Guide to Gili Islands, Lombok – Bali’s Remote Islands

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The Gili Islands are the archipelago of three islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. Locally it is known Tiga Gili (which 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 worth a trip there. The islands are famous for the ultimate remote island experience that is so rare nowadays

Beach at Gili Islands, Indonesia, Lombok

Beautiful beaches. Photo by martingarri

Here you will find small huts as resorts for tourists and the locals themselves stay in the township of Trawangan on 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. There are also some 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 a horizon stretching to infinity.

Last but not least is Gili Trawangan, the farthest from the mainland but the most famous 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, head to Gili Trawangan for a dose of 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 good weather, with a mix of dry and hot in the day and slightly cool in night. Go during the dry season so that you can have your tropical island 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 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 could 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 are rich in corals and sea wildlife. When you dive, you can catch glimpses of, to name a few, green and hawksbill turtles, white-tip reef sharks, manta rays, and parrot fish. Visibility is around 15-30m range, and in 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 the Philippines. I would go as far as 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 your guesthouses or nearby for those snorkeling programs 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 the south of Gili Trawangan that can accommodate light surfing.

Walk
Just walk around the islands’ coastlines as a leisure stroll, for there are no hills, but it can be from a short 90-minute 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 on your 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 their counterparts in Bali and Lombok. The choices are your usual backpackers’ inns and guesthouses. Also, do pre-book during peak season, which is July-August and December-January.

Most good hotels to stay are on Gili Trawangan * as it is also the largest and the most popular. Here are a few of the best ones:

Gili Meno

For somewhere quieter yet not too quiet, Gili Meno is where you want to stay *. It is like a mix of the vibrant Gili Trawangan and the serene Gili Air.

Gili Air

If you are looking for more of a local bungalow style and homestay kind, then stay at Gili Air * where you can find the ultimate peace and quietness of 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.

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 the 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 more prominent establishments, there can be a surcharge of taxes so take note. Gili Trawangan, the party island, would be your best bet if you want to have drinks.

Beach view at Gili Meno, Lombok, Indonesia

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

How to get there

Flying directly from Jakarta to Gili Islands 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 you may cross 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 is worth it to save time, and sometimes it can be cheaper than the boat. Airlines that fly this route are 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 the breathtaking 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

The rest of Lombok.

Don’t forget the famous Bali.

Tips

Some other islands in Indonesia also have the name Gili, for, in the local dialect, it means small islands, so don’t mix up and make sure you are coming to these three Gili Islands.

Many travelers are advised 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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