Have you always wanted to travel back in time and get a taste of an ancient civilization? Welcome to the Ultimate Guide to Sumba!
In Sumba, a mysterious and rugged island located in East Nusa Tenggara, southwest of Flores, you can get a glimpse of tribal villages built on hilltops and fortified by historic stone walls.
Here, rolling Savannah and uncharted limestone hills layer the countryside, while hilltop villages with thatched tribal homes are guarded by megalithic tombs. This is also one of the prime destinations for surfers around the world.
While Bali and Lombok have become households names around the world, Sumba Island is still relatively undiscovered. Sumba Island is still reserved for the most adventurous of travelers.
As locations are spread far apart and require hours of driving to travel between them, it is recommended to set aside several days to explore the island, as well as hire a car for safety reasons. Some parts, such as major areas across Southwest Sumba Regency, also lack electricity access, meaning the roads are pitch black after dusk.
Despite the long drives, the stunning views will most likely keep you charmed along the way. Here is the ultimate guide to Sumba includes best destinations to visit, how to get there, travel tips and basic safety information in Sumba.
A brilliant escape at Walakiri Mangrove Beach
Walakiri has a beautiful stretch of white sandy beach with gentle waves, coconut trees and unique pygmy mangroves you can’t miss. When the tide is low, the beach is shallow with a soft sandy bottom that is perfect for swimming. You’ll also spot seaweed farms on the edge of the sandbank near the mangroves. If you’re in the mood to pick up seashells on the sand, you’re in luck – this beach has plenty of them.
Get Lost in time at Wairinding Hill
This unspoiled Savannah is a sight to behold. With green beds of grass zig-zagging across the horizon, this is a perfect spot to unwind and relax at after a long hike and gaze out at the limestone hills covered in soft greenery.Let your mind wander in tranquility, where there’s only you and nature. Although the Savannah appears fierce green during the rainy season (November-May), it transforms into a beautiful field of gold in the dry season (July-October).
Swim in an Angel’s Lake: Weekuri Lagoon
Weekuri Lagoon is located in North Kodi, Southwest Sumba. It is one of the most popular destinations as the turquoise waters lure both locals and visitors alike for a swim. There is a jumping board for thrill seekers. It is important, however, to check the tides before planning a swim. At this paradise lake, the turquoise water turns gold at sunset – a magical moment you don’t want to miss!
Separated by cliffs, this tidal lagoon is only 20 meters away from the sea with a sandy bottom and cool waters that are perfect for swimming. Sit under one of the shady trees while dipping your feet in the cool water and marvel at the beauty of your surroundings. Like many hidden gems on this island, you won’t find many people here.
Come in the morning when you can see the sunlight piercing through the water to the bottom of the lake, and get your snorkel goggles on!
Visit traditional villages and immerse yourself in local culture
Tribal bamboo houses with dramatic roofs: Ratenggaro Village and beach. Kampung Ratenggaro is one of the most visited traditional villages in Sumba. Located next to a beautiful and deserted beach, it’s also one of the most picturesque.
This is one of the few places on the island where you’ll find traditional bamboo-structured homes with dramatic rooftops as high as 25 metres tall. Like other villages in Sumba, the tall roofs were built to honor ancestral spirits according to their Marapu faith.
The quaint beach is a perfect addition to this small village in southwestern Sumba. The water is clear and the waves are sizable with long rolls, suitable for surfing. About 500 metres from the village along the coast, you can also spot some megalithic tombs dating back to 4500 years ago.
Prai Ijing Customary Village
Located in Waikabubak, the village follows the traditional layout of houses surrounding megalithic tombs that were built for the residents’ ancestors. The entrance to the village is perched atop a hill, offering sweeping views of the traditional housing cluster.
Residents are friendly and welcoming, creating a warm environment to learn about the village’s history and people. Make sure to be respectful of local etiquette when entering the village. Visitors are also expected to leave a donation for the village.
White sand and clear water: Watu Parunu Beach
Here, you can find crystal blue water with soft white sands and coconut trees lined up quietly on the shore. Climb to the top of the rock formation – the view is absolutely amazing.
As this is a lesser known beach, it is quite unlikely that you will meet other travelers. But if you’re lucky, you may be able to see fishermen returning from the sea, bringing catch of the day ! Watu Parunu is ideal for swimming.
Postcard-perfect view: Bawana Beach
On the beach, you’ll notice its iconic arch – essentially a large hole in the rock formation that stands firmly on the shoreline while the waves crash in.
From a distance, the view at Bawana beach will remind you of the amazing green cliffs in Ireland. You will see miles of unspoiled beach with pounding waves lined along the majestic cliff.
You’ll likely have the beach all to yourself, and we recommend going during sunset to catch an even more magnificent view!
Marvel at the endless blue waters of Sumba’s biggest waterfall: Waikelo Sawah
Be warned, this IS a man-made waterfall and is purely for your visionary pleasure and not suitable for swimming at all!
Surrounded by the verdant greenery under the foot of the hill, this waterfall is also situated under several magnificent caves. As a result, you have one of the nature’s best architectural design – a cave lagoon framed by the panoramic emerald green and the most exotic stone entrance.
The best time to visit Waikelo Sawah is around February, March and November. You’ll get to witness the traditional annual rituals in Sumba such as Pasola, a spear-fighting equestrian game and Wula Podu, a sacred local dance.
Lapopu Waterfall : Turquoise Lagoon
The waterfall ran over rocks before falling over the edge of the slope into a huge turquoise lagoon. Located in Central Sumba regency in Manurara is Lapopu Waterfall. As it is located near Prai Ijing Customary Village, it is a convenient stop that can be done on the same day as the village.
It is best to come during the dry season, as visitors must traverse an uneven and slippery trail to the waterfall. The short trail, which is about a 15-minute walk, also passes a bamboo bridge to cross the river. Lapopu is 90 meters in height. The refreshing river is perfect for a dip on a hot day.
The waterfall is a popular tourist destination, and visitors must pay parking and entrance fees, as well as hiring a local guide to help them reach the area. During public holidays, Lapopu is popular among locals, who come for a picnic in the seating areas around the riverside.
Dip in the secret emerald pool of Waimarang Waterfall
Waimarang is one of Sumba’s most beautiful waterfalls. The main draw of this place is the sublime and otherworldly waterfall pool.
The rock wall surrounding the pool creates the feeling of being in a cave, with the wall covered in green moss and vegetation of the dense forest towering above.
River tubing at Tanggedu Waterfall
You will pass through the traditional villages of Mondu and Prainatang while travelling to this waterfall, which has been gaining popularity from the locals and visitors alike.
Between rock formations that resemble a canyon, clear and cool water tumbles down from the waterfall, surrounded by unspoiled nature.
If you’re brave enough, tube down the river! Although this place is far from the town and roads there are bumpy, the time and effort taken would be worth it when you catch sight of this natural beauty.
Learn about the local arts and history at Sumba Cultural Research and Conservation Institute
Located in Waitabula, this donation-based cultural institute (otherwise known as Rumah Budaya) has more than 500 artifacts from all over the island, dating back to the 16th Century. You can find displays of old photographs, various pottery and an ongoing project that shows how tombs are carved.
If you want to take a break from nature and wilderness, stop by the institute to learn the history and connect the dots.
Initiated by a Catholic priest, Father Robert Ramone, the sole purpose of the institute is to preserve the local culture of Sumba. Through private donations, Rumah Budaya has helped locals to build and rebuild 78 traditional houses.
In addition to the museum, Rumah Budaya also provides accommodation, meeting rooms, tour packages and transport options for everyone who wants to experience Sumba.
Join the festivities and celebrate Pasola (spear fighting) with the locals
Traditional spear-fighting competitions, otherwise known as Pasola ceremonies, take place every year around February and March (during the full moon) in West Sumba. This year the festival will be held on :
- 7 March , local time 10:00 am PASOLA MALITI BONDO ATE
- 8 March , local time 10:00 am PASOLA WAIHA
- 9 MARCH,local time 10:00 am PASOLA WAINYAPU
This is probably one of the biggest attractions for foreigners coming to Sumba.
Check our :
Pasola festival program for more info !
The intention of this festival is to spill blood between the tribes to fertilise the land, please the Marapu gods and to ensure a successful harvest. There are no winners and few rules apply.
Two teams of spear-wielding and ikat-clad horsemen brace each other in this extravagant tournament. You’ll find many local homes opening their doors to visitors and temporary snack stalls being set up near the Pasola field. It’s festive, eventful, and yes – bloody. Even at the start of the festival, your adrenaline will get pumping as you watch the men march towards each other.
After the march, the women place offerings on the tombs, and sing and chant ritual songs late into the night. The songs attract the appearance of nayle worms (a species of sea-worm), and when this occurs, a chicken is sacrificed and the Pasola can officially begin.
Eco-friendly accommodation that gives back to the community: Nihiwatu Resort
Staying at this unpretentious luxurious beachfront resort doesn’t mean extravagance and excess. Did you know that while you’re enjoying a slice of heaven at Nihiwatu Resort, you’re actually making a difference to the local communities?
Nihiwatu Resort started The Sumba Foundation that is committed in providing humanitarian aid to the local communities by fostering village-based projects in health (including access to healthcare and malaria control), education, water and income-generation. It is done in a way that preserves and respects the culture of the Sumbanese people.
So how do I get to Sumba?
There are two airports on the island of Sumba, one in East Sumba and the other in Southwest Sumba. The airport in East Sumba is Umbu Mehang Kunda. It was previously known as Mau Hau and is located in the town of Waingapu. The airport in Southwest Sumba is called Tambolaka.
Direct flight to Sumba is only available from two cities, Denpasar (Bali) and Kupang (Timor). If you want to visit Sumba from anywhere else in Indonesia you will have to transit through one of these two cities first.
A number of airlines fly to Sumba, including Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, and Sriwijaya Air. If you want to fly with Garuda Indonesia then you will need to fly to Tambolaka Airport.
When to travel?
The best time to travel to Sumba is between April and July, after the monsoon. If you are a surfer, you may want to visit during the period of May to September. It’s generally more rainy from November to April.
Basic safety information in Sumba
Malaria: Yes, the risk of malaria is unfortunately still present in Sumba, like many rural areas in Indonesia. Don’t feed the vampires! Before you go, consult your family doctor on anti-malaria medication you can take and remember to bring light long-sleeved clothes and lots of mosquito repellent! Make sure your accommodation provides mosquito nets for you to sleep in too.
Here are some travel hacks and tricks that will help you to get the most out of your adventure in Sumba.
1. Cash is king. There are ATM machines in Sumba’s main towns – Waingapu (capital), Waitabula and Waikabubak. Bank BNI and Mandiri are the most reliable and have better exchange rates. As you leave the bigger towns, change your cash into smaller bills as it is very difficult to find change for large bills in the villages.
2. Pack a flashlight. Like many rural regions in Indonesia, electricity is scarce. It’s common for generators to start running out of fuel after sunset and people use electricity sparingly. To prepare yourself for blackouts (which often happens), bring a flashlight with you if you want to catch up on some reading at night.
Check out our trips and activities in Sumba here !
Don’t forget to also check our 10 Days / 9 Nights Sumba Itinerary here !