For a classic desert island getaway, the Gili Islands located off the northwest coast of Lombok have some of Indonesia’s most beautiful beaches. This trio of islands sitting in sparkling clear waters, look like tiny jewels of emerald green jungle, ringed by diamond white sands and surrounded by rose coral gardens.
The Gili Islands are just 20-minutes by speedboat from Lombok, or around three-hours from Bali, making them accessible for either a daytrip or a longer stay. Comprised of three islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno, each small isle has its own character and atmosphere. While the largest of the islands Gili Trawangan, or Gili T, as it’s affectionately known, is known for its nightlift, Gili Air is more relaxed and less party-orientated, while the smallest island, sleepy Gili Meno is a chance to escape the crowds.
There is no motorised transport on any of the islands, so walking, cycling or travelling by cidomo, a traditional and colourful horse and cart, is the only way to get around. Having said that, the Gilis are tiny and it only takes two-hours to walk around the whole of the largest island, Gili T. With fantastic coral reef, diving and snorkelling are popular activities, where you can swim among the colourful fish and roaming reef sharks, although the water is so clear it is possible to see turtles swimming from the shoreline.
For those looking for a more lively atmosphere, we’d suggest heading to Gili T. The boats dock on the east side of the island where it is most developed. Here you’ll find lounge bars, hip guesthouses, dive schools and a younger crowd. If you prefer a quieter life, head to the west coast for more peaceful and luxurious accommodation. For amazing sunsets and a relaxed vibe, head north, while the south of the island offers a great range of accommodation options. The watersport activities here are comprehensive, along with snorkelling and diving, you can swim, kayak, paddle-board and surf.
Gili Air is more relaxed, with a pretty beach, good selection of bars and restaurants, as well as being a great place for turtle spotting. If your idea of heaven is relaxing in a hammock, with the waves lapping at the shore, this could be the island for you. But if that is too much action for you, Gili Meno is an undeveloped quiet refuge of thatched-roofs and stunning beaches, whose beach bungalows are popular with honeymooners. There is a small selection of restaurants, a ban on loud music and partying, along with a real sense of Robinson Crusoe desert island seclusion.