Dominated by the majesty of Mt Rinjani and the surround mountain, the north of the island offers stunning landscapes and long curves of deserted beaches. Jungles and rainforest, with towering plantations of mahogany, teak and other native trees provide opportunities for trekking and ecotourism. The many waterfalls, rivers and unique flora and fauna of the region make the north coast an ideal area for those who appreciate true natural beauty.
North Lombok is a fairly new regency and was officially formed in 2008. The regency has 5 districts, including the Gili Islands, 33 villages and 332 hamlets, with a total population of around 199 000 people.
North Lombok is reached by two main roads, both in good condition and providing different scenic routes. The coastal road that runs from Ampenan all the way up the west coast to the north provides stunning views of the many beautiful bays and beaches that line the west coast, as well as vistas over the Gili Islands and Bali to the west. The Pusuk Pass, a winding mountain road that starts at Gunungsari and runs through the mountains inland, terminates at Pemenang in the north. The drive up the pass provides wonderful views of valleys and gorges, with rivers running through the tropical forests and small villages dotted amongst the trees. Families of grey monkeys live in the jungle and come down to the road to beg for food from passing motorists.
Bangsal is at the crossroads where the coastal road meets the Pusuk Road, with Jalan Raya (the main road) continuing north all the way around the island to the east coast. The road to the west only runs about 1 km to Bangsal Harbour, which is the main point of departure for public boats out to the Gili islands.
Bangsal is a pretty village with a large Balinese Hindu population, surrounded by rice fields, temples, and close the ocean and the mountains. There are a few small home-stays and Bangsal makes a good base for exploring the north. Further north, a small sign-posted road branches off from the main road to Pantai Sira, a beautiful white-sand beach with good snorkelling on the offshore coral reef. This is also the site for the Kosaido Golf Course: a stunning world-class 18-hole golf course with magnificent views from the manicured greens. The architecturally stunning Hotel Tugu is perched on the pristine white beach here.
On the tip of the next peninsula north is a small temple, Pura Medana, with wonderful sunset views and a peaceful atmosphere. On the road out to the temple is the lovely Medana Resort and, at the very end, the luxurious Oberoi Resort, in a breathtakingly beautiful location right on the beach.
To the right is the wide sweep of Medana Bay. There is a boat marina here with safe anchorage for boats and a small pier, as well as basic facilities for the boating community. Every year Medana Bay Marina hosts visiting yachts participating in the Sail Indonesia Rally and the facility is set to expand in the future. On the west end of the beach is Lombok Lodge, a small boutique hotel with luxury villas overlooking the beach.
The large town of Tanjung is about 5 km north of Bangsal. It is the administrative capital for North Lombok province and has numerous warungs and shops, and one of the few public telephone offices (wartel) on the island.
Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists live here and there are many different ceremonies originating from the area. Tanjung has an interesting market every day and on Sunday, a cattle market, where cows, goats and horses from all over the island are bought and sold.
Gondang, further up the coast, is a small town near a good beach. Tiu Pupus Waterfall is a 20-minute walk beyond the end of a poorly marked, rocky road. The spring-fed falls flow into a deep pool with nice swimming. The trek through a traditional Sasak village, Kerurak, makes the effort worthwhile. Another half hour trek leads to Kerta Gangga Waterfalls, with three beautiful waterfalls set amongst the jungle.
The traditional village of Segenter, on the road to Anyar, provides a glimpse into the day to day life of a small rural village. The 300 villagers in this northern interior village eke out a living raising corn and beans, yet they welcome visitors with a smile and proudly share their simple life with tours through the village.
Bayan, further north, is a source of early Islam and maintains old dance and poetic traditions. Bayan is the home of the unusual religion, Wetu Telu, which is only found in Lombok. Wetu Telu combines the Sasak’s traditional animistic beliefs with Islam and elements of Hinduism.
The adherents of Wetu Telu (meaning “three times”) pray three times a day, rather than the usual five times in Islam, and acknowledge three types of ceremonies: human rites (birth, marriage, death), Islamic holidays (Maulid, Lebaran), and animist-based rites associated with agriculture and farming. One of the oldest and most important Wetu Telu mosques is in Bayan.
Slightly to the north of Bayan, the road branches to Teres Genit and winds up the mountain side to the lovely Rinjani Mountain Garden. This unique property has comfortable accommodation in traditional Lumbung style cottages, as well as up-market tent facilities. There is a pretty spring-fed freshwater swimming pool and an excellent restaurant serving delicious meals, perched on the hillside and overlooking the mountain scenery.
The road from Bayan leads to Senaru, the gateway to the Rinjani National Park; a pretty village set in lovely scenery with fantastic views of the volcanic mountain range. The Rinjani National Park is a nature reserve of 41 330 hectares surrounding the volcano that provides many opportunities for eco-tourism.
The whole area is a picturesque haven, featuring magnificent waterfalls, lush and accessible jungle trekking, traditional villages, and plantations of tobacco and cashew nuts, grown alongside verdant rice terraces. Native animal species, including monkeys, deer and tropical birds, live in the surrounding jungle, as well as abundant varieties of tropical plants and flowers.
The Sendang Gile waterfalls at Senaru are amongst Lombok’s most spectacular, even after climbing the 200 vertical steps down to stand below them. The water cascades in a steep vertical drop down the hillside into a rocky stream below.
Guides can be hired from the restaurant near the car park for the short trek through the jungle to the lovely Tiu Kelep waterfall nearby, where the water flows into a pool at the base, good for swimming. Climb the rocks to the hidden cave behind the falls and follow local legend that says for every pass behind the waterfall, you take one year off your age