If you are on vacation in Bali, you should definitely make a side trip to the Gili Islands. The three famous Gili Islands are Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Here you can expect fine, white sandy beaches, turquoise blue sea, great snorkeling and diving spots and depending on your needs, quiet, relaxed or even some party atmosphere. This is the perfect alternative after an ubud itinerary, where you spent your time in this small village surrounded by the jungle. This is also the reason why you should get to know the Gili Islands a little bit in advance. Each has its own unique atmosphere.
What all the Gilis have in common is that there are no motorized vehicles and hardly any paved roads on the islands. The only means of transportation are horse-drawn carriages, which can be used to get to the hotel. However, as an animal lover, I would clearly advise against this, as the horses are often in bad shape. When we were on Gili Meno we just walked with our backpacks to the hotel.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
Getting to the Gili Islands
You can reach the 3 famous Gilis in 4 ways from Bali:
Speedboat: With the speedboat you can reach the Gilis within 2-3 hours travel time at a price of about 60 Euro per person (round trip). The transfer from the hotel to the port is usually included. You can usually book the tickets on site at your accommodation or online in advance*. Pay attention to the island where the speedboat will drop you off. We actually wanted to go to Gili Meno, but had to get off on Gili Trawangan. From there we had to organize an extra boat to take us to Gili Meno.
Public ferry via Lombok: The public ferry goes to the Gilis via Lombok. The journey time to the Gilis is about 5 hours, but the ferry is also much cheaper with about 2.50 Euro per person. From Lombok you have to take a charter boat (about 6 Euro per person) to the Gilis.
Plane over Lombok: From Denpasar you have the possibility to fly for about 20-30 euros by plane to Lombok. From there you have to take a charter boat for about 6 Euro per person to the Gilis.
From island to island: In addition to the charter boats, there is a public boat twice a day between the islands for just about 2 Euro for a one-way crossing. You can buy the tickets directly at the harbor. You should also inquire about the exact times, as they tend to fluctuate a bit.
Journey to the unknown Gilis
If you want to go to the rather unknown Gilis, you have the following possibilities:
Boat over Lombok: You can reach the unknown Gili Islands from Lombok. Just drive to Lembar. There you will find several people who offer you an island hopping tour (about 18 Euro per person) to the unknown Gilis.
If you just want to visit the unknown Gilis on a day trip you can also book a snorkel tour from Lombok*.
General Info about the Gili Islands
- on the Gilis there are no motorized means of transportation, i.e. no cars, no scooters etc.. The only means of transportation are horse-drawn carriages (you should not book these for the sake of the animals), bicycles and your own feet
- on Gili Trawangan there are several ATMs, on Gili Air at least one, on Gili Meno none at all
- there are hardly any paved roads, so a rolling suitcase is quite impractical
Diving and Snorkeling on the Gilis
On the Gilis you can choose between different snorkeling and diving trips*. Since the Gilis are located in the world famous Coral Triangle, the area is very popular as a snorkeling and diving spot. Especially big water turtles are guaranteed on almost every dive, which is why the area around the Gilis is also called Turtleparadise. In addition, you will also see reef sharks, octopus, rays and much, much more.
If you always wanted to see the big, elegant manta rays you should book a dive to Mantapoint. Besides the big creatures you will also meet smaller reef sharks, stingrays or sea snakes. If you are more interested in a shipwreck, you can visit the Bounty Wreck.
The wreck, which was rammed in 2002 and sank to the seabed, is now home to many corals and a wide variety of fish species. The wreck lies at a depth of about 10 meters. So if you want to experience the wreck during a snorkeling trip you should, besides a long breath, definitely have fins with you to dive a few meters into the depth.
Another diving area for bigger fish and also sharks is Shark Point. Here you can meet again white and black tip reef sharks. Even if you know that the sharks won’t harm you, there is a little thrill when the sharks circle you. If you don’t feel comfortable diving with sharks, there is another alternative in front of Gili Meno.
The Meno Wall is two steep rock faces, where you can discover a lot of corals and smaller fish. Especially the mixture of hard and soft corals makes the Meno Wall a spectacular sight.
Get your Diving License on the Gili Islands
If you don’t have a diving license yet, you can do it in one of the beautiful diving areas for relatively cheap courses. Especially on the biggest of the three islands, on Gili Trawangan, you can choose between many diving schools and compare the prices. On the smaller islands the choice is smaller. For the different diving spots it doesn’t matter on which island you are. The diving spots can be reached quickly from all three known Gili islands.
The Famous Gili Islands
Gili Trawangan, also known as Gili T, is the largest island and the most developed in terms of tourism. It is always called the party island and offers luxurious hotels, shopping and general good infrastructure. If you do not only want to lie lazily on the beach, but would like a wide selection of bars and restaurants, you are right here. Here, in contrast to Gili Air and Gili Meno, there are also several ATMs and even a doctor on the island.
Gili Trawangan also has a small night market. Opposite the boat pier, the night market takes place from 6 pm, where you can find fresh fish, rice, noodle dishes, meat dishes and much more. On Gili Trawangan you will still find quiet corners away from the party areas. If you are looking for a quiet corner on the party island, you should read the hotel reviews at Booking.com to find out if the noise of the party-hungry island visitors can also be heard in your hotel.
Excursions on Gili Trawangan
Besides the parties, you can book different excursions on Gili Trawangan, just like on the other islands. Besides the above mentioned diving and snorkeling excursions, you can also book day trips to the other two Gilis and escape the hustle and bustle for a while. For island hopping, you can either charter a boat at the harbor (about 20 Euro round trip) or take the public boats (about 1.20 Euro).
These go in the morning around 9:30 to Gili Meno and Gili Air and in the afternoon back from Gili Air via Gili Meno. Another feature that distinguishes Gili Trawangan from the other two islands is the small hill in the south of the islands, about 70 meters high, from which you have a beautiful view of the surrounding area.
To the east you can enjoy the spectacular view of Gunung Rinjani on Lombok and to the west the breathtaking view of Gunung Agung on Bali. At least once you should climb the hill for one of the legendary sunrises and sunsets.
Hotel Recommendation on Gili Trawangan
One of the most beautiful hotels on Gili Trawangan is the Resort Pearl of Trawangan*. The hotel is located directly on the beach, has a beautiful pool and offers delicious food. If you just want to enjoy a few relaxing days, this is the right place.
Gili Meno is not only the smallest, but also the quietest of the 3 Gili islands… and this is exactly what you feel when you arrive on the island. Pure tranquility and thus a contrast to the very touristy Bali.
The small island paradise invites you to relax on the deserted beaches and discover the great underwater world. As a further feature, Gili Meno has a small saltwater lake in the middle of the island, unlike the other two islands. It takes about 45 minutes to walk around the entire island. If you just want to relax, this is the right place for you.
Hotel Recommendation on Gili Meno
On Gili Meno we can recommend the Gili Meno Getaway*. For just over 40 Euro a night you sleep in new bungalows and get a great breakfast. Bikes, snorkeling equipment and boat can be rented for free and you are close to Turtle Point.
If you are looking for a mix of Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno, you should travel to Gili Air. Gili Air is the middle of the three Gili islands in terms of size. You can walk around the island in about 2 hours. Gili Air is more for those who want to relax a few days on the beach, but still have enough choice of accommodation and warungs.
That tourism has arrived on Gili Air can be seen by the fact that there is now at least one ATM on Gili Air. For the surfers among you, Gili Air offers the surf spot Playgili in the southwest of the island.
Hotel Recommendation on Gili Air
On Gili Air the Resort Pink Coco* is waiting for you in direct beach location. This hotel is a true oasis of well-being. The pool area is the best Gili Air has to offer and on the beach you can enjoy the sunset on comfortable beanbags. The food is simply excellent and there is free drinking water at all times. The resort focuses on quality instead of mass tourism. So even in high season you feel like you are in a place of relaxation and not hustle and bustle.
The unknown “Secret” Gili Islands
If Gili Meno is still too hectic for you, there is one more Gili island you can travel to…. Gili Nanggu. Here is actually even less busy than on Gili Meno. Around Gili Nanggu the coral reefs are still untouched and with the help of a coral nursery it is ensured that they are preserved. Since there is at least one accommodation on Gili Nanggu you have the possibility to stay overnight and enjoy the idyll of the untouched island for a few days. For your physical well-being also provides exactly one restaurant on the island.
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Another island where you can stay overnight is Gili Layer. Gili Layer enchants with its paradisiacal, fine sandy beaches and the untouched underwater world. The coral reef in front of the island even outshines the snorkeling and diving spots on the other Gilis. From Lombok you can reach Gili Layer in about 30 minutes by boat. Here there are some bungalows, the Gili Layar Beach Bungalows, which can be rented if you are still too busy even on Gili Meno.
Gili Bedis, Gili Sudak, Gili Tangkong
On the three other Gili islands Bedis, Sudak and Tangkong you can feel a bit like Robinson Crusoe. There are neither overnight accommodations nor warungs. Here you are surrounded by untouched, paradisiacal nature. Since the islands are partly uninhabited you can experience the originality of nature. Gilis Bedis is so small that you can walk around the island within 2-3 minutes.
Gili Sudak is a popular lunch destination on an island hopping tour. There are two warungs on the beach where you can enjoy freshly grilled fish in the shade of the trees with a beautiful view. On Gili Tangkong you can enjoy the wind blowing in your face on the swings at the beach… and of course take some of the ever popular “swings on the beach” photos for your album.
Which Gili islands have you visited and how did you like it there? Leave us a comment below the article 🙂