When you think of Southeast Asia, the usual suspects – Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Bali – spring to mind, and they are all fantastic destinations. But for something a little less ‘done’, to follow the road less traveled, may we suggest Lombok? This Indonesian island is Bali’s neighbor, directly to the east, but while Bali pulses with a roaring tourist trade, Lombok is a place where life moves at a slower pace. Surfers have known the secret for quite a while now and Kuta, on the south coast of the island, is a popular spot for chasing the waves, but there are many beautiful beaches scattered around the coast, as well as a number of smaller islands or gili, with an irresistible desert-island vibe. Add in a towering volcanic peak, scenic hikes and colorful towns and villages, and you’ve got a new vacation destination ripe for exploration.
If you’re heading to an Indian Ocean island, it’s likely you’re keen to find white sand and blue sea waiting to welcome you into their restful embrace. And on this count, Lombok will not disappoint. Senggigi is one of the island’s main tourist hubs and makes an easy starting point – as you emerge blinking into the sunlight, fresh from the plane, you won’t have to look far to find a café where you can get a plate of fragrant nasi goreng stir-fried rice and an ice-cold Bintang beer.
Once you’ve acclimatized, you might want to venture further, to explore the options on the Gili Islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are three small dots off the northwest coast of Lombok, only a 20-minute boat ride from the mainland. Gili Trawangan, the largest of the three, is known for its laidback party scene, reggae wafting out of bars as backpackers lounge in the sun recharging from the night before. It’s also a place of white-sand beaches with hammocks and overwater swings – or why not rent a bike for a lazy spin around the palm-shaded streets?
Gili Air and Gili Meno, the two smaller of the islands, complete the trio and are a little quieter than their boisterous big brother. Both are excellent choices if you like to go snorkeling or diving, and offer outstanding visibility – strap on a tank or just fit on your flippers, then hover over coral gardens teeming with clownfish, butterflyfish, surgeonfish, rays, and turtles.
Ask many of the visitors on Lombok their reason for being there, and you’ll often find they begin to wax lyrical about the charms of Mount Rinjani. This mighty volcano, the second highest in Indonesia at 12,224 feet, is the island’s most famous attraction, and people come to test their stamina and take in breathtaking views with a multi-day hike to its peak. The briefest Google search is enough to explain why so many are keen to get to the top – in the crater of the volcano lies Segara Anak lake, with the often-smoldering cone of Barujari emerging from the dazzling turquoise water at its eastern end.
If trekking is not your thing, a visit to Air Kalak hot springs – a short distance from the main caldera campsite – will give you a taste of the mountain. These volcanic springs are a blissful balm to aching muscles, and their mineral-rich water is also a natural pick-me-up for the skin.
For a bird’s-eye view of the island without the mountaineering, head to Gunung Tunak National Park. The park offers a number of trails, including a two-mile trek that will take you along the coastline to an old lighthouse keeping watch from the cliffs. Once you’ve oohed and aahed over the local butterfly population (there’s a sanctuary in the park – come in February to find numbers at their peak), you can climb the viewing platform, which looks like a transmission tower, and exclaim again over views of land and sea, before descending down to one of two secluded beaches – Bilasayaq and Ujung Tanjung.
If you’re looking for Lombok beach villas , you need look no further than ourvillas in Sira Beach . Located on the northwest coast of Lombok, Sira Beach is a gorgeous stretch of white-powder sand melting into tropical waters and shaded by lazily swaying palms. With properties to sleep groups from 8 to 12 people, there’s plenty of room to bring friends or family for a fabulous vacation in Indonesia.
Hop on a plane at Bali, Perth or Singapore and take a short flight to warm tropical sunshine and cool sea breezes. With bedrooms housed in their own freestanding pavilions, you can have privacy when you want, and then head back to the poolside or the Jacuzzi for a sociable soak, or perhaps to the beach right on your doorstep for a game of beach volleyball or for a paddle about in the sea kayaks that come with your vacation rental.
If you fancy an alfresco dinner then load up the barbecue and mix up some cocktails for an aperitif as the sun sets – why not ask the helpful, friendly staff to set everything up on the beach for you? Or if you’d like something a little more formal, the open-air dining pavilion is just the thing, with mouth-watering local cuisine cooked for you by your private chef.