From beaches to well-preserved traditional villages and exceptional wildlife; Flores is an upcoming travel destination and an attractive alternative for those who want to leave the crowds on Bali and – to a lesser extent – Lombok.
Flores’ name is derived from the Portuguese word for ‘flowers’, which makes sense once you start exploring the island; the lush vegetation and colours of the vibrant rice fields genuinely pop out. In this article, we take you on a journey along 5 of the most appealing sights of this Indonesian gem.
Komodo National Park
Technically, this illustrious national park isn’t part of Flores. But since the archipelago is mainly accessible from neighbouring Flores, it is part of the travel itinerary of almost any visitor that sets foot on the island. As soon as you hop on a boat and sail from the town of Labuan Bajo into Komodo National Park, the enchanting scenery of small islands and silky soft beaches is captivating.
Kanawa Island is an excellent first stop on the way to the significant islands Komodo and Rinca. Get your swimsuits and snorkelling gear out, because the beaches and the marine life around this tiny isle are a fantastic introduction to the area. You can explore abundant corals, and you might even encounter the first sharks and turtles of your trip.
Rinca and Komodo Island are the most-visited, simply because they have the largest population of the parks well-known resident: the Komodo dragon. This region is the only area in the world where this monstrous, 3-meter long lizard lives. With a local guide, you can search for the dragons during a walk through the rugged terrain of these islands. Some lizards will be hanging out near the guide’s accommodation for they smell the food, but many of them roam around in their natural habitat. Seeing these modern-day dinosaurs – the most giant lizards on earth – combined with the barren landscapes and rolling hills is an experience you’ll likely never forget.
Most other creatures live under the surface of the sea, and Komodo National Park is known to be a divers’ dream. Manta Point, Batu Bulong, and Castle Rock are just some of the photogenic sites within the parks’ borders. Although plenty of macro life crawls around, it’s mainly about the big stuff here; reef sharks, turtles, manta rays, barracudas and even whales call the reefs of Komodo National Park their home.
Mount Bromo on Java, Mount Agung on Bali, and Mount Rinjani on Lombok; a whole lot of favoured Indonesian islands have one or more incredible volcanoes worth exploring. Flores is no exception and has its very own iconic mountain.
The Kelimutu National Park is located in the middle of Flores, at roughly 40 kilometres from the city of Ende. Although this reserve covers a large area, most eyes are fixed on the three-coloured lake. The main crater is divided into three smaller basins, with each their unique shade of green and blue water. Sometimes, the colour of the water changes suddenly due to change of mineral contents. The lakes are considered to be sacred by the locals, and they’re believed to have spirits of ancestors dwelling inside them.
This is a suitable destination at any time of the day, but it’s recommended to visit Mount Kelimutu during sunrise when the clouds haven’t covered the summit. Standing on the crater rim, you’ll probably get your best holiday photos; the vibrant lakes, the mesmerizing shape of the caldera itself, and the shimmering sun makes the jaw of even the most seasoned traveller drop.
Kelimutu National Park is best reached from the village Moni, where a road leads to the start of the walk up to Mount Kelimutu. This is a relatively easy 30-minute walk through dense forest. The top is over 1600 meters high, so grab some warm clothes if you’re aiming to catch the sunrise.
Flores has more to offer than just natural sights; the heritage of the island is represented in Wae Rebo, a traditional village that sits on an altitude of 1100 meters. Wae Rebo has 1200 inhabitants and is encircled by mountains and lush jungle.
Although it has become a tourist destination, the village displays the old traditions and architecture from this part of Indonesia. The most extraordinary pieces in Wae Rebo are the houses that look like enormous conical hats workers in the rice paddies usually wear. These so-called Mbaru Niang homes are covered with leaves, have 5 floors, and stand 15 meters tall. Every storey has its own specific functions, such as food storage and living area.
Wae Rebo is quite remote; it takes a 5 to 6 hours drive from Labuan Bajo to get here. The other option is driving to Denge village, and from there continue by foot for a couple more hours to Wae Rebo.
Bajawa itself is a modest town in the heart of Flores, but its surroundings are rather attractive, particularly for adventurous travellers. The region around Bajawa has more authentic villages like Wae Rebo, and some are rarely visited by tourists. One of the most photogenic communities is Bena, where you’ll find shrines, traditional houses made out of wood and leaves, and workshops. The villages Gurusina and Belaraghi are lesser-known and not quite as touristy. The encircling mountains, forests and lack of tourist shops make Gurusina and Belaraghi even more exciting options.
Although the old communities are worth visiting, Bajawa isn’t just a cultural destination. The people who make their way to this rural part of Flores generally aim to soak up the natural beauty. An excellent way to see Bajawa’s green surroundings is a trek to Mount Inierie. This volcano is 2245 meters high and is the tallest mountain on Flores, making it a dream destination for climb enthusiasts and active travellers. The vibrant vegetation and unspoiled views over beautiful Flores are well-worth the efforts it takes to reach the summit.
The walk to the Wawo Muda Lakes is less strenuous, but by no means less epic. These crater lakes are located just north of Bajawa town, and are almost a miniature version of Mount Kelimutu; minerals give the water its peculiar colour. The views along this hike, sulphurous rocks in the crater, and the strange shades of the water make for bizarre scenery.
From the centre of Bajawa, it’s a 3-hour walk to the crater, but you can opt to take the taxi to the starting point of the hike. The app from maps.me is the best tool to find the lakes.
The Komodo National Park is well-known for its picture-perfect beaches, but you don’t have to sail away from Flores to enjoy splendid strips of sand. Koka Beach is considered to be the most superb beach on the island. Not only is the sand entirely white; the typical pointy hills you find in this region, towering rocks and the greenery provide a scenic backdrop. Bring your snorkelling gear to explore the rock formations and reefs just off the coast.
Koka Beach lays 50 kilometres southwest of Maumere, the largest town in the east of Flores.
Flores is Indonesia in a tiny nutshell; century-old traditions, traditional villages, dazzling volcanos, and the extraordinary wildlife that can be found around the corner in the Komodo National Park make Flores an impeccable holiday target. Through direct flights from Jakarta, Bali and Lombok, it’s quite easy to include Flores within your Indonesia itinerary.
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