Lombok's capital is a blending sprawl of several (once separate) towns with fuzzy borders: Ampenan (the port); Mataram (the administrative centre); Cakranegara (the business centre, often called simply 'Cakra') and Bertais and Sweta to the east, where you'll find the bus terminal. Stretching for 12km from east to west it's home to half a million people.
Nusa Lembongan & Islands
Look towards the open ocean southeast of Bali and the hazy bulk of Nusa Penida dominates the view. But for many visitors the real focus is Nusa Lembongan, which lurks in the shadow of its vastly larger neighbour. Here, there's great surfing, amazing diving, languorous beaches and the kind of laid-back vibe travellers cherish.
Ever more travellers are descending on this gorgeous, slightly ramshackle harbour town, freckled with offshore islands and blessed with idyllic views that offer surrealist sunsets. Labuanbajo's main drag, Jl Soekarno Hatta, is lined with cool cafes, guesthouses, travel agents and a few hopping bars.
Bali has a hot soul. The volcanoes stretching along the island's spine are seemingly cones of silence but their active spirits are just below the surface, eager for expression. Gunung Batur (1717m) is constantly letting off steam; this place has an other-worldly beauty that may overwhelm the attendant hassles of a visit.
An urbo-Indonesian sprawl of traffic and smog, Padang sits astride one of the planet’s most powerful seismic zones, centrally located on the tectonic hotspot where the Indo-Australian plate plunges under the Eurasian plate. Significant tremors occur on an almost annual basis, the most recent being in 2012.
With leafy, colonial-era boulevards and a breezy climate, Malang moves at a far more leisurely pace than the regional capital, Surabaya. It’s a cultured city with several important universities, home to a large student population. The central area is not too large and quite walkable.
Once the domain of shack-staying surfers, Nusa Lembongan has hit the big time. Yes, you can still get a simple room with a view of the surf breaks and the gorgeous sunsets but now you can also stay in a boutique hotel and have a fabulous meal. But even as Nusa Lembongan grows in popularity each year, it remains a mellow place.
The eastern portion of South Sumatra shares a common Malay ancestry and influence with Riau and Jambi provinces from its proximity to the shipping lane of the Strait of Melaka. Rivers define the character of the eastern lowlands, while the western high peaks of the Bukit Barisan form the province’s rugged underbelly.
East of Ubud
The region around Ubud is thick with excursion possibilities. Close in there is the Elephant Cave and the craftsmakers in Mas. East and north are many of the most ancient monuments and relics in Bali. Some of them predate the Majapahit era and raise as-yet-unanswered questions about Bali's history. A prime example is Bali's own bit of Angkor at Gunung Kawi.
Canggu & Around
The Canggu region, north and west from Kerobokan, is Bali's fastest growing area. Much of the growth is centred along the coast, anchored by the endless swathe of beach, which, despite rampant development, remains fairly uncrowded. Kerobokan morphs into Umalas inland and Canggu to the west, while neighbouring Echo Beach is a big construction site.
Gili Meno is the smallest of the three islands and the perfect setting for your desert-island fantasy. Even in high season Meno still feels right off the grid. Most accommodation is strung out along the east coast, near the most picturesque beach. Inland you'll find scattered homesteads, coconut plantations and a salty lake.