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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Valenti

Gili Islands: Gili Trawangan - a paradise two steps from Bali

If you are planning a trip to Bali, you absolutely must visit the Gili Islands and Lombok: transport is efficient, fast and cheap, and the Bali-Gili-Lombok triangle can be visited very easily and with little organization!

Gili Islands

In the Sasak language gili means island, this explains the name of the atolls surrounding Lombok.

The Gili Islands are a real tropical paradise: they are 3 tiny islets on the north coast of Lombok, surrounded by a white beach full of coconut palms and bathed by turquoise waters. Sincerely we expected luxurious islands, full of resorts and totally westernized, instead we were totally and pleasantly surprised to find authentic, wild and relaxing islands. Just consider that in none of the three islands there are paved roads or cars or motorbikes: people goes around by bicycles. We absolutely loved it and would have gladly stayed longer.

The three islets are called Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air:

  • Gili Trawangan: it's the furthest to the west, the first you will therefore encounter when coming from Bali; it's also the largest and let's also say the most touristic. Actually, you will hear about Gili Trawangan as full of backpackers and tourists looking for parties and nightlife, but be wary of these rumors: yes, there are some clubs near the port, but nothing so big or loud to characterize the island. Honestly, we had great time in Gili Trawangan and we loved all its different faces: a bit of life near the port, some quiet places on the beach, a couple of more loaded alternatives for those who want to spend a good night, a splendid night market, breathtaking and quiet beaches .. in my opinion Gili T is the ideal compromise that allows you to relax but without getting bored.

  • Gili Meno and Gili Air: these two islets are smaller than Gili T, and are usually the recommended destination for those seeking relaxation and peace. We went there on an excursion and honestly I was rather displaced by their desolation: there really was little or nothing, we would certainly have been pissed off.

If I had to go back, I would choose Gili Trawangan a thousand times, also because if you want you can spend the day on the other islands thanks to the public ferry. Gili T is definitely the ideal compromise: calm, relaxation, paradisiacal beaches, and a minimum of nightlife that allows even just a stroll in the evening without having to lock yourself away in your own resort.

Now let's see the itinerary of these days.

As you can see in the map below, we dedicated three days to the Gili Islands ⑧ ⑨ and ⑩.

Specifically, on the eighth day we left early in the morning for the Gili Islands from Bali, more precisely Gili Trawangan, where we slept for two nights. The third day on Gili Trawangan was spent exploring the island and relaxing, and in the late afternoon we took the boat to Lombok.

If you have been following me since the beginning of this trip to Indonesia, you will know that we had also evaluated a 3-week itinerary: in fact, with one more week available, we would have dedicated a little more time and calm to Gili, staying one day in more, not to do or see other things, because they are so small that the 3 days we spent there were enough, but simply because we fell in love with them so much that we would have gladly stayed there a little longer, to relax and enjoy that free and wild atmosphere typical of these islets. READ ALSO: Bali, Gili Islands and Lombok: complete 2-week itinerary and a 3-week alternative

If you are following our trip to Bali post after post, we were in Padangbai, which was our base for our last day in Bali: below is a quick recap of all the itinerary.

To find out what and where to eat iaòpmg the various places READ ALSO:

How to reach the Gili Islands from Bali

Reaching the Gili Islands - and Lombok - from Bali is really simple, fast and quite cheap, for this reason I strongly advise you to add them to your itinerary if you are travelling to Bali; I assure you that you will not regret it. During our tour of Bali, we saw that some boats for Gili and Lombok also leave from the south of the island, more precisely from Sanur. From here the journey is much more expensive and long, the ideal is to embark at the port of Padangbai, north-east of Bali. This was in fact our choice: we moved throughout Bali, from south to north and then heading east, to end our journey on the Island of the Gods in Padangbai, where we left for the Gili Islands.

Eka Jaya da Bali alle Isole Gili

Here we chose to travel with EKA JAYA, recommended to us by the owner of the Guest House where we were staying who reassured us that it was one of the most reliable and safe, with excellent value for money. The guys picked us up directly from the Guest House at 9am, handed us our tickets and then drove us to the port. The boat was quite large, with ample luggage space on top. The ride takes about 90 minutes and the cost is IDR 350,000 per person for one way (€22). Depending on your destination you can get off at Gili Trawangan or continue to Gili Meno or Gili Air. From Padangbai there are also many direct boats from Bali to Lombok, but I honestly suggest you don't miss the Gili Islands, a true paradise on earth! READ ALSO: Bali, Gili Islands and Lombok: how to plan your trip to Indonesia on your own

Gili Islands - which one to choose?

As we have already said, the Gili Islands are made up of 3 tiny islets: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Of the three, I wholeheartedly recommend Gili Trawangan, the first you will encounter coming from Bali and also the largest. It is known for being the liveliest, most youthful island and the ideal destination for those looking for parties and nightlife... and yes, Gili Trawangan is all this but also much more.

Gili Trawangan

Gili T - Lombok

Gili T, despite being the largest of the 3, is so small that you can cycle around the coast in 40 minutes. Gili T is definitely the one we loved most, and that I would choose again 100 times. The area in front of the port, on the seafront, is a long strip of cafes, restaurants and a few nightclubs that come alive in the evening but here you will also find an excellent cooking school, many diving, beach clubs where they play excellent music live and a splendid Night Market where to dine.

The rest of the island is a completely different story .. straw or sheet metal houses, children running barefoot on dirt roads, no cars or scooters .. in Gili T, as well as in Meno and Air, you move exclusively walking, by bicycle or on a kind of horse-drawn cart, called Cidomo (which I strongly suggest you DON'T USE since how they treat animals).

Gili T dalla barca - Lombok

In Gili Trawangan there are splendid beaches, a breathtaking sunset point where you will probably witness some of the most beautiful sunsets of your life, yoga centres, turtle points where you can see sea turtles even comfortably lying on the beach .. the coral reef is very close to the coast: in the afternoon, during low tide, you can get there on foot, and walking along the beach you will find lots of shells and dead corals. In my opinion Gili T really represents an excellent compromise for those looking for a relaxing holiday without being boring, compared to Gili Meno and Gili Air which are even smaller and where apart from a few resorts and restaurants there is very little to do.

Useful info for your trip to the Gili Islands:

  • Direct boats leave from any island twice a day for the other two: they tend to leave around 9-9:30 and return around 16-16:30, always check the times at the port. You can also visit the other islands, while staying in only one of them. From Gili T departures by Meno and Air are at 9:30am and 3:20pm and the price is IDR 20-25,000 per head one way (about €1.50);

  • The IDR - Euro exchange is not very convenient, so better to arrive with enough cash;

Girare le Isole Gili in bicicletta
  • To get around the islands, the ideal is to rent a bicycle: there are hundreds of stands where you can choose the one you prefer (obviously negotiated) but usually the hotels also provide this service, which is much more convenient. In our resort we rented 2 bikes for the whole day for 40,000 IDR in total (about €2.70).

  • Don't use the Cidomos: the horse-drawn carts I mentioned before.. the animals are treated very badly and are in pitiful conditions, so in order not to encourage this exploitation I suggest you to move around on foot or by bicycle. I know that as soon as you arrive at the port full of suitcases and backpacks it is very difficult to walk to the hotel or resort on foot and under the sun .. we did it so I know what I'm talking about. But it's a small effort for the sake of those poor, abused horses. This is another reason why in I suggested the North Face bags which, thanks to the shoulder straps, become backpacks and allow you to move easily and without too much effort! READ ALSO: Bali, Gili Islands and Lombok: how to plan your trip to Indonesia on your own

  • Bring your rock shoes, the Gili beaches are full of coral and shells, which is wonderful, but can also be a tad bit painful. We have already talked about what to pack for this trip here, but I wanted to remind you anyway! As for the accommodation on Gili T, as already mentioned, we chose the Coconut Garden Resort, in the center of Gili Trawangan Island.. to read more about that.. READ ALSO: Bali, Gili Islands and Lombok: how to plan your trip to Indonesia on your own

Now let's see what experiences you absolutely cannot miss on Gili Trawangan!

Relax on the beautiful paradise beaches of Gili T

Coral Beach, Gili Trawangan - Lombok
Coral Beach - Gili Trawangan

Obviously in first place among all the things not to be missed on Gili T we have its wonderful white beaches and blue sea. The whole island is surrounded by beautiful beaches you can try them all, but the ones I really recommend are Coral Beach, due to its proximity to Turtle Point, and Sunset Beach. Coral Beach is on the east side of Gili T, not too far from the port: here the sea is more often rough, but I swear that while I was spreading my sunscreen on I saw a sea turtle poke its little head out of the water and look at me. This area is most often crowded and the most popular with tourists to spend the day at the beach, but we spent most of our time on the other side of the island, the west side, at Sunset Beach. Usually Sunset Beach is famous for its sunsets, but we also appreciated it during the day: few people, wider beach and decidedly less rough sea, which made its beauty and its incredible colors stand out doubly. On these beaches you will also find the famous swings in the water, highly appreciated for wonderful instagrammable photos! The wonderful thing about the beaches on Gili Trawangan is that you can use the sunbeds and umbrellas for free if you order anything at the kiosks located on the beach.

Admire a breathtaking sunset at Sunset Point

Stop by Sunset Beach until sunset: grab a beer, and wait for the sun to go down enjoying one of the most beautiful sunsets of your life. Here the sea and the sky catch fire, giving life to incredible colors that I never thought I'd see: certainly among the most beautiful and magical experiences lived on this small island. At sunset, these beaches get crowded, so if you haven't been here since the afternoon, arrive early to grab a few sunbeds.

Snorkel and swim with sea turtles

Nuotare con le tartarughe marine a Gili Trawangan

The Gili Islands are among the most popular areas in the world for scuba diving and snorkeling: the Trawangan Wall, sea turtles, splendid corals, and the Bask Nest of Gili Meno make snorkeling one of the most beautiful experiences to live on these islands. As an underwater world lover, I couldn't wait to see the famous Bask Nest with my own eyes. It's impossible that you have never heard of it or have not seen some photos of it on the internet. It is the most famous of the underwater statues, which creates a bridge between the human and marine worlds.

Bask Nest, Gili Meno - Lombok

It's a work by the British sculptor Jason DeCaires Taylor, consisting of 48 human statues surrounding as many figures huddled on the backdrop, representing the circle of life, time and the continuum. From Gili T you can snorkel from any of its beaches, but if you are looking for something more structured and want to admire the most beautiful points of Gili, you will find plenty of choice among the various tourist agencies on the island that offer half or one hour boat days full day dedicated to snorkeling. There are various options: you can opt for an excursion with other people, or instead choose to reserve the boat just for you.

Gili Meno - Lombok

We opted for the half-day excursion (about 4h) on a "public boat": we were with about 15 other people, and we spent 150,000 IDR each (€10), including snorkelling equipment. The excursion consisted of leaving Gili T, snorkeling at multiple spots including Gili Meno and the Bask Nest, and finally Gili Air, where we also stopped for lunch). We booked through our hotel and had a great time. I honestly do not suggest you choose the private boat, because it's 450,000 IDR each (30€) and in any case in the various diving points there will be other boats with other tourists, so you will never be alone.

Take Balinese cooking class at Gili T's famous Sweet & Spicy cooking school

Sweet & Spicy Cooking Class - Gili Trawangan

In Bali you will find many Balinese cooking schools: it is one of the most significant experiences to do on the island. During my research before leaving, I repeatedly came across the Sweet & Spicy Cooking Class in Gili Trawangan, with excellent reviews, so I decided to keep this experience for Gili T, also in order not to steal precious time from exploring Bali: I already knew that times in the Gili Islands would have been much slower and more relaxed. In the end, this choice proved to be very successful: the lesson was spectacular, we learned many interesting and delicious things, we had a lot of fun and we even had dinner.

Sweet & Spicy Cooking Class - Gili Trawangan

In fact, the Cooking Class costs IDR 295,000 each (just under €20) and will guide you in making 7 typical dishes of Balinese cuisine, which you will then enjoy while sitting on a table by the sea. Practically for €20 you will have both the cooking lesson and dinner with drinks included: for this reason I recommend that you book the cooking class in the evening, at 19:00, so as not to waste precious time during the day, and being able to take advantage of it by eating the delights you will prepare with your own hands!

Lezione di cucina Balinese - Gili Trawangan

We cooked: Fried Tempeh, Peanut Sauce, Gado Gado, Chicken/Tempeh Taliwang, Pepes Ikan, Mie Goreng and finally Kelpon. The lesson lasts about 3 hours or so, and the chef is very good, as well as very nice and enthusiastic: he really knows how to make the cooking class fun and engaging. It was one of the coolest things we did in Indonesia, and if you love local food and cuisine like we do, it's definitely an unmissable experience!

Ps: it is not possible to book online, but you will have to go there and leave a deposit!

Night Market

Mercato notturno. Gili Trawangan - Lombok

If you have already done some research on Asia, it will not be the first time you hear about the night market. In fact, the Night Markets are very common throughout the eastern part of the world, and even Gili Trawangan could not be missing. The Gili T night market is located a few meters from the port, on the seafront, and is without a doubt one of those authentic experiences that you absolutely must have on the island. The market opens at 18:00 and consists of a huge selection of local street food with delicious typical dishes based on vegetables, meat or fish, but also sweets and lots of fruit. The prices are really ridiculous, and it allows you to taste and try everything! In the center there are then several tables and benches where you can sit and enjoy the various delicacies you have chosen. I strongly advise you to come at dinner time and very hungry! You will not regret it!

Exploring the Hippie Side of Gili T

Even though Indonesian laws are very strict and the island is Muslim, every shop on Gili Trawangan serves magic mushroom smoothies and everywhere you turn you will find signs reading "Super Mushrooms—Your journey back from the moon." You got it right, Gili T is very famous for its hallucinogenic mushrooms and their sale in total freedom. If you love psychedelic and open-eyed trips, this is the place you've always dreamed of. Many of the bars have rainbows over mushrooms displayed on the billboard outside instead of the daily specials with the indication “Fresh, not frozen!” as soon as you order your Bintang, the local beer , they will immediately ask you if you also want magic mushrooms together with it. I can't tell you how this experience is because honestly we didn't dare to try it, but it is still very fun to see the series of signs scattered around the island and the various proposals in the kiosks on the beach!

Enjoy a quiet evening watching a movie in one of the open-air cinemas

Cinema all'aperto, Gili Trawangan - Lombok

I don't know about you but before getting in Gili Trawangan I had never seen an open-air cinema on the beach and I was so excited! When I found myself in front of the idea I liked it even more. Think of a quiet evening, stretched out on the white sand of this small island paradise, watching a good movie under the stars. I struggle to imagine something more relaxing and why not, even romantic! During research and had identified the open-air cinema of Villa Ombak, one of the most famous and luxurious resorts on the island: unfortunately once on Gili T, I discovered that the activity was currently suspended so I had abandoned the idea. By chance however I came across the Royal Sunset Bar, on the west beach of Gili T, on the side of Sunset Beach and Sunset Point. Here the cinema is free, and the same rule applies to umbrellas and sunbeds on the beach during the day: you only need to consume to enjoy the service! Obviously the films are shown in English, so you need a minimum of knowledge of the language, but if this is not a problem for you, it is one of the activities that I definitely recommend!

Lose yourself in the waterfront clubs near the port

As you may have guessed by now, the waterfront area near Gili Trawangan Harbor is the hub of life on the island. Here you will find two types of places:

  • bars and nightclubs where you can party until the morning with backpackers and tourists from all over the world;

  • quiet places on the beach where you can listen to live music while drinking a delicious cocktail.

Sama Sama Reggea Bae, Gili Trawangan - Lombok

Depending on the type of person and traveler you are, on Gili T you will surely find the type of evening that suits you: we opted for something more relaxed, but some girls told us that they danced on the tables until 6 a.m. morning! If I may make a suggestion, the Sama Sama Bar is a very famous reggaeton club, perhaps the most famous on the island: the music show starts at 19:00, but drop by regardless of the time! If, on the other hand, you want something even more chilled out, the Gili Sands Bar is the one we liked the most: soft puffs on the beach, excellent drinks and beautiful live music.

As you can see, the Gili Islands are small, but there are so many activities and experiences to enjoy: if you don't feel like locking yourself up in a luxury resort, many wonderful adventuresawait you, like the ones I told you about but many others! One thing I haven't been able to try but wish I could have done is Yoga! For lovers, here as in Bali, you will find many centers where they also practice by the sea. Before leaving us and moving on to the next and last stage of this wonderful trip to Indonesia, I would like to make a small clarification about the Gili Islands: they are small islands, and beyond the super luxurious tourist resorts, they are extremely poor and backward, perhaps more of what you see around Bali, but certainly authentic, wild and genuine. We fell in love with them precisely because of their authenticity, but I have heard very conflicting opinions: people who have complained about the stench, smells and hygienic conditions. Honestly, we have not noticed any of this and I guarantee you that we have chosen one of the cheapest "resorts" and that in any case we were there only to sleep .. therefore, I'll keep on telling you about this corner of the world as a true paradise, a must do if you are around Bali or Lombok.

Well, now we've really come to the end of the penultimate leg of our trip to Indonesia: from Bali, the Gili Islands and Lombok.

Don't miss all the destinations of this trip:

To find out what and where to eat along the various places.. READ ALSO:

If you think this post is useful or if you need any further information about Gili Islands comment below and I will answer as soon as I can!

Have a nice trip and let me know what do you think of Gili Islands (:


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