The Ultimate Guide Travelling to Sumba Island

Sumba Island

About Sumba Island

Map of Sumba

Sumba this island offers a windows into ancient civilisation. A unique ancient tribal culture & anchestral beliefs attracting much interest from scholars. Lying at the eastern end of a chain of beautiful Indonesian islands, Sumba remains a mystery to most. Full of history and alive with indigenous culture, Sumba island is also attracting attention for its unique wildlife and stunning natural beauty. With a land area of over 11,000km2, it is much larger than its more famous neighbours Bali and Lombok, yet it is largely untouched by the outside world. This island paradise remains a stunning mystery waiting to be explored by the more adventurous traveller.

Praijing Villages Sumba
Prajing Villages Sumba

The western side of the island is more fertile and more heavily populated tan the east.

Sumba Island


Sumba lies at the southeastern end of an archipelago known as the Lesser Sunda Islands, which also includes Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores and Timor, among others. Sumba itself is part of the smaller sub-group known as East Nusa Tenggara.

Invest Island

Local Culture and Traditions

Being relatively untouched by the outside world, Sumba island has retained a wealth of fascinating local traditions that define its cultural identity. Examples of these can be found all over the island at traditional villages and burial sites, and during the festivals and celebrations that take place year-round.


Villages of traditional Sumbanese clan houses, built around ancestral tombs, can be found across the island. The pointed roofs distinguish Marapu buildings, which are made of wood with a stone or wooden base and a roof made from Alang grass. They are usually built on hills or mountainsides to be closer to ancestral spirits with the village enclosed by stone walls. Villages are usually arranged with the largest house in the middle. This is the ceremonial building used for rituals and rites for the whole village.

Ratenggaro Villages
Ratenggaro Villages

A traditional house has three levels, each of which has a symbolic meaning. The underworld below the house (uma dalu) is where the animals live. Above that is the human living space (baga), and in the rafters and the peaked roof is the spiritual world where the gods and ancestral spirits reside (labu baga). Only elders are allowed in this space, in which objects of spiritual significance are placed as offerings to the spirits and supplies are stored. According to Marapu beliefs, the levels of the house signify the harmonious relationship between man and God. The traditional house is not only a place to live and take shelter, it is also an important part of society and a place of ceremony.

Ikat textiles

The Sumbanese are famous for their handwoven Ikat textiles, an intricate technique involving dying threads multiple times and intricately weaving them to form complex patterns. Different patterns signify different clans from different regions.

An Ikat garment can be a traditional piece of clothing worn in everyday life but can also hold a lot of value and be worn during ceremonies. The body of a high-status person may also be wrapped in an Ikat cloth as part of the burial ritual.

Praijing Villages Sumba
Prajing Villages Sumba

Pasola Festival

Pasola is a traditional event held annually between february and march. hundreds of spears – wielding. Horsemen charging at one another to ensure a succesful harvest.

Natural Beauty

One of the main attractions to Sumba is its outstanding natural beauty. The island is characterised by deciduous forests and undulating limestone hills and valleys, which hide a number of breathtaking waterfalls, a unique population of unique indigenous bird species as well as plenty of other exotic wildlife. Sumba island also boasts stunning coastlines, where perfect white beaches meet the crystal-clear azure ocean

Sumba Island

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