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Discover SUMBA ISLAND & its incredible PASOLA FESTIVAL

Travelling to Sumba island you will find idyllic beaches without tourists, impressive waterfalls, and villages that have remained the same in the last 100 years. The Pasola Festival is a traditional war ritual celebrated annually by the people of Sumba to mark the sowing season’s arrival. This is the most important ceremony on the Island of Sumba.


The Island of Sumba


Sumba, which is also called Humba or Hubba, literally means “real.” Some pieces of literature explain that the Island rose to the surface of the ocean from the deep millions of years ago. The Island now sits on the outside track of the volcano ring of fire.

Pasola Festival in SUMBA ISLAND
Ratenggaro village (Sumba island)

Sumba is the Island that was forgotten in history, an impressive island quite close to Bali (just 1 hour by plane) that keeps customs and land out of modern and tourist development. You will find idyllic beaches without tourists, impressive waterfalls, and villages that have remained the same in the last 100 years. Without a doubt, it is the place to visit if you want to get out of the typical tourist routes.

Where is Sumba Island?

Sumba is quite a big island in Nusa Tenggara Timur, Indonesia. The Island is 10,710 km2 wide and divided into 4 administrative regencies; East Sumba, Central Sumba, West Sumba, and Southwest Sumba.

Sumba island - pasola festival
Indonesia travel map

How to get to Sumba island?

There are two ways to step your feet to this island:

By airplane: Sumba has two airports which are Umbu Mehang Kunda in Waingapu, East Sumba, and Tambolaka airport in Southwest Sumba. Both airports serve domestic flights only. Trip duration is only about 1 hour from Bali, and they have daily flights.

By sea: You can get there by ferry to Waikelo harbor in Southwest Sumba and Waingapu harbor in East Sumba.

Sumba island - pasola festival
Mbawana Beach

What to see in Sumba island?

If you are looking for some raw beauties and unexplored wonders, then make your way to Sumba. Divided into 4 regions with its own special attractions, Sumba will spoil your eyes and intrigue your curiosity to wander around.

Exploring Sumba from West to East or vice versa ideally need at least 3 nights of staying in, so prepare for some extended weekend plan to make the best out of your visit here.

Pasola Festival in SUMBA ISLAND
Sumba island tourist attractions map

East Sumba

Waingapu is the capital of East Sumba regency and is also the largest city on the Island. Not only known for its vast savannahs such as Puru Kambera and Wairinding hills, but it also owns other beautiful natural attractions such as waterfalls and beaches.

Pasola Festival in SUMBA ISLAND
Wairinding Hill (East Sumba)

Central Sumba

Central Sumba has Manupeu Tanah Daru National Park, the only area with its low-ground forest left in Sumba. There are as many as 118 species of plants and 87 endangered species of birds, which makes this also a good place for bird watching. One beautiful waterfall, Matayangu, is located within and should be on the trekking lovers’ bucket list.

Lapopu waterfall (Manupeu Tanah Daru National Park), Central-west Sumba

West Sumba

Traditional and modernity fused into one, where many villages still preserve their own authenticity. The central city is Waikabubak. This area is slightly different than the rest of Sumba. Here is where they hold the annual traditional festival of Pasola. It takes place in Lamboya if held in February and Wanokaka in March. The famous Lapopu waterfall can also be found here, and a lot of beautiful sandy beaches.

Sumba island - pasola festival
Praijing traditional village (West Sumba)

Southwest Sumba

This is a recently formed regency, decentralized from West Sumba. We can find many virgin beaches such as Pero, Mbwanna, Mandorak, and Watu Maladong. Apart from that, we can find a traditional village with Sumbanese houses, easily identified by its thatched roofs that rise up to 30 meters high, and that is Ratenggaro village.

Pasola Festival in SUMBA ISLAND
Ratenggaro village (Southwest Sumba)

Why travel to Sumba island?

These are some of the reasons why you should travel to Sumba island:

1. Witness the incredible Pasola Festival

The one and only place on earth where you can witness Pasola festival, a riotous tournament between two spear-wielding horseman teams, taking the form of a ritual battle. It represents a quarrel between opposing forces as a need for human blood to be spilled to keep the spirits happy and bring a good harvest. Pasola Festival has to be one of Asia’s most extravagant, photogenic, and harvest festivals.

Pasola Festival in SUMBA ISLAND
Pasola Festival in Sumba island

2. Stay in the best hotel in the world

What about staying in the best hotel in the world? Nihiwatu, 567 acres of the unspoiled, natural reserve with 28 private pool villas and its 2.5 kilometers of private beachfront and with one of the best waves in the world has become #1 Hotel in the world….where is it? In Sumba!

Pasola Festival in SUMBA ISLAND
Nihi hotel in Sumba island

3. Help the local community

Travel with a good deed. Sumba is untouched and less known by the world. Travel to Sumba now and join hands with us to help empower the community.

Pasola Festival in SUMBA ISLAND
Local market in Sumba island

4. Capture the birds with your lenses

A must-visit land for bird lovers. The Island is particularly rich in birdlife, with nearly 200 species of birds. Seven are endemic species, and several others from nearby islands. The endemic birds include four endangered species: the secretive Sumba boobook owl, Sumba buttonquail, red-naped fruit-dove, and Sumba Hornbill, as well as three more common species: the Sumba green pigeon, Sumba flycatcher, and apricot-breasted sunbird.

Pasola Festival in SUMBA ISLAND
Birdwatching in Sumba island

5. Shot the endless spectacular images

Sunset at a secluded beach with unique rock formations, amazing villages and local interactions, endless savannah and hills, and overall, our guides and drivers love photography. They know the best timing, angles, and places to be at the right moment!

Pasola Festival in SUMBA ISLAND
The iconic rock arch of Mbawana Beach (unfortunately collapsed in 2020)

6. Soak in the mesmerizing atmosphere by the Lake Weekuri

Who can resist a pristine saltwater lake by the Indian ocean? Not us! I’m pretty sure you will agree with us once you come around and being mesmerized by this lake.

Pasola Festival in SUMBA ISLAND
Lake Weekuri in Sumba island

7. Hike and camp in uncrowded national parks

For most people, hiking up a mountain may sound like a task too challenging to conquer. You have to navigate through the rugged terrain and hostile weather, just to sleep in a tent and eat canned food. But nature lovers will not say no to the first-class forest filled with birds and other animals like wild pigs, macaques, and 57 species of butterflies. Visit two national parks that have been designated on the Island for the protection of endangered species, the Laiwangi Wanggameti National Park and Manuoeu Tanah Daru National Park.

Pasola Festival in SUMBA ISLAND
Sumba National Park

8. Visit traditional villages with an ancient culture

Sumba is one of the few places in the world with megalithic burials, which are used as a living tradition to inter prominent individuals when they die. Burials in megaliths are used in many parts of the world during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Still, they have survived to this day in Sumba.

Pasola Festival in SUMBA ISLAND
Sumba traditional village

9. Discover the most amazing waterfalls

The Island of Sumba is full of purely exotic and pristine Waterfalls. Sumba is dominated by limestone hills with no impressive high mountains like in other parts of Indonesia. As a result, the waterfalls here are also relatively low, even though no less remarkable.

Pasola Festival in SUMBA ISLAND
Lapopu waterfall in Sumba island

10. Hidden pristine sandy beaches

If the vacation you picture is the long line white sandy beach with no one else but you, search no further. In Sumba, you will find yourself chasing the waves or lying down on the beach with no distraction. The beach is almost yours!

Pasola Festival in SUMBA ISLAND
Mandorak Beach in Sumba island

11. Surf great waves with no crowds!

Most of the waves in Sumba can be found concentrated around the south-western and south-eastern tips of the Island with more than 14 great breaks and overall NO CROWDS! Why bother sharing the waves with hundreds if you can have them by yourself?

Sumba island - pasola festival
Surfing in Sumba island

12. Meet the local people and learn about their traditions

Visit local Sumba villages for an eye-opening experience and interactive tour. Shake hands and say ¨Apa kabar?” to watch the people of Sumba return your gesture with some of the largest, most welcoming smiles in the world. Giving insight into the old ways of the Sumba people and their ancestor culture will virtually take you back in time.

Sumba island - pasola festival
Sumba woman weaving traditional fabrics

13. Off the beaten track: Discover secret places from the hands of our special guides!

Most of the trekking routes in Sumba could possibly be classified as “off the beaten track.” Facilities are often very basic, but the experiences are astounding. We will take you to diverse landscapes and terrains from lowlands to hidden valleys, lush green woodlands, and endless savannas, secret waterfalls, and way past ancient-old villages. People living in these far and remote lands have their own unique cultures and traditions. This is another exciting feature of the off-the-beaten-path treks where one gets to witness new culture and traditions.

Sumba island - pasola festival
Sunset in the hills of Sumba island

The Pasola Festival in Sumba island

Pasola is an ancient fighting game in which two opposing teams of horsemen take part, charging each other with “pasol” javelins. It is the peak of the Nyale tradition among the people, where the locals plead for a successful harvest and a ceremony of appreciation to their ancestors. The celebration of Pasola in Marapu’s belief (local religion) is considered to maintain the harmony between ancestral and humankind. 

Sumba island pasola festival 2021
Pasola Festival in Sumba island

The Pasola Festival is a traditional war ritual celebrated annually by the people of Sumba to mark the arrival of the sowing season. This is the most important ceremony on the Island of Sumba. ⠀

Two groups of 25 men each, mostly from different villages, fight each other while riding on horseback 🐴 and throwing their wooden spears at the opponent. The initiation prayer is led by a Rato, a traditional priest. After symbolically throwing his spear between the groups, the “war game” immediately begins. The Sumbanese selected for battle, and also their horses wear traditional and colorful clothes during this ceremony. 🐎

Video of visits to west sumba and Pasola Festival

Remember that you can also write to [email protected] if you need help planning your trip to Indonesia.

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NEWSLETTER

Article author

Born in Valencia (Spain), his professional career has always revolved around the tourism sector. He have completed a tourism degree and later specialized in digital tourism marketing.

After working in various travel agencies. In 2018, he was beneficiary of a scholarship from the Indonesian government to study at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. After specializing in the destination and having traveled and lived in several areas of Indonesia, he joins our team in early 2020.

Fernando is passionate about surfing and extreme sports. He is the first to sign up for a trip, always looking for new adventures!

Fernando García
Travel Advisor
Fernando García

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