Although you’re much less likely to see bikini-clad tourists strolling through beach resorts there’s every chance to visit a Sasak village and be shown the intricacies of songket dress making by a local female tour guide who arrives on the back of a motorbike. Life on Lombok exists without Western ways, as it always has, where you’re just as likely to hear the early morning call to prayer as you are the whistle of an endemic scops owl whilst staying in a village at the base of Mount Rinjani. Scenery is much more rugged, mountainous, dramatic, with Rinjani, the island’s volcanic centrepiece, revered for forest-covered highlands and fertile lowlands where cotton, coffee and soya beans are cultivated, much as they have been for generations. Lombok’s a place of peace and quiet with deserted beaches from where to surf, swim or snorkel over coral, or simply soak up the sunshine and silence. Shhhh.

Find out more in our Lombok travel guide.
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One of the easiest ways of getting from Bali to Lombok, other than by plane, is an organised fast boat from Padangbai to Lembar, which will deposit you on Lombok's west coast, approx 20km south of the largest city, Mataram, and about a two-hour bus ride from Tetebatu, just south of Mount Rinjani, in central Lombok. Lombok's international airport, Praya, is about an hour's drive south of Tetebatu and roughly two hours' drive southeast of Labuhan Pandan, on Lombok's northeast coast. Trips by small boat to the Gili Islands – Gili Air being the closest to Lombok – depart from Bangsal Harbour on Lombok's northwest coast, and take around 30 minutes.
Gili Islands Labahan Pandan Mount Rinjani Senaru sengigi Tetebatu

Gili Islands

Just off the northwest coast of Lombok lie the three Gili Islands: Trawangan, Meno and Air. Each represent a different side to life off the mainland with the largest island, Gili Trawandgan, more developed and livelier; the smallest island, Gili Meno, quieter and untouched with few crowds; and the closest to Lombok, Gili Air, a blend of both with coral reefs and turtles off the east coast.

Labuhan Pandan

Lombok’s east coast is rarely visited and far from developed. Take guided walks through rice paddies and farmers’ fields – still ploughed by water buffalos – and visits to clove and coffee plantations, as a perfect precursor to remote beachside bungalows from where to seek solitude in Labuhan Pandan. Snorkelling trips to the coral reef, just offshore, offer balance between beach time and hammocks.

Mount Rinjani

Thanks to a shroud of cloud, Indonesia’s second highest peak is rarely glimpsed from lowland fields so trekking up the sacred slopes is the only way to unlock Mount Rinjani’s treasure trove of waterfalls, rainforests and bubbling hot pools. Dominating Lombok both in form and spirituality, Rinjani is far more than a ‘because it’s there’ option, it’s a cultural pilgrimage into a world of gods and monsters.


Often considered to be the gateway to Mount Rinjani, the smallish village of Senaru is worth a visit in its own right and provides a great base for those wishing to walk to Tiue Kelep waterfall, in some wondrous scenery, rather than climb into the clouds. A guided tour of nearby villages lets you learn more about Sasak culture as well as supporting an initiative to get more local women into tourism.


Although sections of Senggigi’s 10km coastline have succumbed to slightly sleazy, there are plenty of opportunities to watch the sun set over Bali from an out-of-the-way guesthouse or from the local Hindu temple, Pura Batu Bolong, rather than settling for a night of neon. A bit more like Bali, but not quite as bawdy, Senggigi has some great undeveloped beaches; just avoid the central district.


Just south of Mount Rinjani National Park, Tetebatu is an artisan hill retreat surrounded by smaller villages, like Pringgasel and Masbagik, which are well known for their traditional handicrafts, such as pottery and weaving, and locally grown tofu and soya beans. Visits to local markets and tucking into a Sasak feast are definitely recommended alongside experiencing an authentic slice of rural life on Lombok.

Photo credits: [Topbox: Mohammad Fadli] [Map topbox: Ivetta Inaray] [Gili Islands: Jorge Láscar] [Labuhan Pandan: IRRI Photos] [Mount Rinjani : Petter Lindgren] [Senaru: Campaka ] [Senggigi: Agni Minardi] [Tetebatu: Carol Schaffer] [Helpdesk: Yeowatzup]
Written by Chris Owen
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