Interested in visiting Sumba Island Indonesia but unsure how to actually get around the island and what your trip should look like? We spent a while trying to work it out which is why we’re now sharing what our itinerary looked like to help you plan yours.
It turns out, we picked the best things to do in Sumba Island in East Nusa Tenggara Province, and so hopefully this guide will offer some inspiration about how to visit one of the best Indonesian islands.
We’ll also share our crucial tips before visiting Sumba Island as well as some of our favourite places we saw.
Table of Contents
What makes Sumba Island so unique?
If you’ve not heard about Sumba Island before and simply interested to learn more about why we’re writing about it, here goes.
Sumba is an island in Indonesia which is the type of place which reminds us about what travel used to be like. As soon as we stepped off the plane we were greeted by friendly locals all waving at us as we left Tambolaka Airport and started our tour.
The island is quiet without traffic, but with a landscape which is so diverse and pristine, I’m not sure you’ll find jaw-dropping places like we did on one island.
Expect to see pristine waterfalls that almost don’t look real, traditional villages, dense jungle and rolling hills that you’ll wonder why more tourists aren’t flocking here as of yet. But, as I write this guide, the island is starting to see increasing tourism especially with the likes of people filming the wild horses on the beach when staying at Nihi Sumba.
Should you base yourself at Nihi Sumba resort?
You know we had just planned to base ourselves at Nihi Sumba resort to begin with. We had seen it pop up a few times on Instagram and thought it would be a bucket list place to stay. Truth is, once we started to look into what to do in Sumba, we realised there’s way more to see rather than to just stay at the best hotel in the world.
Sumba is a massive island and you’ll need someone to drive you around because there are no road signs and internet is very scarce. This means, don’t bother to rent a motorbike because you’re guaranteed to get los, so sit back and let someone else take you around.
Getting to Sumba Island
There’s two tiny airports in Sumba, one in East Sumba called Waingapu and one in West Sumba called Tambolaka airport.
We flew into Tambolaka and out of Waingapu having to book two separate flights with Wings Air. We were picked up at Tambolaka which is when our tour started from West Sumba and finishing in East Sumba.
You can catch the ferry from Flores to Sumba Island, but I’ve heard it’s pretty rough and takes about 9 hours.
How to get around Sumba
If you’re unsure about how to get around Sumba Island, I recommend either getting a driver or doing a tour package which is what we did and includes a driver and tour guide, accommodation, food and entrance fees into tourist sites.
We talk more about how we felt about doing that tour in our Crucial Tips Before Visiting Sumba Island guide. Make sure you read this article as it will help you decide about how to get around to see the local culture and local villages.
How long to spend in Sumba
We booked five days in Sumba, although we left at 6:30am on the fifth day so we basically had four days there. Was it enough time to see everything? Pretty much. You could easily spend a month in Sumba Island chilling out in paradise with beautiful beaches on your doorstep without a single person in sight, amazing waterfalls to explore, local villages and so much more.
Four solid days felt enough for us, and by the end of the trip, we weren’t sad to leave but just glad we were able to experience a place so pristine before it gets jammed packed full of tourists.
When to visit Sumba Island
Unsure when to visit Sumba Island? Obviously visiting in the dry season will give you more chance of seeing clear blue sky days. We visited in the rainy season in January and we were worried the waterfalls would be brown.
Truth is, they were still crystal clear which was a huge relief! Just know that visiting in the wet season will mean some cloudy days and afternoon showers. March is the most popular time to visit in time for Pasola Festival, and Oct-Nov is the hottest time of year.
Sumba Island itinerary
Now we’ve talked about the basics, we customised our tour so that we could see the majority of the places we wanted to see. But, we didn’t get to see everything because we were only in Sumba five days. I would have loved to have seen more waterfalls but the ones we did see are absolutely incredible!
Our flight landed at around 12:30pm so we were picked up from the airport and taken to a nearby restaurant for lunch with the boss of our tour company (which we would have technically paid for). The lunch was surprisingly good and I definitely felt the heat as it was way hotter than in Bali when we visited in rainy season at the beginning of January.
Day 1: Ratenggaro Village
After 1h30m of driving through the villages and beautiful island, we arrived at Ratenggaro Village, the oldest village in Sumba Island. As we pulled up to the village which is located right next to the ocean, we were greeted by over 300 tombs, many of which are megalithic tombs dating back 4000 years where the ancestral spirits protect the living.
And when we arrived, a funeral had just taken place and five buffalos had just been sacrificed. It was eye opening to see the buffalos in the middle of the village which the locals were carving them up for food, something I haven’t seen before.
The locals greeted us with smiles and followed us around like they hadn’t seen tourists before which is kinda mad as they see them all the time. We asked if we could fly our drone up in the sky to get perspective of the village so close to the ocean and it was allowed.
Minutes later we were told we had to pay 75,000 IDR ($7.50 AUD) to fly it and another 25,000 IDR ($2.50) to be invited into a family home and pay for beetle nut for our guide. It felt very sussed to us but we just played along because we had just arrived in Sumba and we were a bit overwhelmed with the experience.
I think Ratenggaro Village was the most interesting village we visited, maybe because we were able to see the tradition ritual of buffalos being sacrificed in the middle of the village which was jaw-dropping.
Day 1: Pero Beach
After our visit to Ratenggaro Village, within 10 minutes we were at Pero Beach which is quite famous. It wasn’t anything to write home about and I’m not sure why we were taken there.
Day 1: Mandorak Beach
Within an hour, we had arrived to Mandorak Beach which really does feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s a beautiful U shaped beach although the waves were very strong at the time of visiting. I’m sure in the middle of the day it would be stunning here with the white sandy beach and blue water.
Day 1: Weekuri Lagoon
And within another 20 minutes or so, we we drove past constructions of big hotels being built to find our way to the incredible Weekuri Lagoon. Here you’ll find local stalls selling coconuts while local kids do backflips into the crystal clear turquoise water.
We visited at around 5pm so it was starting to get dark and it was cloudy. Although the water wasn’t as green as we had seen in photos, we could totally imagine it being so if we had visited on a sunny day.
There’s a walk way that will take you right around Weekuri Lake and is fantastic for getting perspective of the lake from above and good for taking photos. One thing that surprised me was how local Sumbanese tourists were more interested in taking photos of us than of the lagoon.
We had a swim in here, but be careful as there are stone fish. Just stay by the light green patches and you’ll be fine.
Day 1: Hotel
About an hour later, we returned to Tambolaka to our hotel which was a couple of doors down from Ella Hotel which is where we thought we were staying. The hotel was basic and OK for the night, not great for anyone looking for luxury. There is a westernised restaurant almost opposite the hotel and an ATM if you need to get cash out as you won’t find any atms until you’re in another city. Personally this is the time to get any cash out for your entire trip as no one will take cards.
If we hadn’t booked a package tour, we would have definitely eaten out. Our hotel served up a terrible dinner and breakfast, it wasn’t worth the amount of money we had spent at all.
Waikelo Sawah Waterfall
The first place we visited on day 2 of our trip in West Sumba regency is the beautiful Waikelo Sawah Waterfall. As we drove down small roads, it opened out into the most beautiful rice terraces (much more prettier than you’ll find in Bali). We were totally wowed by the beauty of the place as well as the peacefulness of it too.
There are narrow walkways between the rice paddies which will bring you to a secret waterfall in the middle of them which you can’t see from the road – Waikelo Sawah Waterfall.
It takes about 5 minutes to walk down to the falls, but be careful as it gets quite muddy. I wore my flip flops and had to take them off as I was sliding all over the place. It might be worth to wear trainers or hiking boots instead.
When you reach the falls, it really is stunning and makes a wonderful photo opportunity. Although it’s technically not a natural waterfall, the water is used to irrigate the rice paddies but that doesn’t matter as it is really beautiful.
We then drove 10 minutes around the rice paddies to come to the cave located here. It’s an amazing sight, and apparently in World War 1, the Japanese army left a gun in here (it’s not there now). The cave opens up to 200 metres long and apparently there’s the remains of a car in there. I’m not sure how it got in there though.
Day 2: Praijing Village
Located in Tebara, Waikabubak, West Sumba Regency, Praijing Village is one of the most popular villages to visit in Sumba Island. The traditional village is home to traditional houses with thatched roofs and it’s a megalithic village with ancient tombstones here.
There’s no denying Praijing Village is super picturesque and makes an amazing photo. However, it does feel like a tourist village with signs up about the place and didn’t feel as authentic at Ratenggaro Village.
At the time of visiting, news just broke that a young member of the village had just died so we didn’t walk into there out of respect for the Sumbanese people.
Day 2: Lapopu Waterfall
After our visit to Praijing Village, we made our way to Lapopu Waterfall which is one of the most famous waterfalls in Sumba. The drive to the blue waterfall takes you through the dense jungle which is absolutely beautiful, which is no surprise that it’s one of the main attractions in Sumba.
Before we knew it, we had arrived to a carpark and saw monkeys swinging in the trees. There’s a toilet here and porters to take you to the falls.
The waterfall itself is stunning although the bridge had just broken when we arrived so we weren’t able to go to the other side to see the waterfall in all its glory. You can read all of our Tips For Visiting Lapopu Waterfall Guide before you visit.
We were also supposed to go to Matayangu Waterfall on day 2 as well but we had to cancel it as Steve sprained his ankle a week before in Flores. The guides told us it’s the best waterfall in Sumba, but hard to get to. It’s only a 1h30m hike which to us isn’t very long but it’s supposed to be worth it, to see the horizontal waterfall shoot out of the cliff (apparently only if there has been a lot of rain).
Just for reference, Matayangu Waterfall can be reached from the same car park as Lapopu Waterfall.
We then stayed at a hotel in Waikabubak in West Sumba for the night and had diner at Dapur Sumba which was an almost westernised bakery that also did Indonesian food.
Day 3: Pasanga megalithic tombs
We started the day by visiting one of the Royal villages in Sumba which is home to the greatest tomb stones in Sumba. The 4000 year old tombs are so impressive, they almost make you feel like you could be transported back to Egyptian times.
Day 3: Wairinding Hills
If you’re looking to see some of the insta worthy landscapes in Sumba, you must visit Wairinding Hill which is probably the most famous of them all. You simply have to walk up a few steps which will bring you to the lookout point. It’s interesting to know that trees won’t grow here as it’s too windy, but it’s supposed to be a good place to come for sunset.
There’s someone up the top here with a horse you can take photos with for 50,000 IDR. We thought it was kinda funny and a bit too random for us. But nonetheless, I’m sure you could probably get a few good images here.
Day 3: Bukit Ndapayami Hill
We then drove about 20 minutes nearby to another lookout called Bukit Ndapayami Hill which we thought was much more impressive than the previous hill.
As we travelled along a very thin and high ridge line, we made it up to the top where we were greeted by incredible views, 100mph winds and not another soul insight. It was incredible!
Day 3: Tanggedu Waterfall
Once we went for lunch, Steve started to feel quite ill from a coffee he had the day before. He was getting worse with stomach cramps so we dropped him off at our next hotel called Padadita Hotel for the rest of the afternoon so he could rest.
We then continued for a 1h30m drive to go to Tanggedu Waterfall which is such as shame that he missed it because it was my favourite part of the whole trip.
The drive to the waterfall is absolutely jaw-dropping, which is saying something because we had just been to two impressive lookout points earlier on in the day.
When you reach the bridge before Tanggedu waterfall, we hired motorbikes which cut down the walking time. If you’re on a package tour like us, your guide should pay for you. Mine tried to make me play 100,000 IDR ($10) but I had no money on me so he paid (with the money we had already given him at the start of the trip).
We stayed at Padadita Hotel for the next two nights which is the only hotel we saw a few other western tourists. It’s a big hotel on the water with a big swimming pool and sun loungers. The food isn’t amazing here, but it’s OK to get by. The wifi was very temperamental here too.
Day 4: Tanarara Hill
We left our hotel at around 8:30am in the morning and left Steve to spend the day relaxing by the pool while we embarked on another day of adventure. First up was Tanarara Hill which took us about 1h30m to get to. It was super windy here, and by this point I felt like I had seen enough lookout points and it didn’t match up to the others I had seen the day earlier. Personally having visited, I would have skipped this from our list of places to visit.
Day 4: Waimarang Waterfall
Within another hour, we arrived at the parking lot for Wairmarang Waterfall in Southwest Sumba. Now this is the Sumba waterfall we were really looking forward to visiting. Steve didn’t come because of his ankle and it’s probably best he didn’t because I don’t think he would have made it.
It is without a doubt that Waimarang Waterfall truly is one of the best swimming holes I have ever seen. The natural rock pool and steps carved into the rock honestly don’t seem reel – it’s insane! You can read all about how long it takes to get there, as well as how it became famous in our guide; Tips For Visiting Waimarang Waterfall.
We had to bring a packed lunch on this day which we had in the car park. I was totally unsure what to get as there’s no fridges but Nasi Goreng (fried rice) was OK which I ordered from our hotel.
Day 4: Rende Village
The next stop on our places to visit was Rende Village. Now to me, this village had a weird vibe, probably because my guide told me this royal family village is still home to slaves. When I asked ‘what do you mean by slaves?’ he said; ‘it’s where people live and do whatever they are told by the house owners’. I was confused and felt pretty uncomfortable here.
You can actually stay in this village if you like, but for me, I couldn’t wait to leave.
Day 5: Walakiri Beach
After we visited Rende Village, we started to make our way back to Waingapu and stopped off at the famous Walakiri Beach. When we visited, the water was super clear and I was told the famous part of the beach is the mangroves. I didn’t find it particularly exciting and got back in the car not long afterwards.
I think if you’re looking for beaches in Sumba, it’s best to visit West Sumba beaches. The Nihi Beach where the famous hotel is located apparently is the best surfing beach in Sumba! I wanted to visit Batu Balong in Southwest Sumba which is where the famous arched cliff is located. But, it collapsed in 2020 so it was taken off our Sumba itinerary.
Day 5: Leaving Sumba
Our flight out of Sumba left at 6:30am so we made our way to Waingapu airport which is really small and is basically like a shed split into the check in side and waiting side.
When we landed back in Bali, we felt a reverse culture shock to see people everywhere, music playing out of restaurants and much more. It felt like we had been transported back in time in Sumba, most if it was pretty incredible.
Looking back on our trip to Sumba, I can see why it’s such a special place to still have cultural traditions in place, but wow, what an eye-opener it was!
Need more questions answered about visiting Sumba island?