Experience the Jewel of Southeast Asia
Lombok is a little known island paradise just a 2 hour speedboat ride away from Bali. Most people think of the Gili Islands when they hear Lombok, but in truth, Lombok island itself also has a wealth of beautiful beaches and treasures just waiting to be explored. The best part? You can hop on a plane from Singapore and be there in 3 hours!
With its pristine white beaches and impossibly clear waters, Lombok and its surrounding islands may very well be the Bali of 1995 before all the tourists arrived. For those looking for ideas for their next beach getaway, Lombok and the Gili Islands present a fantastic and quieter alternative to Bali.
About The Gili Islands
The Gili Islands are a group of 3 islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno) and are a 1-hour boat ride away from Lombok. While most visitors choose to reside on Gili Trawangan, the main island, we decided to stay on Lombok island itself and make a day trip to the Gili Islands.
Where you decide to stay is entirely up to your own preference -- those wishing to scale the majestic Mt. Rinjani should reside on Lombok island, while beach bums should definitely stay at Gili Trawangan, or even in various homestays options at Gili Air and Gili Meno.
Here are 10 reasons to make the trip to Lombok and the Gili Islands. But first, a video of what we got up to while we were there!
1. The Most Instagrammable Locations In The World
Location: Ombak Sunset, Gili Trawangan
This ocean swing is commonly found along the beaches of Gili Trawangan and is super pretty. But that’s not the only place. Lombok and its surrounding islands are full of picturesque and idyllic locations for that perfect Instagram moment.
Location: Pantai Kuta, Lombok
Location: Base of Mt. Rinjani, Lombok
Location: Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep Waterfalls, Lombok
Location: Local markets, Lombok
Capture beautiful moments on digital and physical film for memories you will never forget.
2. Iridiscent, clear waters as far as the eye can see
Sounds too good to be true, but in Lombok it’s everywhere.
The best time to visit Lombok is during their dry season from May to September. Although Lombok enjoys beautiful climate throughout the year, it’s best to visit during this period in order to make the most of your tropical getaway.
3. Travel around on old-school horse carts for SGD10
Horse carts mostly operate in the evenings and visitors can usually find a handful waiting outside the more popular villas in Senggigi on Lombok island. This is the most convenient mode of transport to nearby destinations at a very low cost and also the best way to gain local insights and dining recommendations. We had our horse cart driver to thank for the delicious dinners we enjoyed!
These horses were physically smaller compared to their European counterparts, but equally as capable! We were amazed by their ability to pull loads upwards of 100kg!
Be sure to ask the horse cart driver to wait while you have your dinner as it may sometimes be difficult to find a ride back from your location. Our horse cart driver and his horse Marcus sent us swiftly to our location, waited about two hours for us and then sent us back to our villa, all for a grand total of IDR100,000 (SGD10.00)!
On the Gili islands, horse carts and bicycles are the only means of transport around. The horse cart drivers have a system going on, almost like our taxi systems in Singapore. Admittedly, the rides on Gili island are more expensive. Our 15 minute return trip on Gili Trawangan cost us IDR250,000 (SGD25.00).
- The Gili Islands -
4. Snorkel right off the beach at the Gili Islands
The beauty of the Gili islands lies in the fact that you can practically snorkel off the beach. Get your bum off that deck chair, put on some fins and a snorkel and open your eyes to the beauty that is Lombok underwater.
The waters are crystal clear, calm and perfect for snorkeling. I recommend hitting the waters early for the best visibility. By about 3pm, the current starts to get stronger and the waters become less clear. Our guide fashioned us a squirt bottle filled with bread mixed with some water and the fish went absolutely crazy over it!
To make the most of your snorkeling experience you can choose to go on a snorkel tour with a local snorkeling company that can take you to the best snorkelling spots around the Gili islands. Or, if you prefer not to get wet, you can also view Lombok’s rich marine life from the comfort of a glass-bottomed boat.
- Lombok -
5. Marvel at beautiful waterfalls in Lombok
Nature-lovers, you won’t want to miss this. Situated near the base of the majestic Mt Rinjani, the Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep waterfalls are a sight to behold. Aside from being a beautiful work of nature, the local Sasak people believe the waters at these two waterfalls have healing powers that can cure diseases and preserve youth.
You can navigate the falls yourself but I suggest hiring a local guide instead for about IDR170,000 (SGD17.00) especially if you’re intending to visit Tiu Kelep as the paths are unmarked and may be confusing for first-time visitors.
Nestled in lush greenery, the trek to the first waterfall (Sendang Gile) is an easy one on paved walkways and will take you approximately 15 mins.
The second waterfall (Tiu Kelep) however is a more challenging one with dirt road and several stream crossings with fast flowing waters (!!!) so be careful not to lose your slippers while crossing it!
After hearing about the magical properties of the water at the waterfalls, Bel and I decided to drink from this supposed fountain of youth. The water tasted just like it came out of a bottle of mineral water, and we were told it is this same water that is channelled into the homes of the nearby residents. It’s still too soon to tell, but if ten years down the road Bel and I still retain our youth and vigour, you’ll know why!
Address: Senaru, Bayan, Kabupaten Lombok Utara, Nusa Tenggara Barat, Indonesia
6. Immerse yourself in local culture
Lombok is a place so rich in history and culture it would be a shame to give it a miss when you visit. Culture is evident everywhere - from the sarongs the women wear to the intricately woven tapestries hanging from the wall of a restaurant.
We tried our hand at weaving. I have some basic background in weaving, but the ladies in Lombok take weaving to a whole new level.
The technique of weaving is typically passed down from mother to daughter and completed tapestries are often used as dowry. Our guide mentioned every bachelorette there needs to learn how to weave and complete a few pieces in order to get married.
We also had the opportunity to try on traditional Lombok apparel. The locals have a specific way of tying their sarongs. As you can see from the picture above, tying a sarong the Lombok way is not as easy as it looks!
Visitors will also have the chance to try out traditional Lombok wedding attire. The wedding gown is an elaborate 3 piece garment consisting of a sarong, a blouse, a waist scarf and a sash.
Address: Sukarara Village, Jonggat village, North Lombok district
Go back in time to the way the Sasak villagers used to live by visiting their village and experiencing their way of life. These huts are made from a mixture of cow manure, straw and bamboo and the villagers here function on little or no electricity and running water.
Aside from farming, the Sasak people are best known for their handicrafts and most families rely on the sales of these items as their sole source of income. Do visit the village and appreciate the simpler way of life that is so hard to come by in this day and age.
Address: Sade Village, Central Lombok, Nusa Tenggara Barat
7. Try your hand at local crafts
We visited Banyumulek Pottery Village in Lombok and got a chance to try our hand at one of the hardest crafts there is to master. For IDR20,000 (SGD2.00) you can learn how to make a variety of clay vessels guided by a skilled potter.
Watching her deft fingers bring the mound of clay to life was mesmerizing and looked like a piece of cake, but when it was my turn to try, the clay just refused to obey. With A LOT of help, I managed to successfully fashion a simple vase. If I can do it, anyone can!
You can also decorate your own little pot for IDR40,000 (SGD4.00). Pick from a selection of coloured dyes, flex those artistic muscles and design your very own keepsake.
Alternatively if you lack the creative gene, intricately designed ones are available for purchase as well, along with a multitude of other handmade pottery!
Address: Kediri sub district, West Lombok district
8. Visit the local pasar (market)
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in Lombok culture is to visit a local market. Here you’ll get to experience how the locals do their grocery shopping and also get a good look at the local produce.
The stall-holders are friendly and will willingly engage you in conversation. We were asked how to say the names of certain fruit and vegetables in English, while the ladies put our basic grasp of Bahasa Indonesia to the test. One of them even invited us to her house for a meal!
The bustling vigour of the marketplace in the morning brought me back to the days of my childhood when I’d accompany my grandma to the wet market and watch her haggle for things like onion, chillies and meat.
All the stallholders were proud to show off their wares, even if it was just a few fish. Their humble trade and larger than life personalities made my day.
9. 1 Meal In Bali = 3 Meals In Lombok
The food in Lombok is both tasty and unbelievably affordable. The nasi goreng pictured above cost a mere IDR20,000 (SGD2.00) and was one of the best nasi gorengs I had ever tasted. Most people love drenching their nasi goreng with kecap manis or sweet dark soy sauce, but I prefer mine as it is. What is one thing Lombok has that Bali doesn’t? Cheap food.
Nasi goreng can be found everywhere and it really comes down to personal preference for which nasi goreng is the best.
A close relative of the nasi goreng, the mee goreng is also a popular dish in Lombok and equally as affordable.
Even when we went out dining at what many locals would consider a popular ‘tourist’ restaurant, the most expensive thing on the menu was IDR170,000 (SGD17.00). This is good news especially for those travelling on a budget: you can indulge in all of Lombok’s tantalizing local food without worrying too much about expenditure!
I also highly recommend trying sop buntut or oxtail soup, a local classic and my personal favourite.
The ubiquitous Ayam Taliwang is a dish unique to Lombok and typically costs IDR40,000-70,000 (SGD4.00-7.00) per serving. Ayam Taliwang is essentially grilled or roasted chicken with a special spicy sauce that's served on the side.
Don’t be fooled by the description of a ‘whole chicken’ often found in most menus; the chicken they use is of a much smaller variety (kampong chicken) and contains very little meat. You could easily finish two whole chickens and still be hungry.
If you haven’t tried Bintang Radler, you really should. As far as I know, Singapore does not carry this range of Bintang beer. This light lager with a zesty lemon flavour is the perfect chill out drink by the beach. At just IDR25,000 (SGD2.50) a bottle, you’ll soon find out why one is often not enough.
10. Catch a Lombok sunset
As with most beach holidays, you can’t visit Lombok without catching one of their breathtaking sunsets.
The locals have their own favourite sunset-viewing spots. According to a peddler we met, the best viewing spots change throughout the year, so it is advisable to ask locals for advice on the best spots around town.
Watching the ocean being bathed in soothing copper tones is unbelievably therapeutic and the perfect way to end a day filled with activities.
Lombok: An Island Paradise
Lombok marries island paradise with the simple minimalistic life of the local residents in perfect matrimony. You have the Gili Islands with their hip Bali-esque party atmosphere but also the laid back island culture of Lombok island itself for its unassuming treasure troves of food and nature.
Most of all, it was deeply heartening to see the pride the local residents took in Lombok and the willingness and almost eagerness to share the best tips, spots and attractions of their island home.
Getting To Lombok And The Gili Islands
Lucky for us, as much as Lombok remains a relatively unexplored tourist destination it is easily accessible. The only direct flight from Singapore to Lombok is aboard SilkAir, with a regular schedule of five flights per week. There are ample taxis available on arrival but it’s best to arrange for a transfer from your villa especially if you are arriving in Lombok at night. The 1 hour taxi ride from the airport to Senggigi where most villas are located should cost approximately IDR250,000 (SGD25.00)
Getting to Gili Trawangan from Lombok involves a one hour boat ride from Bangsal harbour at IDR10,000 (SGD1.00). Alternatively, you can charter a traditional boat or perahu for the whole day that will take you around the Gili Islands that will cost just slightly more than IDR70,000 (SGD7.00).
be sure to check out changiairport.com/discoverindonesia for the latest travel deals. Also stay tuned for an attractive SilkAir promotional fare to Lombok on Changi Airport’s Facebook page, where you can stand a chance to win the grand prize of a FREE 3D2N trip to Lombok for 2!
This post was brought to you by Changi Airport.