Lost in paradise.
Indonesia is made up of more than 17,500 islands. While Bali is the best known of the holiday destinations, Flores is fast becoming Indonesia’s next big thing—especially for those who want to get away from Bali’s crowded beaches and Lombok’s increasing crowds.
Lay of the land
Sitting further east of Bali and Lombok, Flores remains remarkably insulated from mass tourism, offering beautiful places to explore with a fraction of the crowds that head to Indonesia’s other holiday islands. Flores is home to diverse marine life, crystal-clear waters, pristine beaches, volcanic mountains and untouched waterfalls. Not to mention it offers easy access to Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its namesake dragons. Whether you want to explore the land or sea, there are tons of activities and beautiful locations that scream adventure. Here are the top things to do in and around Flores.
Visit the Komodo dragons before prices skyrocket
In late 2019, Indonesian officials floated a plan to increase the entrance fee to Komodo National Park on neighboring Komodo Island from a one-time USD10 payment to a USD1,000 “annual membership.” That sky-high fee hasn’t gone into effect, however, which makes now the perfect time to see the world’s biggest lizards, the Komodo dragons, in the wild. Rinca Island, also part of the National Park, is another natural habitat to the dragons.
Go diving in paradise
The waters here offer some of the most rewarding diving and snorkeling experiences you can get, with more than 1,000 species of tropical fish, 260 species of coral and other marine life such as turtles, manta rays and dolphins all living off Flores. Doing a three- to four-day tour on a liveaboard is the best way to go. The boats usually take you to several dive spots—like Manta Point, where you can swim with manta rays and dolphins—and visit a bunch of different islands, like Kanawa Island, with its picturesque Pink Beach.
Trek to the top of Padar Island
This mountaintop is likely one of the most Instagrammed destinations in the Komodo archipelago. Go at the crack of dawn to beat the crowds and the heat. By the time you get down, you’ll still have plenty of time to swim in the sea before it gets packed with holidaymakers.
Lay low on a pink beach
There are actually a few pink beaches in the area, where the sand is a vibrantly unfiltered pink—an effect apparently caused by microscopic organisms living in the coral. Check out Labuan Bajo’s Pink Beach to see for yourself.
Watch the sunrise over the Kelimutu crater lakes
The three volcanic lakes on Mount Kelimutu change color, from turquoise to red, green or brown depending on the atmospheric conditions and gas emissions. Camp near the crater to wake up to an unforgettable sunrise over the rim. (Note: the area is still volcanically active; although it is safe to camp here, make sure to do your homework before you go.)
See the spider web rice fields at Cancar Village
These uniquely shaped rice terraces are arranged in a spider web formation, with each part of the web assigned to a different family in the area, depending on their wealth. Check it out from a high point to see the whole view.
Credit: Sari Soemargo-Kessler
Hike to Wae Rebo Village
After a three-hour trek through jungles and along the cliffside, you arrive at this mountain village inhabited by the indigenous Manggarai people. Wae Rebo Village has been recognized by UNESCO for the conservation of its cultural heritage, and visitors can experience the local way of life, enjoy their food and music, and stay overnight in their cone-shaped drum houses.
Splash around in Rangko Cave
This hidden cave is a sight to behold, with striking stalactites and a cool blue pool you can swim in.
Cool off under a waterfall
The main waterfalls on Flores are Cunca Rami and Cunca Rede, but adrenaline junkies should make a beeline for Cunca Wulang: you can jump off an 11-meter-high ledge right into the water. Note: getting to these waterfalls can be tricky; drive safely (car or bike), or hire a guide.
Komodo National Park fees
There’s news going around that the entrance fee for Komodo National Park—mainly Komodo Island—will soon rise from a USD10 admission fee to an eye-watering USD1,000 as part of a new premium annual membership system to restrict visitors. Yikes. Initially, Komodo Island was going to be closed off to visitors. This stemmed from news that Komodo dragons were being smuggled abroad, as well as a steady decline in population of the world’s largest lizards. But, hey: at least officials have scrapped the idea of completely closing it down and instead will jack up the price to effectively reduce the tourist footprint and save these soon-to-be luxury lizards.
How to get there
The easiest and fastest way to reach Flores is by air. From Bali, flights arrive at Labuan Bajo and take about an hour. Maumere, in the east, is also an option. Bangkok to Bali flights from B4,200 return; Bali to Labuan Bojo from B2,130.
Seeking a different travel experience? Join any of the one- to three-night diving/snorkeling tours between Lombok and Flores. Prices range from IDR250,000-4,500,000 (about B550-9,000), depending on the length of the journey and how luxurious you want the boat to be.