Have you ever heard about Sembalun? It’s quite a wonderful tiny spot in Lombok that you simply have to visit if once-in-a-lifetime experiences are your favorite parts of any trip. It’s officially known as the Sembalaun sub-district, (East Lombok Regency). I bet you didn’t know that there are two villages in this area, not one.
Known as Bumbung and Lawang, they are only two kilometers away from each other. Lombok is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Indonesia, along with Bali, and unique villages like these ones turn it into something of a goldmine. Sembalun is “hiding” right in the center of a mountainous valley and provides a breath-taking view of the surroundings – beautiful gardens, cute houses, and, of course, rice fields.
Mount Rinjani, a majestic volcano, is quite literally minutes away! The Sembalun villages offer the visitors an incredible “ticket” into the very heart of the Sasak people that have been in Lombok for as long as anyone can remember. If you want to truly understand what these folks are all about and what their daily life looks like, this place will give you just the right opportunity.
The Sasaks respect their traditions, and religion plays a vital role in their customs. Here, you’ll find many delicious foods, drinks, and will be amazed by how friendly, loving, and caring the locals are. Their traditions might seem a bit odd to you, but I bet it’s vice versa for them J. So, don’t go all “judgy”, ok?
Falling In Love With The Sembalun Villages
Please keep in mind that even if you learn the Sasak language, you might not be able to understand every single person in Lombok. That’s because there are about 10 different dialects of the same language, and they’re scattered all over the island. The unusual festivals, hobbies, and prayers will conquer your heart and mind and the trip will feel like a journey, an exciting adventure into the unknown, almost like you ended up in a different Universe.
Mount Rinjani is still active, by the way, but the villagers don’t really mind, even though it does get scary sometimes. They spend their days and nights taking care of the fields of chili, cabbage, tomato, garlic, and rice.
Despite the challenges that this terrain might bring, there are some private-owned plantations near the village, and they all look quite enchanting. The Rinjani National Park sits right next to the settlement. Plus, there’s a beautiful (and technologically advanced) greenhouse right in the middle that the locals use for cattle ranching.
Obviously, when the big players in agribusiness brought modern-day, state-of-the-art solutions to the tiny Sembalaun villages, it helped to turn the tide around, so to speak. At the same time, the natural resources have been considerably devastated. The forest is almost gone; same goes for the natural water resources.
Keeping The Balance Between Technology And Nature
Today, it is officially against the law to hunt the local animals and/or cut the trees in the forest. According to the new bylaw, if you want to cut a tree, you’ll need to plant ten new ones in its place. Yep, the government of Lombok knows exactly how to give back to nature now that it’s in such an alarming state.
Furthermore, only 4K hectares are used to grow rice, vegetables, fruit, feed the livestock, and harvest stocks. The remaining 20K hectares are literally untouched. Make sure to visit this beautiful land once you arrive in the Sembalun villages. I had the pleasure of talking to the locals, and they claim that the farm animals have a tendency to escape into the woods.
Forest fires are another big problem for the villagers, but they handle it all pretty well. Lawang is famous for the rich, fertile soil that allows the locals to grow crops. The astonishingly beautiful hills are perfect for lonely walks under the moonlight. Now, if you want a place to stay, you won’t find any luxurious hotels or anything like that.
The bungalows slash guesthouses are still very nice and cozy, which adds to the overall experience. If hiking and sightseeing are the main reasons behind your trips, don’t miss the opportunity to spend a day or two on a “pilgrimage” to see the famous wildflowers in the National Park with your own eyes.
What Can An Average Tourist Do At The The Sembalun Villages
In all fairness, the Sembalun villages are very “lucky” to be located right next to mount Rinjani, as it’s a popular landmark for the tourists. People from all over the world want to visit the volcano and have to go through here to get there. The scenery is truly mesmerizing, and I encourage you to “savor” this trip instead of trying to see everything and touch everything, as the locals like to say.
Take a minute to just stand in the middle of the forest and try to connect with Mother Nature. I promise you – it will be nothing like you’ve ever experienced! The waterfalls, the fields and the gardens of the Sembalun villages are Heavenly – nothing more, nothing less.
If you’re not a professional hiker, don’t even think about conquering the hills on your own – might get dangerous. The local guides are nice people and won’t try to rob you of your bucks. At least, that’s what I gathered from my one-week stay. Interesting fact: according to the historical documents, the one-of-a-kind “belief system” called Wektu Telu originated in Sembalun.
It’s a mix of various religions, including Islam. So, if you’re interested in it and want to learn more about people (or, rather, tribes) that brought it to life, the Sembalun villages are the perfect place to start. Wektu Telu might feel a bit “foreign”, but it sure does have a huge influence on these people.
The Majestic Mount Rinjani And The Waterfalls
Once you arrive at your destination, walking will be the only “means of transportation”. As I mentioned earlier, don’t miss your chance to travel to the world-famous Rinjani. It’s the 2nd-highest volcano in the country (it stands at 3,7K meters; 3726, to be exact) and is definitely worth a visit. It is visible from many hills and is one of the biggest landmarks in Lombok.
Back in 2008, the Indonesian officials wanted to turn it into a geopark for the whole world to see. Unfortunately, UNESCO never went back with a positive answer, but that doesn’t mean the mount lost any of its charm. The local waterfalls are another reason for you to travel to the Sembalun villages.
Please keep in mind that the terrain here is tricky, and you’ll probably have a hard time with finding these waterfalls and other interesting spots. So, working with a tour guide might be a good option. If you want to learn more about these tourist spots, check out the more detailed reviews on our website.
How To Find The Sembalun Villages
Ok, now let’s see how we can get to these secluded villages without spending too much money, time, and energy. The cheapest way is to catch the DAMRI Bus from the Lombok Airport (where you’ll land on the plane) all the way up to Senggigi. It will cost you +/- 40K Indonesian Rupees. A bus leaves from the airport every hour or so, which means you don’t even have to schedule anything.
From there, a taxi will be the best option. Usually, the drivers try to charge a lot, especially when they see a foreigner. Bargaining should be your main tool in this “quest”. To me, 100K IDR was just the right price. The road to the Sembalun villages is very beautiful, by the way.
Now, looking at the map, you might think that the west route is much more attractive because it’s flat and even closer to the airport. However, that’s not really the case – been there, done that. If you end up in Mataram, the big city, the road to Senggigi will be even shorter. I’m not saying that the west routes are horrible or anything, but this way, it’s cheaper, and you’ll get to see a bit more of the local culture.
Or, hop on a bus from Mataram to Senaru, and then head to the villages. Renting a car/bike is also an option, but you’ll have to be up for it: the road could take several hours. If you’re traveling to the Sembalun villages with your friends, then this road trip will be a very exciting part of the journey!