It is not hard to fall in love with this 4,500km2 piece of land in South Indonesia. Situated just about 30km east of Bali, Lombok has almost everything that you can find on its famous neighbour – beautiful beaches, lush green jungle, majestic volcanoes, friendly locals and delicious food. You might miss the spiritual vibe that Bali has, but there are plenty other reasons that you will fall for here and for me it was still the lack of tourist crowds and the sensational sense of freedom this island has.
Lombok is easily accessible either through its own airport or with fast boats from Bali or the Gili Islands.
There is plenty to explore here. You can challenge yourself and climb Mount Rinjani – Indonesia’s second highest active volcano, explore the hidden waterfalls, immerse yourself in local culture by visiting one of the Sasak villages, or like I did (twice) – feel the true island vibe venturing with a scooter around the south coast choosing my favourite beach (or surf spot if you are into it or like me still believe it’s not too late to learn)
Kuta in south of Lombok thankfully has nothing in common with Kuta Bali. Although it is becoming more and more popular with visible growth in foreign investments, Kuta Lombok has still some charming, unsoiled, super laid back and chilled feel that makes time stop and all worries disappear. Beautiful long beach bordering steep cliffs, small restaurant, surf shops, friendly locals and lots of smiley kids selling you pretty much anything on the beach –from pineapples to bracelets and sarongs.
Most importantly Kuta has the perfect location to start your idyllic beach search. Jump on a scooter (yes you will love it!) and take the steep narrow roads going up and down through lush greens, opening spectacular views to the distant bays.
If you head west of Kuta, don’t miss beach Mawun. There is a big chance you won’t want to leave and look for other places as you will find yourself in a beautiful perfectly oval bay with white sand and inviting blue water. If it is not the weekend or a local holiday, you might as well be one of the very few visitors here. Adding a young coconut and a pineapple from the local kids can give you a true feel of paradise.
If you still decide to move head to Mawi for some surf or (like me) just for the view. Mawi has no particular beach line, but the view is breathtaking especially at sunset time.
Just 10 minutes further west is the popular Selong Belanak and surely it has earned its fame for a reason – white-blue water, soft sandy beach, small warungs and plenty of young coconuts.
Make sure that on the way back to Kuta you stop at Ashtari – a beautiful hill top restaurant, café and yoga place that probably has the most beautiful view toward Kuta bay. The food is delicious, cocktails look chic and the sunset is absolutely breathtaking.
My travels east of Kuta were motivated by an ambition to learn to surf. Even if you are not a big fan the surf vibe in Kuta can easily overtake you and soon you can find yourself changing your scooter for one with a surf rack.
We reached Grupuk – a tiny village about 20 min ride from Kuta. The waves here can be reached only by boats and the journey through the lobster farms itself is an adventure. Local boats are available there or you can easily prearrange them from Kuta. On my first surf day I think the waves were not very good and almost none by the looks of the people’s faces around me, but oh, I did have lots of fun!
On the food front, my Lombok food wonder is definitely the water spinach (no disrespect to nasi goreng). It reminds me of something between broccolini and spinach. It has a tender taste and goes perfectly with Indonesian spices. Typically it comes with red sambal (plecing kangkung) or stir-fried (tumis kangkung). In all it forms – light, delicious and full of flavours.