Isle of Flores, Indonesia: where to go, when to go and what to see

Flores

The island of Flores is wild and distinctive, with a mix of pagan and Catholic beliefs in its culture. The inhabitants of Komodo – very friendly, open and not particularly spoiled by the attention of tourists.

Most travelers make their way to the village of Labuanbajo, located in the western part of the island. This is the main tourist base for exploring Komodo National Park.

But besides the islands of Komodo, the island of Flores has many surprises: the incredible Volcano Kelimutu with colorful crater lakes and the mystical legends associated with them, the stunning rice terraces, ethnic villages, hobbit caves, wild remote beaches and small islands, where the night silence disturb only the songs of fishermen.

Plan to spend at least 7-10 days in Flores if you want to travel around the island.

Travel Destinations

Flores is a large island, stretched horizontally from west to east, with the tourist (in relation to Flores) center in Labuanbajo on the west coast of the island and the island capital Maumere in the east part of the island, which are separated by about 500 km.

The first stop on the way from Labuanbajo inland will be the town of Ruteng, in the vicinity of which ancient traces of “hobbits” have been discovered. From here, the way goes through the south coast to Bajava and Ende. From Bajava you can, if you wish, turn to Riung and the 17 Islands National Park. Kelimutu Volcano, the main attraction on the eastern side of the island, can be reached from either Ende or Maumere.

Labuanbajo

Labuan Bajo is a small port town in the western part of Flores, where all trips to the Komodo Islands begin. Here you can find fairly good accommodation and charter a boat for a day or a few days to explore the picturesque nearby islands. In addition, in Labuanbajo you can make arrangements with local fishermen who will be happy to take you on fishing trips, rent transportation to travel around the island and/or find a good guide to show you around the island.

Where to stay: hotels and cabins in Labuanbajo

How to get there: by plane (Labuanbajo, LBJ) from Denpasar (Bali Island); by ferry or speedboat from Sumbawa Island (Sape Port); by big ferries from Sulawesi Island (Makassar Port).

Flores

The port town of Labuanbajo. Photo credit: Andrey Filonov, Flickr

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Ruteng

Ruteng is a small town in the western part of the island, surrounded by mountains and rice paddies. Ruteng is difficult to drive through, everyone who travels on the island from Labuanbajo makes a stop here in one way or another. In Ruteng you can rent a motorcycle and explore the surrounding area – stalactite caves in which traces of “hobbits” – ancient cavemen of very small stature, a volcano, to the top of which you can ride a motorcycle, a picturesque lake and traditional villages.

Where to stay: Ruteng gestation houses

How to get there: from Labuanbajo and Bajawa by local buses, bemos, piece cabs or small tourist buses.

Flores

A drawing of the rice fields in Rutenga. Photo credit: Tony Beltram, Flickr

Flores

Liang Bua (Hobbit Cave), Ruteng, Flores. Photo credit: radionz

Bajawa

Bajwa is located in the mountains at an altitude of just over 1,000 meters above sea level. Travelers often stop here for a day or two to visit traditional mountain villages, of which there are many around Bajwa. You can also enjoy a cultural experience by walking from the villages to the picturesque waterfalls or by taking a steam bath in the hot springs.

Where to stay: Bajava Guesthouses

How to get there: from Ruteng and Ende by local buses, bemos, piece-route cabs or small tourist buses; from Moni and Riunga by local buses; a direct drive from Labunbajo is also possible (about 10 hours).

Flores

Bajwa. Photo credit: GALAK SCHWARTZ, Flickr

Flores

Inerie volcano, Bajava. Photo credit: valentino luis, Flickr

Flores

Hot springs and waterfalls in the Bajawa area. Photo credit: Stuart McDonald, Flickr

The Riung

Riung is a small fishing village on the northern coast of the island and the marine gateway to 17 Islands National Park. Riung is a remote and sparsely visited destination; most Flores travelers limit themselves to the Komodo Islands, ignoring the 17 Islands. In Riung, you can rent a boat for the day through your hostel and spend the day exploring the tiny islands with dazzling white sand and emerald very quiet water.

Where to stay: Nirwana bungalows, Pondok SVD Riung

How to get there: from Bajwa and Ende by local bus.

Flores

View of the 17 islands. Photo credit: wisnu yuwandono, Flickr

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Ende is a large port town by the standards of Flores, on the south coast of the island, with a history that goes back several centuries. It’s a pleasant town, with a small center, pretty warungs (small local restaurants) and a colorful market. The main attraction around Ende are the black beaches with colorful stones. Volcano Kelimutu is located just 60 km from the city.

Where to stay: Hotel Dwi Putra

How to get there: by local or tourist bus from Bajawa and Maumere, by local bus from Riunga; by plane from Denpasar (Bali Island) with a stop in Labuanbajo; by ferry from Sumba and West Timor.

Flores

Colored stones on the beach of Ende. Photo credit: Jean-Christophe Despérier, Flickr

Flores

Colored stones in the beach in Ende. Photo credit: Stuart McDonald, Flickr.

Kelimutu and the village of Moni

Kelimutu Volcano is a mystical place rarely visited by travelers due to its remoteness and poor tourist infrastructure. Even in the sky, flying over Flores, you can see a bright turquoise spot that stands out sharply against the dark greenery covering the island. This is one of the three colorful crater lakes of Kelimutu, with which the legends and beliefs of the locals are closely intertwined. A peculiarity of Kilimutu is quite an easy climb, almost a relaxed walk to the craters, as you can get quite close to the top by transport.

The village of Moni, located at the foot of Kelimutu, has a pretty good selection of budget lodging, and you can also just stop here for lunch before climbing the volcano. Moni itself is a pretty nice place surrounded on all sides by picturesque rice terraces. The quiet friendly atmosphere, the flock of children who curiously look at the tourists, the delicious pancakes with bananas in the local cafes – a stop is pleasant in every way, and if you are lucky enough to get here at the weekend, you can visit the largest market on Flores, which attracts traders from all over the island.

Where to stay: Moni’s gest houses, Ende hotels

How to get there: by bus or tourist bus from Bajava and Ruteng; by bemos, buses, piece-route cabs and even motorcycle cabs from Ende; by bus from Maumere.

Flores

On top of the Kelimutu volcano. Photo credit: Lama et Ganesh, Flickr

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Kelimutu Volcano - travel blogs

One of the lakes of the Kelimutu volcano. Photo credit: Mona Dienhart &Chris Lebas, Flick

Flores

Moni village, Flores. Photo credit: Hug Cirici, Flickr

Maumere

Maumere is the main town of Flores, located on the eastern part of the island and serves as a kind of air gateway that connects Flores with the other islands of Indonesia. The city itself is not very interesting, but the neighborhoods around Maumere can delight beach lovers away from civilization – along the coast you can find charming inexpensive bungalows, which are a great place to spend a couple of days alone with the harsh nature of Flores.

Where to stay: Sunset Cottages in the countryside on the coast, city gest houses.

How to get there: by local or tourist buses from Ende and Moni; by plane from Denpasar (Bali) with a stop in Labuanbajo, Sumba or Kupang (West Timor); by ferry from Kupang and Sulawesi (Makassar port).

Flores

Maumere, Flores. Photo credit: Brice Li, Flickr

Flores

The coast of Maumere, Flores. Photo credit: engl englhofer, Flickr.

How to get to the island

You can reach the island of Flores either by plane from Bali, Sumba and West Timor or by ferries from Sumbawa, Sumba, Sulawesi and West Timor or by cruise boats from Bali and Lombok islands.

By plane

The island has three airports which receive flights from Bali – Maumere (MOF), Labuan Bajo (LBJ) and Ende (ENE). Flights to Ende and Maumere generally stop in Labuanbajo, Sumba or Kupang, West Timor. Schedules and tickets for domestic flights can be found here.

On ferries

Regular ferries and fast boats run between Labuan Bajo on Flores and Sape on Sumbawa.

If you want, you can take ferries from Bali to Flores, cross the islands of Lombok and Sumbawa with local buses and bemos or rented cars/motorbikes in Bali.

Main ferry crossings and stops on the Bali – Flores route

Padangbai in East Bali – Lembar in West Lombok.

Labuhan Lombok in East Lombok – Poto Tano in West Sumbawa.

Sape in the east of Sumbawa to Labuanbajo in the west of Flores Island.

From Labuanbajo on Flores and Sape on Sumbawa there are ferries to Sumba Island, from Flores there are ferries to West Timur from the port of Ende and Maumere.

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Regular ferries from Sumba Island arrive at Ende and Labuanbajo, ferries from Kupang arrive at Ende and Maumere. Large ferries from Sulawesi Island (from the port of Makassar) also arrive at the port of Maumere, schedules and tickets can be viewed on the operator’s website.

Tourist cruises

There are cruises to the island of Flores from Bali and Lombok islands (see the website of tour operator Perama for more economical variants, bookable locally on the islands). Cruise programs are from 2 to 6 days, with stops on small islands and overnight stays on boats.

The cost varies from 1 to 5-6 million local money and depends on the length of the program, the quality and age of the boat and the level of comfort (options range from sleeping on mattresses on deck to own cabins). Cruises usually include food (full board) and tickets to Komodo National Park are often paid on the spot.

If you decide to travel by cruise ship, consider the risks – small ships sail through the open sea, often without observing basic safety rules (like life jackets, life buoys/ inflatables, navigation equipment, etc.).

Traveling on Flores

The island’s only major trail (trasn-flores-highway) stretches from Labuandbajo to the island’s easternmost port, Larantuca. The route passes through mountain ranges, serpentines, villages, and part of the route is still in a sad state, so the speed of movement on the island is very slow.

The first stop on the way from Labuanbajo inland is Ruteng. From there we go to Bajwa and Ende and from Ende to Maumere. This is, in principle, the standard route along the island, each of the stops involves at least one night, as the road between the cities (regardless of the chosen transport) takes 4-5 hours of travel.

From Bajava you can, if you wish, turn to Riang (about 2.5-3 hours). Kelimutu volcano can be reached either as part of a day trip from Ende or Maumere (the second option is longer and more expensive), or with a stop in Moni on the way from Ende to Maumere or back, or from Riang.

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In principle, independent travel around the island by public transport (see below) is no problem for more or less experienced travelers. But consider that Flores is a low-tourism island and Europeans are not often seen outside of Labuanbajo. Therefore, many people prefer to book tours around the island that include transportation and a guide.

Renting transportation with a driver and/or guide on Flores is much more expensive than on the popular islands of Indonesia, aim for about $70-$100 per day plus lodging and the cost of tickets to the national parks. Tours can be booked in advance online with a pickup right at the airport or locally upon arrival through their hostels or local travel agencies.

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Transportation on the Island.

Local buses and bemos (shuttle mini-vans) are the main modes of public transportation on the island of Flores. As on other islands in Indonesia, the buses and bemos of Flores are often old and quite shabby, packed to the brim with locals and carrying a lot of luggage and sometimes pets and birds in addition to people. The fare is usually paid to the driver on the spot. The experience of traveling by local public transport is not particularly comfortable, but very interesting and valuable).

Small tourist buses run between the main towns on the trasn flores haiway, as well as from Ende to Moni (Kilimut volcano). Unlike regular local transport, the tourist buses are newer, with good seats and air conditioning. Bus tickets can be booked through local hostels and travel agencies.

A local specialty is minibuses, usually large Toyota 5-passenger cabs that travel long distances on a piece-rate basis (filled car, fixed cost per person). Such cabs run from airports, ports, and the bus station, plus the shuttle can almost always be ordered through the gestation house.

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