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.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Flores.
The greatest local site is actually 20km west of Ruteng near Cara kampung. The legendary Spider Web Rice Fields are vast creations shaped as implied, which is also the shape of Manggarai roofs that fairly divide property between families. For the best view, stop at the small pavilion, pay 25,000Rp and ascend a dirt path to the main viewing ridge.
Don’t miss the lively, sprawling market, a vital lifeline for villagers in the surrounding hills. Much of it is underground – look for the stairs heading down to the entrance near the supermarket on the western side of Jl Bhayangkara.