The fertile area south of the mighty Rinjani mountain has several interesting villages, beautiful landscapes and green rice fields. Most of the villages here are populated by Sasak, one often visited village is Tetebatu at the foot of Gunung Rinjani, from here the view to this mountain and the southern part of the island is great.
A few km from Tetebatu you will find the Taman Wisata Tetebatu monkey forest with it’s black monkeys and waterfalls, among them the popular Air Terjun Jukut waterfall. According to the locals the water from Air Terjun Jukut will give increased hair growth.
West of Air Terjun Jukut you will find Air Terjun Joben where the water is supposed to have healing powers. Besides Tetebatu it is recommended to visit the Loyok and Rungkang villages, both well known for their fine crafts and pottery, you can also find this in the Pringgasela and Masbagik villages. Further south the climate is much drier, and to supply these areas with water during the dry season a lot of irrigation channels has been built on the southern slopes of Gunung Rinjani.
Mataram, capital of Lombok
Mataram, the capital of Lombok and the administrative center of West Nusa Tenggara, is located west of this area. Originally Mataram was a collection of four cities; the harbor of Ampenan, Mataram, Cakranegara and Bertais. Cakranegara, which is the business center, was at the start of the 18th century home to the crown prince of Karangasem on East Bali. The palace do not exist anymore, but several temples and parks still remain, like Pura Meru which is one of the oldest Hindu temples on Lombok, built in 1720 by Anak Agung Made Karang. It is dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the Hindu trinity, and consists of many buildings and shrines. In addition there are three “meru”, towers with a varying number of levels. Taman Mayura is a so-called water palace from 1744, where bloody fights between Dutch and Balinese forces took place in 1894.
Museum Negeri Nusa Tenggara Barat is also worth a visit if you like an insight into the history, culture and geology of Lombok and Sumbawa. Few tourists prefer to stay in Mataram, at least for a long time, but there are many hotels and restaurants here to choose among.
Just east of Mataram is an interesting area with nice rice fields, villages and temples. Taman Narmada was built here in 1727 of the Balinese king Anak Agung Gede Ngurah Karang Asem. The site was built as a beautiful garden for recreation and a place to worship Shiva. The large pool represents Segara Anak, the lake inside the Rinjani caldera. When the king became too old and weak to personally visit the 3.726 meter high peak of Rinjani he built Narmada as a representation of the mountain and the lake. Inside the park there is a temple still in use; Pura Kalasa.
The Pura Lingsar temple, about 7 km from Narmada, was built in 1714 and rebuilt again in 1878 as a symbol of the harmony between Balinese Hindus and Sasak Muslims, especially those who followed the local Islamic Wektu Telu religion. This is said to be the most sacred temple complex on Lombok, and maybe the only one in the world where both Hindus and Muslims come to pray. The temple is split in two separate sections on two different levels, the Balinese temple is located on the highest ground. The Wektu Telu temple has a small pool dedicated to Vishnu where holy eels can be lured to appear from their hidings by feeding them hard boiled eggs.
Sukarare is a small town south of Cakranegara with traditional weavers, today it has become a traditional tourist trap with several stores where you can buy the famous ikat textiles. This is still an interesting place to visit to get an insight in the art of traditional weaving. Lombok is known for it’s unique variation of ikat; the light patterned “songket” textile. For several generations this has been made with manual methods and tools still in use.