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A sprawling and sunwashed port city, Ende is not exactly a tourism hotspot but has a certain maritime, beachy charm that becomes apparent after a day or so of exploration on the outskirts.
The capital of Ende regency, the town hosts a considerable Muslim population as compared to the interior of Flores, which gets along well with the majority of Catholic Christians. Ende entered Indonesian history when President Sukarno was exiled here by the Dutch government from 1934 to 1938, who hoped (in vain) that placing the charismatic activist here would prevent him from challenging the status quo. It's rumoured Indonesia's iconic "Pancasila" national philosophy came to Sukarno as he sat under a breadfruit tree in Ende, which still stands in the park near the town soccer field.
Ende has a decent range of accommodation and places to eat (at least by Floresian standards) and while its surrounding areas make for a lovely motorbike holiday, with black-sand beaches, friendly small villages and jaw-droppingly gorgeous jungle and mountain scenery all within easy reach, don't be surprised if you're one of the very few foreigners in town.
Most visitors blow through here on the way to Moni or Bajawa, but it's well worth a couple of days of exploration. The town straddles a southwards-jutting peninsula which culminates in the spectacular Gunung Iya, an active volcano which last erupted in 1969. While few climb the volcano, this is still a good town for wandering, with two oceanfront areas, plenty of black-sand beach and, on the west coast, spectacular sunsets featuring the enormous Gunung Inerie near Bajawa.
The town is quite spread out with hotels and restaurants dotted all over the place, though with a concentration towards the western port end of town, which also hosts the commercial "old town" centre of Ende. There's also Sukarno's bungalow and some particularly good eating. Ende is known for its fiery sambal so dine with care -- it certainly caught us by surprise. You can wrap all of Ende town's attractions in an hour or so, but if you plan to explore the surrounds, then allow for at least a stay of two nights.
By Stuart McDonald.