Why I’ll still choose Lombok over Bali

Most people only knows Lombok for two things, scaling the almighty Rinjani, and visiting the pristine clear waters of Gili Islands. But Lombok offers more than that, with many hidden gems waiting to be uncovered. Don’t get me wrong, Bali is still a wonderful travel destination, with its own attractions and experiences. But there are just so many unique and off-beaten experiences in Lombok that you can’t resist going back again.

Believed to be the next up and rising “Bali”, Lombok is relatively less well-known than Bali, is less crowded and also less touristy. It is definitely a place that you should visit before it rises through its rank to become the next tourist hotspot in Indonesia.

1. Pristine and secluded beaches in Lombok

Unknown to many, but Lombok has one of the nicest and most beautiful beaches around. Beach-hopping is a must if you are visiting Lombok. Step foot in Lombok’s Fantastic 4, Selong Belanak, Mawun, Kuta and Tanjung Aan beach. Be amazed by the undisturbed, pepper-grained or white sandy beaches. Hike to the surrounding hills to catch a breath-taking view of the scenery and take panoramic selfies. Or take a dip in its deep blue or turquoise water, while you enjoy a coconut sold by a couple of street hawkers by the beach.  There is just so much you can do. After you are done with the Fantastic 4, visit Pantai Tangsi, also know as the Pink Beach in Lombok. Head there just before sunset and be dazed by this beauty Witness the beach turn pastel pink as the sun sets across the sea.

A quiet and peaceful Tanjung Ann beach
Visit Tanjung Ann, a quiet and peace beach with water in shades of turquoise and blue
The famous pink beach in Lombok
The famous pink beach, especially visible before 8am and after 4pm. Image source

2. Immerse in an array of off-beaten, unique activities

Home to the Sasak people, there are plenty of cultural activities that you can engage in. Visit the pottery village, Banyemullek, and get your hands muddy as you attempt to make potteries with the guidance of locals. Or go to the Sakurara village to learn about the weaving economy and catch a glimpse of the traditional weaving methods practised by women in the villages. Or head down to a traditional Sasak village to hear about the traditional Sasak way of life. Visit houses made of clay and cow ‘dung’, and understand how different crops are used during wet and dry seasons to maximise a farmers’ yields.

Banyemullek pottery village, with its massive archive of pottery

All kind of colorful products made out of pottery

A Sakurara-woman-weaving-and-the-kid-learning
Woman are responsible for weaving and men are barred from the activity. A kind learning while a mother weaves.
Visit a traditional Sasak house
Visit a traditional Sasak house, made of clay and cow dung as its base.
Inside a Sasak house. Small but come
Inside a Sasak house, small but cozy. A year’s supply of crops, stacked upon each other.

If you are looking for more off-beaten activities, wake up in the wee hours of the morning and head down to Tanjung Luar. Watch as people trade for all type of fishes in the regional fish market. But be wary as you will see that many of the precious marine wildlife are traded here, including sharks, manta rays or sometimes even dolphins. You can also try to catch the annual Male’an Sampai buffalo races in April, organised to celebrate and pray for fertile yields before the dry season. Alternatively, you can visit Bangkang cave and be swamped by millions of bats living within. Bat hunting is still practised and bat meat is a local delicacy in some parts of Lombok.

Buffalo race competitions in Lombok
An annual buffalo race competition, a tribute to the gods before the commencement of the dry season.
Tanjung Luar first market
Tanjung Luar. While the government has banned the export of sharks overseas, demand continue to exist from restaurants within Indonesia.

3. A land of legendary myths and mystical stories

With a vibrant culture comes legendary myths and mystical stories. Every destination has its own secrets and stories waiting to be told. Chat with the locals you meet along your trip, and be awed by how everyone has some stories to tell.  Hear about the story of Mandalika, the Lombok princess who sacrificed her life to prevent a war from erupting between kingdoms. Or the mystical milk caves where locals would visit and stay within, where “only those with a strong self-confidence will rest at ease in the caves, while others who often doubted themselves or had evil intentions would have restless nights, visited by snakes, scorpion, centipedes and even shadows of the other world”.

Mandalika cliff and the mystical story
Whats left of the Mandalika cliff, where the princess jumped to prevent a war. Her body was never found, believed to have turned into sea worms, a food source for the people.
Mandalika beach and the remains of the Mandalika cliff
What remains of the Mandalika cliff, where locals gather annually to collect sea worms and worship the princess. The retreat of the cliff over time. One can only image how far beyond the ocean it used to stretch.

4. Tanjung Ringgit, the grand canyon of Lombok

If you have not gotten enough of the ocean, head down to Tanjung Ringgit, also known as the grand canyon of Lombok. Tanjung Ringgit is the cape located at the Eastern edge of Lombok, constituting a series of majestic cliffs overlooking the open sea. The view is amazing as you stroll along the edge of the cliffs.


5. Day treks and waterfalls

If you are craving for treks but don’t feel prepared for Rinjani, you can easily find day-treks that takes you to beautiful waterfalls. With a huge national park (Rinjani National Park, covering a total of 413 square kilometers), you can expect easily find day-treks and  waterfalls to visit. Trek to the Benang Stokal and Benang Kelambu curtain waterfalls, and witness the water falling through the trees. Or head to Sendang Gile and Tie Kelep waterfalls in Senaru, where the treks are easier but the waterfalls are no less breath-taking.

Hidden waterfalls within Rinjani National Park.
Visit Hidden waterfalls within Rinjani National Park.

6. The Gilis

There are more than just the three famous Gili, Gili Air, Meno and Trawangan in Lombok. Check out the other Gili in eastern Lombok if you have not done so. The 5 popular Gili, Gili Kondo, Bidari, Petagan, Sulat and Lawang in eastern Lombok are mostly inhabited, retaining much of authentic beauty. Petagan is best known for its abundance of mangrove and corals. An intermix of the two is truly a unique sight as you snorkel in the water of Petagan.

7. The crowd (there is literally none!)

Aside from the jetty heading to Gili Trawangan, there was literally no tourists in Lombok when we were there. I am not sure if this is still the same today, but compared to Bali, Lombok is definitely still much quieter and peaceful. If you are looking for a relaxing getaway, away from crowds and people, you should find Lombok a much more attractive location to visit.

8. You can rent a scooter to ride through the island, without having to weave through crazy traffic

We’ve read that you can get a motorcycle of scooter in Senggigi to ride around the island. I can imagine just the ride itself will be hell of an experience.

That said, we have not been able to cover all the mentioned attractions and activities during our trip in Lombok, which is precisely why I will still choose to come back to Lombok if I had the chance.

So the next time you are attempting Rinjani summit or heading to the Gili islands (Trawangan, Air or Meno), don’t skip Lombok mainland. Give yourself a few days and be rewarded with the experiences that Lombok has to offer!

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