Bena is a hallmark of the Ngada Regency, no wonder it’s on everybody’s “must see in Flores” list. Picturesque from every angle, but especially from a hilly road to Bajawa. No doubt Bena is a little diamond. However, you might be annoyed with the number of people admiring it. There’s a way to avoid the crowds – if you’re planning to see any other traditional villages, save Bena for a dessert and start with the others. Bena is accessible via tarmac road and well communicated with Bajawa, so all organized tours put it in their itineraries. But most of these people come here in the morning. If you come around noon, you will find Bena almost tourist-free.
At the entrance, you will be asked to pay a “voluntary” contribution and sign up in the visitor book.
Thatched cottages line up in two rows. The space in the middle is occupied by the megalithic stone structures. Some are accessible, some quite the opposite, but don’t worry, you’ll be watchfully observed and reprimanded before you manage to commit a sacrilege by touching a wrong stone.
Bena seems to be inhabited exclusively by older men and women selling famous “ikat” fabrics (or weaving them in the case of women) and wooden sculptures. It gives the village the impression of visiting a heritage museum (we were told all the younger people were at work).
Inside the village, on a little hill, there’s the Grotto of the Virgin Mary. Officially the inhabitants of Bena are Catholic, but the traditional beliefs are still strong. You might climb the hill – you’ll get a great panoramic view of the village from the one side and the spectacular vista of the valley from the other.
W H A T T O S E E N E X T
If you stay in Bajawa and you are not in a hurry, you may easily walk to Bena (it’s about 7 kilometers). Just remember to ask about directions at each and every intersection within the town (there are no road signs). Once you leave Bajawa, the road becomes quieter and shadier.
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