Introducing Nusa Tenggara
Indonesia’s dazzling arc of eastern islands that stretches towards northern Australia is perhaps the most varied and rewarding part of the nation to explore. There are few regions of the world that can compete with Nusa Tenggara for sheer diversity – east of Hindu Bali are the largely Islamic islands of Lombok and Sumbawa, followed by predominantly Catholic Flores with its Portuguese heritage, while Timor and the Alor and Solor Archipelagos have Protestant majorities. On all of these islands, animist rituals and tribal traditions continue alongside the minarets, temples and chapels, particularly in rural areas. Though Bahasa Indonesia is a unifying tongue, each main island has at least one native language, which is often subdivided into dialects.
The spectacular terrain is almost as diverse: the fecund volcanic slopes and shimmering rice paddies of western Lombok contrast sharply with the arid hillsides of Komodo and Sumba, which turn dusty brown at the end of the long dry season.
If you’ve a thirst for adventure or nature, or if you surf, snorkel, hike or dive, the opportunities in Nusa Tenggara are almost limitless. Of the dozens of volcanoes, the sublime cone of Kelimutu – its summit crowned by three crater lakes of different hues – has to be the region’s prime draw, though Lombok’s towering Rinjani is a much more challenging ascent.
The cities and towns in this region are generally not places to linger long – with little in the way of cultural appeal and an excess of fumes, heat, noise and urban grime – though they are rarely threatening or dangerous; personal safety is not normally a great concern.