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.
Birdeye’s view of the islands. Photo by yeowatzup
Here are our recommendations of top 10 things to do on the Gili Islands.
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.
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.
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. Photo by brian
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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
Go to an open air cinema
This may not sound like an activity you thought you would do on a paradise island like Gili Islands, but it is really an experience itself. 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 *.
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.
Best Accommodations on Gili Islands
Most of the good hotels to stay are on Gili Trawangan * as it is also the largest and the most popular. Here are few of the best ones:
For somewhere quieter yet not too quiet, Gili Meno is where you want to stay *. It is like a mix in between the vibrant Gili Trawangan and the serene Gili Air.
If you are looking more of a local bungalow style and homestay kind, then stay at Gili Air * where you can find the ultimate peace and quietness of a village life.
Lombok and Gili Islands Travel Guide
Top 10 Things to Do in Lombok
Top 10 Things to Do in Bali