Mention the island of Lombok and you're guaranteed to hear a comparison to its more famous neighbour to the west, Bali. To Lombok's credit, these comparisons are always flattering, as the island has earned a reputation as being the connoisseur's choice over busier, brasher Bali among seasoned travellers to Indonesia, who feel the latter has lost its charm to over-development.
Such afflictions haven't spoiled Lombok yet, where luxury resorts and hotels have taken root with more respect for the island's natural beauty and indigenous culture. From white sandy beaches to rice terraces and equatorial forests, Lombok offers the familiar sights of Bali without the crowds and even has a few of its own distinctive charms, not least the towering summit of Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia's second-largest volcano.
Lombok is finally escaping Bali's shadow and becoming recognised as a competitive destination in its own right. With its new international airport receiving direct flights from neighbouring countries, transferring from Bali by boat or a short plane hop is no longer mandatory, giving you more time to see and experience Indonesia - especially if you've already seen all that Bali has to offer.
Even if Bali is your primary destination, it's well worth making the trip to its sister island to get an idea of what Bali used to be like. Taking a 20-minute flight is a convenient option for those short on time, or you can take the scenic route via ferry from Padang Bai to Lembar, departing every two hours.
Natural Aquarium Tour
Lombok offers plenty of activities to keep visitors busy, and not all of them are on the island itself. The Gilis are a trio of tiny islands just to the north-west, and an essential side trip to immerse yourself in the beauty of the region.
You can see the best of all three islands on a half-day Natural Aquarium Tour, cruising the scenic islands, snorkelling in the clear, shallow waters and visiting a traditional fishing village.
Lombok City Tour
Back on dry land, you can see the best of Lombok's man-made marvels on a half-day Lombok City Tour, visiting sacred Hindu sites such as Pura Batu Bolong, Pura Meru and the floating Mayura Water Palace. You'll also stop off at traditional handicraft villages and local markets, where you can pick up colourful sarongs and other handmade mementos at bargain prices.
Sasak Traditional Tour
You'll have more chances to connect with the culture on a Sasak Traditional Tour, spending time with the Sasak people in Banyumulek and Sukarara villages, where skilled potters and weavers keep these old traditions alive, passing them down the generations. After the villages, you'll have free time to relax on and explore some of Lombok's best beaches before transferring back to your hotel.
Hotels In Lombok
Sheraton Senggigi Beach Resort
Most resorts on Lombok can be found in Senggigi due to its proximity to the airport and its status as the island's mecca of tourism, restaurants and nightlife. The Sheraton Senggigi Beach Resort is deservedly one of the most popular. Make the most of the 5-star facilities, with massages and beauty treatments at the Laguna Beach Spa; keep fit at the health club and competition-size tennis courts; or just enjoy the peace and quiet of the private beach.
Santosa Villas & Resort Lombok
If you're planning to get out and explore the island, Santosa Villas & Resort Lombok is ideally located for the beaches, the mountains, traditional villages and day trips to the Gili Islands. That's not to say the resort is only a pit stop - with deluxe cottages, a spa, a gourmet restaurant and room service, you can look forward to relaxing in comfort after a busy day of sightseeing.
Puri Saron Senggigi Beach
Families with children will find a very warm welcome at the Puri Saron Senggigi Beach Hotel, which has earned a reputation for its hospitality and home comforts. There are plenty of activities to keep the kids occupied, including a children's pool, where they can splash in safety next to the adult pool.
Parents can take advantage of babysitting services when getting pampered at the spa or enjoying some peaceful time together.
Sudamala Villa & Suites Senggigi
If you need to stay connected on your Lombok break, Sudamala Villa & Suites Senggigi offers all the facilities business travellers or social network addicts need, including a business centre and laptop safes in every room. When you've taken care of business, the resort offers plenty of ways to unwind, including the beach right on your doorstep, a full-service spa, and massages in your room.