This post was last updated on July 15th, 2020 at 06:30 am
After Labuan Bajo, Ruteng is a logical destination to add to your journey across Flores. The village itself, surrounded by hills, is not that exciting, but the area around it is more than worth it. Rent a scooter and discover how beautiful the region is. You will find beautiful rice terraces, waterfalls, and primitive villages where people will greet you with a big smile.
Did you know that most people only visit Ruteng because of the famous spider web rice fields, while there is much more to see?
The nice thing is the relatively cool climate that prevails. This is so much nicer than the sweltering Labuan Bajo if you ask us. Why does it have a cool climate? Ruteng is located at an altitude of about 1,200 meters. In most accommodations you won’t find air conditioners or fans, they are simply unnecessary.
Are you traveling to Ruteng soon? Then read on, because in this mini-guide we share our most important tips and best experiences with you.
1. Visit the beautiful rice terraces around Ruteng
The most visited rice fields outside Ruteng are without a doubt the Lingko Spider Web Rice Fields, also known as the “Cancar Rice Fields”. A disadvantage is that it is often quite busy. However, to see spider web rice fields, you don’t necessarily have to drive towards Cancar. There are numerous around Ruteng.
In our opinion, a walk in a valley full of rice terraces near Ruteng’s small airport was more impressive. We parked the scooter and walked down where we suddenly found ourselves in a great environment.
Two females working in the rice fields advised us to go further down, and shortly afterwards we saw six other rice-picking women dabbling in the mud. From their looks and behavior we could immediately deduce that hardly any tourists come here. They laughed and asked us to take a picture of them.
When we were at just about the lowest point in the valley a moment later, the view of the bright green terraces was nothing short of breathtaking.
2. Drive to the Tengku Lese Waterfall
Another highlight to visit from Ruteng is the Tengku Lese Waterfall, which is about a 1.5 to 2-hour drive from the center. This waterfall is locally known as “Cunca Lega”.
It is not only a highlight because of the waterfall itself, but actually because of the adventure you have to take to get there. Both Google Maps and Maps.us failed us, so we had to ask the locals for directions in the hamlet of Tengku Lese.
On the way we got quite hungry, but there was no distant warung to eat anything. This is something to keep in mind when you explore the area around Ruteng. Always bring enough snacks, water, and possibly a little rice. And long sleeves, if you drive a scooter at night. Believe us, you really need it.
An unexpected invitation to locals at home
When we stopped at a wooden house to ask for directions, people invited us to come and have coffee and eat rice. And we were very happy about that, because we really needed some food. Once inside, chairs were placed opposite us and everyone watched us non-stop. They were so happy to receive us, really great to experience.
When we got coffee from the woman, we thought we should have said “Tanpa gula,” which means “without sugar.” If you don’t do this, you can expect a very sweet variant. So we got that too. Fortunately, she made a new sugar-free cup for us with love.
The staring continued until we took the last bite. As a tourist, and certainly if you have long blond hair and are three heads larger than the average local, you still remain an attraction.
In the end we tried to take a photo, but most children were running away as they were too shy. The man who invited us told us that we had to drive about half an hour from his house to get to the waterfall.
We left in that direction with a unique experience.
Through the rice terraces to the waterfall
After a winding trip on mostly bad roads, we finally came to the parking lot to park the scooter. From there you walk down, after which you enter a landscape that seems to come out of a fairy tale, without exaggeration. Bright rice fields and terraces alternate, both in the colors green and yellow.
Then you walk up a sandy path, and via a path with deep abysses you finally end up at the waterfall where you can cool off.
By the way, there is a good chance that you will be followed by several enthusiastic children. They love to receive you as a foreigner in their village and to show you the way.
Finish with a tropical mood
The first and only rainstorm we experienced on Flores immediately turned out to be quite heavy. Above us, dark clouds gathered, and slowly it started to get wet. Then followed a tropical downpour that we have seen very little of.
We were hiding at a house we passed by. It was funny to see that the older residents were all taking shelter or trying to collect the water in barrels, while all the children ran around to play. Some even brought soap to take a natural shower. This is the real local life 😀.
After about an hour it was almost dry and we were finally able to continue the long and strenuous drive back to Ruteng.
3. Have a chat with local students
In Ruteng it is bursting with students who speak to you to brush up on their English. They want to walk with you, eat food alongside you and they will ask you anything. The conclusion is usually that they give you a notebook for you to write your name and signature.
Nice to experience, although you don’t always feel like it. For example, after driving on (far from easy) roads for a day. But hey, it’s usually a few minutes and you’ll help them out a lot.
In any case, know that as a tourist you will be the biggest attraction in Ruteng. We were looked at non-stop, greeted and occasionally invited for a chat. In any case, the standard question is: “Mau ke mana,” or “Where are you going.” But this is actually the case everywhere in Indonesia.
4. Treat yourself in a super nice resort
Comfortable places to stay are scarce in Ruteng. In the busy center, there is continuous traffic noise, and after an exhausting drive from Labuan Bajo, that was the last thing we wanted.
If you also need some peace and luxury, take a look at the Spring Hill Boutique Hotel. This is undoubtedly the best and most beautiful accommodation you will find in Ruteng.
The impressive complex consists of a beautifully landscaped garden, ponds in which all kinds of large fish swim and rooms built in traditional style. The beds are wonderful and the breakfast is one of the better we’ve had on Flores. Every day there is a buffet with a wide choice. Also Western things like a jar of Nutella, peanut butter, corn flakes, and oatmeal. In addition, fresh eggs and pancakes are baked for you. As much as you want 🙂.
The only drawback we can think of about the room is the relatively thin wall which is made of wood. Unfortunately, when you have someone sitting next to you watching TV, you will hear this. Fortunately, we did not suffer from it.
A low budget tip is Sun Rice Homestay, just outside Ruteng. You’ll stay in the middle of nature and the owner Jeff is a super nice guy. The next day he will take you into the rice fields and take a beautiful walk.
5. Visit the traditional market
Every day, a traditional market is held in the city center where residents gather to do their daily shopping. Unlike most markets in Indonesia, this lively market is open all day. So you don’t have to get out of bed early. But note: there is a penetrating fishy smell, although that’s probably not too surprising.
6. Eat tasty street food
In the evening, from about six o’clock, food stalls are set up by locals, mostly Javanese. They cook delicious street food for you. You have to visit Rumah Makan Sindang Roso, a side road from Jalan Montang Rua.
What do they make? Of course “nasi goreng” and “lalapan”, but also “pisang goreng coklat” for example. This is a fried banana with chocolate.
And we have already said it in other articles: definitely try “martabak manis” and “martabak telor”. The first is a kind of thick pancake with toppings of your choice, we always take grated peanuts and sprinkles. Martabak telor is a mixture of eggs, some vegetables, and possibly meat, which is then immersed in oil until it is nice and crispy.
The residents of Ruteng flock to this place, which makes it very cozy.
If you’re looking for a wide variety of vegetables, you shouldn’t go to this pleasant evening gathering. It is better to buy them in the aforementioned market or at one of the small shops.
7. Start your day at Alline Cafe House
If you fancy a nice (iced) coffee, you have little choice in Ruteng. After all, espresso machines are scarce, so it took us some effort to find a good spot. A place with good coffee is the Alline Cafe House. From the outside, the place doesn’t look too cozy, but the great taste of the espresso makes up for it.
Another must for a shot of caffeine is Kopi Mane.
Is the Hobbit Cave worth it?
In 2013, archaeologists found an almost complete skeleton of a so-called Hobbit in the Liang Bua Cave or Hobbit Cave. You don’t hear anything like that every day. At the Liang Bua Cave, there is a small museum to obtain further information and you can view the skeleton there.
However, the cave itself is not that special, so we would only visit it if you are interested in archaeological finds. You will be on the road for 1.5 hours, and it would be a shame if you drive that far and have wrong expectations.
Continue your journey to Bajawa or Wae Rebo
A very nice place to continue your journey is Bajawa. Another option is to take a trip to the traditional village of Wae Rebo. To get there, you will have to book a driver or drive to the town of Denge yourself. Denge is the place where the hike, lasting a few hours, starts. This hike ends in Wae Rebo.
If you travel the other way, Labuan Bajo is a logical destination to visit.