ABOUT GILI ISLANDS
The Gili Islands belong to Lombok, an island located east of Bali. Even though they are not part of Bali, we include them in this guide because many travellers combine their holidays in Bali with a short trip to the Gili Islands.
The Gili Islands are small islands with paradisiacal beaches and turquoise water, where you can escape from the hustle of Bali for a few days. In Lombok, Gili is the name given to the small islands around the main island. There are more than 50 Gilis around Lombok, but the best known are Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air located in the northwest of Lombok.
The small archipelago of these three Gilis is a popular destination in Indonesia and they are easily accessible from both Lombok and Bali. Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three islands, the most famous and the most festive. Gili Air is a backpacker island and Gili Meno is the quietest of the three, making it ideal for family trips or honeymoons.
On this page we have selected the best places to see in each of these islands and the activities that can be done in the Gilis. In addition, at the end of the article, you will find a map with the main points of interest of Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air.
HOW TO GET TO THE GILI ISLANDS
To get to Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno or Gili Air from Bali you have to take a fast boat in one of the Bali ports. Fast boats to Gili Islands depart from the ports of Sanur, Padangbai, or Serangan. Regardless of where you stay in Bali, we recommend that you travel to any of these harbors by taxi or car with driver. The boat trip from Bali to the Gili Islands takes somewhere between 1.5 hours and 3 hours depending on the departure port you choose and which of the Gili Islands you want to reach.
There are several companies that cover these routes and prices vary depending on the company, the port of departure, and the final destination. The price per journey between Bali and the Gili Islands is between €14 and €40 and some companies give you the option of adding a pick-up to your accommodation for an extra cost. On the 12go.asia website, you can check the timetables and prices for the different routes.
WHAT TO DO IN THE GILI ISLANDS
The Gili Islands are surrounded by paradisiacal white beaches with turquoise water and a quite remarkable seabed. In the Gili Islands, there are no temples, no museums, no waterfalls to visit, but instead, there is a great variety of activities and water sports that you can do in your stay in this small archipelago. Here is a list of things you can do in the Gili Islands.
Cycling or walking around the islands
In the Gili Islands, the use of motor vehicles is prohibited so the only means of transport available on these islands are bicycles and horse-drawn carriages, although the latter is not recommended as it is always better to practice responsible tourism with animals. Having said that, the best options for visiting these small islands are by bike or on foot. To give you an idea, Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three islands and it will take you about 30 minutes to go around it by bike. We recommend that you do this activity on the first day of your stay in any of the Gilis. This way you can see where the most beautiful beaches are, where the sunset is best seen from, and also investigate the offer of restaurants and activities.
Enjoying the beach
The Gili Islands are known for their paradisiacal white sand beaches and for being surrounded by a beautiful strip of sand. In the Gilis there are no different beaches, but each of the islands is completely surrounded by white sand and turquoise waters. If you want a quiet holiday or to relax for a few days on some dream beaches, the Gili Islands are a perfect choice.
Watching the sunset
One of the things you can’t miss on your visit to the Gili Islands is watching the sunset. These islands are known among travellers as one of the best places in Indonesia to watch the sunset. From the southwestern part of any of the three islands, you can enjoy a movie-like sunset. From the Gili Islands, you can see the sun setting over the island of Bali and its impressive Agung volcano visible despite the distance between Bali and the Gilis. Watching the sunset at one of the beach bars on the beach is the main attraction every afternoon for travellers visiting the Gili Islands.
Snorkelling is one of the main attractions of the Gili Islands. You only need a pair of goggles and a snorkel to enjoy the seabed of the Gili Islands and the large number of turtles that live in the waters surrounding these islands.
A good option is to hire a snorkelling tour as a bit further from the shore there is more life underwater. There are many companies that offer boat snorkel tours around the three Gili Islands and prices are between 150,000 IDR and 350,000 IDR (€8 – €20). Apart from seeing a bit of the three islands, by booking one of these tours you can get to the best snorkelling spots that are not accessible from the beach.
Close to the west coast of Gili Meno, you will find one of the best snorkelling spots in the Gili Islands. The Nest Sculptures is a set of 48 sculptures representing human figures that are submerged at 2 meters deep. These sculptures became very famous a few years ago and are one of the biggest underwater attractions of the Gili Islands.
Paddle surfing is an aquatic activity that has become very popular in recent years. This activity consists of getting on a board similar to a surfboard and paddling. Unlike surfing, paddle surfing is done in calm waters and you can do it both standing and sitting. As the islands are so small, you can even go around one of them. To make your paddle surfing experience truly unforgettable, we recommend that you do not miss the opportunity to watch the sunset from your board.
Getting certified as a diver
The Gilis Islands are known for their diving schools and affordable prices for diving certification. In any of the three islands, you will find schools where you can make a diving baptism or get the Open Water certificate. Although the seabed of the Gili Islands is not the best in Indonesia, there is plenty to see in the waters surrounding these islands. In addition, the price-quality ratio for diving courses is unbeatable.
If you are already certified as a diver, in the Gili Islands you can enjoy diving among turtles and a great variety of marine animals at very good prices.
Visit turtle sanctuaries
In the Gili Islands, there are several turtle sanctuaries that are dedicated to taking care of these small marine animals from birth until they are old enough to reach the sea and live freely. These types of centers have the objective of repopulating the bottoms of the islands since certain species of turtles are in danger of extinction. Besides, if you are lucky enough to be around on the day the turtles are released to find their way to the sea, it will certainly be an unforgettable experience.
Do a yoga retreat
More and more people are deciding to take a yoga retreat on their holidays. If you want to really disconnect, relax, and give yourself some time, doing a yoga retreat can be a good option. In this type of retreat, apart from the group activities, you will have free time to explore the island or to enjoy sunbathing on the beach. Moreover, on yoga retreats, you will meet people and make new friends.
In any of the three Gili Islands, you can find yoga centers where you can rest, relax, and take care of your body, mind, and spirit.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE GILI ISLANDS
In the Gili Islands, there is a wide variety of accommodations and it seems that new ones are opening all the time. The most typical thing in the Gili is to stay in a bamboo bungalow with an open-air bathroom, although there are also all kinds of hotels and dream villas. In the Gili Islands, most of the accommodations have a swimming pool, bicycles for rent to explore the islands at very good prices.
WHERE TO EAT IN THE GILI ISLANDS
The Gili Islands, being such a tourist destination, have a great offer of restaurants for all tastes and budgets. In the Gilis there are exotic restaurants with a view of the sea and also modern and beautiful cafeterias. In addition to local restaurants, you can find Italian, Mexican or American restaurants.
PLACES OF INTEREST NEAR THE GILI ISLANDS
The main point of interest in the area around the Gilis is the island of Lombok. Compared to the Gili Islands, Lombok is a very large island where there are many things to see and many activities to do. Like Bali, Lombok has rice fields, waterfalls, beaches and volcanoes. If you have more time to spend in Indonesia, Lombok is definitely a destination you should not miss. Other places of interest near the Gili Islands are Sanur and Padangbai, two of the ports from which boats leave for the Gilis.