The gateway to Komodo Island where the Komodo dragon lives, the island of Flores is rich in natural and cultural wonders. Flores is a bit like Bali was 30 years ago. There’s plenty to discover and the good news is there are few pesky souvenir sellers. So pack your surfboard and sense of adventure for a discovery of the best things to do in Flores.
Flores is slowly becoming the new Bali and is a fantastic place to pair with a holiday in Bali. If you’re not sure what the fuss is about Bali, here are 30 things to do in Bali you might like and a 30-day Bali itinerary to help you plan your holiday.
Flores is the Portuguese word for flowers and was named by Portuguese conquerors who used the island for the spice trade.
These days, Flores is a back-to-nature destination with volcanoes to hike, national parks to explore and some of the best diving in Indonesia.
Visiting Flores is not as difficult as you think. This island in Indonesia has recently become more accessible to travellers through new Garuda Indonesia Explore flights from Denpasar. And we’ve put together this Flores travel guide with useful information including transportation to Flores, where to stay in Flores and things to do in Flores.
- How to get to Flores
- 15 Fantastic Things to do in Flores
- 1- Explore Labuan Bajo
- 2- Cruise the Flores Sea on a Bugis schooner
- 3- Visit Komodo National Park
- 4- Go Island Hopping
- 5- Go hiking on Padar Island
- 6- Go on a Komodo diving adventure
- 7- Watch the sunrise on Mount Kelimutu
- 8- Explore Kelimutu National Park
- 9- Delve into history at Bung Karno museum
- 10- Visit Saga Traditional Village
- 11- Sample local food
- 12- Discover weaving traditions
- 13- Attend the Semana Santana in Larantuka
- 14- Explore Hobbit Liang Bua in Manggarai
- 15- Visit Bena Village
How to get to Flores
The easiest way to get to Flores is to catch a flight from Bali and Garuda’s Explore fleet of ATR72-600 aircraft flies to many untouched areas in Flores and eastern Indonesia.
Destinations now accessible include Labuan Bajo (the gateway to Pulau Komodo) and Ende in Pulau Ende, where Mount Kelimutu, a volcano with three crater lakes filled with water of different colours, is a little-known gem.
The flight from Bali to any one of these destinations is a scenic flight over the stunning islands of Indonesia. Check out this post if you’re wondering how many islands in Indonesia there are?
Are you going surfing? Garuda has a complimentary sports equipment allowance of 23kg. You can lug along equipment such as surfboards, golfs clubs or diving gear at no extra charge.
Garuda also offers onboard immigration service on all flights from Sydney, a convenient service that allows passengers to avoid long queues at immigration.
15 Fantastic Things to do in Flores
1- Explore Labuan Bajo
A small town on the west coast of Flores, Labuan Bajo is a laid-back gateway to the region and a gateway for divers.
Labuan Bajo has several fabulous viewpoints where you can photograph an amazing sunset, such as Bukit Cinta, Puncak Amelia and Puncak Silvia.
Food in Labuan Bajo
There are a few good restaurants, such as Café Selini and the multilevel Treetops Café, which has harbour views and tables made from restored teak from old fishing boats.
Kampung Ujung is the food hub and where you’ll find lots of restaurants in Labuan Bajo.
Batu Cermin Cave
For adventure, crawling through the Batu Cermin Cave, which has stalagmites and stalactites and plenty of bats hanging on the ceiling.
Rangko cave is a cave with a lake and paths to the Cunca Rami and Cunca Wulang waterfalls.
2- Cruise the Flores Sea on a Bugis schooner
Bugis pinisi schooners are historic ships that sailed the seas around Flores, the Straits of Malacca and beyond.
So, taking a cruise on a Bugis schooner from Flores is a bucket list experience that will give you access to many remote and beautiful islands of Indonesia.
I cruised on board 25-metre Bugis schooner, Plataran Felicia, which had two master cabins and four twins.
The staff prepares your meals and it’s a luxurious way to cruise around the islands and bays.
The “wow factor” comes at dusk when the setting sun polishes the glassy bay with a golden glow.
3- Visit Komodo National Park
Komodo Island is the most famous island in the World Heritage-listed Komodo National Park and was voted as one of our planet’s “Seven New Wonders of Nature”.
Since 1980, Komodo National Park (which is between Sumbawa and Flores) has been home to an endangered species, the Komodo dragon.
The area’s unique marine biodiversity is also a Biosphere Reserve and one of the most amazing places to go scuba diving in the world.
Other islands in Komodo National Park are Rinca Island, Padar Island and other small islands.
The Komodo dragons populate several islands off the western tip of Flores in eastern Indonesia but the best place to see the Komodo dragons are on Rinca Island, which is a small island nearby.
The Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) are prehistoric lizards that evolved through hunting 300-kilogram dwarf stegadons or pygmy elephants.
Besides the Komodo dragons and the fantastic diving, Komodo National Park also have around 3500 human inhabitants who live in four villages.
4- Go Island Hopping
The chain of islands around Maumere Bay is ideal for discovering remote beaches and villages.
Deep sea fishing is a favourite activity.
There are beautiful beaches and excellent snorkelling around many islands near Labuan Bajo including Seraya, Kanawa, Bidadari and the chain of 17 Riung islands.
Riung has fantastic coral gardens and is a conservation area known as Pulau Tujuh Belas (17 islands), even though there are over 20 islands.
The number 17 stuck because August 17 is Indonesia’s Independence Day.
These islands are home to wildlife such as Timor deer, monkeys and the Timor monitor lizard as well as eagles, white herons and black storks.
5- Go hiking on Padar Island
6- Go on a Komodo diving adventure
Portuguese traders and missionaries who came to Flores in the 16th century named the region after its amazing underwater world of coral, fish and marine life.
Some of the world’s best diving is to be found in Komodo National Park, where there are over 1000 species of fish and more than 350 reef-building corals.
If you’re not a diver, the snorkelling is pretty fantastic too.
7- Watch the sunrise on Mount Kelimutu
According to local legend, Mount Kelimutu is the final resting place for departed souls.
The colour of the water in the three lakes, located on the crest of the same volcano, changes between blue, green, black and red.
Depending on the time of year and season, one lake could be brown, another green and the third might be red.
Mount Kelimutu’s lakes are:
- Tiwu Ata Mbupu (Lake of the souls of the ancestors)
- Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Lake of young souls)
- Tiwu Ata Polo (Evil spirits lake)
The various hues are due to the different gases that bubble beneath the surface.
Hiking up to the lakes is something everyone should do but you’ll need to get up early and start when it’s dark to see the sunrise.
Another way to make sure you catch the sunrise is to camp near the crater to be the first on the spot!
The lakes are a solid hike up steps to the viewing platform and anyone with an average level of fitness should be able to manage the hike.
The best way to get to the lake is to hike from the village of Moni (30 minutes).
A winding mountain drive leads to Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge.
8- Explore Kelimutu National Park
Although the Kelimutu crater lakes are the jewel in the crown of Kelimutu National Park, there’s more to see in this natural area.
The highest mountain in the park is Mount Kelibara (1,731 m) and the park is a magnet for bird watching as there are 19 endemic bird species in the park.
9- Delve into history at Bung Karno museum
The former home of Sukarno, now a museum, Bung Karno in Ende is where Sukarno, who was Indonesia’s first president, successfully led the nation’s struggle for independence from the Dutch colonial authorities.
10- Visit Saga Traditional Village
Saga village is built on the side of a hill and there is some steep climbing involved but it’s worth it for the views.
A highlight of visiting the village is interacting with the children, who are curious and delightful to play with.
The villagers are friendly, open and welcome visitors.
Two clans of the Lio people live harmoniously in the village and most of the villagers are Roman Catholics.
A vibrant time to visit is during the Nggua Saga rituals in September, which is a harvest thanksgiving with dances, prayers and feasting.
Saga is in Detusoko in Ende.
11- Sample local food
Foodies will find plenty of new tastes to sample. Local dishes are enhanced with turmeric, lemongrass, chilli and lime and there’s plenty of seafood.
Eating out is cheap and the local markets are an adventure.
The Catholic nun at Pangan Lokal (Traditional Food Centre) in Ende runs a restaurant and school to teach girls from poor families how to become cooks.
It’s a great way to taste local food and help a child in need. Of all the things to do in Flores, I wouldn’t miss this one.
12- Discover weaving traditions
Flores has diverse textile traditions, from the cultures of Bajawa in the west, Ende in central Flores, and Sikka in the east.
Ancestral traditions have been influenced by both Catholicism and Islam.
Most textiles are handmade from organic natural dyes and patterns are geometrical.
13- Attend the Semana Santana in Larantuka
The Portuguese left a legacy of traditions in Flores.
One such tradition is Holy Week or Semana Santa, which is held the week before Easter Sunday.
During Holy Week, the city of Larantuka is a magnet for pilgrims and prayers are focused on the statue of Tuan Ana (Jesus Christ) and Tuan Ma (Virgin Mary).
Portuguese missionaries Gaspar do Espírito Santo and Agostinho de Madalena brought these holy statues to Larantuka during the 16th century.
Here’s what happens during Holy Week:
- Shackled Wednesday – chapel prayers to remember the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot.
- Maundy Thursday – the tikam turo ritual to prepare for the processions by placing candles along the route that the procession will follow.
- Good Friday (Sesta Vera)- at the chapel of Tuan Ma and Tuan Ana where the statues of Tuan Ma, Tuan Ana and Meninho (baby Jesus) leads a procession that begins at the Katedral Reinha Rosary.
- Sabtu Santo (Holy Saturday) and the Minggu Paskah (Easter Sunday)
14- Explore Hobbit Liang Bua in Manggarai
According to local legends, hobbits once lived in these caves but archaeological excavations in Liang Bua uncovered the remains of stegodons, rats, birds and artefacts made from stone.
Archaeologist Mike Morwood published controversial papers claiming the discovered of a tiny human species that was nicknamed the “Hobbit”.
Liang Bua is 13km from Ruteng (about 40 minutes) and there’s regular public transport to Liang Bua from the Kota Ruteng terminal.
15- Visit Bena Village
Soak up local culture at the foot of Mount Inerie.
Bena is a village in the Ngada district with fascinating ancestral shrines, stone formations and traditional houses.
The village has high thatch-roofed houses, a ngadhu (a carved pole that represents the male ancestor of a clan) and Bhaga (female ancestral clan shrine).
The megalithic formations in the village centre are impressive. Megaliths are conduits to communicate with the ancestors, often involving animal sacrifice.
How to Get Around Flores
It can take some time to travel in Flores as Flores Island is quite large (the island is 600km long). Allow at least half a day to travel between major destinations.
Options for travelling around Flores include by bus, airplane and car.
If you’re comfortable driving yourself around Flores island that is one option, however, the roads are windy and hilly and the locals take the sharp corners at top speed!
You might be more relaxed if you hire a private driver who is used to navigating the roads around Flores.