The hill town of Bajawa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Flores, surrounded by lush slopes and striking volcanoes. Gunung Inerie is just one of the active volcanoes near Bajawa: it’s an arduous but rewarding hike, and if it’s clear you can see all the way to Sumba from the summit.
Bajawa is the largest town in the Ngada district, an area that maintains its status as the spiritual heartland of Flores. Here, despite the growing encroachment of tour groups, indigenous animist religions flourish and the villages maintain traditional houses, megalithic stones and interesting totemic structures. Up to sixty thousand people in the Ngada district speak the distinct Ngada language, and a good proportion of the older generation don’t understand basic Bahasa Indonesian.
Not for the faint-hearted are the local specialities of moke, a type of wine that tastes like methylated spirits, and raerate or “rw” (pronounced “air-vay”), dog meat marinated in coconut milk and then boiled in its own blood.
The influx of tourists to the Ngada region has led to a booming guide industry in Bajawa, with a corresponding hike in prices. A day-tour should cover at least Bena and Wogo, as well as the hot springs at Soa, but many also include a trip to Wawo Muda, one of Indonesia’s newest volcanoes. If you don’t get approached by a licensed guide at your hotel, try the guide association which operates an information office opposite the Hotel Eidelweis, though it’s only open sporadically.
Soa, Wogo and Bena are all accessible by public transport from Bajawa (though Bena only has one bemo a day); it can be hard to find accurate information about this, and guides will often inflate prices to discourage you from independent visits, so ask bemo drivers directly. Alternatively, you can rent a motorbike and explore the region for yourself. The market is a good place to look for people willing to hire out their wheels. An ojek (motorbike with driver) will be around the same price. Female travellers should be careful of the latter though, as there have been several reports of indecent behaviour by ojek drivers in the area.