Flores travel guide

First a word of warning: Flores is definitely suited best to the adventurous traveler, those content to do without luxuries if it means seeing the ‘undiscovered Indonesia’. Because apart from the west coast, which is a staging post for cruising around Komodo National Park – Flores sees very few visitors.
Flores is so far off the beaten track in Indonesia that you need to be ready for seriously basic infrastructure. Not many chocolates on pillows here.
Exploring Flores properly means not limiting yourself to the scaly, scary inhabitants of Komodo, but immersing yourself in the unique culture here, where tribal communities practice a unique mix of traditional beliefs with Catholicism, and rural villages sport spiderwebbed paddy fields, thatched cottages and ancient stone shrines.

Read on in our Flores travel guide for more details.

Flores is…

rapidly growing in popularity – a destination to visit sooner rather than later if you still want that ‘off the beaten track’ feeling.

Flores isn’t…

simply a jumping-off point for nearby Komodo National Park. There is much more to discover here beyond dragons, especially the island’s unique culture.

What does a Flores vacation entail?

Labuan Bajo on the western tip of the island, is a gateway to Komodo National Park, beyond that Flores is virtually untouched by tourism. As such, you can expect mainly very basic infrastructure from accommodations to eating places – Flores is recommended most for the intrepid traveler, happy to ‘rough it’ for a while. Flores is a world apart from the luxury resorts of Bali, or the lush rainforest of Sumatra. Everywhere you go people are unjaded by mass tourism, happy to see you and offering a genuine welcome. But the flip side of that is that in some accommodations you can expect bathing conditions to be little more than a bucket, so you really do need to be prepared for some hardships.
Getting around is usually done by 4x4 vehicle. Apart from the Trans Flores Highway that runs east to west, most roads are unpaved dirt or gravel tracks so you really need transport with a bit of oomph. You also need to be aware that if you travel during rainy season, many roads are going to be impassable.

Flores vacations are a mix of small group and tailor-made tours: the former led by professional trip leaders, the latter giving you greater freedom in terms of trip length and itinerary. Flores is frequently combined with other Indonesian islands such as Sulawesi, Java and Bali, and practically every itinerary will include time in Komodo National Park (Komodo Island is scheduled to close through 2020 for conservation work, but the rest of the park will remain accessible).

Our top Flores Vacation

Komodo and Flores vacation in Indonesia

Komodo and Flores vacation in Indonesia

See indigenous wildlife and stay in eco-accommodation

From US $4410 15 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Flores or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Flores map & highlights

1. Bajawa
2. Kelimutu Volcano
3. Komodo National Park
4. Ruteng
5. Village visits
6. Wae Rebo
Bajawa

1. Bajawa

Bajawa is the spiritual heartland of the Ngada people, five tribal groups each of which has its own distinct beliefs, customs and forms of traditional dress. Guided hiking trips between villages allow you to understand the curious blend of animism and Catholicism here, as well as to explore stilt houses with grass roofs and megalithic tombs, bathe in hot springs and perhaps even climb a volcano.
Kelimutu Volcano

2. Kelimutu Volcano

This active volcano can be summited without too much difficulty, and predawn hikes are popular to admire its three crater lakes. The Lake of Old People, the Lake of Young Men and Maidens, and the Enchanted Lake each have different colours which change depending on volcanic activity and rainfall. The hike is quite steep in places but there are steps and flatter sections, so if you’re in decent fitness it will take about 30-40 minutes to get up.
Komodo National Park

3. Komodo National Park

The west coast of Flores forms part of Komodo National Park, where you can see the famous dragons: gigantic monitor lizards that resemble dinosaurs. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park is accessed from Labuan Bajo, the most developed part of Flores in terms of tourism infrastructure. See the Responsible Tourism section below to learn why now is the time to visit.
Ruteng

4. Ruteng

Sat at the foot of a mountain range, surrounded by coffee plantations and spider web rice fields, the town of Ruteng has a pleasantly cool climate. Cultural outlets here include touring the bustling market, watching ikat weavers at work, and traditional festivals where you might watch a whip fight. North of Rutang, the limestone Liang Bua Cave is famous for perhaps holding the remains of a new human species.
Village visits

5. Village visits

If you want to appreciate the unique living culture of Flores there’s no better way than to explore some of the island’s many villages with local guides. You might be welcomed into picturesque stilt huts in fishing communities, see images of Jesus and Mary displayed alongside pig jaws, buffalo horns and tribal art, learn how palm wine is made, eat with a local family or even stay over in a five-storey village house.
Wae Rebo

6. Wae Rebo

This village, belonging to the Manggarai people, is very remote, set within cloud forest and only accessible with a three-hour hike. The main cultural attraction of visiting is seven cone-shaped traditional houses, with thatched roofs and huge interiors. Some Flores vacations see you stay overnight, getting to know the villagers and about their lives, as well as exploring some of the island’s most unique architecture.

Responsible tourism

Flores vacations typically involve moving frequently from place to place, with plenty of opportunities for snorkeling and swimming off beautiful beaches. You will often see handicrafts in markets made from colourful seashells and stones – these are collected daily from beaches such as Penggajawa and the seabed by entrepreneurial locals but beware buying them, as by doing so you’re contributing to the depletion of natural resources. Better to leave the stones and shells where they are for everyone to enjoy.

Nearby Komodo Island will be closed for the duration of 2020 to allow the restoration of habitat. If some Indonesian politicians have their way, Komodo Island may soon be off-limits for all but the wealthiest of tourists, and the people who live on the island forcibly moved away to leave it entirely as a pristine nature reserve. Naturally this plan will be highly controversial if it actually happens, especially as to-date local residents appear to co-exist well with their scaly neighbours. But there were 176,000 visitors to the island in 2018, a massive increase from a decade ago. And the first cruise ships are now starting to arrive, an early warning sign that tourism needs to be regulated closely before the environment and culture of Komodo Island begin to suffer. If you want to see the dragons, join a responsible operator with their best interests at heart.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Richard Liblanc] [Is/Isn't: Paul Arps] [What does a Flores vacation entail?: Paul Arps] [Bajawa: F-GSPY] [Kelimutu Volcano: Rosino] [Komodo National Park: Charlie Marchant] [Ruteng: Paul Arps] [Village visits: Paul Arps] [Wae Rebo: Mahmur marganti]
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