senggigi.
The name ‘batu bolong’ means ‘rock with hole’ – millions of years have seen the pounding ocean bore a hole through the volcanic rock on which it’s built, and the result is visually striking.
Visitors can climb sets of narrow staircases to explore any of the temple’s fourteen altars and pagodas, most of which are still well-preserved in spite of constant exposure to the elements. The stark beauty of the stone is enlivened by local offerings, and you’ll probably see some of the statues wearing colourful cloth sarongs.
Although Batu Bolong is lovely at any time of the day, we definitely recommend a sunset visit – the sun sinking below the western horizon is a truly magical sight, and makes for an amazing photo opp.
7. Climb a hill inhabited by wild pigs
Yes, you read that right. Wild pigs. Pergasingan Hill, located in Sembalun (not far from Mount Rinjani), is rugged and heavily forested, which makes it the perfect habitat for babi hutan, or native wild pigs. Although you’re unlikely to see any of these shy animals, keep an eye out of for patches of churned soil where they’ve been foraging for food.
Pergasingan Hill is, in and of itself, a worthwhile attraction. Although the hiking trails are quite steep, and are best tackled with the help of local guides, it only takes about an hour to reach the hill’s crest.
This makes it a great alternative to the much more difficult Mount Rinjani – you’ll still get breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, including the forbidding crater of the mountain itself.
Before setting off, make sure you have a good pair of hiking shoes – the trails are often degraded from heavy rain and scattered with rocks or small boulders.
8. Catch (and eat) legendary sea worms
According to local legend, there was once a Lombok princess so beautiful that suitors came from every corner of the island to fight for her hand in marriage.
The princess, however, became distraught at the violence, and threw herself into the ocean; when her subjects waded in to recover her body, all they found were thousands of sea worms, leading them to the conclusion that the princess had been transformed in death.
These sea worms are known as nyale, and exactly once a year (sometime during February) they emerge from their nests and float to the ocean’s surface to mate.
In celebration, thousands of Indonesians travel to the southern and eastern beaches of Lombok, where they catch and eat the worms while engaging in traditional courtship rituals like rattan combat and poem-reading.
Even if watching millions of squirming sea worms isn’t your thing, the Bau Nyale festival is an incredible opportunity to see ancient customs enacted in the modern day – the day-long gathering is celebrated in colourful fashion, with many visitors wearing glittering clothes and beautiful ornaments.
Feeling particularly brave? Try eating the nyale! Folklore holds that ingesting them will bring you beauty, prosperity and fertility, and they can be cooked as part of a coconut soup (kalek moren) or roasted in a banana leaf (pepe nyale).
9. Discover how pearls are made
You probably didn’t plan on purchasing pearls as part of your holiday to Lombok – after all, it’s not known for being a pearling destination.
But that’s partly why visiting pearl grower Autore’s Lombok showroom is so special. At the edge of the azure waters of the Bali Sea, surrounded by unsealed driveways and local vendors, it’s a hidden gem that tears away the glittering façade of the jewelling industry – this is where each pearl begins life.
With the help of Autore’s expert guides, you’ll discover the details of the pearling process, see how they’re harvested and learn about the stringent grading criteria each finished pearl is subject to.
The tour takes you into the laboratory where oyster spats (larvae) are grown and features a live demonstration of pearl harvest surgery, before concluding with a tour of the stunning Autore showroom (and, yes, you can purchase a pearly souvenir to take home). Afterwards, relax with a drink at the on-site café while gazing at the nearby Gili Islands.
Bookings are essential for Autore’s 1.5-hour pearl farm tour, but their pearl gallery is open for walk-ins from 9am to 5pm daily.
10. Explore the rice paddies
If you’ve read up to this point, Lombok probably seems like an impossibly beautiful patchwork of sun-drenched beaches and towering mountains, surrounded by warm tropical waters.
And that’s exactly what it is – but there’s also more on the table.
The heart of Lombok is still mostly untouched by tourism, and places like Tetebatu exemplify that. This traditional Sasak village isn’t far from Mount Rinjani, but its main attraction is agriculture, not hiking.
Terraced rice fields and an abundance of waterfalls make it a must-visit for visitors, with locals offering tours to the most scenic locations. The popular Tetebatu Monkey Forest features a variety of primate species, including grey macaques and black monkeys.
Even if rice fields, monkeys and waterfalls aren’t that appealing, Tetebatu is still worth a visit for its thriving Sasak culture. Interacting with the locals is a great way to discover more about Lombok’s native people, and the village has a number of stores and cafes offering souvenirs and fascinating trinkets – walk away with hand-crafted clay pottery and pictures of Tetebatu’s photogenic landscapes.
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