What it is:
The Gili Islands are a series of small paradisiacal islands between Bali and Lombok that have quickly carved out a name for themselves in the upper echelon of top destinations in Indonesia. In addition to being easily accessed from both Bali and Lombok, the islands are famous for their bohemian vibes and stunning natural beauty. Although they may be small- the largest island can easily be circumnavigated on foot in the space of an afternoon- they are jam-packed with visual feasts that put many larger islands in Indonesia to shame.
Far and away the most visited of the Gili islands is Gili Trawangan, which is universally referred to simply as “Gili T.” It’s by far the most cosmopolitan island of the bunch- if you can use that word to describe a place that has more palm trees than people. Despite its diminutive size, Gili T has a vibrant (bordering on crazy) nightlife, abundant restaurants and a surprisingly robust range of accommodation for anyone from backpackers to luxury travellers.
Each of the three main islands in the Gilis has its own distinct flair. While Gili T is best described as a mix between “tropical chic” and “bohemian,” Gili Air could be described as a languid paradise with a local flair. There’s just enough nightlife and infrastructure here to keep you entertained but it’s the prevailing “less is more” attitude that’s the real draw of this island.
If you’ve ever dreamt of being a castaway on a desert island paradise, Gili Meno is the island for you. It’s the smallest of the Gili islands and, even during high season, it has an off-the-grid demeanour that’s perfect for travellers who want to get away from it all. Most of the accommodation on the island is strung out along the east coast, luckily near one of its nicest beaches.
How to get there:
By Boat: Unless you’re an incredible marathon swimmer, the only way to get to the Gili Islands is by boat. Luckily, there are almost endless options for boats that will take you there- particularly from Bali. Because of the surging popularity of the islands, there are no less than twelve different companies offering fast-boat services linking Bali to the Gili Islands. Just how “fast” these boats are depends on a few factors: how big they are, how many engines they have and how exclusive they are (boats with fewer people go faster). General travel time is between two and three hours.
The alternative is to take a ferry from Bali to Lombok then, after transferring from the harbour to the main access point, Bangsal, take a public boat across the bay to Gili Trawangan. Rather confusingly, if you want to take a public boat to other islands in the Gilis, you need to go from Gili T back to Bangsal then onward again to the next island. A more expensive but less time-consuming option is to hire a private boat from one island to the next.