If you haven’t booked your 2020 holidays yet and are looking for a great place to visit with older kids, check out Flores, a beautiful Indonesian island east of the more well-known islands of Bali and Lombok!
The Indonesian island of Flores is mostly known for Labuan Bajo and the nearby Komodo Islands that offer unique attractions like the Komodo dragons, manta rays, stunning views and beautiful beaches.
We decided to explore the less known part of Flores: the northern and central part, which are not ‘hit’ by tourism yet. It has a lot to offer, with empty, white, sandy beaches and beautiful clear blue sea. You can take lovely trips in simple wooden private boats, do hiking trips and have encounters with friendly locals, whilst staying overnight in a tribal village.
1. Kelimutu National Park: three coloured lakes
The park is very well known for the Kelimutu Mountain with its three mineral volcanic lakes. The lakes are situated 1,639m above sea-level, on a top of the mountain. Each lake is a different colour from the others and forever-shifting, due to volcanic activity. You can see a table of the lakes’ colours in the last 20 years in the national park.
We stayed at Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge, that has lovely rooms. The ones located at the far end offer tremendous views over paddy fields. The lodges are very well maintained, spacious and clean. The restaurant serves simple food. We won’t recommend the red wine though, it was off.
It takes 2 hours to get to the national park, so be ready for a short night if you want to view the sunrise from Kelimutu Mountain. It’s quite a walk up (45 minutes) on a well-maintained path. You can enjoy a hot drink served by friendly local vendors at the viewing point. This is one of those places where you can keep your camera on ‘forever’ at sunrise. There were some other tourists, also some with younger kids, but it wasn’t crowded at all. This seems to be different on Sundays and during public holidays.
2. Tujuhbelas National Park: 17 unspoiled exotic islands
You need to travel to the town of Riung to visit the Tujuhbelas National Park, which has 17 islands known for their beautiful corals and fish, just off the coast of Riung. The way to explore the area is to rent a wooden boat that comes with snorkel equipment and kind boatmen who take care of you for the whole day, including preparing lunch: a delicious fish barbecue at one of the islands, which you share with only a few other tourists.
In Riung we stayed at Nirvana Bungalows, a simple and clean place with rooms that come with breakfast, lunch and dinner. The very friendly owner will give you coffee or tea with some snacks for teatime and helps you with organizing the boat trip as well as drop off and pick up at the little harbour. You have to be a dog lover, because the friendly dogs seem to own the place, too.
3. Belaraghi: tribal life
A trip from Riung to Bajawa is about 70km by road. From here you can hike up to the tribal settlement of Belaraghi. In Bajawa we stayed at Hotel Happy Happy, a simple and clean hotel with hot showers and breakfast. It’s run by the local manager Alfonso. He was also our guide for our hiking trip and overnight stay at Belaraghi. Alfonso is very friendly, but not too well organised! I talked to him on the phone from KL, sent him WhatsApp messages and yet he seemed surprised when we turned up.
We loved our hiking trip from Bajawa to Belaraghi. We walked through lovely local villages, played soccer with the village kids, went through some jungle and bathed in a stream in the middle of the jungle, with hot water coming from one source and cold water from another.
Belaraghi is a settlement with beautiful traditional huts. We enjoyed the simple food our host family prepared and slept on mattresses on the floor under mosquito nets. We cleaned (‘washed’) ourselves with wet wipes brought from home.
We had a very good sleep and after a good and simple breakfast, we said goodbye to our hosts and hiked a bit further to the spot where our driver was waiting for us.
How to get to Flores
To get to Ende on Flores, we flew from KL to Denpasar in Bali first and spent one night in Jimbaran, which is a lovely fishing village, just about 15 minutes from the airport.
There are no direct flights from Denpasar to Ende and the total travel time (including a 2 hours stopover in Kupang, East Timor) is about 6 hours. Lion Air flies from Denpasar to Kupang, and Transnusa flies from Kupang to Ende.
It’s a bit complicated to get to the north of Flores. For us, it was all worth while and I hope I’ll be back soon, to explore more of this beautiful place.
Some tips for Flores
- The best time to visit Flores is from April to October during the dry season. Bring some warm clothes too, because the nights are rather cold if you stay in the mountains.
- Credit cards are not widely accepted and ATMs are scarce. Take enough ATM cards with you and get the maximum amount of Rupiahs out every time when you are getting money.
- Wi-Fi is not a common good yet. In case you like to stay virtually connected, buy a SIM card at the airport and check that it has coverage in the parts you’re going to visit.
- Be aware that the food is simple and it lacks some of the beauty of the delicious Indonesian food you can find in other places.
- Rent a car with a driver to get around and make sure beforehand that he speaks English, if you’re not too fluent in Bahasa Indonesia.
- You won’t find five-star hotels in this part of Flores, but in general, accommodation is good and clean with lovely staff.
The north of Flores won our hearts with a score of 9 and not a 10 (on a scale of 10). Like our son said: “Nothing can be perfect”.
Are you keen to explore other islands in the beautiful archipelago of Indonesia? Read more reviews from our writers here: