Gili Islands Travel Guide
Once upon a time, the Gili islands were filled with backpackers that hopped across from Bali. Times have changed and the Gili Islands are becoming increasingly popular with those seeking a glamorous island getaway; but the islands still keep the laid back vibe that originally attracted its soul-searching visitors.
Gili Islands Introduction
On the islands of Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan lies a wealth of beautiful beaches, colorful coral reefs and friendly locals. Prepare to breathe in only pure ocean air, as you won't find a car or a motorbike in sight.
Time seems to fade into oblivion upon the islands’ spectacular beaches. On the Gili islands you can expect powdery white sands, gleaming turquoise water and plenty of sea life in this “turtle capital” of the world. Spend happy days scuba-diving in the vivid coral reefs, teeming with life. Float with graceful manta rays and brave a swim with the reef sharks and admire the untouched beauty of the deep blue. If diving doesn't take your fancy, simply sunbathe on the sugar-soft sandy beaches or immerse yourself in the warm ocean until the flaming sunset appears across Bali's majestic Mt. Agung.
The draw card of the Gili islands is blissful escape from a mundane reality and as such, shopping facilities on the islands are rather limited apart from a couple of recently opened fashion stores on Gili Trawangan. You can find small local kiosks selling basic amenities, like suntan lotion and also plenty of dive shops at which to stock up on snorkeling gear. Rather spend time enjoying the opulent seafood buffets with freshly caught delicacies; and listen to reggae music, as you relax at one of the open beach huts.
The Gili Islands provide the ideal escape from the fuss of other mainland destinations. This quiet paradise is a land of exotic beaches and swaying palms; there is plenty of time for contemplative relaxation, rejuvenating the mind and body under the warm island sun. Discover secret underwater worlds, with meandering turtles and feel finally at peace, in this perfect island getaway.
For a Place to stay on the Gili Islands, have a look at our Gili Islands villas.
Gili Islands Photo Gallery
We have marked all the places mentioned in this guide on the map of Gili Trawangan below. Click on any of the dots on the map to read a description of the location or click on one of the villa icons to have a look at our villas
Where to stay on the Gili islands
Deciding on where to stay depends on your idea of the perfect vacation. Do you prefer to retreat to a peaceful haven where the only things shining at night are the stars above, or do you prefer a wider choice of restaurants and to be able to sip cocktails on the beach, until the sun creeps over the distant horizon?
Gili Trawangan - the bustling beach getaway
Of the three islands, Gili Trawangan is labeled as the main party hot spot. On this tiny strip of paradise you can find all kinds of bars and restaurants, whose doors stay open well past midnight with DJ's spinning tracks until the early hours of the morning. If you are lucky enough to catch the full moon psychedelic beach parties, you are in for a real treat. Most of the action is centered on the southern part of the island, so even though Trawangan is the most popular of the three islands, it is still possible to find isolated beaches and the sought-after sense of tranquility, which have made the islands so popular.
Discover all there is to know about Gili Trawangan in our Gili Trawangan guide.
Gili Meno - the tranquil Paradise
The calmest and least-visited of the islands, Gili Meno boasts white sandy beaches and crystal clear water that glistens in hues of peacock and cobalt.
Read our complete guide to Gili Meno to find out why Meno could be the perfect choice for you.
Gili Air - the local favorite
The atmosphere on Gili Air is something of a mixture between the extremes of the other two islands. While Gili Air is not at all as hectic as the popular Gili Trawangan, there are a few more activities, restaurants and bars here than are available on the quiet Gili Meno. The island has a strong local presence and a large part of the population still lives as they did before commercial tourism came to the island.
You can view photos and read more about the choice of restaurants and things to do in our comprehensive Gili Air guide.
How to get to the Gili Islands
The only way to get to the Gili Islands is by boat, either from Lombok or Bali. From Lombok it is only a five to fifteen minute boat trip, while from Bali it takes anywhere from one hour and fifteen minutes to two hours, depending on your starting point and choice of boat.
From Bali, there are boats sailing to the Gili Islands from almost all the major east coast towns; namely, Benoa harbor near Nusa Dua, Sanur, Padang Bai and Amed. The shortest route is the one from Amed, where the trip usually takes around one hour and fifteen minutes. The further south you move, the longer the trip and from Benoa harbor, it could take close on two hours.
There is a wide array of operators to be found on the different routes and as a result, prices can vary quite a lot and you should expect to receive what you pay for. The cheapest companies generally have older, slower boats and do not offer the same sense of security as with the pricier options. It is well worth doing a bit of research beforehand and not simply choosing the cheapest option. The pricier boats will also usually pick you up and drop you off directly at your accommodation or at the airport, before and after your trip to the Gili Islands.
In our experience, the Blue water express and the Gili cat are among the better transfer companies when it comes to service standards and adequate security.
Boats can be chartered and take you to the Gili islands, from Teluk Nare harbor (only 10 minutes) or from Senggigi (approximately one to two hours).
Another cheaper option is to drive to Bangsal, which is the harbor closest to the Gili Islands. From Bangsal, catch a public boat over to the Gili Islands. The trip will only cost you about a dollar, but be prepared to wait a little while, as the boats don’t sail until they have enough passengers. If travelling in high seas, the journey in these simple boats can often become quite adventurous.
If you book your accommodation through Vilondo, we will happily assist you in arranging transport to the Gili Islands.
When to go to the Gili Islands
The Gili Islands have a temperate climate that makes for an enjoyable visit, all year round. The high season is from June to August and this is when most people choose to visit the islands. Climate-wise this is also the best time of the year to take a holiday in the Gili Islands.
Traveling to the Gili Islands out of season has the added advantage of fewer people, which in turn leads to cheaper prices on accommodation.
During the month of the Muslim Ramadan celebrations, the bars turn down the music at around midnight, which makes the nightlife quieter at this time of year. Although alcoholic beverages can still be enjoyed after midnight, it would be best to check when Ramadan is to be held before coming to the Gili Islands, especially if you are planning to dance the whole night through.
If you plan to scuba dive, the best months are from May to September, but it is possible to dive throughout the year. Visibility is often reduced in December and January.
Gili temperatures, rainfall and humidity charts
The temperature and humidity levels are fairly consistent throughout the year, while the rainfall varies. From April to October is the driest period, as clearly indicated by the helpful charts below.
Despite a few more clouds in the sky and the occasional showers that rock the islands, the so-called "wet" season from November to March, is still a good time to visit the Gili Islands; as most days are dry and the temperature is always pleasant.
Average monthly temperature
Average monthly rainfall
Average monthly humidity
Villas on the Gili Islands
Until a few years ago accommodation on the Gili Islands where limited to small guest houses and bamboo bungalows. There guest houses are still there, but several villas have been build (primarily on Gili Trawangan) catering for those who like a bit more luxury and privacy or simply want to stay together as a group.
You can find all our villas on Gili Trawangan on our Gili villas page or you can look through the gallery below to find yourself a holiday home on the Gili Islands.
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