Trek in the shadow of Gunung Rinjani
Dominating the northern half of Lombok is the surging and brooding profile of Gunung Rinjani, one of Indonesia's most spectacular mountains. Sacred to both the Hindu people of nearby Bali and the Sasaks of Lombok, ascending the 3726mhigh peak is a challenge, but definitely achievable by travellers with good fitness. Guides and porters can be hired in villages on the fertile slopes on Rinjani – including Senaru and Sembalun Lawang – and the ascent is usually undertaken across three days and two nights. Located 600m below the massive rim of Rinjani's huge caldera, the cobalt blue Danau Segara Anak (Child of the Sea) is a 6kmlong lake trimmed with hot springs – a perfect natural tonic after completing the trek – and on the mountain's eastern edge, the more recent volcanic cone of Gunung Baru ('New Mountain') is a steaming reminder of nature's immense power.
More leisurely trekking opportunities also abound in villages in the lea of Rinjani. From Tetabatu, paths meander through a lush patchwork of tobacco plantations, rice fields and orchards, or continue up Rinjani's southern slopes to the beautiful Air Terjun Jekut waterfalls. On the eastern side of the mountain, the bucolic Sembalun Valley is another fertile farming area cradled by the iconic profile of Rinjani, and at Senaru, mountain and ocean views combine with walks to nearby cascades and swimming holes. Senaru's Rinjani Trek Centre has information on local walks and can arrange guides for climbing Gunung Rinjani.
Learn to surf on world famous waves
From Sumatra to Java, Indonesia offers some of the finest surfing on the planet, and the boardriding scene in Lombok includes what Tracks magazine has called the 'best wave in the world'. Located near the town of Pelangan in southwest Lombok, the left-handed break dubbed 'Desert Point' rolls in from the Bali Sea to offer rides up to 300m. May to September offers the best waves for experienced surfers.
From October to April, Lombok's surfing scene is focused on Gerupak, a sprawling bay 6km east from Kuta on the island's south coast. Here, with its Indian Ocean waves rolling in and five different breaks, there are opportunities for surfers of all abilities. Sheltered from the tradewinds by surrounding hills, the dependable Bumbang breaks over a flat reef and is suitable for beginners. More challenging is Pelawangan or 'Kid's Point', a right-hand break that generates spectacular barrels during the biggest swells.
Located in the sleepy coastal town of Kuta (not to be confused with energetic and cosmopolitan Kuta across on Bali) Kimen Surf can arrange board rental and surfing lessons.
Find solitude on spectacular southern beaches
For a coastline offering such wild and untrammeled beauty, southern Lombok remains one of Southeast Asia's undiscovered gems. While it's true travellers are beginning to discover the region – courtesy of the island's conveniently located international airport at nearby Praya – beaches including Selong Blanak and Mawun are still well off the mainstream tourist radar. Simple roads negotiate Lombok's southern coastline west of Kuta, often detouring inland to meander through rice fields and rural countryside, before heading back to a series of arcing beaches framed by rugged headlands. Around 3km from Kuta, Mawun is a sheltered halfmoon cove that's ideal for swimming, and just further west, more rugged Mawi is a popular surfing destination from May to October.
Continue 15km west of Kuta, and Selong Blanak trumps even the sublime beauty of Mawun and Mawi. Access via a simple pedestrian bridge reveals a crystal white bay lapped by gentle Indian Ocean surf and the promise of more leisurely hours of swimming and relaxing. The excellent Laut Biru Cafe is open to all visitors, and if you're not able to tear yourself away from Lombok's best beach, there's very comfortable luxury accommodation nearby at Sempiak Villas.
Make it happen
Getting there: Lombok's Bandara International Airport links the island to Bali – a short 30minute flight – and other domestic Indonesian destinations from Lombok include Jakarta, Makassar and Surabaya. International flights to Lombok include Silk Air from Singapore and Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
By sea, public ferries connect Lombok's west coast with Bali, and east to the island of Sumbawa. Ferries link with bus and minibus transport. Faster express boats also run between Lombok and Bali.
When to go: Lombok offers warm, tropical weather throughout the year, with a rainy season occurring from late October to April. The dry season runs from May to September, with the least rainfall being experienced from July to August. Note this two-month period also coincides with the highest visitor numbers.
Where to stay: In the shadow of the mountain, Rinjani Lighthouse in Senaru offers thatched roof bungalows and plenty of information on climbing Rinjani and other activities in the area. Conveniently located near good surf breaks and Lombok's most spectacular beaches, Yuli's Homestay in Kuta combines a garden setting with a pool and shared kitchen facilities.