Lombok is a large island the east of Bali. It is quite similar to Bali in terms of nature – beautiful beaches, active volcanoes and splendid waterfalls.
The atmosphere on Lombok, however, is quite different. Instead of Hindu temples, there are mosques everywhere. Lombok is much less developed than Bali and if you are looking for peace and quiet, you will find it in droves.
Highlights of Lombok
The Gili Islands off the north west coast of Lombok are backpacker/party favourites.
Mt Rinjani is an active volcano with a beautiful blue lake in the crater. You can organise a tour – 2 days, 1 night to the crater rim; 3 days, 2 nights to hike down the crater and back up again (for masochists ;-)). One woman I met decribed it as the hardest hike she had ever done. I decided to pass – my knees thanked me for it!
Kuta Lombok is surfing town on the south coast of Lombok. They have built a nice promenade along the beach. There are some nice restaurants and cafes. You need your own transport to reach the surf beaches. Most surfers rent a scooter with a special attachment for the board. Note, there have been some cases of muggings of surfers returning to the village late at night.
Be aware of property scams. I made a day trip to a nearby beach with only one local restaurant. A local guy approached me asking me if I wanted to buy the surrounding land: “This place is not yet developed, but will be the next Bali! Get in now while the prices are still low. I politely declined. When I got back to my place in Kuta Lombok, the Australian owners told me the locals sold that land to some big corporation in Jakarta around 15 years ago, but it was never developed. In the meantime, Kuta Lombok has become more developed and the locals who sold their land are jealous of the profits being made. They think, “this is really our land. That company in Jakarta isn’t really entitled to it.” So, they sell the land again this time to some gullible tourist. The tourist then goes back to his/her country and prepares to move back to Lombok to develop their business idea, only to find other people on the land, because it has been sold again by the very same locals! The locals then repeat this process over and over up to 10 times! The gullible foreigner has a legally binding contract, but that does not help because the local courts and police are in the back pocket of the local mafia.
On the west coast there is a bland resort called Senggigi, with ugly midrange hotels catering to wealthy local tourists. There are however, plenty of remote or deserted beaches. The beaches have black volcanic sand.
Mataram is the bustling capital city. There is nothing of interest here and it is best avoided.
South of Mataram on the way to the airport, there is a traditional Sasak village. You have to pay a small entry fee, which goes to supporting the village. You can observe the traditional lifestyle and purchase handicrafts.
On the east side of the island, you will find really remote beaches and little tourist infrastructure.
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