The Gili islands are located north-west of Lombok, a short boat ride from Lombok or a longer one from Bali. They are a beautiful holiday destination that should not miss on your Lombok or Bali itinerary. There are many activities on the Gili islands available, such as snorkeling, diving, relaxing at beautiful beaches and partying.
Things to know before traveling on the Gili Islands
There are three islands: Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. We are going to give you a quick description of each:
- Gili Trawangan: It is known as the party island. It is the largest, liveliest and most developed of the three Gili Islands. If you are into diving, Gili T is one of the best places to learn. If you are more into a relaxing holiday the north and western side is much quieter, and you will find beautiful resorts.
- Gili Meno: It is the place for couples and our favorite. Gili Meno is known as the most romantic island for honeymooners. It is the smallest and quietest of the three Gilis. White sand beaches and crystal water are all around the island.
- Gili Air: The best place to chill-out. Gili Meno is actually a balanced blend of the other two Gilis. A peaceful island with plenty of choices. However, if you are into party this won’t be your island.
If you feel like visiting them all because you are as curious as we were, there are daily boats between the islands.
☆ Be careful with the water and ice cubes that you consume as the “Bali belly”, a gastrointestinal disease, is quite commonly occurring among tourists. Stay safe, drink beer 🙂 Also, be careful in beach bars. There had been cases where bootleg liquor was sold in famous branded bottles or used in cocktails which cost the lives of people. Once again, stay safe and drink beer.
☆ There are no taxis or cars on the islands, so the only ways of transportation are bikes, horse cars or walking.
☆ The Gili Islands are mainly Muslim compared to Bali where Hinduism is dominant. Please make sure that you respect the Islamic rules.
☆ Do not forget to take insect repellent. Depending on the time of the year, there might be mosquitoes.
First impression and tips to plan the trip
When landing for the first time on one of the islands, you think that it is actually busier than you expected. This is particular the case around the harbour on Gili Trawangan. However, as soon as you leave the main arrival areas, you start having this island feeling. After the first rows of bars, tour operators and supermarkets, the locals have their houses with little gardens and animals walk around freely. Choose one of the smaller tranquil accommodations and you will have a quiet island retrieve from where you can start tours. All the accommodations offer bike rentals. The bikes you can take and explore the beaches or stop for a drink.
Underwater activities on the Gili islands
The highlight activities on the Gili islands are not only the islands themselves but also the underwater world. Particularly, Gili Meno offers sea turtles, fishes, corals, underwater statues and ship wrecks. All of it reachable from the beach. There are snorkel equipment rentals all over the island, and they often have maps showing the spots for underwater discoveries. If you do not want to have the busy tours from the other islands spitting out snorkelers from their boats, then get up early and go at 8 or 9 when it is still quiet. Just be careful with the currents as they can be strong. For a normally skilled swimmer it is not an issue. Also, watch out that you do not touch or step on corals, as more and more of those are being destroyed by the tourists.
Predominantly, the big turtles were impressive for us. There were mostly groups of 5-6 turtles chilling in between corals, going to the top every once in a while to catch a breath. It was amazing to swim along them when they moved elegantly through the water.
The famous sunsets
One of the most famous activities on the Gili islands are their famous sunsets. All three islands offer nice beach bars to enjoy it. If you are lucky, you can see the volcano from Bali where the sun just sets behind, offering a beautiful setting. More romance is hardly possible. Keep in mind to be careful with the drinks from beach bars. There had been fatal cases of bootleg alcohol served to tourists which caused in some cases death. It is recommended to drink bottled alcohol such as beer or wine. Furthermore, the cocktails can cause the “Bali belly” a gastro intestinal disease caused by contaminated food or water.
Party on the Gilis
Particularly, Gili Trawangan is famous for its party. All along the harbour there are numerous bars and clubs providing one of the coolest partying destination in whole Indonesia. It normally starts during the day in various pools where you can drink, dance and chill out. If you want to avoid this, go rather to the other two islands or check out for accommodations on the other side of the island.
Some islands offer sunset horse riding. We did this on Gili Trawangan. We chose a horse stable which had very good ratings on the internet particularly in terms of how they treat the animals. To our understanding, the ratings were accurate as the horses were healthy and well treated. We were guided by two locals along the coast while the sun was slowly setting over the calm, low tide sea which caused outstanding reflection of different reds and oranges in the water. An unbelievable scenery.
When we were there the price was 400.000 rp per person. Most of them have facebook pages so you can check reviews and contact them online.
For people looking for activities, the island feeling and party, the Gili islands are the perfect place.
Where to stay
- Captain Coconuts: Some rooms have a nice terrace to chill. Rooms are equipped with a private bathroom. CocoLoco Café is open daily for breakfast and lunch. It offers a healthy variety of meals. Price range: 50-65€
- Gili Air Escape: Cute bungalows and villas with private balconies and nice views of the pool. Breakfast is served nearby the pool area. Price range: 50-70€
- AVIA Villa Resort: This tranquil resort has a pool with a stunning sea view. There is an on-site restaurant for guests to enjoy all meals. Price range: 50-60€
- La Cocoteraie Ecolodge: If you are looking for a quiet spot in the island this is your place. This eco-friendly tent accommodations have rustic wood interiors. It is 250 m away from the sunset-viewing point on Gili Trawangan Beach. Price range: 50-60€
How to get there
Flying into the Gilis is not possible as the islands are just too small. However, there are airports on Lombok and Bali. From Lombok, there are several ports going to the islands. The most important ones are Bangsal/ Teluk Kode and Sengigi Beach. For more information about Lombok, please check out our ultimate guide for traveling in Lombok. From Bali, there are the ports at Serangan Harbour, Sanur Beach and Amed (North Bali). All named harbours have several ferries per day and different companies to choose from (e.g. Scoot, Blue Water Express).