The volcanic island of Lombok lies in the heart of the Indonesian archipelago, just to the east of Bali. Though the islands are only 22 miles (35 kilometers) apart, there are stark differences between them. While tourism and development in Bali have continued unabated for decades, Lombok has been slower to develop. Enjoy Lombok’s untouched lengths of coastline, quiet surf breaks, and rural towns and villages that have changed little for generations.
Though often bypassed by visitors keen to hit the beaches, the island’s capital, Mataram, has rewarding attractions. Spend some time in the Mayura Water Palace, where 18th- and 19th-century Balinese royals used to unwind, and Pura Meru, the largest temple on Lombok.
Lombok offers some of the best beaches and islands in Indonesia. Head north from Mataram to Senggigi Beach and enjoy laid-back resorts, the rich marine life of Senggigi Reef and the heavenly views from Pura Batu Bolong temple. Follow the scenic road a little farther north to Bangsal, one of the access points to the incredible Gili Islands. Lying just a few miles off Lombok’s northwest coast, these three tiny islands epitomise tropical perfection.
When you are looking for an alternative to sand and surf, trek to the highest point on the island, the active volcano, Gunung Rinjani. If you’re not up for the climb, explore the beauty of the surrounding natural park with an expedition through its forests and villages.
Lombok is just a 25-minute flight from Bali. The island’s international airport is a 40-minute drive from Mataram. There are also numerous fast boat connections between Bali and Lombok, some going directly to Senggigi Beach and the Gili Islands. Passenger ferries connect Lombok to the rest of the archipelago. Getting around the island is easy and relatively inexpensive via tourist shuttle buses, private vans, motorcycles and even horse-drawn carts.
Being so close to the equator means Lombok is hot year-round. The best time to visit is during the dry season between May and September.