To most visitors, North Lombok means one thing – the jumping off point to the fabled Gili Islands. While the tiny tropical Gilis are unforgettable, it would be a crime to miss out on the rest of North Lombok. Aside from the colossal Mount Rinjani volcano, most of North Lombok is pure virgin territory to all but the most intrepid independent traveller and only now getting the plaudits and publicity it deserves.
This is an incredibly diverse landscape. There is just a solitary road which dissects an area dotted with miles of deserted sugar coated beaches, waterfalls, thick jungle and captivating villages with quite unique traditions. Of course at almost 4,000 metres high, Mount Rinjani is a constant brooding presence wherever you go. It is a sparsely populated region with only one town of note – Tanjung. That means the privilege of having glorious white sand beaches all to yourself and if off-road adventure is your thing, you are in for a real treat with miles of virtually untouched primary rainforest. That said, there is no need to go without swanky creature comforts. The area is home to a few glamorous hotel resorts and an awesome championship golf course.
Tanjung and Around
Tanjung is a lively, atmospheric town that doubles as the regions administrative centre and transport hub. There are few interesting landmarks or attractions in town from a tourist’s perspective but the local market is a real eye-opener. If you are heading toward Mount Rinjani, it is the best place to stock up on last minute essentials. Tanjung boasts a few homely guest houses but most people take the short drive west to the fabulous beaches of Medana and the Sire Peninsular.
Both these adjacent beach areas are North Lombok’s next big thing and it’s not difficult to see why. Sire Beach, with captivating views across to the Gili Island’s, offer picture perfect palm-fringed white sands which are usually completely deserted away from the handful of upmarket beachfront hotels. Located here is the swanky Kosaido Golf Club, one of the finest rounds of golf you can experience in Indonesia. Nearby Medana Bay has recently undergone a swish makeover with a new yacht marina and a number of stylish beachfront resorts. This is an incredibly idyllic spot to while away a hot day in the sun and the backdrop of immense Mount Rinjani never fails to captivate.
Bayan and Around
Few travellers go as far as Lomboks’ far north, an area steeped in "Sasak" history. The focus of this area is the charming town of Bayan, the birthplace of the unique "Wektu Telu" religion that mixes Islam with age-old animist practices. It is also home to the island’s oldest mosque, dating to the mid-17th century and also noted for its weaving cottage industry. You are right in the foothills of Rinjani here and the views are breathtaking; the lower slopes are given over to vast plantations of cashew nuts, tobacco and rice fields, framed by dense rainforest. En route to Senaru and into the Mount Rinjani National Park, don’t miss a visit to Sendang Gile, Lombok’s most spectacular waterfalls.
Measuring 3,726m high, Rinjani hogs the superlatives. It is the second highest volcano in Indonesia and covers a landmass of over 65 km. Close to the summit is a breathtaking feature – a huge 8km wide crater lake and hot spring. Despite the altitude, the temperature can still be fairly pleasant and there are few other places you could take a refreshing dip at almost 3,000m above sea level. Views at dawn from the summit are worth a fairly arduous three-day climb, stretching as far as Java in the west and Sumbawa in the east.
This is a colossal volcanic peak that is far from dormant and was spewing volcanic ash into the atmosphere as recently as 2010. However, it is a highly rewarding eco-adventure and well regulated with experienced guides and porters to lead the way, complete with comprehensive equipment, tents and food supplies.
Return to the Lombok regional overview page.