Mataram is the capital city of Lombok and the administrative capital of west Nusa Tenggara and the island's largest city. It needs to be noted that Lombok has a new International airport. From October 2011, the new airport is located in central southern Lombok near to the city of Praya.
For the traveller, Mataram is nothing more than a stop over to grab some cash from the numerous ATMs before heading to the Gili islands. That being said Mataram could offer some insight into the local culture and traditions of Lombok.
Mataram is a good base for the numerous sites that Lombok can offer. The Gili islands are to your north and the idyllic Kuta Lombok to your south. If you are making your way to Sumbawa, there are several travel agents in town that can arrange transport to Labuhan Lombok where you take the ferry to Sumbawa.
If you do have a few days to spare, there are some worthy places to visit.
Karang Bayan Village, which is located just north of Narmad Park, will give you an insight into the ancient Sasak tribes. The Sasak tribe is one of the unique attractions of Lombok and a trip to this village is a must see for the culture-thirsty visitor.
Narmanda Park boasts a miniature-scaled model of Mount Rinjani. For those of you that intend to climb Indonesia's second highest volcano, it is a must see to plan your ascension. There is also a swimming pool for you to cool down. Narmanda Park is also a favourite recreational hang out for the locals. Residents of Mataram head for the cool shade of the trees and often picnic. Narmada Park is located 10 kilometres north of the city and can be reached either by bemo or taxi.
Mayura Garden locally known as Taman Mayura is a water palace that was built in 1744. This park was once the scene of the ferocious battles fought out between the Dutch and Balinese in 1894.
Most visitors to Mataram will come for the shopping. There is a nice mix of western style malls as well as the more traditional Indonesian markets (pasars). If you want to head to a more traditional market, go to Cakranegara. It is here where you will find everything, from clothing to fresh produce straight from the fields. Inside this market can be quite daunting with the hoards of people busily taking care of their daily chores but once inside you will get a true feel for what an Asian market is all about.