Lombok-Not the Next Bali

Travel writers and tourism board officials in search of catchy tag lines love to compare Lombok to Bali, that much more famous Indonesian island 40km (25 miles) to the west: Lombok, they say, is “what Bali was like 30 years ago,” or “an unspoiled version of Bali.” These descriptions are only partly apt. Lombok is predominantly Muslim, whereas Bali gets much of its distinctive flavor from its unique Hindu traditions. Lombok’s geography is quite different, and it’s generally much drier here than in Bali.
But unlike Bali’s well-developed tourism infrastructure, tourism is in its early stages on Lombok: Despite recent resort development, the overall atmosphere that prevails on Lombok is that of an authentic Indonesian culture, largely undiscovered but welcoming of outsiders, with some excellent beaches and awesome surfing spots thrown into the mix.
The brooding cone of Gunung Rinjani (Mount Rinjani, a 3,726m/12,224-ft. strato-volcano) dominates the profile of Lombok, which is shaped a bit like a stingray whose “tail” trails off to the southwest. Hiking to the top of Rinjani is the favorite pursuit of many backpackers who stay on the Gili Islands, off Lombok’s west coast. Mata-ram is the largest city on Lombok, where you’ll find fascinating local flavor in the streets and markets but not much in the way of Western tourism. Lombok’s hotel strip lies to the north of Mataram in an area called Senggigi.
Surfers will want to make a beeline for Kuta on the south coast (not to be confused with Bali’s iibertouristy Kuta Beach), which has some of the best waves in the world. At Grupuk Beach (in the Kuta area) swimmers can enjoy the calm waters of the cove, while boarders can take outrigger canoes to the waves beyond the point. The biggest waves are usually at rugged Seger Beach, 2km (1 % miles) from Kuta. Offshore, snorkeling and diving opportunities abound, and charter boats that can deliver you to prime dive sites are easy and cheap to organize—Gili Islands-based Blue Mar-lin Dive  is a reliable outfitter.Lombok’s interior of gently rolling hills is filled with rural villages and waterfalls that make for fun and edifying day trips when you need a break from the sun and sand. Arts and crafts collectors will find Lombok immensely satisfying, as the island specializes in pottery, baskets, and woven textiles that are still very affordable. All throughout Lombok, you’ll also receive a warm and hospitable reception from locals—and especially children, whose smiles are infectious.
Political unrest in Indonesia in the early 21st century had a dramatic impact on the growth of tourism on Lombok, and it’s just now beginning to pick up again, as foreign investors pour millions into luxury resorts and golf courses. My advice is to travel to Lombok now, on the cusp of its tourist boom, before it truly becomes another (overcommercialized) Bali.