Flores takes its name from the Portuguese for "flowers" and while it isn't particularly known for its flora, it is nevertheless a beautiful place. If you've got the time, it should be on the itinerary of any traveller to Indonesia.
Dotted by volcanoes that are often surrounded by terraced valleys, then ringed by glorious beaches, the island of Flores is a fabulous destination for independent travellers happy to endure a little discomfort. Despite this, outside of July and August, Flores is devoid of big numbers of tourists, so you can have large portions of it as a traveller mostly to yourself.
The western reach of the island is the heart of the tourist scene. Here, from the port town of Labuan Bajo, people can visit both Komodo National Park and a number of other islands, including Kanawa Island and Seraya Island. Many people -- especially divers -- visit on liveaboard boats and barely venture ashore, which is one reason the tourism infrastructure here remains relatively poorly developed.
Heading east, highlights include the remote and traditional village of Wae Rebo, the "hobbit cave" outside Ruteng and the Ngada village of Bene outside Bajawa, which offers spectacular views of one of the island's most beautiful peaks, Gunung Inerie.
Further east again takes visitors to Ende, with its volcanic backdrop and beautiful green stone beach and east again to the impressive three-lake peak of Kelimutu, which is best accessed from the village of Moni. The port town of Maumere offers diving and pretty beaches further along the coastline, while Riung, on the dry northern coast, is the jump-off point for snorkelling and hopping around the white-sand beaches of the Seventeen Islands. Laruntuka, at the very tip of eastern Flores, retains a green, cool maritime flavour distinctly unlike Labuan Bajo.
Part of the joy of Flores is the travel itself, along relatively good roads winding through magnificent forest scenery in parts. Take it as slow as you can.
If you're already familiar with travel in Lombok or Bali, expect fewer creature comforts in Flores. Outside of the fancy digs in the far west of the island, accommodation is generally basic. Very few places can be booked online, but when travelling in high season (July and August) bookings in advance are a good idea when possible. Travel agents in Labuan Bajo can assist in this regard.
The island has the Trans-Flores Highway running from west to east. It's generally of a pretty good standard (save a few rough patches). If self driving, especially by motorbike, watch-out -- there are many blind corners, no shoulder, precipitous cliffs with poor railings (if any), and with all due respect to them, Floresian drivers do seem to be a little mad.
Public transport is limited with local buses small, uncomfortable and not always running at the most convenient times. A step up in price and quality are "travel cars", Kijangs (an Indonesian version of a Toyota more or less) which you can hire entirely or just buy a seat in. For groups and families, consider hiring a car with driver. The cost is not unreasonable and it will give you a lot more flexibility in your travels. Rates start at around 600,000 rupiah per day.
Labuan Bajo, Ruteng, Bajawa, Ende and Maumere all have airports -- in high season reserve your flights as early as possible. Many choose to fly into Labuan Bajo and out of Ende or Maumere as it removes the need to drive the Trans-Flores Highway twice.
You'll find ATMs in all the main towns along with limited internet. In the countryside, Telkomsel has a patchy 3G signal -- this should improve with time.
Lastly, the distances may look small, but travel in Flores is time consuming. Most drivers consider Labuan Bajo to Ruteng, Ruteng to Bajawa and Bajawa to Moni to be one day drives. You could conceivably drive Labuang Bajo to Bajawa in a day, but we wouldn't advise it. Don't drive long distances at night if you can help it.
Download your Flores PDF guide
Travelfish members are able to download our custom-built PDF guidebooks to many of the destinations on Travelfish.org -- including Flores. Once downloaded, guides are stored in their Member Centre for ease of access when travelling and can also be downloaded onto their computer. Already a member? Sign in at the top right. Not a member? Sign up here.
Text and/or map last updated on 30th September, 2015.
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