Beyond Bali and Lombok towards the east lies Flores, a long island named by the Portuguese colonists who arrived here in 16th Century. The island is an adventure playground; filled with active volcanoes, stunning lakes and hidden beaches. Dotted with traditional villages, interesting cultures and the mysterious Komodo Dragons to the far west, Flores offers you an alternative Indonesian escape with fewer tourists.
Flores is vast and so we’ve split this article into three posts. Part 1, starts in the far east at Maumere to Moni. Part 2 will follow our journey from Bajawa to Ruteng, before finishing at Labuan Bajo for the Komodo National Park which will be featured in Part 3.
EAST & CENTRAL FLORES
Leaving the well trodden path of Lombok, we flew via Denpasar to Maumere in the east of Flores. Arriving at this tiny airport, you have two options of transport; taxi or bemo. Bemos are the local buses which fly up and down the main routes on the island, normally with a sound system to make any nightclub jealous! The Trans-Flores Highway is a single road that stretches the whole of the island at 416 miles (670km) long, and this will be the road you will most likely travel on to get between places.
WHERE TO STAY
If you don’t want to stay in the town, Lena House offers basic but clean bungalows with private bathrooms for 250,000 per night, including breakfast. From the airport to Lena House, cost us a fixed price of 150,000 rp on a taxi and took under an hour. The property is split in two parts and we stayed in Lena 2, which, at high tide, is only accessible by boat.
The bungalows are basic, there is no fan or air-conditioning, but a sea breeze keeps everything cool, even requiring a blanket some nights. There is electricity from 6pm to 10pm, so if you need to recharge devices, make sure they are plugged in.
We were able to walk back along the beach in the evening after dinner, but you do need a torch as it is completely dark. However, look up at the stars and if its a clear night, you can even see the Milky Way. Coupled with the beautiful sea views from the bungalows, this was one of our favourite places.
WHERE TO EAT
There is very little around this area for dining choices, but the food at Lena House is both tasty and cheap with meals starting from around 25,000. You will probably end up eating all your meals here, unless you spot a vendor on the road, or make a journey to another accommodation 15 – 20 minutes walk away.
WHAT TO DO
If you aren’t feeling overly active, relax on the dark sandy beach and take a dip in the calm waters. The helpful staff can organise snorkelling trips, volcano climbs, motorbikes to explore the area and give you a route to drive to other beaches.
Wolong village is a 5 minute walk away, turning right at the entrance of Lena House. Just before the bridge, you will see a small road on the left leading to the village. Be prepared for the excited children calling to you and their parents’ greetings. There is a small shop here too for snacks. Beyond the village are some rice paddies, and you can walk through them on the cement irrigation channels to look for the waterfall. We visited in the drier season, so it wasn’t in its full glory, but the area was beautiful nonetheless.
A climb to the summit of nearby Mt. Egon, an active volcano is one of the highlight activities in Maumere. At 1710m tall, the total hike up and back down can be done in 6-7 hours (using the free mobile app Maps.me to guide you). After hiking you can organise with your Bemo driver to stop by some hot springs to soak those tired legs.
After a relaxing time at Maumere, it was time to jump in a private car to visit some other areas on the way to Moni. The daily rate for the car was 750,000, but sat five people. We visited a small fishing town before heading into the mountains and enjoying the incredible views.
We stopped by the small village of Sikka to see a traditional house and meet some friendly people in the Catholic church there.
Lunch was at a spot called Alyssa’s, right on the beach. We dreaded the thought that this might be a pricey tourist trap, but we are happy to report that both food and prices were good. Just watch out for the dogs wanting your dinner!
Our final stop was at Koka Beach; a wonderfully white sand cove, where we spent an hour chatting and relaxing. You have to pay 10,000 again the enter and if you sit on the chairs, it’s another 2000 or so per person. There is a viewpoint to climb here for 5000, so this might be a bit of a money spinning operation, but it is worth the few pounds to see the beautiful beach.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at Daniel Lodge, which is the first place you will come to as you arrive from the Maumere direction. Rooms are clean, but the mattresses are very soft, so you sink right into them. There is hot water showers here and no need for air-conditioning as the nights are much cooler up in the mountains. There is no WiFi at this property, so if you need to connect, you will be using your phone. Breakfast is included in the rate (350,000) and was very good – big mugs of coffee, pancakes and bananas.
WHAT TO SEE
Kelimutu looms behind the town and is an easy climb. It is best to go for sunrise, although this means a 4am pick up on the back of a motorbike. The transfer costs 75,000 per person and do be aware that helmets are not provided. If you rather take a car, you can do that for 300,000. You will be dropped off at the car park after buying your ticket (150,000 per person, double on Sundays) and you start the final 1 mile hike to the summit. The path is mostly paved with steps, so isn’t much of a challenge and not too hard on the knees. Once you reach the top, you can crack open any snacks, or buy some from the vendors at the top, who also sell hot coffee.
The sunrise was incredible; before you see it, you hear the birds start to sing and the chilly mountain air is so tranquil. Hang around after daybreak to take photos of the scenery and the three different coloured lakes.
If you are feeling energetic, you can hike back down to Moni, which takes around 2 and a half hours to cover the almost eight miles. We found the best map for this on the Map Me app as some of the paths are small and easily missed. On the way down you can call by a waterfall, just before the town before arriving back by crossing several bamboo ‘bridges’. This route took us past small houses and it was lovely to see people starting their day and waving as we passed. Just be careful in some places, as the path is very steep.
If you have a bit longer in Moni, there are also several hikes you can do to visit local villages and even a small hot spring. In the car park at Kelimutu, there is a map showing these with the trails, which are also indicated along the way.
WHERE TO EAT
Moni is a small village town, there are a growing number of resturants and warungs available geared towards visitors that come here for Kelimutu. Favourites include: Bintang Cafe & Restaurant and Mopi’s Place Cafe Bar Espresso – do try the tasty Moni Cake – a deep fried potato croquette (Mopi’s version uses sweet potato).
To see more photos of our Flores adventure click here for the full album.
- The weather is a lot cooler in the mountains and much more unsettled. Bring warmer clothes and something waterproof.
- Accommodation can be basic, but the places we stayed were clean (bar the back of the bathroom door, which seems to be the norm here) and very hospitable. Availability of places to stay can be a problem during high season (June-August) and it is advisable to book in advance. Smaller homestays and B&B’s prefer direct contact to make any booking enquiries.
- As mentioned, roads are narrow with tight bends, so drive steady and wear a helmet. If a vehicle is bigger than you, it has the right of way.
- Speak with people! We found most people knew a little English and wanted to talk – if you can learn a little Indonesian, then of course it’s much easier.