Guest contributor Samantha Karen is the founder of the travel bog Sam Sees World. A 20-something traveler on a mission to explore the world, she has a special fondness for the Indonesian island of Lombok. Here, she spills the beans on why you might want to visit Lombok on a tropical holiday.
Have you heard of Lombok?
It’s a small island paradise in Indonesia.
Think lush jungles, beguiling beaches and a laid-back vibe.
While Lombok is Bali’s neighbor, it’s very different from Bali and relatively untouched by tourism.
The island still looks and feels like an authentic Indonesian getaway.
A visit here will make you think you’ve jetted back in time before tourism became mainstream.
Lombok attractions: Why you’ll want to visit
Why visit Lombok?
What makes Lombok so appealing is that it has something for everyone.
If you’re a beach loving traveler, you’ll find a plethora of beautiful beaches in Lombok. Kicking back with a frosty one on a white sand beach is top of mind for many Lombok visitors – and it was for me too!
But the island is also the perfect place for adventure travelers, as well as those who like to get off-the-beaten-track.
Jungle hikes to towering waterfalls, snorkeling, volcano treks and basket weaving classes at rural villages are just some of the other fun things to do in Lombok (besides chilling on a beach).
7 Best attractions in Lombok
So, what are some of the best Lombok attractions?
1) Tanjung Aan Beach
Let’s start with Tanjung Aan Beach.
The southern coast of Lombok boasts many of the island’s best beaches. Indeed, they rival the prettiest beaches in the world.
What strikes you immediately, though, is that they’re not packed with tourists. And to have an almost private beach experience is quite unheard of nowadays.
Tanjung Aan Beach is one of these idyllic south coast beaches.
The water is so blue it almost looks fake. And the sand is so white it almost blinds you.
(A great way to capture the beauty of this beach is with a drone, which makes the perfect traveler’s gift.)
While Tanjung Aan is very quiet, you can still relax on the beach in comfort.
There are bamboo sunbeds to rent and two beachfront restaurants. The sunbeds cost around 20,000 IDR (which is about $1.50 USD).
Thirsty? Buy fresh coconuts.
And when you’re hungry, sidle up to one of the beach restaurants which serve delicious Indonesian dishes at very low prices – around $7 USD for a starter, drink and meal!
You can’t go wrong ordering nasi campar (rice with side dishes like grilled tuna, chicken satay and vegetables).
2) Bukit Merese Hills
Another cool feature of Tanjung Aan is that it’s right beside Bukit Merese Hills.
Bukit Merese is a set of rolling hills open to the public to walk along and explore.
From up top, you get stunning views of Tanjung Aan’s blue waters and white beaches. And once the sun starts to set, the hills are the perfect place to watch that golden globe drop below the horizon!
3) Tetebatu Rice Terraces
People flock to see the unique rice terraces in Bali.
What most people don’t know is that Lombok also has stunning rice terraces. They might even be better than those in Bali!
The emerald rice terraces in Lombok are found in Tetebatu, a small village in the center of Lombok.
Unlike the terraces in Bali, which are just used for tourism, the Lombok rice terraces are actually used by the locals to grow rice to feed the village and island.
They’re authentic, and a visit here offers quite the adventure into Lombok’s dense jungle.
Bonus: You can also visit the so-called Black Monkey Forest, a couple of miles north of Tetebatu, to see rare black Ebony leaf monkeys.
(They’re different from the common grey macaques found at the Ubud Monkey Forest in Bali).
Tours can also bring you to hidden waterfalls.
4) Gili Islands (day trip)
Another of the best places to visit in Lombok isn’t actually on Lombok. But no trip to Lombok is complete without making a Gili Islands day trip.
The boat ride to get there is about 40 minutes (by fast boat).
The three Gilis:
The Gili Islands are a collection of three postage-stamp-size islands located off the coast of Lombok.
Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are renowned for their powdery beaches, boho-chic vibe and excellent snorkeling and scuba diving.
Bicycles are used to get around. Or you can walk. (The only motorized vehicles are ones that remove trash. You also see the occasional horse-and-carriage carrying arriving guests with their luggage to their hotel.)
Each of the three islands has its own personality.
Gili Trawangan (or Gili T, as it’s affectionately called) is the most developed and the one with the most buzz. Plenty of laid-back beach bars invite you to plop down on a bean bag on the sand and relax.
At night, Gili T has a lively party scene.
The smallest island, Gili Meno feels more remote and secluded (it attracts couples and honeymooners).
Gili Air is a cross between Gili T and Gili Meno – peaceful, but with several restaurants and bars too.
Snorkeling and diving in the Gilis:
One of the main reasons for visiting the Gili Islands is to snorkel with turtles.
Hawksbill and green sea turtles like to graze on the sea grass growing underwater offshore.
Turtle Point on the northeast part of Gili T is one off the best places to swim with sea turtles. But you’re pretty well guaranteed to spot a turtle anywhere you snorkel in Gili T.
You may also want to snorkel around the underwater sculptures at Gili Meno.
Known as the “Nest,” this artificial reef was created by underwater sculptor Jason DeCaires Taylor. It consists of a circle of 48 life-size human statues – some standing and holding hands, others lying down.
5) Pink Beach
One of the most interesting places in Lombok is Pink Beach, located on the island’s south coast.
With its pink hued sands, rocky cliffs and idyllic blue waters, it’s another one of Lombok’s best beaches.
The sand looks pinkest the earlier you go in the morning.
As the day goes on and the sun moves, the sand appears to change colors. At high noon, it doesn’t look very pink any more.
But come sunset, the beach appears a vibrant red.
No, don’t think Kuta on Bali.
Kuta, Lombok, is quite different.
Yes, it’s the island’s main tourist town and so, naturally, it’s one of the most popular Lombok tourist attractions. But it’s not as developed as Kuta on Bali; it feels quite authentic.
You’ll find 5-star resorts at 3-star prices, most with pools and spas.
The restaurants offer everything from Indonesian food to Italian, vegetarian and other options.
As for shopping, Kuta has swimwear, clothing, jewelry, health-and-wellness and souvenir shops. Want a sweet bracelet? Pick it up here.
For a “town” experience, Kuta is the place to go.
7) Tiu Kelep and Sendang Gile Waterfalls
There are several waterfalls in Lombok, found mostly in the northern part of the island.
The two most popular Lombok waterfalls are Tiu Kelep and Sendang Gile, tucked away near the village of Senaru at the base of majestic Mountain Rinjani.
You can hike to both on the same day trip. It’s best to organize a tour of the two waterfalls, where you have a local guide lead you on your hike.
After walking through the lush green forest, you first come to Sendang Gile Waterfall, a magnificent two-tiered waterfall crashing down into a large pool of freshwater. Take a swim in the crisp cool pool, and when you’re ready, carry on hiking to Tiu Kelep.
Don’t let the narrow super-high bridge across the river deter you from getting to the second waterfall (even if you’re afraid of heights). Your guide can take your hand and lead you across.
And then, once at the waterfalls, drink in the fabulous sight of the water cascading down, with mist rising all around you. The falls are crazy powerful, so don’t get too close if going in for a dip in the pool at its base.
The hike to Tiu Kelep takes about 45 minutes, and it’s one of the most amazing places to see in Lombok!
Now you know some of the best places to visit in Lombok
There’s so much beauty to discover and enjoy in Lombok. I’ve covered the top 7 Lombok attractions.
But there’s plenty more. The mighty Mount Rinjani, for example, is an active volcano towering over the island. It calls out to adventurers interested in a multi-day trek to the crater rim.
And there are more beaches and waterfalls to explore.
Ideally, you should budget a week to enjoy both beach time and the top things to see in Lombok.
Where to stay in Lombok
When to visit Lombok
Lombok is a tropical travel destination – meaning there’s no bad time to visit the island.
Still, there is a dry season and a rainy season.
The dry season is from May to September and the wet season is from October to April. Don’t worry too much about going in the rainy season, though. It only rains for about an hour a day and then it’s sunny for the rest.
So, really, visiting Lombok any time of the year is fine.
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Photo credits: 4, 6, 8, 10, 15 Samantha Karen | 19 Puri Mas Boutique Hotel