Ruteng is a town surrounded by intricate winding valleys high up in Flores’ mountains. Ruteng can be found around 140 km east of Labuan Bajo and most travellers use this town as an opportunity to rest overnight on their way to Moni, Kelimutu. The town is the capital of the Manggarai district and boasts to be the largest district in Flores covering almost one third of the island. Mainly Catholics populate Ruteng and the principal activities for the locals are coffee producing and of course rice. It is here where most of Indonesia’s coffee is produced. Due to its high altitude Ruteng has a very pleasant, cooler climate than the rest of Flores so be sure to wrap up warm at night.
As most people just stop here to rest overnight, many travellers don’t bother to explore the surrounding area. Ruteng has some spectacular sights, if you wish to stay a little longer. Here are a few of Ruteng’s attractions:
Ruteng Pu’u this is a traditional village located just 3km southwest of the town. It is a megalithic construction, which houses a Compang – Stone Altar. The Compang is a ring shaped stone platform surrounded by a circle of stones and traditional houses that are called Like. If you are lucky you may see the villagers performing traditional dances and singing folk songs all referring to the Caci lifestyle.
Liang Bua is a natural cave where archeologists excavated a very famous fossil. What they found in this cave was a missing link they had been searching for a long time. Homo Floresiensis commonly named the Hobbit due to its small size. The remains that were found measured just 3 feet in height and the brain size was just 380cc much lower than the threshold previously understood to denote humanity. These small hobbits were quite remarkable in the fact that they made tools and cooked their food with fire. If you are interested in visiting the cave it can be accessed quite easily by motorbike or car and is located in a village called Bere just 12 kilometers north west of Ruteng.
Ranamese Lake is located 25 kilometers east of Ruteng. It’s a great place to stop if you are heading to the traditional village of Bajawa. The lake itself is volcanic and its location is in the middle if a lush tropical forest housing all sorts of wildlife. The singing of the birds here is delightful as well as the spectacular views of the lower lying rice paddies of Mano village.
The cathedral of Ruteng should not be overlooked and you will surely see it in the town, as it stands proud in the centre. If you are fortunate the priest has been known to talk visitors around the cathedral giving almost a private tour.
A very popular tradition from these parts is the Caci (whip fights) many residents of Ruteng still practice this tradition today and it can be seen in traditional ceremonies such as a catholic wedding. The best way to see this is just ask the locals at the market if there is wedding and most probably if you go along, you will be treated as a guest of honour.
Don’t expect to find luxury accommodation. Most visitors stay one night before continuing their journey east to Kelimutu or west to Labuan Bajo. There are a few hotels in Ruteng that are basic and with no air conditioning as the climate is quite cool at night.