Lombok, Indonesia travel guide and things to do: 20 reasons to visit

1. EXPLORE: THE ISLAND

The more Bali becomes degraded by over-development and over-tourism the more a perennially overlooked Lombok emerges as an attractive holiday alternative. Even so, it's a wonder why this beautiful tropical Indonesian island still attracts such a comparatively meagre number of visitors considering its array of natural attractions such as its spectacular coastline and luxuriant countryside. See Indonesia.travel

2. ESCAPE: BALI TO LOMBOK BY HIGH-SPEED BOAT

Since Lombok is still not well-serviced internationally by airlines compared to Bali, the chances are you may be connecting to Lombok via its neighbour. Although there are regular domestic air services between the two islands, the most pleasant way to travel can be  on a fast-boat with a reliable operator like Blue Water Express. Its craft link Bali and Lombok and it is the service the leading hotels and resorts favour. It takes up to four hours. See bluewater-express.com

3. STAY: OBEROI LOMBOK

This pioneering five-star resort, the first of its quality to be built on Lombok, may be not be the island's newest but it's still the best. Designed in the 1990s by visionary Australian architect Peter Muller, the 50-room resort, which has a venerable sister property on Bali (see below), sits in an idyllic, gorgeously landscaped beachside location at Tanjung. The increasingly fashionable Gili Islands are just a short high-speed boat ride from the Oberoi Lombok's jetty. See oberoihotels.com

4. MEET: THE PEOPLE

Lombok's population is predominantly Muslim, in contrast to the Hindu-dominated Bali. Although Lombok arguably lacks the appeal and fascination that can be found in Bali's beguiling mystical culture, the island so far remains free of most, if not all, of its counterpart's excesses combined with a palpably far more languid and simpler way of life. See Indonesia.travel

5. VISIT: THE GILI ISLANDS

The trio of captivating islands off Lombok's north-west coastline – Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan – are officially part of Lombok but in many ways are completely unlike it. Nowadays the biggest island of the motor vehicle-free Gili group, Trawangan, can feel a little like "Bali lite", with its sandy "main street" a gridlock of holidaymakers, bicycles and horse and cart taxis. But there's no denying it and its counterparts' appeal. If you're making a day of it, the Oberoi Lombok's chefs can prepare a picnic basket for a lunch on a beach. See Indonesia.travel

6. DO: DIVING AND SNORKELLING

Unlike other parts of Indonesia, the ocean currents are kinder to Lombok meaning that its waters tend to remain pristine. Understandably, this makes for perfect diving and snorkelling conditions with the sea home to huge variety and populations of tropical fish and sea turtles. However, if you're snorkelling off the Gili Islands you may find yourself a little crowded out by boats. See oberoihotels.com

7. MARVEL: THE COUNTRYSIDE

 Among the genuine joys of a visit to Lombok are the views of richly verdant farmland framed by a backdrop of peaks wrapped in wispy cloud. Unlike built-up, traffic-choked Bali, you won't have to wander far from your resort to gain a sense of daily village rural life on an island where agriculture is still as economically important, if not more so, as tourism.

8. CLIMB: GUNUNG RINJANI

A one-and-a-half-hour scenic drive from Lombok's north-west coast, Indonesia's second largest volcano, rising to almost 3800 metres, sacred Gunung Rinjani has become a popular climbing destination for intrepid Western trekkers. Multi-day, fully guided treks are the best and safest way to see the mountain, with rewarding views from the summit. One of the mountain's most dramatic sights, at 2000 metres above sea level, is Segara Anak, a large crater lake. See Indonesia.travel

9. SEE: WATERFALLS

The village of Senaru, clinging to the slopes of Gunung  Rinjani at 600 metres above sea level and from where the blue Flores Sea can be glimpsed, is the starting point for walks to two spectacular Lombok waterfalls, Singang Gile and Tiu Kelep, with the latter being by far the most impressive. Fed by the waters that flow from Gunung Rinjani, Singang Gile is reached by a relatively well-maintained rainforest trail. Further along, take care on the way to Tui Kelep. To reach these falls it's necessary to cross some shallow rapids with slippery rocks above and below the surface of the water, a hazard for walkers. Many visitors to Tui Kelep choose to swim in the welcome cooling waters below the raging falls. See Indonesia.travel

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10. RIDE: A CIDOMO

A common and authentic means of transport in all corners of Lombok is the cidomo, a traditional brightly coloured and elaborately adorned small horse-drawn cart employed as slow-moving taxis by the island's inhabitants. In the island's larger centres, cidomos are being phased out due to their incompatibility with modern traffic and because of the excessive quantities of dung their ponies produce. However, guests of the Oberoi Lombok can enjoy complimentary scenic cidomo rides to the nearby traditional market at the local Tanjung village accompanied by a guide from the resort. See oberoihotels.com

11. DRIVE: THE NORTH-WEST COAST

The trip from Tanjung, near where the Oberoi Lombok is located, in the island's north-west down the coast towards or to the airport, is spectacular. The well-maintained winding road traverses steep hills which afford stunning panoramic views of the coastline. Below are seaside villages nestled between tall and dense coconut groves and grey-sandy beaches lined with traditional catamarans used for fishing. See Indonesia.travel

12. VISIT: SENGGIGI

Lombok has no resort towns to quite rival those on Bali (though there is a Kuta in Lombok's south, too), with laidback Senggigi perhaps the nearest equivalent. North of Mataram, Lombok's forgettable capital, Senggigi's principal attraction is its splendid 10-kilometres-long seaside location stretching between beaches and bays towered over by mountains. You can also often see Gunung Agung, Bali's tallest peak, from here. See Indonesia.travel

13. SEE: RICE TERRACES

One of the myriad pleasures afforded by Lombok's lavish tracts of unspoilt countryside are its glorious patchwork of rice terracing, a feat of manual engineering. Some of the best examples can be seen merging with the steep foothills of Gunung Rinjani in Lombok's north as you enter via the aforementioned village of Senaru.

14. EAT: LUMBUNG RESTAURANT

Outside of the main cities and towns, Westerner-friendly restaurants aren't as plentiful as they are over in Bali. But if you're staying at the Oberoi Lombok, as indeed you should, dining in-house is hardly an imposition, especially with a restaurant like Lumbung headed by its skilled Indian-born chef. Depending on how busy he is, the chef may even cook you a special Indian thali-style meal, should you fancy a change from the delectable local cuisine. See oberoihotels.com

15. VISIT: AMPENAN

On both Bali and Lombok few physical remnants of Dutch colonial rule over the Indonesian island from the late 19th century remain, except, that is, at Ampenan. The port of Mataram, Ampenan is worthy of a detour, perhaps to or from the island's airport. Many of the old Dutch-era colonnaded shophouse and warehouse buildings survive in a small area in and around the port.

16. SEE: DUTCH IRRIGATION SYSTEM

One other legacy of Dutch occupation of Lombok is this still operational engineering feat in the jungle-clad foothills of Gunung Rinjani. The elaborate, snaking hydrological system, designed to direct water from the mountain to ricefields and farmlands in the valley below, can be best viewed and crossed along the walking trail to the waterfalls in the forests below the peak.

17. SEE: RELIGIOUS RITUALS

As you're driving through the countryside of Lombok it's not uncommon to come across traffic-stopping colourful religious processions, led by local villagers, which can include marriage and circumcision rituals. Despite the fact that Lombok is a muslim majority island, there is a large population of Hindus who each year mark the Balinese Nyepi or "day of silence" festival, the eve of which is marked by elaborate paper-mache effigies, known as "ogoh ogoh", representing evil spirits.

18. SEE: UNDERWATER SCULPTURES

Happily, you don't need to be a fully fledged diver to experience these works off the coasts of the Gili Islands as they're just as easily viewed by snorkellers. One of the newest pieces off the Gili Islands was designed by Jason deCaires Taylor, a renowned British underwater sculptor. It consists of four dozen life-size standing and prostrate human figures. See underwatersculpture.com

19. WATCH: BUFFALOS ON THE BEACH

A charming bucolic sight on Lombok is that of local farmers walking their water buffalo along the island's sandy beaches. It's something that'd be impossible on many a tourist-filled Bali beach nowadays but a commonplace minor spectacle on Lombok. The best time to view the procession of buffalos is towards the end of the day as farmers lead them slowly homewards for the night.

20. STAY: OBEROI BALI

Despite its drawbacks, Lombok's big brother across the strait is a destination that remains hard to resist and it can make abundant sense to build a holiday around both islands. Oberoi Bali, which was also designed by Peter Muller, offers a beachside sanctuary within villa-dotted landscaped grounds. Packages are available for stays at both resorts. See oberoihotels.com

Anthony Dennis visited as a guest of the Oberoi Lombok and Bali resorts.

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