You’ve been dreaming about Bali forever. You envision it as your perfect destination. Beautiful scenery: volcanic peaks, hidden waterfalls, fields of rice paddies, and long stretches of sand. Rich culture: Hindu with Chinese and Arabic influences, sacred temples, and grand palaces. But there’s one thing you didn’t count on: all the tourists. You’re not the only one who’s been dreaming about this Indonesian island. Ubud is clogged with traffic. Seminyak’s beaches are littered with debris. It’s not the same place it was 25 years ago.
Your dream destination does still exist, though. It’s across the Lombok Strait on the Lesser Sunda Island of Lombok. Despite the island’s close proximity to its popular neighbor, the Sasak people have maintained their traditional way of life and tourists haven’t ruined the equally stunning landscape. Bali’s little sister is still an unspoiled paradise.
Your home base is Tanjung, a rice-field village on the northwestern shore. Here you find the Lombok Lodge. The modern retreat has only nine suites. Yours is a calm oasis with natural wood, crisp white linens, and plenty of places to relax, like the freestanding bathtub, the outdoor shower, or the pillow-filled couch on the terrace. The lodge’s infinity pool overlooks Medana Bay and Mount Rinjani. The volcano is Indonesia’s third-highest peak. And the Gili Islands are in the distance. It’s so quiet and peaceful here that it feels like your own private villa.
You had planned to start exploring shortly after your arrival, but you decide to soak up the view first. From a wooden stump stool at the cocktail bar, order sop ikan—an Indonesian seafood soup with coconut milk—for lunch. Cool off in the pool. Walk along the sandy beach. Try to read on a lounge chair, but stop when you find yourself rereading the same paragraph over and over. Move to a white Adirondack chair at the beach lounge with a glass of white wine when the sun starts to set. Candlelight soon replaces sunshine. A five-course dinner is served outside near the pool. And, when you return to your suite, you find the bathtub filled with flower petals. What a perfect introduction to Lombok.
In the morning, start the day with lemongrass tea, fresh strawberries with lime, and bubur ayam (rice pudding with chicken, spicy soy, and crullers). Visit the four shrines at Pura Lingsar, Lombok’s most sacred temple. Hike to Tiu Kelep, a crystal-clear waterfall. Strip down and swim in the cool water when you arrive. Tour a pearl farm and search for an elusive gold pearl. Stuff your pockets with bananas and peanuts to hang out with the monkeys at Pusak Pass. Step back in time on the nearby Gili Islands. Take a rickety boat to Gili Air. Ride a Cidomo (horse-drawn carriage) around the island; there are no cars here. Snorkel with spiny sea urchins off a traditional wooden boat. And claim a white-sand beach all to yourself. You could never do this on Bali. At least not anymore.