Ruteng is the center of the interesting villages of the Manggarai ethnic minority. This region has a cooler climate as it is located 1,100 meters above ground.
From Labuan Bajo airport, lots of drivers will negotiate a trip to Ruteng for you. Prices range from 250,000 to 600,000Rp. For around 120,000 you can go by local buses (e.g. Gunung Mas, Gemini) or 'Travel' (which are cars) on the Labuan Bajo - Ruteng route (as of Nov 2018). Some of them continue to Bajawa - Ende - Maumere. An ojek can bring you for 10,000 to the starting point of the 'Travel' (from the airport or town).
It is easy to explore Ruteng as it is a small town, but you would need a motorbike to go around the region. A motorbike is ideal to discover the surrounding area. You can rent it for about IDR 100,000 per day from your accommodation (as of Nov 2018).
The main points of interests are outside the town. The surrounding nature is beautiful, and very accessible by motorbike. The main attractions are as follows:
- 1 Ruteng Cathedral.
- 2 Ruteng Pu'u Village. An easier alternative to Wae Rebo that comprises of a few traditional houses. IDR 25,000.
- 3 Liang Bua Caves. The prehistoric caves where the fossils of Homo florensis were found. The small museum next to the cave has a replica of the skeleton; the original is in Jakarta. The caves themselves are not particularly special, but the surroundings and the road there are very pretty. Google maps will actually find the way here. Head north from Ruteng and follow the signs. Ask the helpful locals if unsure. Eventually, you end up at a small museum to the right painted in yellow. The exhibit is in Bahasa Indonesia, but the staff will try to translate for you and then accompany you to the cave (50 meters away) and show you its small secrets. 20,000 Rp.
- 4 Spiderweb rice fields. Located in Cancar area, about a 20-min drive west from town along the Flores highway. Look out for an intersection where the highway turns left. Just continue straight through the intersection (leaving the highway) and follow the road for 500m. After a short hike up a hill, you have the view of the valley and the spiderweb rice fields. Definitely worth a visit. 20 000Rp.
- Ranamese Lake. (Danau Rana Mese) 30 km from town, on the main road towards Bajawa. Beautiful lake, with a small waterfall which can be visited (with a guide) around there. It is possible to walk around the lake on a small path (around 45 minutes). The area is very calm with a few fishermen plying their trade. It is also possible to visit a 75m waterfall near one of the surrounding villages, ask the ticket officer of Ranamese Lake for more information. 5,000 Rp.
- Caci, a traditional war dance of Flores accompanied by gongs, drums and singing, is performed at the Rice Harvest Thanksgiving Festival (hang woja) and the New Year Festival (penti).
- Overnight Trip to Wae Rebo
- If you receive an invitation to attend a wedding, birth, or funeral, never miss it. Those are the best way to learn about the culture. Ask for the norm (what to bring along, what not to do) and behave (e.g. avoid taking excessive photos during sensitive time).
5 Ruteng Market. a typical traditional market, but it is worth visiting if you have an extra time. Friendly locals, as expected in Flores.
As the evenings can be chilly, the local soup (Baksoto and Soto ayam) places are popular with the locals. As with every other Indonesian town, there are many Padang Restaurant.
The fried bananas (Pisang Goreng) here are delicious, especially when still hot (ask if they are 'hangat').
- Kopi Mane Inspiration, Jl. Yos Sudarso No. 12. Cosy cafe that has legitimately good coffee (freshly ground and with machine). Try the ginger coffee or ginger tea. Also offers basic but very tasty Indonesian meals, as well as fried chicken with chips. Very amicable English-speaking owners.
- The Rumah Makan II at the bottom of the town square offers slightly more expensive but very good food with a varied menu of Indonesian dishes.
Ruteng coffee is legendary in Flores (together with Bajawa coffee). Never miss a chance to drink it. By default here coffee is served with sugar, so please request in advance if you would like to have less or no sugar.
Because of the cold climate, drinking arak or sopi or moke are popular for the locals.
- 1 Rima Hotel, Jl. Ahmed Yani. Swiss-style hotel made of dark wood, it even has a Swiss cuckoo clock at reception. It's a bit gloomy and reportedly noisy, but it has internet cafe facilities and a small shop selling toiletries, snacks and drinks. The owner is friendly and speaks good English. They have a "Business" room with hot water with clean sheets, hot water shower, and western style toilet. You can get an "Economy" room for up to three people: shared cold water bathrooms, not a single plug in the rooms. The included breakfast is an egg toast and local Ruteng coffee. IDR 400,000.
- 2 Kongregasi Santa Maria Berdukacita, Jl. Ahmed Yani 45. Staying at this convent is a fun experience. Peaceful and clean place - great value. The nuns will give you a simple breakfast in the morning with coffee, eggs and bread. Showers have hot water. The gate closes at 9pm and there is no Wi-Fi.
- 3 Ranaka Hotel, Jl. Kom L Yos Sudarso, No. 2. Very basic hotel. Breakfast is a single piece of sweet bread and tea/coffee. 60 000 for one person. 100,000 for two person room..
- 4 Hotel Sinda. "Best hotel in Ruteng" according to locals. 350,000 for standard room. More expensive rooms are available..
- Labuan Bajo, 110 km away or 3 hours by car or motorbike.
- Bajawa, about 3-4 hours by car. The place to see Ngadha culture and villages.