Alternative Destinations for Backpacking in Indonesia – Flores to Bali

Only seven weeks ago we were having an amazing time in Lombok. Indonesia was our last destination of our five months trip and we decided to take some relaxing time in the south of Lombok and on the idyllic gili’s. But where do you want to go now if you want to avoid Lombok because of the recent earthquakes?

Our Indonesian adventure started on Bali, over the last few years Bali has become very touristic, which has it benefits and downsides. Tourists are everywhere and some of the popular and known spots can be very packed. The benefit being that it’s extremely easy to travel around and arranged transport is no problem at all.

From Bali we visited Nusa Penida, the big brother next to Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan.  Thanks to the beautiful beaches and the amazing Instagram photos Nusa Penida will definitely become just as popular as Nusa Lembongan. Some of the roads are pretty tough which makes it a challenge to reach the popular beaches. A driver and a car would make things much easier and more comfortable.

Beautiful Nusa Penida

Nusa Penida - Indonesia

Although we like to explore things ourselves we decided to go by scooter. Which was challenging because some parts of the roads there were more rock than tarmac. Nusa Penida is 200 square kilometres and gives you enough to explore for a few days. You can decide to stay in one place like we did, or you can move around the island sleep somewhere else every night and save some travel time. In our opinion the beaches of Nusa Penida are just as pretty or maybe even prettier than the idyllic Gili’s. So if you have 3 to 5 days left spent them on Nusa Penida and enjoy the laid back feeling of this island where tourist infrastructure is growing fast.

But what would be a good alternative if you were planning to stay a bit longer on Lombok? Well this is what we did and what we can highly recommend! From Bali we flew to Maumere, which is on the east side of the island Oost-Nusa Tenggara, also known as Flores. Over the last years Flores is getting more popular, mainly because of the Komodo dragon. But Flores has so much more to offer than only the beautiful Komodo area.

The Terrifyingly Beautiful Komodo Dragon

komodo dragon - Indonesia

It’s possible to spent weeks on this green island, unfortunately we only had 1 and a half weeks to spent here before we wanted to take the boat to bring us to the Komodo’s and drop us at Lombok. Our plan was to go west all the way back to Bali, from where we would fly back home to Amsterdam. Because we met two Italian guys in the plane we pretty much left Maumere after we landed. Maumere is known for relaxing hotels at the beach and the good diving and snorkel spots, our relaxing time would come a bit later.

We shared a taxi to Moni which is a small village on the foot of the Kelimutu volcano which is known for its three coloured lakes. Be aware that WiFi in this small village is pretty much non existent, so if you want to stay online you have to buy a local SIM-card beforehand. Because they can’t sell it to you in the village and there are literally two spots in the whole town who have ‘wifi’, or a wifi sign. 😉

On your way from Maumere to Moni it’s nice to stop at Koka Beach, which is nice to relax after the bending roads through the mountains. We stayed two nights in Moni and woke up very early to see the sunset at the Kelimutu volcano. Unfortunately for us there was no clear sky, but we had a glimpse of the three lakes from the top. One was black and the other two were bright blue/green, unfortunate no red.  Up the volcano we shared a taxi but we walked our way down back to the village.

Kelimutu Volcano

Kelimutu Volcano

Doing that we were glad we didn’t walk up all the way in darkness. In the afternoon we walked to the local hot springs, which are everywhere around Moni. It’s best to ask some locals, because it’s pretty hard to find, since it’s just a spring in the middle of the hotsprings. The whole day through you will see busses or minivans passing through the village, since there is mainly one big road going over the island. The next day we just stopped one of those minivans with help from the locals and the driver took us via Ende all the way to Bajawa. If you have more time you can also stay a night in Ende or fly to Ende instead of Maumere. Ende is also known as port from where the ferries to West-Timor leave.

Bajawa is much bigger with enough guesthouses and restaurants and Wifi won’t be a huge problem over here.  We walked in a few guest houses, but had no problem finding one even though it was already dark. We rented a scooter and visited a few  local villages in Luba and Bena, not only those villages are interesting but also the nature and the relax atmosphere is what makes it great to just drive around. We also enjoyed the relaxing  Mengeruda Hot Springs and met many locals. The best part of this area is that everyone is nice laid back, you will only meet a few tourists but mainly meet many lovely locals.

Mengeruda Hotsprings

Mengeruda Hotsprings

If we had more time we would definitely would have stayed a few nights in the area around Ruteng, which is know for the unique spider web rice fields and it’s local villages, or in Riung to visit the 17 island national park, also known as Tujuh Blas Pulau. Unfortunate we had to continue to Labuan Bajo, we arranged the local bus who picked us up at our guesthouse and brought us in 11 hours to our new hotel.

Lubuan Bajo is mainly known as port to the Komodo national park. Many hotels, guesthouses and hostels are build upon the hill and provide a beautiful view over the boats waiting in front of the city. We experienced the best sunsets here, so beautiful how the sky colours with pink and purple. If you rent a scooter it’s worth it to ride to Amelia viewpoint or Sunset Point and climb one of the small hills. The view is gorgeous!

Amelia Viewpoint

Amelia viewpoint

There are many tour companies who provide tour to the Komodo national park. We did a 4D/3N tour back to Lombok with Ficko. This was the cheapest at that moment, we booked it with two French friends who we met in Moni and had the whole boat just for the four of us. We can really recommend this tour, it’s such a special experience, but it will end on Lombok from where we continued to Kuta in the south. If you want to fly back to Bali from Lubuan Bajo you can also decide to do a several day tour. Make sure you don’t miss out on manta point, we snorkelled here and saw a giant manta ray. Impressive because we didn’t do any diving or manta snorkelling in Nusa Penida so this was the first time we saw a manta ray.

If you’re on a budget it’s a good tip to do Rinca island and Komodo island on the same day, so you only have to pay entrance fee once. We were lucky to see a Komodo walking and trying to attack deers. Such an impressive animal and experience!

We didn’t go to the famous Instagram spot Pulau Padar because our tour guide told us that this was a very crowded spot and he knew a good alternative. That’s why we decided to go to Gili Lawa Darat and he was right that it was an amazingly beautiful view. We were only with the four of us and that probably made it extra special. So if you want to enjoy the beauty view of the komodo national park without the crowd visit Gili Lawa Darat. We had an amazing time on Flores, meeting so many lovely and friendly locals and enjoyed the pretty nature of the island. Flores you have it all!

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