Sumba got without a question some of the best places to see in the whole of Indonesia! Despite being so close to touristy Bali and the popular Komodo National Park, Sumba remained very much off the radar for many travellers. But with its welcoming people, beautiful nature, unique traditions and off-the-grid vibe, Sumba must be on your Indonesia itinerary.
This post will show you 20 amazing places you HAVE to see in Sumba.
The island is home to ancient megalithic burial sites, traditional villages, and remarkable ikat weaving. Immerse yourself in the rich Sumbanese culture by witnessing traditional ceremonies, marvel at the stunning waterfalls, visit stunning viewpoints, and soak up the sun on pristine white-sand beaches like Nihiwatu Beach or Weekuri Lake.
Since coming to Bali in 2020, I heard of Sumba and planned on going eventually. I couldn’t find a ton of information back then, but I was intrigued nevertheless. I got the feeling that it’s a mystical island, with thousands of years old traditions, incredibly beautiful nature – just one of these last underexplored places.
(Updated June 2022)
Things To Know Before Going to Sumba
How To Get to Sumba Island?
Getting to Sumba is pretty easy, especially because of its two airports. There are daily domestic flights from Bali to Tambolaka Airport (TMC) in West Sumba. You can either fly with Nam Air or Wings Air and the flight takes about 50 minutes.
If you start in West Sumba and travel further to East Sumba you can easily fly out from Waingapu Airport back to Bali.
There are also flights to Kupang in West Timor with Lion Air.
Compare and purchase your flights here.
How Many Days in Sumba?
I’d recommend spending at least 3-4 days in West Sumba and 3-4 in East Sumba to really explore the difference. There is so much to see on the islands, however, undeveloped roads make it hard to get around. Distances for example are bigger and you might only get to see one to two sights a day.
If you are after a beach stay and some surfing, you can easily spend a whole week on the South West Coast.
How To Get Around Sumba
Being double the size of Bali, Sumba is considerably more difficult to explore than its neighbor. Missing infrastructure, flakey GPS signal, and shortage on vehicles to rent (and extremely long queues for petrol) make this island more challenging to drive yourself.
If you plan to explore the West side of the island, I suggest you hire a local driver that takes care of the logistics and makes your trip so much more enjoyable.
Keep in mind, West Sumba is even less developed than East Sumba, hence roads are worse, petrol is short and some regions shouldn’t be visited without someone local!
Is It Safe to Travel to Sumba?
Overall, Sumba is considered a safe place to visit, but it’s important to take necessary precautions and stay informed. Sumba is dotted with traditional villages where you can experience the authentic rural life of the locals.
Respect the local customs, traditions, and religious practices of the Sumbanese people. Dress modestly when visiting villages or sacred sites, and especially seek permission before taking photographs of individuals or their property.
Practice common-sense safety measures such as keeping your belongings secure, avoiding isolated areas at night, and being cautious of your surroundings.
Also, choose to visit with local guides that know the villages and which areas to avoid.
In Sumba, the currency is also the Indonesian Rupiah. You can find ATM’s in most bigger cities like Tambolaka, Waikabubak, Waingapu
If you haven’t already, I’d suggest getting a travel card from Wise which makes withdrawing money from ATM’s and paying for things in different countries a breeze!
Sumba is a hidden gem for surfers. The island’s southern coast is renowned for its world-class surf breaks, attracting surf enthusiasts from around the globe. Head to spots like Marosi, Pero, and Tarimbang Beach to ride the waves and enjoy the thrilling surf culture.
Sim Card and Internet
Internet connectivity may be limited in some areas of Sumba, particularly in more remote locations. It’s advisable to have offline maps and essential information readily available.
I’d suggest purchasing an eSim to be on the safe side and stay connected.
Best Time to Visit Sumba
Sumba has a distinct wet and dry season. The dry season, from May to October, is generally considered the best time to visit, as the weather is more predictable and conducive for outdoor activities. However, it’s worth noting that the island can still experience occasional rain showers even during the dry season. It’s advisable to check weather conditions and plan activities accordingly.
The 20 Most Amazing Places To See in Sumba
Sumba by size is around two times larger than Bali but only has a fracture of its population. In terms of tourism, it couldn’t be farther away from its neighbors, hence many of the sights you can visit now, are relatively newly found.
Best Places to See in West Sumba:
1 Waikuri Lagoon
Waikuri Lagoon with its glittering turquoise water is one of the places that will blow you away. It’s a saltwater lagoon that’s connected to the ocean, incredibly clear and calm. You can walk around the whole lagoon, jump in from one of the wooden structures or sit on one of the floating paddles, led by a local. You also can sip on a cold coconut, buy some Ikat sarongs or other souvenirs.
There was no entry, but you pay for parking.
One of the main reasons I was so drawn to visiting Sumba was the images of the traditional villages I saw. With their thousands of years old culture and belief that the people follow to this day, it’s a truly unique thing.
The mystical village of Ratenggaro is still one of the most intact places, although used to tourists. It lies in South West Sumba and is easy to visit with your own mode of transport. If you leave from Tambolaka it should take around 1.5 to 2 hours of travel.
The locals told us that in the past many people came to surf and stayed in the village houses, living with their families. You might be lucky and have the ultimate Sumba experience this way!
The really interesting part of this village is the Uma Kelada, towers that reach up to 20 meters. The higher the roof, the higher your social status! Each house has different levels, with the lower one used as a pet area, the second one to cook and sleep. The top level is used to store crops and decorate with buffalo horns and sacred objects.
If you ask me, this is one of the places you need to see when in Sumba!
3 Lapopu Waterfall
Located in Central Sumba, Lapopu waterfall is a wonderful multi-tiered waterfall that’s super off the grid. Considering the rocks and stones the path was made of, you’d need a proper car to get you there – and some concrete directions.
The place itself is reached via a short walk and a bamboo bridge. The Emerald colour of the river is incredibly welcoming and you can find some spots to swim in.
Kodi is the most Western district of Sumba and you will likely cross it when you visit Rattengaro or Weekuri Lagoon.
It’s one of the regions that local people talked badly about, due to feeling unsafe. To be fair, I’d be cautious, especially with taking photos of their houses and crave stones. This region in particular is famous for its various graveyards and tombstones scattered along the roads.
A nice place for a stop however is the town of Pero. There is a beautiful beach, colorful fisher boats and mostly inhabited by Muslim communities.
5 Kampung Praijing
All through Sumba, you can find these Kumpungs or villages. The height of the roofs usually represents the social status of the habitats. This kind of house can sometimes host up to 10 people, squeezed together next to the cooking station. Should you ever get the chance to visit one from inside – do it!
The Praijing Megalithic village in West Sumba is one of the most unique places you can visit in Sumba. Its village of about 38 houses, welcoming tourists over the last years.
You might see women weaving, chewing on the betelnut and really get an authentic glimpse into the daily life of the Sumbanese.
Definitely head up towards the viewpoint to get the best shot of the village!
6 Pantai Belha Beach
The Watu Bela or Belha Beach should be one of the top places to see when in West Sumba. You can reach it by visiting Patiala Bala Village and start walking from there. You will pass some green hills and in the far distance find the unspoiled beach.
It’s the perfect hidden gem and secluded enough for some downtime. The scenery is spotless with palm trees and amazing views of the ocean.
If you’re lucky there is also a man coming to offer you some coconuts. The beaches in all of Sumba are exceptional! White powdery sand, turquoise water and palms all around you – you feel like in paradise.
In the West, the waves can be a bit rougher and South Sumba has amazing surf breaks.
7 Waikelo Sawah Waterfall
The Waikelo Sawah Waterfall was one I was really excited about. It’s hidden location and beautiful open way of being is just a unique sight.
As the name suggests, the waterfall is surrounded by rice paddies and water buffalos.
The easiest way to reach the waterfall is to head to the town of Tambolaka. From there, it’s only 12 km further and you stop at the Waikelo Dam. Locals come here to wash their clothes or play in the sheltered water.
I’d suggest asking locals on how to get there or let them guide you for a little tip. They’ll appreciate it!
8 NGO Hotel School that’s an Eco-Resort
Sumba Hospitality Foundation is a hotel school and a 100% eco-resort that acts like a real-life study environment for the students. Each year, this NGO takes on 60 students and sponsors them to teach them the traits of working in different departments of a hotel.
All students come from disadvantaged families, experienced tremendous hardship – and are the proof that your past doesn’t define your future, you can turn your life around.
All profits from you staying there will go right back to the school and the students – truly wonderful! Definitely put this on your list of places to see in Sumba!
9 Waikabubak Local Market
A great place to get an authentic look into Sumbanese life is visiting one of the local markets. If you’re in the area of Tarung or miss the bigger cities – Waikabubak is a good choice!
Their local produce market is a wonderful place to get fresh fruit and vegetables, try new things and buy typical souvenirs!
10 Kampung Tarung & Ikat Weaving
Another wonderful Kampung to visit is Tarung near Waikabubak. The village is tourist-friendly however even here its crucial that you ask for permission before entering. There are certain stones and areas that locals consider sacred, so without permission, you cannot set foot on or even take a picture of them!
In Tarung you might be lucky and can witness how locals dye their ikat wool and lay it out in the sun to dry – all done with natural colours. Another wonderful thing to witness is the Ikat weaving, done usually by women. Ikat weaving is one of Sumba’s biggest wealth and a, that’s skill passed down by generations. One Ikat can take up to 5 months to make!
Best Places to See in East Sumba
11 Bukit Tanarara
One of the first things you’ll likely pass if you drive from West to East Sumba is Bukit Tanarara. A scenic spot that also provides the option to take photos with one of the horses. It’s a popular place, but so worth it!
The scenery in Sumba is like no other. From Savannah-like fields to forests and rolling hills, it’s so varied and full of surprises. The Savannah (Puru Kambera) near Waingapu is a beautiful contrast to the evergreen landscapes that dominate Sumba.
Head towards Mondu Village to witness the Savannah-like scenery and spot some horses or local cattle.
13 Walakiri Beach
Walakiri Beach is an absolute gem to visit in East Sumba. The beach is just a 30 min drive from Waingapu and there’s no entry, nor parking fee. A palm-fringed beach with calm water also makes the ideal spot for Wedding or Engagement Shoots, it’s such a must-visit.
There are a few restaurants that serve drinks and food. My personal highlight here was that you can go for a chill swim, no waves or current – its perfect!
14 The Dancing Trees
Walakiri Beach itself is wonderful and definitely worth a visit, but the real highlight is the Mangrove Trees or Dancing Trees.
I’d recommend going there for sunset or sunrise to catch the best photos. However, the ideal time would be during low tide to get these magical captures. I’d advise being extra careful to not destroy any of the roots that are scattered around the area. It can be tricky to wade all the way out.
15 Bukit Wairinding
This has to be my all-time favorite place in Sumba – Bukit Wairinding is an outstanding place to see. It’s truly offbeat, and more than one hour’s drive inland from the main road towards the East. If you hire a driver for a day trip to East Sumba, it’s charged as an extra fare due to the distance.
The Wairinding Hills are rolling seemingly endlessly into the distance, deep valleys of lush green or yellowish tones. On the way there, you’ll likely spot some wild horses as well!
If you can, head there for sunset as it’s famous for its golden light!
16 Wai Marang Waterfall
I’d say this one is East Sumba’s biggest gem! It was discovered only shy of five years ago and is truly spectacular. From the parking lot, you have to walk for about 20 min into the valley. Seemingly out of nowhere the path clears, and you are spoiled with an absolutely clear, green-bluish waterfall and swimming pool.
I’d been advised to go midday to get direct light which intensifies the colour.
17 Kampung Adat Praiyawang
The village of Praiyawang in East Sumba is one of the best places to see on the way to Wai Marang Waterfall. It’s a popular spot due to its interesting architecture and countless megalithic graves that are just massive in size.
This cemetery is devoted to past kings in ancient times and usually carries animal symbols. In general, Sumbanese practice Marapu belief – which is closely linked with spirits. If a person dies, it’s not unusual that the body stays in the house until they gathered enough funds for the funeral. Once they have the funds, large numbers of buffalos and other animals got slaughtered, we talk like 50-100. The Indonesian government started to put more rules in place that brings the number down to like 10-20.
Also, something I found particularly shocking is that not until too long ago, if an important king or leader died, his servants would follow him into the grave and got buried alive. Nowadays burials are observed more closely to prevent this tradition to keep happening.
18 Traditional Local Market Melolo
Another special stop to visit is the local market in Melolo. I found this one to be better than the one in West Sumba, just because it was bigger and there was more variety of things to explore. A different array of fruits, and things to try and people were so curious to interact.
Also it’s the ideal place to pick up some snacks like peanuts (the drives are long so take advantage!).
19 Salt Farm
Especially in East Sumba, you can find many small salt farms and salt processing places. As part of my day trip with Morinda Villa we stopped at a small local salt farm literally off the road. In the tiny hut, we got a little insight into how they harvest it, dry it and process it to sell at the market.
Turns out that the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) rolled out plans to convert big chunks of land into salt farms to be the number one national producer.
20 Spotting Wild Horses
I think Sumba’s wild horses deserve a spot on the list as Sumba is one of the few places where you can still see them roaming around. At certain times you can see locals bathing their horses – truly beautiful. I found that in East Sumba you can see more wild horses than in West Sumba. Especially on the way to Bukit Tanarara were many.
If you’re based in Waingapu in East Sumba, I recommend you book a Full-Day Tour to explore all these fantastic sights.
One thing that so different about Sumba is the way it remained authentic. It’s far from being a touristic island, infrastructure is lacking and there’s no abundance of anything really – except smiles from people.
Sumba Hotels – Where to Stay
West Sumba: Maringi Eco-Hotel to support Sumba’s underprivileged students.
Lelewatu Resort Sumba on the south side is an excellent option that combines luxury and surfing spots
East Sumba: Morinda Villas is the best place if you look for a magical cabin getaway and the loveliest staff.
Visiting Sumba is a truly eye-opening experience that you shouldn’t miss. It might not be the easiest island to get around, but the welcoming nature of the locals, the incredibly beautiful nature and the magical vibes will make this trip worthwhile – I promise!
I hope you enjoyed these 20 places to see in Sumba!
Have you read my other Indonesia articles?
One of the best trips for divers to take from Bali : Budget Scuba Diving in Komodo – What You Need To Know
My favorite beaches to visit in Uluwatu: Bali Uluwatu – Whats The Best Beach To Visit
The top things to photograph in Amed: Amed Bali – 3 Day Photography Trip
My Top Experience To Do in Bali: Mount Batur Sunrise Hike
When in Bali you should also visit its neighboring island Sumba: Sumba, The 20 Most Amazing Places to See
Everything you need to know about North Bali & Itinerary: North Bali Guide & 16 Most Amazing Things You Need to See
How to spend 2 Days in Munduk: 2 Day Munduk Guide & the Best 6 Things to See
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Exploring West Sumba came together in collaboration with SHF. All thoughts are my own as always.