Bena

in Bajawa

Resting on Inerie's flank, Bena is one of the most traditional Ngada villages. It's home to nine clans and its stone monuments are the region’s best. Houses with high, thatched roofs line up in two rows on a ridge. They're interspersed with ancestral totems including megalithic tombs, ngadhu, (thatched parasol-like structures) and bhaga (miniature thatched-roof houses). Most houses have male or female figurines on their roofs, while doorways are decorated with buffalo horns and jawbones – a sign of family prosperity.

Although the village is crowded when tour groups arrive during high season, and all villagers are now officially Catholic and attend a local missionary school, traditional beliefs and customs endure. Sacrifices are held three times each year, and village elders still talk about a rigidly enforced caste system that prevented ‘mixed’ relationships, with those defying the adat facing serious consequences.

Bena is the most visited Ngada village, and weavings and souvenir stalls line the front of houses. It's so popular that an entrance fee has replaced donations – a set 25,000Rp per person, and there are official opening hours (6am to 6pm). Some travellers might prefer the atmosphere at lesser-visited villages nearby. You can spend the night at Bena for 150,000Rp per person, which includes meals of boiled cassava and banana. Bena is reached by a good 12km road from Langa, a traditional town 7km from Bajawa. An ojek ride here costs 100,000Rp return.