Lombok is often compared to Bali. The neighboring islands have many similarities and many differences. They are only about 20 miles apart. Lombok has much in common with Bali, but it is less known, less commercialized and visited less by world travelers. It is working to increase its visibility and appeal.
Both islands have Hindu and Muslim influences, but in opposite proportions. Both islands have beautiful highlands and white sandy beaches, but Lombok is quieter and dryer than Bali. The largest city on the island is Mataram.
Until 1987, few visitors made the trip to Lombok. Today, Lombok is growing in popularity, but it is still relatively quiet and undeveloped. Tourism is already the second-largest industry on Lombok. Mount Rinjani, beautiful coastlines, coral reefs, and stunning waterfalls highlight the list of popular destinations on Lombok.
The Gelgel Balinese Kingdom conquered Lombok in the early 18th century, which brought a large population of Balinese to the island. The Balinese population of Lombok today consists of about 300,000 people. The Balinese have influenced the Wektu Telu religion of Lombok with the Hindu religion.
The Dutch first visited Lombok in 1674 and settled the eastern part of the island. The Dutch left the western half of the island to be ruled by a Hindu dynasty from Bali. The Sasak people of Lombok were restless under Balinese rule and a revolt began in 1891. The revolt ended three years later with the annexation of the entire island to the Netherland’s East Indies.
About 2.5 million people reside on Lombok. About 85 percent of the residents are Sasak, who follow a mixed religion comprised of Islam and animism. The other 10 percent of the people who live on Lombok are Balinese and a small fraction is Chinese, Arab, Javanese, and Sumbawanese. About 90 percent of the people in the west are farmers. They grow rice, soybeans, tobacco, and other crops. The Sasak language belongs to the Bali-Sasak-Sumbawa family of languages.
Lombok is part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with the Lombok Strait separating it from Bali to the west. The Alas Strait separates Lombok from Sumbawa to the east. The Lombok Strait is part of the Wallace Line—the dividing line between the fauna of Asia and the distinctly different fauna of Australasia.
The island’s topography is dominated by Mount Rinjani, a massive volcano that rises 12,200 feet out of the ocean. It is the second-largest volcano in Indonesia and it often is shrouded in clouds. The most recent eruption of Rinjani was in 1994. The volcano, and its sacred crater lake, is protected by Rinjani National Park, which was established in 1997. The towering volcano collects a great deal of rainfall, which tumbles down the mountain through a series of cold and cascading waterfalls below.
Most of the southern part of the island is a fertile plain where corn, rice, coffee, tobacco, and cotton are grown. However, parts of the southern side of the island are too arid to produce healthy crops.
Pura Batu Bolong (POOR-rah BAH-too BOH-lohgn ): This Hindu sea temple is one of the most interesting temples on Lombok. It sits on the rocky coast facing Bali’s holy mountain, Gunung Agung, while constantly absorbing large waves from the sea.
It is located between Mataram and Senggigi. Visitors must wear a sash around their waist to enter the temple. For a small donation, you can borrow a sash from the attendant. A hole in the rock under the temple lets waves come through, which adds to the site’s charm. Located between Mataram and Senggigi.
Lombok is famous for its baskets and pottery. However, its artisans don’t use the bright colors found on Balinese art. Local artisans weave baskets tight enough to hold water. The unique local pottery often features inlaid eggshells and leafs to create an artistic flair. Some artisans weave basket cases around the pottery for an unusual effect. Local artisans incorporate geckos on much of their work because they believe that geckos bring them good luck.
On Lombok and Bali, you can tell the married women from the single ones by looking at the flower behind their ears. If the flower is placed behind the left ear, the woman is not married. A flower behind the right ear indicates that a woman is married. In addition, people on Lombok never wear yellow because they believe it is bad luck.