Flores, the island given a pretty but incongruous Portuguese name by its 16th-century colonists, has become Indonesia’s Next Big Thing. The serpentine, 670km Trans-Flores Hwy runs the length of the island, skirting knife-edge ridges, brushing by paddy-fringed villages and opening up dozens of areas few tourists explore.
The island is a cacophony of smells, swinging between coffee roasting in the hills, clove cigarettes, exhaust fumes and the unmistakable scent of the ocean. In the west, Labuan Bajo is a booming tourist town combining tropical beauty with nearby attractions such as Komodo National Park, superb dive spots and white-sand islands.
The east is attracting an ever-greater number of travellers chasing smouldering volcanoes, emerald rice terraces, prehistoric riddles, exotic cultures, hot springs and hidden beaches. Away from the port towns most people are nominally Catholic. Many more are part of cultures dating back centuries, living in traditional villages seemingly unchanged in millennia.
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