There’s more to the north coast of Lombok than climbing Mt Rinjani… for those looking for a change of pace in sublime natural surroundings, a few days in the north is a relaxing and rewarding escape.

Dominated by the majesty of Mt Rinjani and the surrounding mountain ranges, North Lombok offers stunning landscapes for travellers who like to go “off the beaten path”.

Jungles and rainforest with towering old-growth trees provide wonderful opportunities for trekking and ecotourism. The many waterfalls and rivers, and the unique flora and fauna of the region, together with long curves of deserted beaches, make the north coast an ideal destination for those who appreciate true natural beauty.

North Lombok regency is home to 204,556 residents scattered across its five districts – Bayan, Gangga, Kayangan, Pemenang and Tanjung – and includes the Gili Islands, as well as 33 villages (desa) and 332 hamlets (kampung).

The north of Lombok is reached by two main roads, both in good condition and each providing different scenic drives.

The coastal road that runs from Ampenan to Senggigi and 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 road was re-constructed in 2010/2011 and is in very good condition, with rest areas along the way for sightseeing.

The alternative to the coast road is the Pusuk Pass – a winding mountain road that starts at Gunungsari and runs through the mountains inland, terminating at Pemenang in the north. The drive through the Pass provides wonderful views of valleys and gorges, with rivers running through the tropical forests and small villages dotted amongst the trees.

This area is often called the “Monkey Forest” as 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 Pass, with the main road (Jalan Raya) continuing north, all the way around the island to the east coast.

Bangsal is a pretty village with a large Balinese Hindu population, surrounded by rice fields, temples; close to the ocean and the mountains.

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. See more about Bangsal and boats to the Gilis on page 83.

There are a few small home-stays here, including the attractive and well-run Arnel Homestay, which also has a good Padang-style cafe attached.

Further north along the main road a small sign-posted road branches off 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: an 18-hole golf course with magnificent views from the greens. The architecturally stunning Hotel Tugu is perched on the pristine white beach nearby.

There are also several luxury villas available here: The Anandita, Sira Beach House and Villa Sepoi Sepoi, with plans for more development on the beachfronts and fabulous views across the ocean to the Gili Islands.

Slightly further north on the main road, follow the sign-posted road to The Oberoi, passing Medana Resort and The Lombok Lodge on the right. At the very end, the luxurious Oberoi Resort is in a breathtakingly beautiful location right on the beach. On the other side of the road, The Lombok Lodge is a charming boutique hotel; while Medana Resort is a comfortable, more affordable option.

At the end of this road, on the tip of the peninsula, is a small temple – Pura Medana, with wonderful sunset views and a peaceful atmosphere.

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 attractive accommodation with beach views.

Since 2009, Medana Bay Marina has hosted visiting yachts participating in the annual Sail Indonesia Rally and the facility is set to expand in the future.

The large town of Tanjung is about 5 km north of Bangsal. It is the administrative capital for North Lombok and has numerous warung and shops, and one of the few public telephone offices (wartel) on the island.

Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists live in this district and many different cultural traditions originate from this historic area.

Rinjani Beach Eco Resort, located at Sokong, Karang Atas (turn west about 2km before Tanjung), has comfortable thatched cottages, a restaurant and swimming pool on the beach for reasonable rates.

Godang, further up the coast, is a small village near a good beach. A trail leads northeast to Tiu Pupus Waterfall, around 6km away. In rainy season, the spring-fed falls flow into a deep pool at the base. The trek through the traditional Sasak village of Kerurak, makes the effort worthwhile.

Look for the small signpost to Kerta Gangga Waterfalls, located between Gangga and Kerta Raharja village. There are three beautiful waterfalls and pools set amongst the jungle, and a small bat cave nearby. Local guides are useful for showing the best places (they will find you!)

Bayan, further north, is steeped in history and maintains old Sasak traditions. This is a fascinating area to explore, although accommodation is limited.

Bayan is the home of the unique religion, Wetu Telu, which is only found in Lombok. Wetu Telu combines the Sasak people’s traditional animistic beliefs with Islam and elements of Hinduism.

One of the oldest and most important mosques in Lombok, Masjid Kuno, is in Bayan, near the village of Beleq. Purported to have been built in 1634, the mosque sits on a small hill with pretty views.

Set on a foundation of river stones, the low walls are made from woven bamboo and wood, and the roof is thatched. Inside, there is an ancient ceremonial drum, once used to call the faithful to prayer.

North of the town another road, in very bad condition, leads to the village of Teres Genit. Follow the road straight up the mountain to Rinjani Mountain Garden – a lovely mountain retreat with picturesque views over the entire valley and backed by the majestic northern face of Mt Rinjani.

Several Lumbung style chalets are available, as well as up-market tent accommodation, a fresh water swimming pool and a good restaurant. Tours and treks to remote villages and places of interest can be organised from here.

The road from Bayan leads to Senaru, the gateway to the Rinjani National Park and base for trekkers climbing Mt Rinjani.

Senaru is a pretty village set in lovely scenery with fantastic views of the volcanic mountain range. There is a good selection of accommodation available in the area, ranging from basic backpacker home-stays to nice cottages and, whether you climb the mountain or not, Senaru is a nice place for a short stay.

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. Tropical animal species, including monkeys and tropical birds, live in the surrounding jungle, as well as abundant varieties of tropical plants and flowers.

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