Top 10 Things To Do on the Gili Islands

The stunning Gili Islands are a group of islands that are located off the coast of Lombok. They are perfect for anyone looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Bali. The Gili Islands consist of three main islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Each of them has a different atmosphere and range of activities depending on your preferences.

You need to keep in mind that whichever island you choose, you will not find a lot of ‘tourist attractions’ like temples, museums, or monuments to visit. The whole point of coming to the Gili Islands is to enjoy a slice of island living. While you may still find some interesting activities here, you should also be aware that this is one of the most laid back holiday destinations in Indonesia.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Birdeye’s view of the islands. Photo by yeowatzup

Here are our recommendations of top 10 things to do on the Gili Islands.

Go diving

The Gili Islands have some of the best dive spots in the country as the conditions here are clear and calm. Most people choose to dive off the coast from Gili Trawangan as this island has the best variety of dive shops and diving packages. Although not one of the top sites to dive in Indonesia, Gili Islands still offer quite a diving experience with some (harmless) sharks, rays, turtles and more.

Visit a turtle hatchery

Talking of turtles, Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno both serves as a turtle hatchery, where you can get up close with some of these cute creatures. The hatchery serves to protect the baby turtles and take care of them till they are old enough to be released again into the wild. You can visit here safely knowing that you are supporting a good cause. You may also give some donations at Gili Meno, to have a hands on experience releasing the turtes back into the sea.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Releasing the turtles from the hatchery at Gili Meno. Photo by Charlie Sedanayasa

Cycle around the islands

One of the best activities around here are cycling, as there are no cars on any of the islands. Cycling is also one of the most enjoyable ways to explore the land. You can easily rent a bicycle here in any of the three islands and you can circumvent them in just a few hours.

Boats at Gili Trawangan beach, Lombok, Indonesia

Rental bicycle at a bungalow on Gili Air. Photo by Tanel Teemusk

Enjoy the viewpoint from Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan is known for its highest point which is aptly named ‘The Viewpoint’. It takes around half an hour to walk there from the central hub of the island but it is well worth it for the views over the sea and towards the other islands in this part of Indonesia like Lombok and Bali.

Sunrise at Gili Air, Lombok

Sunrise at Gili Air, Lombok. Photo by brian

Go snorkelling

Gili Trawangan has the monopoly on dive centres but if you are staying on Gili Air or Gili Meno, you can still enjoy the gorgeous azure seas. The best way to do this is to go snorkelling, which will allow you to spot turtles, colourful fish, and maybe even a baby shark for far less than the price of a diving excursion from Gili Trawangan.

Boats at Gili Trawangan beach, Lombok, Indonesia

Boats at Gili Trawangan beach, Lombok. Photo by yeowatzup

Take a boat tour

A boat tour can be arranged no matter which island you are on and it can be a great way to check out the other Gili Islands without actually staying overnight. Many operators on the islands offer boat trips and they range from a simple trip between the islands to a luxurious glass bottom boat tour of the surrounding seas. If you charter a boat to island hop, it can coast around IDR 300,000 depending on your haggling skills. But if you want to check out the other islands more cheaply, you can also get the local ferry for IDR 30,000.

-> Find places to stay on Gili Islands at Booking.com. Free cancellation. *

Eat some seafood

As the Gili Islands are surrounded by sea you can probably guess that the staple food here is seafood and fish. Every night the local restaurants here will display the day’s catch on the pavement. There are no better ways to enjoy the fresh seafood than having them simply grilled over coconut husks and served with steamed rice.

Grill seafood at Gili Trawangan Gili Islands, Indonesia

Grill seafood at Gili Trawangan. Photo by Marie

Visit the local night market

The local night market is located at Gili Trawangan and it is something not to be missed if you choose to stay on this island. Every evening a night market will be set up in the main square at around dusk. This is also one of the best places to grab some dinner on the island. Local stalls sell traditional bites like grilled satay and spicy corn on the cob. You can also go for simple fried noodle or rice dishes. The food here is typically less expensive than the restaurants or cafes on the island but it is equally if not more delicious.

 Night Food market at  Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Night Food market at Gili Trawangan. Photo by Henrik Palm

Dance parties or live bands on Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan is known for being the ‘party island’ but don’t expect this to be anything like the nightlife scene in Kuta in Bali. Still, you will find a range of beach bars here that play music well into the night. Some venues even have special themed nights and dance parties. If you prefer a more relaxing evening, then head to Evolution Bar for live bands music.

 Live Band at Evolution Bar, Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Live Band at Evolution Bar, Gili Trawangan. Photo by Reinardt Gilfillan

Go to an open air cinema

Across the different islands, there are a few places that offer open air movie nights, where you can sit on bean bags and enjoy a movie on a big screen under the stars. The most famous open air cinema takes place on the main beach on Gili Trawangan. But many other guesthouses and hotels on Gili T and the other islands have noted how popular this is and have set up their own open air cinemas too.

Bonus – Gili’s famous swing on the sea

Find the famous swing on the sea and get a beautiful picture with the romantic sunset as backdrop. This swing can be found on the west of Gili Trawangan at Ombak Sunset resort hotel *.

The swing at Gili Islands at Ombak Sunset, Indonesia

The swing at Gili Islands at Ombak Sunset resort hotel *. Photo by Dennis Keller

A trip to the Gili Islands can be a highlight of a visit to Indonesia for many travellers as it is covered with beautiful sights. They are also a nature lover’s dream thanks to its turquoise waters and white sands. Part of the charm of the islands is that they still retain a relaxed feel and a slower pace of life, therefore one of the best things to do here when you visit is to slow down and appreciate the chance to relax and unwind in one of the most beautiful spots in Southeast Asia.

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Bali 3 Days Itinerary Blog

Bali has a magical charm that draws us to the vibrant island again and again – be it the surf-friendly, clear blue beaches, the exotic temples, the (thankfully!) sleeping volcanoes, the soothing green of the paddy fields, the buzzing nightlife, the exciting street shopping and basically the chill island vibe, and to top it off, affordable.

When I first moved to Singapore, Bali topped my rather long list of travel destinations. It became so reachable and at a good price too. The ticket fares from Singapore to Bali are somewhere between $80-$100 roundtrips.

We planned a quick extended 3 days weekend holiday in Bali and were keen to do the ‘touristy’ things on this trip. It was our first Indonesian holiday and we relied completely on Internet reviews for accommodation and what to do in Bali.

Flying from Singapore to Bali, Indonesia

Flying from Singapore to Bali

Day 1 – Airport to city and exploring Kuta

Even though we knew that transport to and from hotels will be more expensive, we took the chance and sign up with a random transportation company directly at the airport, and luckily they turned out to be extremely courteous, helpful and did not charge an extra rupiah. What surprised us instead was the traffic on our way to the hotel, a supposedly 15 minutes ride away end up taking 1 hour 30 minutes, though thankfully that was our first and last encounter with such madness. The rest of the trip was relatively smooth and traffic-free.

Our hotel – The Stones * – was everything that we had imagined. An offshoot of the Marriott chain, it upheld all the standards with aplomb. Generally, we are budget travellers but an irresistible deal through Booking.com * – for around SGD 90 per night – had us booking at The Stones Hotel. And boy, are we glad we did! The hotel was beautiful and the Kuta beach was right across the street. And the pool was to die for!

Pool at The Stones Hotel Bali, Indonesia

Pool at The Stones Hotel

We spent the first day of our trip exploring Kuta. After watching a glorious sunset on the beach, we headed towards the more happening part of the street for some shopping and beer. Bali has extensive nightlife, with loud sports bars, quaint beer pubs, romantic candle-lit pubs and a wide range of eating joints. We were spoilt for choice and finally settled for the Bubba Gump Shrimp joint, mainly because we love the movie. The last thing we did before we hit the sack was to get into a random roadside pub for a beer because the local band was so good.

Dinner at Bubba Gump restaurant Bali, Indonesia

Dinner at Bubba Gump restaurant

Day 2 – Temple run – Tanah Lot and Uluwatu plus Kecak Dance

The second day on our itinerary was for ‘temple run’. Tanah Lot and Uluwatu were the two temples we had set our eye on. Our driver advised us to head for Tanah Lot first, have lunch there and then return towards Uluwatu in time for the spectacular sunset and the famous Balinese play performed by the locals. The only problem with covering these two temples in one day was the time-consuming distance – they were at opposite ends on the island. However, since we did not have many days in Bali, we went for this mad, hectic route.

Driving through Bali, Indonesia

Driving through Bali

Driving through Bali were super smooth and we enjoyed the quintessential Balinese landscape of green paddy fields and pagoda-like local houses and temples as we snacked on chips and sodas. It was over an hour when we reached Tanah Lot. Since we managed to reach before the high tide, we could cross over the rocks that otherwise remain submerged, and to reach the temple. Although tourists are not allowed inside the main temple, we were quite happy to explore the surroundings with a stunning view and sounds of splashing waves against the rocks.

Tanah Lot Temple Bali, Indonesia

The stunning Tanah Lot Temple

After a local lunch and 200 pictures taken, we headed for Uluwatu Temple. The temple is a breathtaking sight itself, sitting majestically on a cliff top amidst the crashing waves. The colors of the ocean from high up on the cliff were mesmerising.

view from Uluwatu Temple clifftop Bali, Indonesia

The view from Uluwatu Temple clifftop

Well before sundown, the crowd had begun to crowd the amphitheatre for the traditional Balinese dance-play called Kecak Dance. It was set against the backdrop of blazing skies of a glorious sunset. Though we enjoyed the famous scenes from the Hindu tale of Ramayana, we stepped out just before the act ended, as wisely advised by our driver. Those crucial 5 minutes saved us from an hour’s worth of traffic.

Sunset at Uluwatu Temple Bali, Indonesia

Sunset at Uluwatu Temple


We ended the day with a dinner in the room as we are tired to do anything else.

Day 3 – Parasailing, deep sea diving and sunbathing

The final day on our itinerary was set aside exclusively for some beach time and water sports. Tanjung Benoa Beach is the place for water sports. As a non-swimmer who wants to experience the thrill of these adventure sports, I settled for parasailing and deep-sea walking. The package cost somewhere around Rp700,000 per person after much haggling. The aerial view from parasailing was as spectacular as I had thought it would be. Though the landing can be pretty tricky, overall, it’s a safe affair.

Parasailing at Bali, Indonesia

Parasailing at Bali

As for the deep-sea diving, after the first few daunting seconds, it turned out to be pretty amazing – to be transported amid beautiful corals and schools of colourful fish. The guides are wonderful who sense your discomfort at the slightest change in body language.

After the high-adrenaline water sports, we went in search of a beach to chill. Padang Padang beach turned out to just perfect for what we are looking for, being one of the best beaches in Bali. Clear blue turquoise water, unlike the murky blues of Kuta, greeted us, after a long, good climb down the rugged stairway, narrowing to the extent that no other person could walk alongside you. A tip is also to carry your own food because the choice is rather limited in the shacks down there. We spent the rest of the day lying under the sun and dipping in the sea. We watched the brilliant hues of the sky as the sun sank over the horizon. Sunsets in Bali are simply beautiful.

Padang Padang beach, Indonesia

Padang Padang beach

We spent the morning before our flight buying local souvenirs and an early lunch at a local Indonesian warung. We set off for the airport well before time, fearing traffic, but the roads were pretty clear early in the evening.

These three days in Bali left us yearning for more, and like all travellers, we vowed to be back. This time we actually did, within six months. And that is another tale altogether! Indonesia is truly a beautiful holiday destination, with amazing island vibes, beautiful landscapes and pocket-friendly adventures, and Bali epitomises all of these. Be careful, though, because once is never enough for Bali!

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Guide to eating Nasi Padang in Bali

For anyone either already in country or thinking of travelling to Indonesia, Nasi Padang may be one of the names you often hear related to the local food scene. But what is it? Where can you buy it? And how should you eat it? If you are looking to try Nasi Padang on your trip to Bali, you should read on to get the best of the experience. If you have tried it (and love it!), then check out what you might have missed and go get it again! Nobody ever has enough of Nasi Padang I would say.

Here you will learn about everything you need to know in our beginner’s guide to Nasi Padang:

What is Nasi Padang?

Nasi Padang means ‘Padang Rice’. This cuisine originated in the city of Padang in West Sumatra, and even though it is served all over Indonesia, it has still kept its original name.

Nasi Padang, in its simplest form, is a plate of boiled white rice served with accompaniments or small dishes. The main dishes of Nasi Padang are usually fried meats, curries, vegetable dishes, different chili sauces, and Indonesian favorites like tempe (a compressed soybean cake) and tofu. The flavors here are big and bold, and you can expect spice blends that include local delights like kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, chili, garlic, shallots, and more.

A plate full of Nasi Padang, Bali, Indonesia

A plate full of Nasi Padang. Photo by Kai Hendry

How to order and eat Nasi Padang

Getting to grips with how to eat Nasi Padang can be one of the things that put people off trying it, as it can look rather confusing at first.

To begin with, Nasi Padang restaurants are almost always instantly recognizable thanks to their glass fronted windows. The plates with the different dishes are stacked in the window and it can be quite an impressive sight. Once you actually get inside the restaurant, there are two ways to eat Nasi Padang.

A typical Nasi Padang restaurant, Bali, Indonesia

A typical Nasi Padang restaurant. Photo by Gunawan Kartapranata / CC BY-SA 3.0

The first is to stand at the window where you will be given a plate of rice. You can then point to the dishes you want to try and these will be poured over the top. You then take your plate and sit down in the restaurant to eat it, or you can have it as a takeaway where it will usually be wrapped in a banana leaf and paper.

The second way to eat Nasi Padang is to go directly into the restaurant and sit down… and wait. A plate of rice will be brought to you followed by a selection of small individual plates of dishes from the window. Usually, you will get anything from a dozen up to twenty different ones to choose from, but don’t worry as you don’t have to eat them all. Just choose the ones you want to try and leave any that you don’t. You will only pay for the plates you touch.

A table spread of Nasi Padang dishes, Bali, Indonesia

A table spread of Nasi Padang dishes. Photo by Gabriel Sai

What are the food choices in Nasi Padang?

To some extent it depends on what the restaurant has cooked that day, but Nasi Padang places don’t usually tend to differ very much in the kinds of dishes they serve. As such, some of the things that you can expect include.

Beef Rendang is probably the most famous of all the foods found in a Nasi Padang restaurant, and with good reason. Often voted the most delicious food in Asia, Rendang used to be made with buffalo in days gone by, although fortunately it now almost always uses beef. The meat is slow cooked in a curry paste and shredded coconut usually added that lends the dish a hit of sweetness that is a welcome foil to the pungent chilies that are also used. It can take several hours to cook the curry down, but it is one of the most delicious dishes not only in Nasi Padang restaurants but in the whole of Indonesia. Definitely not one to miss.

Sayur Nangka, common in Nasi Padang, Indonesia

Nasi Padang dishes. Top: Gulai ikan and bottom: Daung Singkong. Photo by hellochris

Gulai Ikan is pretty much a safe bet and is likely to be served in some form or other when you go to a Padang restaurant. Basically, gulai is a curry, and the fish used will be either freshwater or saltwater fish depending on where you are. The curry sauce has a creamy consistency that is achieved through the addition of a lot of fatty and delicious coconut milk, and the parts of the fish that you might be served can differ. Don’t be surprised however to find fish head curry among the gulai dishes on offer.

Daun Singkong are cassava leaves, and while they may not sound like the most interesting of options, the way you eat them at a Nasi Padang restaurant is key. They are almost always served on the side, especially if you get the Nasi Padang as a takeaway, so even if you don’t ask for them specifically, they will usually end up on your plate somehow. Daun Singkong are usually just served boiled, which means that on their own they can taste bland and slightly bitter. They are however packed with goodness, so make sure not to miss them out. They are meant to be mixed in with everything else on your plate and covered in a generous helping of curry sauce from the other dishes, so there is no need to eat them in their plain form.

Sayur Nangka is another stalwart of Nasi Padang restaurants and it’s rare that you will find one that doesn’t serve this dish. Sayur Nangka is jackfruit curry that takes large pieces of juicy jackfruit and mixes them with a spice blend and coconut milk to make a slightly sweet and spicy dish. As Nasi Padang is often heavy on meat, this is a great side dish to try if you want to get a dose of vegetables.

Sayur Nangka, common in Nasi Padang, Indonesia

Sayur Nangka, common in Nasi Padang. Photo by Aisyah Llewellyn

On a trip to Indonesia, Nasi Padang is one of the foods that you absolutely mustn’t miss, and wherever you are, you are sure to come across a restaurant somewhere. The fact that Nasi Padang has travelled so far from its original home is West Sumatra is testament to how delicious it is, so don’t let the towering plates and dizzying array of choices put your off.

Nasi Padang in Bali

If you want to try Nasi Padang in Bali, then here are some of my personal favourite places:

Sari Bundo
Jalan Danau Poso 95, Sanur Kauh, Denpasar Selatan; +62 361-281389.
Open 24 hours.
Meals from around IDR 25,000.

Restoran Sederhana
Jalan ByPass Ngurah Rai No.11 C, Bali; +62 361-754875.
Open from 9 am until 10.30 pm.
Meals from IDR 30,000 with drinks.

Natrabu Minang Restaurant:
Jalan ByPass Ngurah Rai No. 163, Sanur, Denpasar Sel., Kota Denpasar; +62 361- 286824.
Open 10 am to 10 pm.
Meals from IDR 25,000.

Have you ever tried Nasi Padang and what did you think of it? Which Nasi Padang dishes would you like to try on a trip to Indonesia? Tell us in the comments!

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Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali

Arguably the most popular temple in Bali, Tanah Lot definitely lives up to its fame, with its dramatic setting. It is one of the six revered, cardinal temples of Bali and is dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea. Tanah Lot means “Land in Sea” in the Balinese language.

Tanah Lot is located at the edge of the rocks, giving it a breathtaking view and look, especially during sunset. The temple itself is 100m offshore and is only accessible to the Hindus. It cannot be reached by anyone during the high tide. The cliff-side path to the north passes the Pura Enjung Galuh temple (behind which are the best views of Tanah Lot) and then some steps down to the beach and onwards to Pura Batu Bolong temple perched atop a rocky headland.

Nowadays, there are many souvenir stalls surrounding the area, catering to the tourists. There are also some eateries that will open up for sunset drinks and meals.

Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali, Indonesia

Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali. Photo by Madeleine Deaton

History and facts

Tanah Lot temple was built back to 500 years ago by a Javanese priest and has been part of the Balinese mythology, venomous sea snakes are believed to guard the temple.

Where is it

Pura Tanah Lot temple is located in Tabanan at the north-west of the southern part of Bali, about 20 km from Denpasar or Kuta.

Side view of Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali, Indonesia

Side view of Pura Tanah Lot Temple. Photo by Vladimir E

Why visit

Although overrun by tourists, Tanah Lot temple is worth a visit just for its architecture, location and its significance as a very important worship place in Bali. The stroll over ragged ocean stones and the sunset cast over the whole setting will be unforgettable.

When is the best time to go

Many people come here during the sunset to catch the sun’s setting magic but if you want to avoid the crowd, early morning (before 9 am) is also a good magical time to admire the temple in silence.

Kecak Dance is held here every evening after sunset at 6.30 pm for 45 minutes. There is also a ceremony held here every 6 months, check with the place you stay.

Carvings of Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali, Indonesia

Carvings of Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali. Photo by Ken Marshall

Fees

The fee to enter the grounds surrounding Tanah Lot Temple is 60,000 Rp. (as of 2016). You’re not allowed to enter the temple except to pray. Parking fee for a car is 5,000 Rp. A guide is not necessary.

Opening Times

Open from 7am to 7pm for visitors. For worship purpose it is open for 24 hours daily.

Beach and sea, Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali, Indonesia

Beach and sea. Photo by Thomas Schlosser

Get in and get around

From Kuta or Seminyak – about 45 minutes drive
From Denpasar – public transport are limited and it is not available after sunset.

Where to stay near Tanah Lot

The nearest popular luxurious hotel you can find to Tanah Lot temple is the Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort *. This would be a great choice if you want to keep catching the beautiful sunset by the temple. Besides, there are also affordable hotels nearby such as Villa Puspa and Kubu Kedungu *. If you are in a budget, then you are in for luck with this highly rated affordable inn called Kedungu Surf Camp *

-> Find the best hotel deals near Tanah Lot Temple *

Where to eat

Recommended restaurant here is Melasti Tanah Lot. It is on the headland just north of the temple and has one of the most beautiful settings for a restaurant. Here one can enjoy candlelight dinner of fresh seafood while enjoying the famous sunset view. The meal may be a little expensive and the prime view tables are only reserved for evening diners.

Sunset at Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali, Indonesia

Sunset at Pura Tanah Lot Temple. Photo by koyne


Nearby tourist attractions

Taman Ayun temple at Mengwi – one of our top temples in Bali, this is more unknown but still a very beautiful royal temple.

Travel Tips

It is recommended to hire a car for the day in Bali for other excursions since all the tourists spots are far from each other. The road to Tanah Lot temple is also dangerous, so it is better to hire a car with a driver to take you there, or get a taxi and ask them to wait while you visit.

If you come early in the day, the paddy fields view along the way is worth the slow ride to take it in. A detour to the rugged beaches nearby such as Pantai Seseh is also recommended.

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