Ruteng, Equilibrium Between The Ancient And The Modern

Ruteng, capital of the district of Manggarai, in the western part of the island of Flores, is a pleasant, busy town backed by a range of mountains. Located some 1,200 meters above sea level the air is cool. Surrounding the town are green rice fields that provide the staple for the population on this predominantly dry island. Coffee grown around here is also most invigorating.

Ruteng is some 4 hours drive from Labuan Bajo, the town where tourists take boats to visit the habitat of the famous Komodo dragons on the islands of Komodo and Rinca or go diving in this National Park.  

It is from Ruteng that the Catholic mission spread to convert many of the islanders, building many missionary schools, so that Flores today is indeed predominantly Catholic.

As capital city of Manggarai, Ruteng still maintains an equilibrium between the ancient and the modern. Most people visit Ruteng either at the start of their journey across Flores, or at the end. Here most facilities are available, accommodation though modest are clean and good, and shops are well stocked. Internet also works here.

The Cathedral church of Ruteng
The Cathedral church of Ruteng (Source :

Ruteng originated from a small village, and the story goes that it emerged from the heart of Compang Ruteng, or Ruteng Pu’u. This is a village that still exists until today and travelers go there to see the remaining original house of the Manggaraian and a compang, a stone altar that is the center of the village. A compang is a sacred place, where the ancestors are believed to live, while all the houses encircle it concentrically. Observe the locals who live as an agricultural community. Agricultural products found here are coffee, copra, candlenut, cloves, and cacao.

From Ruteng visit the mystifying spiderweb ricefields at Cancar, wander further to the Liang Bua cave, where archaeologists discovered skeletons of world’s singular hobbits. Watch the fantastic dance at Melo or Tado, or visit Wae Rebo, a hamlet in the hills of the district that still adheres to the megalithic culture.

Similar to Bajawa and Moni, the weather in Ruteng is unexpectedly cooler than the rest of the island, making it a nice exotic town for morning or evening strolls.

To know more in depth about the culture and surroundings of Ruteng, tour guides are the best asset to explain and allow you to experience some of Flores best.

The puzzling Todo village is also worth an adventurous excursion, relating to the time when Minangkabau sailors from West Sumatra landed here hundreds of years ago far on the island of Flores.

The spiderweb ricefields, Ruteng
The spiderweb ricefields, Ruteng (Source :

The ultimate activity to do on Flores is of course visit the living Komodo dragons, the Varanus komodoensis, in their habitat. Overall, the regency is a natural and cultural reserve that continues to illustriously enhance this rocky island.

As a hub of tourist attractions on Flores, Ruteng is easily accessible by land transportation. Manggarai was once a larger regency.

In 2003 and 2007, it was divided into three regencies; West Manggarai, Manggarai, and East Manggarai. Its strategic position and geographical situation at the slope of Mount Anak Ranaka, makes the town of Ruteng an energizing transit town and a fascinating destination at the same time.


The traditional market is always an attraction, and traditional food must be part of the meeting place. But if you wish to eat in a more comfortable atmosphere, please refer to the followings:

– Note that Rumah Makan is translated as Restaurant, and Jalan or Jl. is Street. Here the term ‘No’ is a short for number.

1. Rumah Makan Agape on Jl. Bhayangkari No. 8

2. Rumah Makan Cha Cha on Jl. Diponegoro No. 12

3. Rumah Makan Dua Tiga on Jalan Motang Rua No. 15

4. Lestari on  Jalan Komodo No. 2

5. Mas Nardi on Jalan Adi Sucipto No. 11

6. Padedoang is a Padang restaurant on Jl. Adi Sucipto No. 3

Everywhere you go, you may be hassled by groups of men trying to sell kain ikat, the traditional hand woven cloths and fabrics of Flores. They can be very friendly although some of them may be a little too persistent. If you are interested, choose carefully as the sizes vary. The larger the cloth, the higher the price. There are also various patterns and you may want to ask about the different patterns. See if they can explain the meaning of the designs.

In Ruteng, a few comfortable hotels are :

  • Hotel Sindha on Jalan Yos Sudarso No. 26.
  • Hotel Maryo’s on Jalan Poco Komba, Kampung Leda, Ruteng.
  • Hotel Bunga is a new hotel built in 2010. For budget travelers, the hotel is a comfortable place to stay with a starting rate from IDR 80,000 a night. It is located on Jalan Merak Nekang.
  • Hotel Dahlia is a nice hotel with hot shower. Breakfast is included. It is located on Jalan Bhayangkara No. 18.
  • Hotel Rima is the most prominent hotel in Ruteng. With a bamboo style cottage, the hotel’s rate starts from IDR 75,000 to IDR 225,999 a night. It is on Jalan Ahmad Yani.
  • Susteran Maria Berduka Cita is a dormitory like accommodation at the Catholic convent, but guests are welcome to stay here. The hotel has a rule that limits any activities after 9 pm. It is exceptionally clean and friendly. Rates starts from IDR 140,000 and sits on Jalan Ahmad Yani.

‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ applies to Ruteng. There are many resourceful persons who can tell you about extraordinary attractions. Consider paying a visit to these attractions:

As a start, the Catholic church right in the middle of the town is an interesting spot to discover the historical background of the town when Catholicism grew and came to be embraced by most of the population on the island. The building is a fantastic old structure yet invigorating as the energy from its spiritual ambiance permeates across the sizeable hall.

As background of Ruteng Mount Anak Ranaka, an active volcano is a safe home for endemic birds and insects. Go see the tour operator in town to see if they can provide a guide, or a professional botanist.

A few miles from the town, lies Liang Bua, another archeological site where hobbits are believed to have once roamed the land. Scientists call the newly found dwarf species the Homo floresiensis. The cave is very large and the local guide will surprise you as he takes you to a much larger hall inside the cave that connects modern age to the beginning of human civilization. In the mid 1950‘s the cave was used as a school and that alone is striking.

From Ruteng, Liang Bua is easily accessible by public transport, passing villages like Ru’ah Village where the community lives in a peaceful environment. The location of the cave is around 14 kilometers from Ruteng.

Traditional house, Ruteng
Traditional house, Ruteng (Source :

Architectural wonders are also part of the catalogue that Manggarai has to offer. In Wae Rebo, a village that hides from all the traffic and commercial activities around Ruteng, the community still lives and preserves the ancient way of living, staying in cone-shaped houses. It is said that in the 70’s, living in a traditional house called mbaru niang, disappeared. But, surprisingly, there is still this one village in the entire Manggarai district that still has a complete set of village structures, including traditional houses, a drum house as symbol of the tribe, and the compang, the stone altar where the souls of the ancients are believed to reside.

Some 17 kilometers from Ruteng, and on the return journey from Liang Bua, a village named Cara in Cancar presents the most tremendous sight that will take your breath away. From a hilltop, green rice fields spread right before your eyes. Unusually, the pattern of the walkways resemble the form of a spider web that you will instantly ask ‘how does it work’ as the pattern shows so vividly.

It begins with a story on how the Wae Rebo community recount about their tradition and their house. There is a philosophical correlation between the spiderweb-like pattern and the form of the house, especially the drum house of Wae Rebo or at Ruteng Pu’u.

Leaving the heart of Ruteng and heading to Labuan BajoMelo Village is on the way. The village is worth a stopover since it has a unique way to predict next year’s successful harvest. The locals would dance the Caci, and if one of the players spills blood, the villagers can expect a successful harvest the following year. Villagers here call this tradition and dance club the Compang To’e.

In the south central of Manggarai, Todo Village is there to present to you the past of the royal clan of Manggaraians who claimed that their ancestors came from Minangkabau, West Sumatra. The name of the first person to establish the clan was Mashur. Mashur took a wife from every village he passed and claimed that his kinship was extensively spread in Manggarai.

The trip to Todo Village takes 2 hours. The distance is only 36 kilometers from Ruteng. The road is exceptionally winding and bumpy as it passes hills and mountainous areas. Head north to Golo Lusang, and after passing Golo Cala, turn right to Pongkor as you will pass Papang and Ulun-Gali Village. After crossing the Wae Mese river, you will pass Popo Village and finally Todo is right ahead. Minibuses from Ruteng to Todo are called oto kayu or bemo. Motorbike rental is also available in Ruteng.

Finally, like other travelers, you will want to hurry to Labuan Bajo to take a exhilarating start crossing the strait to Komodo and Rinca Island. Here the Komodo dragons will be a few meters away from you and there is nothing comparable to be among the living dragon in their own habitat.

A short visit to Batu Cermin Cave is an enjoyable and playful walk with a little thrilling experience to be in the dark and see the fossils of sea creatures on the cave walls. Listen to the guide who will tell you about the strange monkeys living nearby area who can fish with their tails.


Ruteng is right at the cross road between Labuan Bajo and Ende, Bajawa, or Maumere. Many public transportation pass the town. Wherever one travels the vehicle must stop in Ruteng for a rest. Consider the assistance of tour operators with excellent local knowledge and good communication skill.

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