Wonderful | West Nusa Tenggara

Rugged and adventurous, the Indonesian island of Lombok is growing in popularity for intrepid travellers. Gunung Rinjani, the country's second highest volcano, rises in the north, while meandering trekking trails negotiate an interior of lush forests and fertile rural areas. Detour to Lombok's southern coast for a spectacular combination of gently arcing coves and legendary surf breaks bookended by towering headlands. This island is fully loaded with tropical allure for outdoor enthusiasts.

Long overshadowed by its superstar neighbour across the Lombok Strait there's a steady hum about Lombok that catches the ear of travellers looking for something different from Bali. Blessed with exquisite white-sand beaches, epic surf, a lush forested interior, and hiking trails through tobacco and rice fields, Lombok is fully loaded with equitorial allure. Oh, and you'll probably notice mighty Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia's second-highest volcano, its summit complete with hot springs and a dazzling crater lake.

And there's much more. Lombok's southern coastline is nature on a very grand scale: breathtaking turquoise bays, world-class surf breaks and massive headlands. Development on these splendid beaches is just around the corner, but until that moment comes, they are still natural wonders to explore over much-improved roads.

Komodo National Park

Sunbaked and barren, Komodo stands apart from other more verdant Indonesian islands, and the island's most celebrated species is also singular and surprising. The world's biggest lizard can grow up to three metres-long, and Komodo dragons are often seen lumbering along the beach by visitors arriving at the national park's main camp at Loh Liang. Guided walks with national park staff continue for 30 minutes to a dry riverbed at nearby Banu Nggulung where the huge monitor lizards are often seen. Two-day/one-night boat trips to Komodo depart from raffish Labuanbajo on nearby Flores, and day trips to Rinca – where the dragons also roam – are possible from Labuanbajo.

If you're going to the Gilis, a Lombok stopover is a must. It's easy to get around the Lombok–Gilis–Bali triangle.

Lombok and the Gilis
Almost as big as Bali, Lombok is the completely different island right next door. From its volcanic centre to idyllic beaches such as Mawun, it rewards travellers who want to explore. Many are drawn to mighty Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia's second-highest volcano. Rivers and waterfalls gush down its fissured slopes, while its summit – complete with hot springs and a dazzling crater lake – is the ultimate trekker's prize. In the south, you may need to hold your jaw in place as you encounter one superb beach after another.

Meanwhile, off the west coast, the fabled Gili Islands are three exquisite droplets of white sand sprinkled with coconut palms and surrounded by coral reefs teeming with marine life. Each has become a full-blown destination in its own right with oodles of great places to stay, eat and celebrate.

Trek in the shadow of Gunung Rinjani

Dominating the northern half of Lombok is the surging and brooding profile of Gunung Rinjani, one of Indonesia's most spectacular mountains. Sacred to both the Hindu people of nearby Bali and the Sasaks of Lombok, ascending the 3726m­high peak is a challenge, but definitely achievable by travellers with good fitness. Guides and porters can be hired in villages on the fertile slopes on Rinjani – including Senaru and Sembalun Lawang – and the ascent is usually undertaken across three days and two nights. Located 600m below the massive rim of Rinjani's huge caldera, the cobalt blue Danau Segara Anak (Child of the Sea) is a 6km­long lake trimmed with hot springs – a perfect natural tonic after completing the trek – and on the mountain's eastern edge, the more recent volcanic cone of Gunung Baru ('New Mountain') is a steaming reminder of nature's immense power.

More leisurely trekking opportunities also abound in villages in the lea of Rinjani. From Tetabatu, paths meander through a lush patchwork of tobacco plantations, rice fields and orchards, or continue up Rinjani's southern slopes to the beautiful Air Terjun Jekut waterfalls. On the eastern side of the mountain, the bucolic Sembalun Valley is another fertile farming area cradled by the iconic profile of Rinjani, and at Senaru, mountain and ocean views combine with walks to nearby cascades and swimming holes. Senaru's Rinjani Trek Centre has information on local walks and can arrange guides for climbing Gunung Rinjani.

Learn to surf on world famous waves

From Sumatra to Java, Indonesia offers some of the finest surfing on the planet, and the board­riding scene in Lombok includes what Tracks magazine has called the 'best wave in the world'. Located near the town of Pelangan in southwest Lombok, the left-handed break dubbed 'Desert Point' rolls in from the Bali Sea to offer rides up to 300m. May to September offers the best waves for experienced surfers.

From October to April, Lombok's surfing scene is focused on Gerupak, a sprawling bay 6km east from Kuta on the island's south coast. Here, with its Indian Ocean waves rolling in and five different breaks, there are opportunities for surfers of all abilities. Sheltered from the tradewinds by surrounding hills, the dependable Bumbang breaks over a flat reef and is suitable for beginners. More challenging is Pelawangan or 'Kid's Point', a right-hand break that generates spectacular barrels during the biggest swells.
Located in the sleepy coastal town of Kuta (not to be confused with energetic and cosmopolitan Kuta across on Bali) Kimen Surf can arrange board rental and surfing lessons.
Find solitude on spectacular southern beaches

For a coastline offering such wild and untrammeled beauty, southern Lombok remains one of Southeast Asia's undiscovered gems. While it's true travellers are beginning to discover the region – courtesy of the island's conveniently located international airport at nearby Praya – beaches including Selong Blanak and Mawun are still well off the mainstream tourist radar. Simple roads negotiate Lombok's southern coastline west of Kuta, often detouring inland to meander through rice fields and rural countryside, before heading back to a series of arcing beaches framed by rugged headlands. Around 3km from Kuta, Mawun is a sheltered half­moon cove that's ideal for swimming, and just further west, more rugged Mawi is a popular surfing destination from May to October.

Continue 15km west of Kuta, and Selong Blanak trumps even the sublime beauty of Mawun and Mawi. Access via a simple pedestrian bridge reveals a crystal white bay lapped by gentle Indian Ocean surf and the promise of more leisurely hours of swimming and relaxing. The excellent Laut Biru Cafe is open to all visitors, and if you're not able to tear yourself away from Lombok's best beach, there's very comfortable luxury accommodation nearby at Sempiak Villas.
Make it happen

Getting there: Lombok's Bandara International Airport links the island to Bali – a short 30­minute flight – and other domestic Indonesian destinations from Lombok include Jakarta, Makassar and Surabaya. International flights to Lombok include Silk Air from Singapore and Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.