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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 and one that should absolutely be on the itinerary of any traveller to the country who has the time to allow for it.

Dotted by volcanoes that are often surrounded by rice terraced valleys and 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 and 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 as it is 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, 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.

That's as far east as we've been so far, but we'll be returning a little later in 2013 to explore the northern islands at Riung and further east to Maumere, Larantuka and Solor Island.

Yes we're just getting started!

If you're already familiar with travel in Lombok or Bali, expect less creature comforts in Flores. Outside of the fancy digs in the far west of the island, accommodation is generally quite simple and 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. We've only travelled it as far as Moni, but 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 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.

Text and/or map last updated on 8th May, 2013.

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