Bali’s eastern neighbour, Lombok Island, is a similar paradise destination known for its dreamy landscapes, white sand beaches and waterfalls hidden deep in the jungle. Yet, it’s different in many aspects that travellers consider worthwhile a visit.
Lombok compared to Bali
Bali has almost everything you’re used to from western countries, while Lombok is more rugged and unexplored.
Unlike Bali’s touristic places with air-conditioned restaurants, international boutique shops and hipster cafes, Lombok has little eateries, often under a bamboo straw roof, called warungs. Only the small area around Senggigi is filled with chain restaurants and big hotels.
The rest of the island is as authentic as it gets. Locals are curious and wave at you as you pass their village, offering accommodations for visitors in homestays or bed & breakfasts.
The biggest difference between backpacking Lombok and Bali is the number of visitors. Even though I’ve visited all the beautiful places all over Lombok, crowds were nowhere to be found. Not at the white sand beach with insane turquoise waters nor on a trek to a series of waterfalls and cliff jumps.
Outside of the capital Mataram, the traffic on the mostly paved roads is quite relaxed. You don’t have to ride your scooter in a group of other more experienced motorists, which can make you stressed and nervous not to make any mistake — as I’ve experienced in Bali. Lombok welcomes you with empty roads and open arms.
If you’re planning the first trip to Indonesia, I recommend staying in Lombok for a week. It’s similar in size to Bali, and even though you can drive north to south in just three hours, its natural wonders are hidden all over the island. If you go by scooter, it does sometimes require you driving on less maintained and bumpy dirt roads.
How to get to Lombok
Lombok has an international airport, but if you’re not arriving from neighbouring countries, a more budget-friendly option would be to fly to Bali first. Most international flights arrive at Bali’s airport. From there, you can either fly to Lombok or take a ferry.
You can book a flight through the Traveloka website (Indonesian version of Skyscanner) in advance or at the last minute. It’s easy to book and costs around 250,000 IDR (18 USD).
Another option is a ferry, either the slow local option or the faster boat that caters to tourists. The faster boat and typical choice for visitors takes 1,5 hours for 350,000 IDR (25 USD). The Padang Bai port from which the ferry leaves is an hour away from Bali’s airport.
Based on these options, flying to Lombok either directly or through Bali is the better choice. Lombok’s airport is also very close to the beaches in the south so that you can start your vacation sooner without too much time spent in transit.
Lombok 1 week itinerary
However you decide to arrive at Lombok, make your way south to Kuta. Not to be confused with Kuta on Bali, it’s a small surfer’s town with a few dusty streets. It’s a common base for anyone ready to explore Lombok’s many beaches.
Kuta has plenty of homestays, bed & breakfasts, bungalows or small hotels with swimming pools ranging from 12 USD to 70 USD per night. Most of them are spread along the main road leading to Kuta. Because of the traffic and mosques, these are a bit louder than accommodations in the side alleys.
Most accommodations include breakfast and Wi-Fi and offer scooter rental. That’s the most common way to get around the island and the beaches around Kuta. For a fee around 50,000 IDR (3,50 USD) and with their paved and smooth main roads, it’s easy to learn how to drive a scooter around Kuta.
Day 1 – 2: Beaches around Kuta
The first two days, enjoy the best beaches surrounding Kuta. The nicest one is Tanjung Aan Beach, the closest one to Kuta. You can relax on sunbeds, go for a swim or rent a stand-up paddleboard. There are plenty of warungs on the beach offering Indonesian staple Nasi Goreng (fried rice with veggies or meat), fresh fruit and drinks. A nice walk along the beach will lead you to a lookout point on the hill and another side of the beach.
Other beaches I recommend visiting are west of Kuta. Mawun Beach is popular with locals and tourists for swimming. A bit further is Tampah Beach, the cleanest beach in Lombok. Locals clean the beach from trash and washed up debris every day, and no beach sellers will be bothering you.
Only a few shacks with fresh food, and the relaxing sound of waves. After a beach-filled day, stroll the streets of Kuta where you can find a mix of Indonesian and international cuisine for dinner. I especially enjoyed the selection of freshly-caught fish grilled right in front of you offered by many restaurants.
Day 3 – 6: Trekking to Mount Rinjani volcano
On the 3rd day, head north to Senaru village close to the Mount Rinjani National Park. During a 3-day jungle trek, you will first climb to the blue coloured crater lake. The next day you summit Mount Rinjani, the 2nd highest volcano in Indonesia (at 3,726 meters), see several smaller active volcanoes on top and even bath in volcanic hot springs.
It is often the most rewarding experience for travellers visiting Lombok.
The Mount Rinjani trek can be booked through travel agencies in Kuta or right in Senaru at the last minute. Agencies usually offer the same price but differ in services offered. The easiest way is to negotiate a trip with transport from Kuta to Senaru included.
The trekking package should include transport, 1-night hotel stay before the trek, guide and porters, all meals and water, tent and sleeping bags, and entrance fee to the national park. We also rented gloves and hiking poles, which turned out to be invaluable.
The trail to the summit is not maintained or built for tourists but rather rugged through misty forests with challenging and steep incline. You should have a decent level of fitness for the trek. Your degree of exhaustion and enjoyment of the trek depends on it. The steepness and also the high elevation take its toll very quickly.
Day 7: Waterfalls and relax
I highly recommend staying a night in Senaru after the trek. The nearby short trail to Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep waterfalls is a nice refreshment and stretch for your tired legs. The hot and humid air of Mount Rinjani volcano gets replaced by humid and cool air. It’s not a swimming spot, but crossing the creeks and cooling off under the waterfalls is the best remedy for sore legs you can get.
Ask your trekking company to arrange transport for you or take a taxi to Senggigi. You can either stay in town with many hotel resorts or between Senggigi and Mataram for more secluded options.
Rent a motorbike and check out the beaches around Senggigi. My favourite on the west coast of Lombok is Pantai Klui, a black sand beach. It’s quiet and further from the main road, great for swimming and a popular place of locals.
Lombok 2 week itinerary
Spending more time on Lombok will leave you enough space to spend more time in popular locations such as Kuta and also get into more secluded locations such as Pink Beach or tiny Gili Air island.
Day 1 – 4: Beaches and surfing around Kuta
After driving around the beaches described in the above itinerary, you can venture even further to a truly unique beach on Lombok on the 3rd day. Pink Beach, locally called Tangsi Beach, is at the south-eastern corner of Lombok.
You can arrange a snorkelling day trip by boat from Kuta or ride a scooter yourself. It’s a 2.5-hour drive from Kuta through the Indonesian countryside on the paved roads where only the last part is a bumpy dirt road. Meeting the friendly locals and observing local island life is worth making the long trip by scooter.
Thanks to the thousands of coral pieces and shells in the ocean, the pink hue of the beach is stunning. The lack of tourist infrastructure and only a few warungs make the Pink Beach a very tranquil place.
You can go for a swim or ask a local fisherman to take you further from the shore for snorkelling (you need to bring your snorkelling gear). Then enjoy a fresh coconut while watching the wild monkeys in the forest, walk up the lookout point or rent a kayak at the beach.
The 4th day in Kuta, rent a stand-up paddleboard or take a surfing lesson. The Kuta Beach right in town has calm waters for stand up paddleboarding and plenty of surf shops and warungs along the shore.
You can book a surfing lesson at Whatsup Lombok surf school. Unlike other surf schools that are taking surfers to the often crowded Gerupuk, Whatsup Lombok takes students to Tanjung Aan Beach, where you can relax on the beach in between the sessions.
Day 5 – 8: Trekking to Mount Rinjani volcano
Mount Rinjani trek is once in a lifetime experience to climb an active volcano and belongs to any Lombok itinerary, as described above in the 1-week itinerary.
In case you’re staying in Lombok for two weeks, I recommend visiting Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep waterfalls the same day you arrive in Senaru. Then go on a 3-day trek up the Mount Rinjani volcano.
When the strong earthquake occurred in August 2018, the trail to Mount Rinjani was damaged, but now the trek is fully re-opened.
Day 9 – 12: Relax at Gili Air
Make your way to Bangsal port and buy a ticket to the island of Gili Air. After the effort of climbing the volcano, you will relax on the tiny island with no cars and plenty of beaches. It took me several days to get my sore legs back to normal. Gili Air is the perfect place to do (almost) nothing and enjoy the beach time.
Most of the guesthouses on Gili Air have a swimming pool where you can relax. In the afternoon, choose one of the many massage salons to reward your legs even more and then dinner at any restaurant serving the delicious Indonesian Terang Bulan, a thick pancake filled with nuts and chocolate.
The more time you spend in the water, the quicker your body will restore. You can book a freediving session, a diving trip or just a snorkel trip around the nearby Gili Meno Island and look for turtles.
The beachfront is lined with restaurants, bars and live music, an ideal place for evening fun.
Day 13 – 14: Waterfalls in Central Lombok
From Gili Air, book accommodation around Senggigi and rent a scooter for beach hopping around the beaches on the west coast of Lombok described in the above 1-week itinerary on day 7.
On your last day on Lombok, drive 1.5 hours east of Mataram to Benang Kelambu and Benang Stokel waterfalls. Once you pay the entrance fee, a guide will show you around the waterfalls and also a popular cliff jumping spot. Benang Kelambu waterfalls are the most impressive set of waterfalls I’ve seen on Lombok. Several waterfalls are coming out of the wall of trees and hanging vines.
On the way back from the waterfalls, stop at Taman Narmada, a historic park with pool and gardens from the 18th century. A local guide will show you the historical sites and explain their part in the Indonesian heritage.
Tips for backpacking Lombok
An important thing to know before visiting is religion on Lombok. Unlike Bali, where the main religion is Hindu and where you can see daily offerings respectfully placed in front of every building, Lombok is a Muslim island. Locals, women especially, are covered head to toe. Out of respect as a visitor, you’re expected to walk and drive around at least in a shirt and shorts, and not half-naked in your swimsuit.
If you’re not comfortable riding a scooter, another budget-friendly option is to hire a driver to take you around. Check at your accommodation for recommendations of drivers.
In my experience, Lombok is cheaper than Bali if you’re traveling on a budget. Street stands offer plenty of meal options and fresh, exotic fruit. Attractions are affordable and include great services.
If you end your trip in Senggigi as both of the itineraries suggest, you can travel to Bali by boat from Bangsal Port, which is right next door from Senggigi.
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