So you’ve only got a few days up your sleeve—is it worth adding Sumba to your itinerary? We would say emphatically, “Yes!” For a short trip, we’d suggest sticking to West Sumba to reduce travel time across the island and get the absolute highlights of this impressive small island. You will be left wanting more, without doubt.
If you have time, do venture east and take a sharp turn south in the middle for one of the world’s best beaches (but you’ll really need an extra couple of days as it’s slow travel). You’ll need a car and driver or an ojek (beware of bone shattering roads) to fit everything in, and we’d recommend hiring a local guide for village visits too.
It’s dangerous to drive at night around West Sumba, so start your day early. If you happen to be invited to a local ceremony, we’d suggest abandoning your plans and joining in. Do however be aware that most involve animal sacrifice and may be too confronting for some travellers (and children).
The best time to visit Sumba is after the wet season (November to April) when the landscape is green, green and more green. For the rest of the year it’s golden and brown, but still beautiful. The wet season brings sporadic rain. It’s still possible to travel, however check for local reports of flooding.
Day 1 — Arrival > Waikabubak
Book your ticket to Tambolaka (TMC) in West Sumba. If you’re flying from Bali most flights arrive late morning or early afternoon. Stop for lunch in Waitabula at Rumah Makan Richard for local fare, or if you’re not so brave, Gula Garam Restaurant near the airport.
Head to Waikabubak., detouring at Pabetilakera, Lokomboro or Waikelo Sawah Waterfalls along the way — Waikelo Sawah is the most accessible if you are short on time, though it’s more a lovely hydroelectricity plant and swimming spot surrounded by stunning rice fields than a proper waterfall.
Spend the afternoon exploring the traditional villages around Waikabubak. Tarung and neighbouring Waitabar villages, along with Bodo Ede, Tambelar and Elu are all easily reached on foot (or more quickly by ojek). These villages are familiar with the strange habits of foreign tourists, however it may be a good idea to employ a local guide to avoid any social faux pas.
Day 2 — Explore Wanokaka and Lamboya > Waitabula / Oro Beach
Head south and spend the day exploring the stunning deserted southern beaches around Wanokaka and Lamboya (don’t forget a packed lunch), stopping at La Popu Waterfall, possibly Sumba’s prettiest cascades.
If you have time, drop into Waigalli and Praigolil villages to see interesting megalithic graves. The monumental headstones here have become symbols of the area, and indeed of Sumba. Journey back and spend the night at Waitabula, or for more pleasant digs, the guesthouse at Oro Beach. Time your trip so you’re not travelling at night, as banditry can be a concern then.
Day 3 — Explore Kodi > Waitabula / Oro Beach
Short on time? Leave early today to pack in as much as you can around the Kodi area — there’s a bit of travel over not so great roads, so if you can squeeze in an extra day, consider splitting this itinerary into two day trips.
Take a packed lunch and your swimmers. First off head to Tanjung Mambang where two close by beaches offer dramatic rock formations, a stone arch at Bwanna Beach and five limestone karst islands at Watu Malandong Beach. The sea is a little treacherous for swimming, so photos only.
If you’ve time (or if you have split this into two days) stop at Wainyapu village. If not, head to Ratenggaro village for the craziest tallest roofs you’ve ever seen (you can spy Wainyapu across the river if you didn’t have time). Drive by Pero Beach for more stunning rocky coastline and a fun blowhole—nature blowing raspberries!
Then venture into the sublime Weekuri Lagoon. This awe-inspiring turquoise tidal lake will have you asking why you have never been to Sumba before this. Return to your hotel, perhaps stopping at Villa Redemptorist on the waterfront near Waikelo harbour for a sundowner.
Day 4 — Departure
You’ll have time this morning for a dip if staying by the beach or visit the Rumah Budaya Sumba Museum in Waitabula, which aims to help preserve the culture of Sumba (through donations they have so far helped build 78 traditional houses). Then it’s off to the airport. Don’t say we didn’t warn you that you’d want more time!
Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.
Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!
Burma lends itself to a short fast trip with frequent flights thrown in or a longer, slower trip where you don't leave the ground. There isn't much of a middle ground. Ground transport remains relatively slow, so be wary about trying to fit too much in.
Roughly apple-shaped, you'd think Cambodia would be ideal for circular routes, but the road network isn't really laid out that way. This means you'll most likely find yourself through some towns more than once, so work them into your plans.
How long have you got? That's not long enough. Really. You'd need a few lifetimes to do this sprawling archipelago justice. Be wary of trying to cover too much ground - the going in Indonesia can be slow.
North or south or both? Laos is relatively small and transport is getting better and better. Those visiting multiple countries can pass through here a few times making for some interesting trips.
The peninsula is easy, with affordable buses, trains and planes and relatively short distances. Sabah and Sarawak are also relatively easy to get around.The vast majority of visitors stick to the peninsula but Borneo is well worth the time and money to reach.
So much to see, so much to do. Thailand boasts some of the better public transport in the region so getting around can be fast and affordable. If time is limited, stick to one part of the country.
Long and thin, Vietnam looks straightforward, but the going is slow and the distances getting from A to B can really bite into a tight trip plan. If you're not on an open-ended trip, plan carefully.
This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.