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.

Related articles:
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Best way to get from Bali to Gili Islands

Can you suggest the best way to get from Bali to Gili Islands, in terms of fastest way and also the cheapest? Thank you for your suggestions.
– Hamilton

From Bali to Gili Islands, you may take a fast boat such as Gili Cat or Blue water Safari (http://www.bwsbali.com/) from Padang Bai to Gili Islands.

Or you can also fly from Bali to Gili Islands which many travelers say it is worth it to save time and sometimes it can be cheaper than the boat. Airlines that fly this route is Merpati, Indonesia Air Transport and Trigana.

Author: Pearl

Living in Jakarta for more than 20 years now, she still have not manage to cover the tip of Indonesia’s diverse destinations, people and even food! Pearl loves shopping as much as enjoying luxury but she knows all these have to be done sensibly and on a budget. Therefore you may find the best scoop and offers in Jakarta and beyond with her.

3 Weeks Travel Itinerary in Indonesia

Q – I am traveling as a solo female traveler to Indonesia and plan to travel for about 3 weeks. Where would you recommend that I go to which is safe and also good?
– Kayla

Answer:
So far Rachel had also traveled as a solo female traveler across Java in Indonesia, therefore that would be recommended by me, and also off to the nearby tourists’ sites that are popular and well traveled.

In trying to cover the top 10 must-visit places in Indonesia and play around with our 2 weeks travel itinerary, you may have a few nice additional places.

Day 1 to 4 – Yogyakarta

Fly into Yogyakarta, if you are coming via Jakarta, you can either take the scenic train ride or also fly connecting to here. This city is home to the largest Buddhist temple Borobudur and the grand ancient Hindu temple Prambanan. Besides, Yogyakarta is also rich in arts, culture and history as well, a really good mix of a lot of things. You should stay at least about 4 or 5 days in Yogyakarta.

-> check out our Top 10 Things to Do in Yogyakarta

-> Find the best hotel deals in Yogyakarta at Booking.com *

Borobudur at Central Java Indonesia

Borobudur at Central Java

Day 5 to 8 – Mount Bromo

After that move on to Mount Bromo at Eastern Java, one of the a must visit places in Java. Here you will hike for a sunrise view over the famous Bromo volcanic crater. After that, get down have some breakfast and then trek onwards to the mouth of the crater. There is also a Hindu temple to visit on the way there. From here, head on to Banyuwangi to catch a bus to get over to Bali.

-> check out our Guide to Hiking Mount Bromo

-> Find places to stay at Mount Bromo on Booking.com *

Mount Bromo and Mount Semeru, Java, Indonesia

Mount Bromo and Mount Semeru, Java, Indonesia. Photo by Kai Seidler

Day 9 to 19 – Bali, Lombok and Gili Islands

Spend up to 10 days here to explore Bali’s must visit places. Here you can relax at some of the best beaches of Bali, eat the best foods, catch the famous Kecak Dance performance, visit some of the best temples in Bali and also any of the top activities in Bali.

-> Check out our 10 days itinerary in Bali

-> Find Bali hotels deals at Booking.com. Free cancellation! *

Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple, Bali Indonesia

Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple, Bali. Photo by melburnian

If you want, you can also split the days with Lombok or Gili Islands, which are recommended if you are looking to dive. Lombok is the sister to Bali but minus the tourist crowds. Gili Islands would be your remote paradise islands, with no motorized vehicles on land and untouched seas for you to explore.

-> Find Lombok hotels or Gilis Islands hotels at Booking.com. Free cancellation! *

Beach view at Gili Meno, Lombok, Indonesia

Beach view at the Gili Islands. Photo by andre ramayadi

Day 20 to 21 – Jakarta

Fly out from Bali, Denpasar international airport back to Jakarta. Spend the last 2 days checking out what this mega city is about (select from our 3 days Jakarta Itinerary) and squeeze in some last minute shopping. You may want to check out Jakarta’s vibrant nightlife and do not forget to catch some spa and massages before leaving.

Along with adding days of travel between places that would take you up to about almost a month with buffer times for wherever you want to sidetrack or stay longer. From the itinerary above you can basically cover the city, cultural and historical, beaches and nightlife in Indonesia, though only Java, Bali and Lombok region. Indonesia definitely has more to offer but you would have to return for the rest of the 17,000 islands!

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Author: Pearl

Living in Jakarta for more than 20 years now, she still have not manage to cover the tip of Indonesia’s diverse destinations, people and even food! Pearl loves shopping as much as enjoying luxury but she knows all these have to be done sensibly and on a budget. Therefore you may find the best scoop and offers in Jakarta and beyond with her.

Gili Islands, Lombok : Remote Islands off Bali

The Gili Islands are the archipelago of three islands which is Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Locally it is known Tiga Gili (means three Gilis) or Kepulauan Gili (Gili Islands).

Though it is popular for Bali tourists to hop over to Gili Islands as it is nearby, they are actually worth a trip there itself. The islands are famous for the ultimate remote island experience that is so rare nowadays in the world.

Beach at Gili Islands, Indonesia, Lombok

Beautiful beaches. Photo by martingarri


Here you will find small huts as resorts for tourist and the locals themselves stay in the township of Trawangan at the east side inland. No motorized vehicle is allowed in the islands, therefore, keeping the experience of remoteness wholesome, where people would either use a bicycle or more romantically horse-drawn carriage called cidomo.

Diving is also really popular here for the untouched corals and abundant sea life.

Map of Gili Islands, Lombok, Indonesia

Map of Gili Islands, Lombok. Photo by Burmesedays

Where is it

The three islands are lined up just off the northwest tip of Lombok, Indonesia and to the west of Bali. If you wonder which Gili Islands to go to here are the breakdown:

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Birdeye’s view of the islands. Photo by yeowatzup

Gili Air is the closest to the mainland and it has plenty of palm trees shading stylish bungalows. It is also the place to catch the most beautiful sunset and sunrise.

Gili Meno is the middle island that makes a good middle-path zen-like retreat. The sea here is an amazing blue with horizon stretches to infinity.

Last but not the least is Gili Trawangan, furthest from the mainland but most popular of the lot. It is also well-known for its party scene.

Why go

Go for the last chance to bask in real island life that is both serene and still rich with flora and fauna the way it has been for years and years. Think of a mix of reggae beats while you sip your drink staring out horizon accompanied by gentle lapping waves. To top it off there is no hustle and bustle of motorized vehicles leaving the place serene and air clean.

If you must have more spirit to your retreat among serenity, then head to Gili Trawangan for a dose of its thrice weekly parties.

No motorized vehicles in the roads of Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

No motorized vehicles in the roads of Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. Photo by Madeleine Holland

When is the best time to go

Most of the time in the year these islands near tp Lombok have a good weather with a mix of dry and hot in the day and slightly cool in the night. Go during the dry season so that you can have your tropical islands experience. The best time to go to Gili Islands would be September to November, for the best weather yet not too packed with tourists.

You may want to avoid the rainy season from November to April, but it does not really rain that much and the peak tourist seasons are July-August and December-January.

Fishing Boat in Gili Trawangan, Lombok, Indonesia

Fishing Boat in Gili Trawangan, Lombok. Photo by Walter-Wilhelm

What to see

Walk around and take in the serenity of the islands, everything you wish you can see on idyllic beaches and island forestry.

What to do

Sunset at Gili Air, Indonesia

Sunset at Gili Air, Lombok. Photo by yeowatzup

Scuba diving
Gili Islands is very popular with scuba diving, having almost 20 dive sites, that is rich in corals and sea wildlife. When you dive you can catch glimpses of, to name a few, green and hawks-bill turtles, white-tip reef sharks, manta rays and parrot fish. Visibility is around 15-30m range and some parts the currents are strong enough for drift diving. Dive courses are also available and are priced similarly to other places in Asia like Malaysia and Philippines. I would go as far to say, one of the main attractions here besides the tranquility is the numerous beautiful dive sites.

Snorkeling
If diving may not be your thing but you still want to enjoy the coral and marine life, then snorkeling is the next best thing. With the clear waters and rich coal life, you may well have an enjoyable snorkeling experience here. Check with you guesthouses or nearby for those snorkeling program that would stop at like three or four spots around the three islands

Gili Meno, Indonesia

Gili Meno. Photo by yeowatzup

Surfing
This may not be the most popular thing to do as there are only occasional waves at the south of Gili Trawangan that can accommodate light surfing.

Walk
Just walk around the coastlines of the islands as leisure stroll for there are no hills but can be from a short 90 minutes walk to extensive 3 hours, and soak in the island breeze and sun.

Relax
Else one of the best things to do here is basically to do nothing. With no motor vehicles around to disturb your peace or atmosphere, you can idle away the time by chilling at your own private verandah or at various restaurants and cafes by the beach. Occasional dip in the sea would be a good break in between.

Where to stay

As the demand is higher than the supply here, the prices tend to be higher than its counterparts of Bali and Lombok. The choices are you usual backpackers inns and guesthouses.

Also do pre-book during peak season too which are July-August and December-January. Most of the good hotels to stay are on Gili Trawangan such as the Pearl of Trawangan and Desa Dunia Beda Hotel *. But if you are looking to go somewhere quieter, then Seri Resort, one of the goodGili Meno hotels* would be a good choice. Or if you are looking more of a local bungalow style, then go for Manusia Dunia Green Lodge from Gili Air hotels*.

If you are looking for the famous swing at the sea of Gili Islands, it is located at Ombak Sunset resort hotel * at Gili Trawangan.

The swing at Gili Islands at Ombak Sunset, Indonesia

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

What and where to eat

As quite popular beach getaways for tourists, you will find the usual beach food fare at small cafes in form of a hut, such as barbecued fish and seafood, pizzas, sandwiches, smoothies and so on, I think you get the drill if you haunt beaches enough. In some of the bigger establishments, there can be surcharge of taxes so take note. If you want to have drinks, then Gili Trawangan, the party island, would be your best bet.

Beach view at Gili Meno, Lombok, Indonesia

Beach view at Gili Meno, Lombok. Photo by andre ramayadi

How to get there

Fly from Jakarta to Gili Islands directly is the quickest way to get here. Else you may do a stopover flight at Surabaya. Flights to Gili will land you at Mataram or Senggigi where then you may do a crossing to the Gili Islands via ferry.

If from Bali to Gili Islands, you may take a fast boat such as Gili Car or Blue water Safari from Padang Bai to Gili Islands. Or you can also fly from Bali to Gili Islands which many travelers say it is worth it to save time and sometimes it can be cheaper than the boat. Airlines that fly this route is Merpati, Indonesia Air Transport and Trigana.

Boats at Gili Trawangan beach, Lombok, Indonesia

Boats at Gili Trawangan beach, Lombok. Photo by yeowatzup

Where to go nearby

Trekking at Mount Rinjani in Lombok, where a relatively tough climb will get you to the summit with a view of breahtaking volcanic caldera and crater lake. There are numerous beautiful hikes around here too.

Sunrise at Gili Air, Lombok

Sunrise at Gili Air, Lombok. Photo by brian

Rest of Lombok – Check out Top 10 Things to Do in Lombok.

Bali – this famous next door island has actually many to offer. Check out our Top 10 Must Visit Places in Bali.

Tips

There are some other islands in Indonesia that have the name Gili as well for in local dialect it actually means small islands, so don’t be mix up and make sure you are coming to these three Gili Islands.

Many travelers gave the advice to be especially careful of thefts in Lombok. Keep your things well attended and lock your luggage, there are even thefts at the beaches. Also, bring repellant as there are cases of dengue.

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