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.
-> Check out Where to Stay on the Gili Islands
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.
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:
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. There are also a number of things to do on Gili Air besides just relaxing on the beach.
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.
-> Must read Which Gili Islands is for you?
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. 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.
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, Lombok. Photo by yeowatzup
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.
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
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.
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.
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 * 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.
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.
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.
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 from Bali to Gili Trawangan *. 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. 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. 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.
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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