A Travel Guide to Gili Islands, Indonesia

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Gili Islands, Indonesia is a group of 3 tiny islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air – near the coast of northwest Lombok Island. Characterized by sandy beaches fringed with palm trees, they’re known for their coral reefs just offshore. Not only do they look like a paradise, but each island also has a distinct personality. Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway, a perfect place to party and dive, or you are desperate to get away from the crowds and looking for quiet beach time, Gili islands, Indonesia has it all. Find an island (or more) that suits your needs!

The pleasant experience in Karimunjawa Islands two months before left me curious about other islands in Indonesia. At the same time, I kept hearing travelers praising & showering love with 3 Gili islands. Despite having been born and grew up in the world’s largest archipelago, I hadn’t been to Gili at all. So when a friend asked me to go have a vacation in Gili, I decided to book the ticket right away. It turns out to be a nice vacation and I was amazed by the scenery in Gili, especially Gili T.


Gili Islands, Indonesia

Three Gili Islands, Indonesia – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air – have many things in common, from stunning beaches, turquoise seawater to a laid back atmosphere that makes you forget the bustling & stressful life from wherever you come from. I write this article to help you to prepare your trip to the Gili Islands, Indonesia so you can get the best experience out of this incredible archipelago.

In the local Sasak language, Gili means “small islands”. There are other Gilis around mainland Lombok, but the Gili islands usually refer to these three small islands just off the northwest coast of Lombok Island: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air.

In the local Sasak language, Gili means “small islands”. There are other Gilis around mainland Lombok, but the Gili islands usually refer to these three small islands just off the northwest coast of Lombok Island: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air.


Gili Islands, Indonesia

Gili Trawangan, widely known as Gili T, is the biggest, the liveliest, and the most developed island of the three Gilis. Although the largest, it has a permanent population of around only 800 people. The island holds a reputation as a backpackers’ haven and party island. Backpackers first stumbled onto the small island in the 90s, and until now it’s still managing to hold on to its natural charm.

The area of Gili Trawangan is only 15 square kilometers; you can walk the sandy circumference of the island in around 1,5 hours. Alternatively, you can also opt to rent a bike or ride a horse cart which is also referred to as Cidomo. No cars and motorbikes are allowed on the three Gilis, which makes Gili Islands, Indonesia less polluted than other main tourist hubs in Indonesia such as Bali and Labuan Bajo in Flores island. But even without cars and motorbikes, the main strip of Gili T is sometimes congested with foot traffic, bikes, and horse-drawn carts.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Gili T has one main road consisting of a wide array of restaurants, coffee shops, bars, stores, and hotels. For budget accomodation, look on the main strip on the eastern side of the island. There’s a great variety of options, including hostels, bungalows, and homestays. Meanwhile, if you are looking for a quieter environment while staying on Gili T, opt to stay on the western side of the island. It is mostly occupied by serene Gili Trawangan hotel & high-end resorts.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Gili T is the perfect Gili if you are into partying and keen to meet other travelers. The atmosphere of the island is very laid back and friendly with a different club or dive center and bar that hosts a party each night of the week. But you can still enjoy Gili T even if you aren’t into partying (like me). There is plenty of activity you can do from joining the scuba trips, taking diving classes, sunbathing, or just chilling on the beach while sipping coconut drinks or cocktails.

Gili Trawangan is best for :

  • Water sports (diving, snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, free diving)
  • Partying
  • Relaxing
  • Beaches
  • Island hopping between the Gili Islands

I spent most of my time in Gili T cycling, hang out at restaurants, and lying on the sunbed while waiting for the sun to set. That time was very pleasant for me. I felt peaceful just by lying on the sunbed and watching some people kite surf. The scenery around Gili T was very fascinating and by far the most scenic nature I’ve seen in Indonesia. It’s prettier than Bali, especially with the views of Lombok mountainous and turquoise seawater right in front of me.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

During my stay on Gili T for 4 days, I stayed in a bungalow on a small road on the eastern side of the island. The accommodation was nice, with a balcony, a desk for working and a hammock for a chilling. The accommodation was booked from Airbnb. It also rents a bicycle for Rp.40.000 per day.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Speaking about the food in Gili T, I had the best Thai food I’ve ever tasted in Indonesia. The green curry chicken and vegetarian pad thai at Jali Kitchen was so good! I also had a tasty Mexican food at Tiki Grove and had lunch with a sea view at Pearl Beach lounge. If you are into Thai food (like me), I highly recommend you to try the first restaurant.

Feel Gili T might not for you since you aren’t into a hedonistic backpacker scene and prefer somewhere quieter?. Head on to the next Gili which I’ll explain below.


Gili Islands, Indonesia

The smallest and quietest of the three Gilis. Gili Meno is mainly about rest and relaxation. It will be a dream place if you are looking to get away from the hustle-bustle city and escape from a stressful life for a few days. Gili Meno is also is known as the romantic escape destination of the three Gilis. It has a romantic honeymoon atmosphere, along with arguably has the best beaches of the lot.

There are some upmarket resorts/ hotels on Gili Meno, also a few hostels you can choose from. Other than chill with your lover, some activities you can do here are cycling, learn diving in a dive school, and snorkeling to see Nest, an underwater sculpture from British artist Jason deCaires Taylor with 48 life-sized human figures.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

By the way, you don’t have to stay on Gili Meno just to be able to snorkel and see the iconic statue. We joined the snorkeling trip from Gili T (price was Rp.200.000 per person) and the boat stopped at somewhere near Gili Meno so everybody on the boat can snorkel near the statue. The statue was nice, said my friend, but sadly there weren’t many fish and the coral were also dying 😦

If Gili Meno seems too boring for you, you can opt to stay there for a day and do the rest at the other Gilis. Luckily, commuting between the three Gilis is very easy to do by boat.


Gili Islands, Indonesia

Soon after I stepped off the boat, I felt the same vibe as on Karimunjawa Islands. It has a peaceful and laid back atmosphere. A big difference between the two destinations is there is no asphalt road on Gili Air, which makes the island feel more unique. At the time, I thought this is might be one of the reasons why travelers seem really into Gili Air. Gili Air is said to have the perfect blend of the other two Gilis. It has similar facilities to Gili T such as a few restaurants, resorts, and dive schools, but is also almost as peaceful as Gili Meno.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

I didn’t stay very long on Gili Air; only for a few hours for lunch during a snorkeling trip. But I managed to see some parts of the island. I passed some small roads which lined with a few homestays, villas, hostels, and warungs. The northern and southern sides of the island are lined with plenty of beach bars and restaurants. There are also a lot of places to hire bikes, snorkeling gear, and a couple of dive centers.

I didn’t stay overnight on Gili Air so didn’t experience the nightlife there. But I’ve heard that full moon parties do take place here each month. Maybe sometime soon I will go back and stay there 🙂

If you are looking for somewhere to relax but still want to enjoy some facilities like Gili T, you should try to stay at Gili Air.


Gili Islands, Indonesia

From Bali

There are several ways to go to the Gili Islands, Indonesia. From Bali, there are several departure points, including Benoa Harbor, Sanur, Padangbai, Amed, and also Nusa Lembongan. Many of the fast boats dock at Teluk Nare/ Teluk Kade on Lombok Island, north of Senggigi before continuing onto Gili T and Gili Air. The journey takes around 45 minutes to 2,5 hours. The price is varied from Rp. 250.000 – Rp.600.000 for one way and return trip.

From Jakarta and Lombok

If you’re coming from Jakarta, you can take a plane towards Lombok. From Lombok International Airport Praya, head towards Senggigi by car or taxi for 1,5 hours. The price is Rp.160.000. The journey to Gilis will start from Teluk Nare/ Teluk Kade north of Senggigi by fast boats. We chartered a fast boat for Rp.600.000 (for one way). It was a very fast journey, only taking 15 minutes to reach Gili T; we didn’t even have to wait for other passengers. If you want to hire it, contact Deny at +6281907653900.

But if you prefer to use public boats, then head to Bangsal harbor. Public boats to the Gilis run most frequently before noon, while special boats depart for Gili Meno at 2 pm and 5 pm. One-way public fares are Rp.14.000 to Gili Air, Rp.15.000 to Gili Meno, (Rp.25.000 for the special afternoon boats), and Rp.20.000 to Gili Trawangan. Public fast boats now run almost hourly in the daytime on a route linking Gili T, Gili Meno, Gili Air, and Bangsal. The cost is Rp.85.000.

The ticket can be purchased at the port’s large ticket office. All boats leave, in both directions, only when full – about 45 people.


Gili Islands, Indonesia

September to November is a great time to visit Gili Islands, Indonesia as the weather is good and the island isn’t too busy. But the busiest time for tourists who visit Gili Islands, Indonesia is in July, August, December, and January. I prefer to visit when it’s not very busy.

Although I had a pleasant time on the Gili Islands, Indonesia, I felt having a vacation there for 4 days is too short. I hope to return sometime soon and stay at Gili Air also spend time on Gili Meno; maybe at the beginning of the new year since I will spend my year-end in Japan and Taiwan. The Gili Islands, Indonesia are lovely islands with a laid back vibe and stunning scenery, and for me, it’s a better choice for a weekend getaway than Bali.

Curious about my adventures in Europe and America ?. You can click the following links to see my traveling videos that have aired on Net TV :

  1. Desa Hallstatt, Desa dengan Arsitektur Klasik di Pinggir Danau
  2. Imutnya Park Guell, Dunia Fantasi Ala Gaudi di Barcelona
  3. Ada Turki Mini di Bosnia Herzegovina
  4. Nyobain Makanan Khas Bosnia, Kaya Rasa dan Pasti Halal
  5. The Bean, Seni Kontemporer yang Ada di Film – film Hollywood

Watch & subscribe to my daily vlog in America at my YouTube channel : Dada Kimura

One thought on “A Travel Guide to Gili Islands, Indonesia

  1. Pingback: One Day Trip to Karangasem, Bali. Exploring Tirta Gangga and Taman Ujung Water Palace – The Island Girl Adventures

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