Guides

Forget Bali, Here’s Why Flores Should Be Your Next Island Holiday

Never heard of the island of Flores, Indonesia? That’s not surprising. There are 17,508 Indonesian islands but the majority of travellers still mostly flock to the same one: Bali. But not far from the ever-popular island is an adventure that feels like Bali could have some 50 years ago. All it takes is a one-hour flight from Denpasar and you’ll be discovering the next Indonesian island everyone will be talking about.

Flores, Indonesia, named for Portuguese word for “flower”, is a long, slender and relatively untouched island that’s fast developing every year. The first five-star resort has just opened, the main Trans-Flores Highway is being steadily upgraded and the rest of the world is just beginning to uncover its secrets.

In Flores you can choose your own adventure depending on the type of holiday you want: diving, relaxing, sailing, hiking, volcano hunting, exploring or just hanging out with the amazingly friendly locals are all acceptable ways to see Flores.

Get your sea legs

 

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On the western-most tip of Flores is Labuan Bajo, a small seaside town that serves as the gateway to Komodo National Park. Home to Komodo dragons and some of the best diving spots in the world, Komodo National Park is a dream destination to jump on a boat, spend a few days cruising the clear waters and exploring the islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar.

komodo dragons on islands near Flores, Indonesia

Image: Ayana Komodo Resort

Here you can spot Komodo dragons on the only two islands in the world they live on, hike to the stunning scenery at the top of Padar that soaks in the 360 degree view. You can also dive in places like Crystal Rock and Manta Alley where hundreds of manta rays the size of small cars glide all around you. There are loads of diving options, so it’s best to use an experienced agency like Diveplanit to help you navigate the best diving options.

Hit the road

 

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Flores, Indonesia, is 400kms long and the Flores Highway runs almost the entire length of the island. It could easily take out the title for the world’s bendiest road, looking like an erratic serpent from above as it snakes its way up and down the mountain ranges that make up most of the island.

Drive inward from Labuan Bajo and the road quickly rises into the mountains for spectacular scenery where the steep edges of volcanoes meet the ocean. You will need a guide and driver to get the most out of Flores, with the roads fit only for local drivers who’ve taken the sharp corners hundreds of times before.

Flores Traveler is one of the best tour guides on Flores, breaking up the long stretches of driving with stops for fresh mangoes, coconuts and arak, along with entertaining and educational chats. There is a lot to see on the road trip, from seemingly Jurassic scenery to innovative farming techniques like the spider rice fields of near Ruteng.

Volcano hunters welcome

 

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There are 17 volcanoes on Flores, several of them still active including Mount Inerie (2245m) and Mount Egon (1703m). You can hike up most of them, with early morning starts and calf-busting strides, or you can grab a cold beer and marvel in their beauty at accommodation like Manulalu Villa that’s nestled near the base of Mount Inerie with new villas and balconies that let you watch the sun reflect off the volcanic rock as it sets and rises.

However Flores’ most famous volcano is Mount Kelimutu, located in central Flores, that has three different coloured lakes at its peak. The naturally occurring phenomenon are coloured green, blue and blackish dark red depending on how the light hits it and what time of day you visit.

Meet the locals of Flores, Indonesia

 

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Flores is peppered with traditional villages. With the help of local tour guides you can tour these villages and meet the locals for a truly authentic experiences. On some of the days we visited, we were the only visitors that day.

The area around Bajawa has some of the best examples of traditional villages that still live in the same thatched huts as their ancestors. The towns of Bena and Luba are some of the most interesting, but it’s the small village of Wae Rabo that is the real adventure.

You need to drive for a full day, then stay overnight in the basic accommodation like Wae Rebo Lodge. It’s then a three-hour hike through the jungle to reach of the village with seven main large thatched huts that have housed some of these locals for 23 generations. Upon arrival you’re greeted by the village chief, and then can eat, and explore around the hillside village. You can even stay overnight in one of the traditional huts, which is highly recommended.

Where to stay on Flores, Indonesia

 

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Flores is developing quickly, with some internal airports like Bajawa being upgraded from small sheds to larger structures. Accommodation options also range from basic to the island’s first five-star resort that’s just opened in Labuan Bajo, the gateway to Komodo National Park.

The Ayana Komodo is a bright, fresh and welcome addition to the small town, with around 200 rooms overlooking Waecicu Beach. The vast open-air entrance and long jetty are all part of the appeal. The rooms are tastefully furnished, with sea views and lots of places for kids to splash, play and run. It’s the luxe way to do Flores.

The Ayana Komodo might be the first five-star resort on Flores, but you get the feeling that, if the evolution of Bali is anything to go by, it certainly won’t be the last.

How to get to Flores, Indonesia

  • Fly into Ngurah Rai International Airport (Denpasar)
  • From Denpasar, get a connecting flight to one of several Flores airports, like Komodo Airport, Ende or Bajawa
  • Arrange a guide and driver and explore the best the island has to offer
  • Flores, Indonesia

(Lead image: Ayana Komodo Resort)

The writer travelled with support from the Ayana Komodo Resort.