Nusa Tenggara is the group of islands to the east of Bali, stretching like stepping-stones towards New Guinea. While it comprises a spectacular and exotic diversity of landscapes, cultures, languages and people, most Indonesians regard it as an obscure, sparsely populated and uncivilised region – characteristics which may indeed appeal to many travellers.
The two provinces of Nusa Tenggara – West and East Nusa Tenggara – occupy most of the Lesser Sunda Islands. A volcanic northern arc runs from Lombok, through Sumbawa and the Banda Islands to Alor. The southern arc runs from Raijua off Savu through Roti and Timor; these islands have no volcanoes, consisting mainly of raised coral reef.
Lombok Island is now the most popular destination in Nusa Tenggara, with tourists arriving to climb Gunung Rinjani, one of the highest peaks in Indonesia, and to enjoy the beaches and thriving cultures to be found here. A short hop east of Lombok lays Sumbawa Island, fast becoming another big draw for surfers. The majority of travellers, however, just nip through here en route to the Komodo national park, a stark group of islands inhabited by the world's largest lizards, Komodo Dragons.
Flights to Nusa Tenggara
Flores stretches east from Komodo towards the north tip of Timor. Its lush, dramatic landscape is peppered with smouldering volcanoes, of which Kelimutu, with its three coloured crater lakes, is the most unique and spectacular. Further east lays the Alor and Solor archipelago, the highlight of which is Lembata, where the local people hunt whales from frail wooden sailing boats.
The exposed, parched islands of Savu and Roti have become havens for diehard surfers and also anthropologists – animist traditions still flourish here. In East Sumba, fine ikat fabrics are made and sold, while West Sumba offers the exciting spectacle of the pasola (a ritual war fought on horseback) and grandiose funeral ceremonies rivalled only by those of the Toraja of Sulawesi. West Timor is perhaps the most interesting and diverse of all territories. The few who manage to come here are often doing so en route to the newly independent East Timor.
The majority of visitors to Nusa Tenggara follow obvious linear routes through the islands, typically travelling east from Bali and flying back from Flores.