Villages of Sumba island
When you visit Sumba with us, we will take you to different landscapes, hidden valleys, lush green forests, endless savannas, and secret waterfalls. Moreover, unique woven fabrics and megalithic tombs found almost all around the island. But meeting the locals in traditional villages and witnessing Sumbanese unique ceremonies are definitely two of the best things this island has to offer.
Many villages are built by communal houses with tall roofs, and scattered around them are megalithic tombs. It is an ancient tradition practiced by the Sumbanese and the island is among a few places left on earth where you can find such unique type of burial. The people believe in Marapu, an animistic belief, despite some of the become Christianized or Muslims.
Traditional villages in Sumba island
Traditional villages can be found in many parts of western Sumba, with their distinct megalithic tombs dotted around the impressive high-roofed houses. This day and age, tribal settlements are becoming rarer and rarer to find on other islands, so these villages are truly wonderful to survive modernity.
Typical Sumbanese traditional house features a tall prism-shaped roof over a larger square space as the living area. The walls on the outside are usually decorated with buffalo skulls. Megalithic tombs are usually found nearby the houses, with their table-like structure of large stones, often found carved and decorated with offerings or statues on top it, as well as skulls. As generations after generations living under the same roof, some of the houses are even centuries years old.
We have curated 10 best traditional villages in Sumba for you here.
1. Ratenggaro Village
Ratenggaro Village can be found in the South-West regency of Sumba. It is approximately an hour drive from Waitabula and in one direction to the beautiful Weekuri Lake, Bwana Beach and Watumalandong Beach. Thanks to its perfect location, it offers you more than just a traditional village. On the spot you have a view of the sea, a nice white sandy beach beautiful greenery and more. People of the village will welcome you with big smiles, especially the children with their curiosity. The little boys or girls may try to approach you to say hi.
2. Praijing Village
Praijing village is located in the west of Sumba near Waikabubak area. The village sits on a hill with beautiful greeneries in the surrounding. There is an impressive tomb located right in front of the village entrance. When you first arrive, cars are usually parked in a space a little bit further uphill so as you walk down, you will get an overview of the entire village.
3. Tarung-Waitabar Village
The village of Tarung and its neighbour Waitabar are two of the most popular villages in Sumba, and often visited together due to its proximity to each other. In fact, both villages are right next to each other and it’s not quite clear where one village ends and where the other one starts so in a glimpse, they are just a one big village. Since they are so popular, some of the villages’ inhabitants are able to speak some English. Several houses serve other purpose than home, which is to store artefacts related to the people’s Marapu belief. Besides the welcoming feelings the villagers radiate, they can also do Sumbanese dance with traditional costumes, which can be a nice experience to enjoy.
4. Praigoli Village
In the south of Waikabubak, you can find Praigoli village. The village hosts the annual festival of Pasola at one of the fields there. The most famous festival on the island where two opposing groups of horsemen battle in the name of sacrifice for good harvest. You can also find Watu Kajiwa, a gravestone with unusual shape and carvings placed on top of a tomb that is told to keep treasures hidden from colonials in the past.
5. Waigali Village
Sitting on top of a hill, Waigali village offers spectacular views with a lot of greeneries and hills. It located about 45 minutes away from Wakabubak airport. The local legend tells that the village was built by the first inhabitants of Sumba and they were also responsible for implementing traditional ceremonies that are still observed today like the ‘war’ festival Pasola. There are also a few tombs in this village but one stands out from the rest of them. It does not look like any other tomb in Sumba and it has very detailed carvings so add this to the history of this village and you learn a lot of Sumba.
6. Pasunga Village
Pasunga Village is in the Anakalang district just 20 kilometres east from Waikabubak and it is easily accessible. If big megalithic tombs are your thing, then this the place for you to go.
You can find lots of tombs throughout the area as usual as other traditional villages in Sumba, but there is one tomb that stands out from the rest of them. If you are in the village, go to the western corner as you enter and let the impressive tomb make an impression on you. The villagers are used to tourists because it’s one of the easiest accessible villages in Sumba and that is why the villagers understand better what you want as a tourist which gives you a more pleasant feeling of the village.
7. Rende Village
In a glimpse, Rende village might have the characteristics of any traditional villages found in Sumba. But take a closer look and you will notice something unique. Some of the walls of the houses are actually made of buffalo skins. Some huge buffalo skulls are attached on house walls or just laid on porches as decorations. With a 2-hour drive from Waingapu to the east-point of Sumba, it is quite a drive but because there are more villages around Rende, it can be perfectly combined with other highlights of the East.
8. Prailiu Village
Only 5-minute drive from the centre of Waingapu and you are already in Prailiu. It is a small village where you can easily walk through in one way to the end. Although it looks just as similar in characteristics as many other villages in Sumba, it is quite known to produce some nice Ikat (woven fabrics). You can see the whole process from setting up the looms, tying the thread to produce the pattern, to the end result. The inhabitants not only use the Ikat for their own purposes but also offer them to you as well so you can have a nice way of remembering this village and Sumba.
9. Prailiang Village
Prailiang Village is the one of the most picturesque village in East-Sumba. Prailiang was village built on a rocky hilltop to keep out of sight from coastal slave traders back in the day. The village is built in two rows and the houses have the traditional Sumbanese rooftops. The rooftops are not as high as in West-Sumba but the stone graves are very big and impressive. While most villages would offer their version of the traditional Ikat, this village offers small woodcarvings which makes an excellent addition to your gifts to bring back home.
10. Melolo Village
Melolo is a small village and but it’s also an area 65 km south of Waingapu which offers the finest Ikat in all of Sumba. You can easily fill a whole day of sightseeing all the interests in this area. If you drive from Waingapu to Melolo it will be a more comfortable one than usual because the road is paved all the way. Because of the relaxing ride, you can enjoy the collection of the roadside lakes and the sandy marshes which also serve as a great bird watching spot for bird lovers. Most of the areas in East-Sumba are very dry but if you go a little bit more to the south you will find a scenic rice field edged with coconut palms.
Map of the top villages on the island of Sumba
In the following map we have marked the best traditional villages in Sumba island to help you plan your route around the island more easily.