Flores is one of my favorite travel destinations in Indonesia. The first time I flew into Labuan Bajo I was struck by the beautiful landscape. The hills surrounding the town are a rich emerald green and the ocean a cool turquoise. It was the start of my love affair with the island (and I keep coming back).
You can find dozens of articles about Flores on Discover Your Indonesia. To organize my thoughts and help you plan your trip to Flores Indonesia we created this guide to Flores. It covers all the important things you need to know for your trip.
We’ve broken the guide down into different sections. You can use the shortcuts below to jump to the bit you need.
- Introduction to Flores
- Flying to Flores
- Boat to Flores
- Exploring Flores
- Transport in Flores
- Accommodation in Flores
Introduction to Flores
Most books on Flores start with the arrival of the Portuguese. Of course you could start a lot earlier, but… In 1511 Antonio de Abreu passed Flores while on an expedition to the Sunda Islands. He called the island ‘flowers’… I hope he put more thought into naming his children.
Regardless of how the island got its name, there are plenty of reasons to visit. Top of the list are the Komodo Islands, which offer amazing diving opportunities, beautiful viewpoints and the Komodo Dragons (though I wish Indonesia had a more friendly national mascot, like a Panda for example). Other highlights of the island include the three coloured lakes of Kelimutu and the enchanting village of Wae Rebo (you’ll probably need a guide to visit the village).
Flying to Flores
It used to be that getting to Flores was a real pain. Despite the fact that the island had three main airports (Labuan Bajo, Ende and Maumere), there weren’t many flights going to the island, but you could expect a lot of delays. That’s changing…
Labuan Bajo has a new shiny international airport with a runway big enough to cater for mid sized aircraft like the Boeing 727. The airport can now handle international routes (it’s starting with Kuala Lumpur and Singapore) as well as more domestic routes (Garuda International operates schedule flights from Jakarta). Yay! You can fly into Flores on low cost carriers Sriwijaya Airways, Wings Air and Lion Air. Most of these flights go from Bali, but there are also services from Timor.
Boat to Flores
If you don’t want to fly you can always take a boat. There are ferry services linking Flores with Sepe in Sumbawa and Tambolaka in Sumba. Pelni, the Indonesian National Ferry Company, manages the service. I’d only recommend this option if you are planning a massive overland trip across Indonesia.
The more popular route with tourists is the Lombok to Flores cruise. These cruises take between 2-3 days. You can stop off at tourist sites along the way, do some diving, watch the beaches pass by and generally relax onboard the ships. It’s an interesting way to travel and I’d recommend it if you have the time.
Flores is a difficult island to travel around. As soon as you leave the coast you enter the highlands. There are endless hills, deep valleys and rocky cliff faces. It’s a beautiful landscape, but difficult to navigate. We’ll come back to the interior in a second, because most people are interested in the coast…
Tourism in Flores is focused around the coastal towns of Labuan Bajo, Ende and Maumere. Of the three towns Labuan Bajo is the most popular. There are lots of nice restaurants, good hotels and the Komodo National Park is just a short boat ride away. If you’re a tourist you’ll probably visit Ende after Labuan Bajo. The city is 50 km away from Kelimutu where you can see the three colored lakes. There’s a chance you’ll visit Maumere though as it’s the bigger city and there are more flights to the airport.
After the three principle cities in Flores come the towns of Riung, Ruteng, Bajawa and Moni. These are all on the interior and are linked together by the Trans Flores Highway that crosses the island. You can find more information about each of the towns and what you can do around them below (it’s a work in progress).
Things to Do in Labuan Bajo: Guide to the best things to do around Labuan Bajo.
Where to Stay in Labuan Bajo: Our guide to the best hotels to stay in Labuan Bajo for every budget.
Transport in Flores
Getting around Flores is quite difficult. The distances are large (getting between Ruteng to Bajawa for instance can be a one day drive) and there is limited public transport. If you do want to explore Flores by road I’d recommend arranging an overland tour for 4-5 days. This is enough time to go from Ende to Labuan Bajo and hit the main tourist spots.
It is possible to travel between towns in the interior by public transport, but unless you are on a really tight budget I wouldn’t bother. Instead stick around Labuan Bajo and maybe hit Wae Rebo, or fly to Ende to visit Kelimutu and then leave Flores. If you do choose to go overland then avoid travelling long distances at night if at all possible.
Accommodation in Flores
Hotel accommodation in Flores is really variable. The coastal town of Labuan Bajo is the most developed with hotels to fit every budget. In Maumere and Ende hotel options are more limited, but you can still find some really nice places to stay.
Following the Trans-Flores Highway you pass the towns of Riung, Ruteng, Bajawa and Moni, the main tourism spots for overland tours. Accommodation is really focused on backpackers and budget travellers. You won’t find real mid-range or any luxury accommodation.
Most people who visit Flores will come to visit the Komodo National Park and then leave. I’ve tried to go beyond Labuan Bajo in the is guide and cover some of the essential things you need to know if you’re planning to really explore Flores, Indonesia. I know with the speed of development things will be changing quickly and I plan to keep this article updated. If you have any comments or feedback about the article or want some more information leave your comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Have you visited Flores? What tips would you give to fellow travellers? Share your thoughts in the comments below.