The bumpy dirt lane to Hotel Tugu Lombok winds past emerald fields with cows and stands of palm trees.
Doubt bubbles up… Does this unassuming entrance really lead to a luxury Lombok hotel with private pools? Possibly the best hotel in Lombok?
We eventually reach a striking colonial house surrounded by lily ponds.
It’s the resort’s reception. We’re told that this priceless hardwood house, once rented to a Chinese family in Sumatra in the 19th century, was moved – lock, stock and barrel – to the Indonesian island of Lombok to serve as the reception for Hotel Tugu Lombok.
Unique. Remarkable. Romantic…
Indeed, the whole hotel, made up of an array of eclectic structures, turns out to be amazing.
Take the honeymoon villa.
Designed like an ancient local temple, it has a flower-shaped pool and private rooftop for dining by moonlight. Inside, the bedroom features delicate Chinese embroideries, antiques from the Indonesian islands of Madura and Bali, and old Javanese prints detailing the adventures of Indonesian kings from the 11th to 14th centuries.
And in the hotel garden, a 200-year old Chinese temple – saved from the 1894 Dutch attack on Lombok’s inhabitants and richly ornamented with Ching dynasty and Hindu carvings – is used for weddings.
As we quickly discover, Tugu Lombok’s buildings are filled with invaluable Indonesian art pieces.
Hotel Tugu Lombok ends up being one of the most remarkable and romantic hotels we’ve ever stayed in.
The private pools? They’re simply icing on an already delectable resort.
A “temple whisperer”?
Tugu Lombok is the creation of Anhar Setjadibrata, a modern-day Renaissance man. You could perhaps even call him a “temple whisperer.”
As a poor young medical student traveling through Indonesia, Anhar was saddened to see so many ancient shrines and local artifacts being recklessly tossed aside by his countrymen, to be replaced by pedestrian new things of convenience. He started rescuing hundreds of stone Buddhas, wood carvings, shadow puppets, traditional musical instruments and paintings, historic photographs and even temples.
Over the years, he amassed a museum-worthy collection.
Then in 1989 – after reinventing himself first as a lawyer and later as a hotelier – he built Tugu Malang, his first luxury boutique museum hotel on Java, to showcase his treasures. Three other Tugu hotels on east Java, Bali and Lombok followed.
His Lombok hotel, with 37 individually decorated suites and villas strung along sugar-white Sire Beach, may just be his masterpiece.
Hotel Tugu Lombok rooms and suites
To check in, we cross a wooden bridge over lotus ponds with splashing fountains and are then invited to plop down on beanbag cushions overlooking an infinity pool. We’re given cold lemongrass scented facecloths and sign papers while sipping ginger-and-lemongrass juice.
And then it’s off to our room.
Bhagavat Gita Suites:
We’re booked into one of the beachfront villas called Bhagavat Gita suites. A little garden outside our front door has a koi pond and tinkling fountain.
The villa itself features polished stone floors, a super-high ceiling (perhaps 20 feet high?), antique mahogany furniture and an enormous, ornately carved wood mirror.
We doubt other Lombok luxury hotels have magnificent four-poster beds like the one in our suite. It’s almost the biggest bed we’ve ever slept in – so high off the floor that we have to use a wooden step to climb up on the bed.
Scarlet hibiscus blossoms are tucked into towels and sprinkled about lamps and on the bed. We love all the other little personal touches too – candles, oil lamps, ear plugs, packets of mosquito cream (which we really don’t need), slippers and cotton robes, and plant leaves inscribed in silver with sweet welcome messages.
And what do we discover when opening the white French doors of our bedroom?
A private pool and canopied daybed, with views toward a huge swath of manicured lawn and beautiful Sire Beach beyond.
The big villas:
Want to really splurge?
The two most extravagant villas are Sang Hyang Nirvana and San Hyang Djiwo, at over 6,000 square feet in total size. They feature larger private pools, a jacuzzi, spacious sundeck and a private garden where you can host functions (pre-wedding cocktail party?).
There are several other room types too at Tugu Lombok, some of which don’t have private pools.
Sire Beach – one of the best Lombok beaches
Okay, put your Ray-Bans on and let’s talk about that beach.
Travelers are lured to Lombok by its beaches. Tugu Lombok is spread out along Sire Beach, one of the best beaches in Lombok.
It’s virtually private, and the only other non-guests we see are a handful of vacationers from neighboring, ultra-luxurious mega mansions. On this pearl-white sandy beach, with lounge chairs and umbrellas spaced far apart, we can truly decompress in peace and tranquility.
Dining at Tugu Hotel Lombok
Our Hotel Tugu Lombok review would be incomplete without some comment on the food, right?
Every morning, we’re greeted with a palm leaf on which has been written in silver: “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Mucalov, enjoy your breakfast.”
And we do! The thick yogurt with fruit is literally the best we’ve had anywhere! For our coffee, we get addicted to the Java mocha – rich and creamy – made with real chocolate.
We don’t need to eat again until afternoon tea, served between 4:00 and 6:00 pm. Then, out on the lawn, seated on tiny wooden chairs, we sample an array of savory onion tarts, mini chocolate cakes and Indonesian coconut jelly desserts to go with our tea or iced coffee.
One night, we dine on Sire Beach with our toes in the sand.
Tea candles, placed in a circle around our table and chairs, shed soft candlelight to make things just that more romantic.
Best place to stay in Lombok?
Just so you know, we’re not the only ones gushing over this Lombok hotel with private pools. It’s also garnered other rave reviews.
Tugu Hotel Lombok was recently named a Top 25 winner in the “Most Popular Luxury Hotels in Indonesia” category in the 2018 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards.
It’s also been rated one of the “world’s very best luxury hotels and resorts” by Forbes Traveler, listed among “haute spots” by Harpers Bazaar, and called “one of the most impressive art hotels” by Millionaire Living.
Monuments that keep the past alive
Still, it’s the artistic design and architecture – and all those incredible antiques – that are the real “wow” feature at Hotel Tugu Lombok.
“Tugu” means “monument.”
As monuments to Indonesia’s rich cultural heritage, the Tugu Lombok and its sister Tugu hotels keep the past alive. And they help ensure that the country’s precious treasures are no longer just cast aside and forgotten.
If you stay at Hotel Tugu Lombok
A 30-minute complimentary welcome massage is included in your stay. The breezy spa in a century-old temple is lovely – with a lava rock stone floor, gauzy red curtains and large wooden bowls of scarlet hibiscus.
You can borrow reef shoes for swimming (to protect your feet from corals at the edge of Sire Beach).
Nice! Rates include complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea each day, tropical fruits, a welcome drink and WiFi.
If you like modern high-tech hotels, with fancy lighting and big TVs, this Lombok luxury resort may not be right for you.
For more information:
See the hotel website.
Where exactly is Sire Beach, Lombok, and the hotel?
Google Maps to the rescue here…
Visiting Bali as well as Lombok?
There’s a Hotel Tugu Bali in Canggu.
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Our magazine article on Tugu Hotels
We also wrote about Tugu Hotels in “Monuments to Indonesian Art and Culture” for Taste of Life magazine, published in its September, 2015 issue. Click on the image below to see a PDF of this travel article.
Photos that aren’t ours are courtesy of Hotel Tugu Lombok.
Update February 11, 2016: We’re so excited! Our story won a Finalist award in the prestigious 2015 North American Travel Journalists Association annual competition.
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We’re Janice and George Mucalov, professional award-winning travel writers, sharing tales of luxury travel with a twist of adventure.