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World class surf breaks

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Lombok is not as flashy or famous as Bali as we discovered. Nevertheless, it offers a wealth of attractions like a stunningly beautiful, unspoilt...

Lombok is an Indonesian island, east of Bali and west of Sumbawa, known for its picturesque beaches and prime surf

Lombok Island

Lombok is not as flashy or famous as Bali as we discovered. Nevertheless, it offers a wealth of attractions like a stunningly beautiful, unspoilt coastline with turquoise-blue bays and white-sand beaches; virgin forests in the interior areas; picturesque rice fields; a mighty volcanic crater, and world-class scuba-diving, surfing and snorkelling locations.

In fact, because it is lesser known to the world, it offers a relatively peaceful environment and tourist spots and watersports areas, which are not overrun by tourist hordes. And this tranquility is its big draw. So go there and luxuriate in its serenity, as we did, before Lombok too becomes a magnet for mass tourism!

For the uninitiated, Lombok and Bali are among the 18,000 islands that make up Indonesia. Lombok is an island located in West Nusa Tenggara province and is part of a chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands. It is separated from Bali by the Lombok Strait. Mataram is the capital of Lombok.

Places in the rest of the Indonesia like Bali, capital city Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Borobudur, Java, etc., get most of the attention. Fewer number of tourists visit Lombok. But here we give you 10 reasons why you should head to Lombok.

Kuta: This is the possibly the most-visited part of Lombok. Kuta is generally top on the to-do list for tourists to Lombok and mostly because of its pristine white-sand beaches, cliffs and mountains creating a spectacular landscape and the amazing surfing locations. It is often called a surfer's paradise. The serenity and rustic feel add to Kuta's appeal though the tourist inflow is steadily increasing.

Sengigi: An area, which is more comparitively more crowded because of the many hotels and resorts located here, it also figures high on must-do lists. You will find many tourists hanging out at Sengigi Beach and watersport lovers having a heyday. Many visitors use Sengigi as a base from which they take day trips to nearby places like Gili Islands, waterfalls, temples, forest areas and rural habitations.

Gili Islands: These are often described as dream beaches or paradise islands. The Gili Trawangan (main island) and the smaller Gili Meno and Gili Air are all a mere 20-minute boat ride away. As with the rest of the beaches in Lombok, you will find that many have come here merely to unwind and so spend the day lounging on the beach, or going around on scooters while water-sports lovers enjoy their surfing, scubadiving and snorkelling. Taman Burung houses exotic birds from other countries and Indonesian wildlife. The Turtle Sanctuary is another place worth a visit.

Mount Rinjani aka Gunung Rinjani: At a height of over 12,000 feet, this is Indonesia's second-highest volcano. It has an awe-inspiring summit with hot springs and Crater lake. Treks to the rim and caldera are a big attraction here while the more adventurous trekkers aim for the summit. The mountain and its satellites form the eponymous park--Mount Rinjani National Park.

For the Hindus and Sasak tribe, the mountain and lake are both holy and hence certain rituals are performed here on occasions. However, this is an active volcano-it erupted again only very recently, during the end of October, putting a question mark over our November visit. Fortunately, things quietened very soon and the airport reopened allowing us to make the trip.

Sasak Cultural Village: Yes, there are some who think that cultural villages are very touristy and the show that is put on for visitors cannot be completely natural. Of course, that may be true, but for the average tourist with only a day or two in hand, a cultural village is the best place to get a quick glimpse into a region's art and culture.

The Sasak aka Sasak tribe are the indigenous people and form the majority of the population. At the Sasak Cultural Village, you get to see their music and dance, their traditional clothes and homes and you can even sample the ethnic cuisine. We found it an insightful experience.

Pusuk Monkey Forest: It is a winding road through picturesque mountain landscape to reach this place in Bangsal, so the drive is enjoyable. A conservation centre, it is named after the countless wild monkeys that inhabit the jungle and places around. You will find them on roadsides too. This place is a delight if you like monkeys and especially if you enjoy feeding them. However, with these creatures you also have to be careful about your bags, cameras and backpacks.

The beaches at Lombok are considered among the most beautiful and unspoilt in this part of the world. Many of them are secluded and the bays are largely quiet and peaceful. Selong Belanak and Mawun are among the best-known among them.

Narmada Park and Mayura Park: These very Indian-sounding names intrigued us. We learnt that these are like regular parks but with a historical value. The first is actually a complex of temples, greenery and lakes and was built by the King of Mataram Lombok, Anak Agung Gede Ngurah in 1727 as a site for the Pakelem ceremony which is held on a full moon day. The park's big draw is the Balai Petirtaan where the water is believed to contain the elixir of youth. Visitors make it a point to wash their face in the hope they will stay young, eternally, or at least for a very long time! Mayura Park too is popular with locals and long-stay tourists and has waterbodies, greenery and the usual recreation facilities and restaurants.

Waterfalls: There are some very picturesque cascades all over Lombok. Check out Tiu Teja, Sendang Gile, Tiu Kelep and lesser-known ones Benang Stokel and Benang Kelambu. All great places for bathing, lounging on the rocks, or just photo-ops!

Cuisine: The word Lombok itself means chilli (loosely) and there is a large variety of food to explore. Of course, non-vegetarians have a greater choice as it happens across the rest of Indonesia. Besides Balinese and Padang cuisines there are local Sasak tastes and aromas to feast on. Besides restaurants in up-market hotels that dot Lombok, there is plenty of street fare to sample. The traditional rumah makan café is a good place for understanding the local food culture.

By:Aruna Chandaraju
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