The best of the Gili Islands in Indonesia

Colourful sunshades and colourful sand pillows on the beach in Gili Air

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The Gili Islands in Indonesia have already earned the post of one of the most paradisiacal touristic destinations in South East Asia. Despite its fame, they still preserve a cosy and tranquil atmosphere typical of those secluded archipelagos in the Pacific. Find out here the best of the Gili Islands, how to get to Gili Islands from Bali as well as the best places to stay in Gili.

Colourful sunshades and colourful sand pillows on the beach in Gili Air
The beach in Gili Air / Foto: Monday Feelings

Which Gili Islands to visit: Gili Meno, Gili T and Gili Air

The Gilis are three little islands just off the northwest coast of Lombok, an island just next to Bali in Indonesia:

  • Gili Meno, the smallest one as well as the quietest too. There are fewer people than in the others islands, fewer noise and is said to be the perfect destination for a honeymoon.
  • Gili Trawangan (or Gili T) is party! It is the biggest of the islands and it’s full of bars. Also, it is where you find the greatest number of tourists. If you are not very keen on crowds and group of tourists playing beer pong, this one might not be for you.
  • And last but not least, the Gili Air, our favorite! We loved Gili Air because it’s a perfect mix of the other both. You can find some bars and even parties, but in a calmer and more easy going atmosphere.
A swing and a hammock set in the waters of the Gili Islands
The sunset in Gili Trawangan / Foto: Monday Feelings

Why are they called “Gili”?

The “Gili”, as they are famously known, means “island” in Indonesian. For this reason, it is common to find other islands with “Gili” in its name, such as Gilimanuk where there is the port at Bali Island to cross to Java Island. Therefore, Gili Islands is actually a redundant expression meaning literally Island islands. But anyway…

The sunset in Gili air with people swimming in the sea and others sitting in the sand drinking
The sunset at Gili Air / Foto: Monday Feelings

Why are the Gili Islands in Indonesia so special?

At Gili Islands, the sea water is transparent. Also, the food is fresh and there are no motorised vehicles, only bicycles and carriages. The atmosphere is like a tropical paradise. And it is impossible not to receive a big smile in return when saying hi to people passing you by while you walk.

At the Gili Islands, there is no prohibition. According to the locals, “the Gilis are free” and you can even buy hallucinogens mushroom shakes at the bars. Everyone does whatever one wants and no one seems to judge anyone.

A sign on the sand saying We have fucking bloody fresh magic mushroom in front of the bungalow
Magic Mushrooms in Gili Islands / Foto: Monday Feelings

The local inhabitants was one of the highlights of our visit in the two of the Islands (Gili Air and Gili T). They seemed to be extremely conscious with everything and really receptive.

They were not some people who stopped in time such as we sometimes see in smaller towns elsewhere in the world. Quite the opposite! They are youths who the majority have attended a university. They all are on social network, make use of technology, although they simply chose to live a simpler life.

A man laying in the sand with a blue sky with a couple of boats moored in the Gili Islands
The beach in Gili Air / Foto: Monday Feelings

By the way, if you are on a long-term travelling, we really recommend get your insurance with SafetyWing. It is the best cost per benefit, allowing you to renew it on the go, as well as acquire it on the go too. Check prices here.

Best of the Gili Islands – Gili Air

Gili Air was our favourite because it suited our interests perfectly. Firstly, the size of the island allows you to walk literally everywhere (actually in 40 min you go around the island). Moreover, everyone seems to know everyone and they are all nice people. Because it was low season, the bars weren’t so crowded, though they were there. Some say it is the perfect place to try their famous mushroom shake and find your spot anywhere to enjoy your high. We did see some people going crazy with the music at night!

The sun setting in the horizon of the sea with people in the water and others sitting drinking. The front sand seats has two people, one playing guitar
Enjoying the sunset with friends / Foto: Monday Feelings

Best of the Gili Islands – Gili Trawangan (Gili T)

The Gili T can be a little more conflictual (even by having more alcohol), but it is most of the time caused by tourist who do not respect locals and travel with the intent to cause troubles. Overall, to witness a fight seems unimaginable. Just to give you an idea of the place’s tranquillity, we did not even see any police over there, neither a problem at all.

Those famous pictures of people watching the sunset on a beautiful swing by the sea are located here 😉

People dancing in a party in Gili Trawangan
The party place in Gili T / Foto: Monday Feelings

What to do at Gili Islands in Indonesia

The transparency of the water makes it perfect for diving and snorkelling to see the corals, the immense variety of fishes as well as turtles. The Snorkelling tour can be taken from any of the islands as the boat goes to all of them. Each island has a specific spot for corals, turtles and fishes.

It is really amazing and we really recommend it. There are many different diving schools as well as free diving – you can go up to 22 meters in two days with no air galloon. The prices are a lot more accessible than other parts of the world.

*Also read about things to do in Nusa Penida, another beautiful island just a short boat trip from Bali.

Tiago and Fernanda finding Nemo snorkelling in the Gili islands
Finding Nemo in Gili Islands. Can you spot it? / Foto: Monday Feelings

How to get from one Gili to the others

Travel amongst the three islands is super easy and it can be done by public boats which departure at some determined schedule. They go twice a day, one in the morning – around 10am – and one in the afternoon – around 2pm – and costs 40.000 Rupiahs (about US$3). You can also take a private boat at any time. The price varies from 200.000 Rupiahs to whenever your bargain skills goes.

A boat full of people going to the Gili Islands
The public boat from Gili Air to Gili T. / Foto: Monday Feelings

You might also be interested in:

Bali to Gili Islands

If you are in South Bali, such as Uluwatu, Canggu, Kuta, Denpasar, to go to the Gili Islands you can take a speed boat from Serangan Port. It costs around 250.000 Rupiah. Check availability from Serangan Port here.

Ubud to Gili Islands

However, if you are in Ubud, instead of going to the Serangan Port, you can take your speed boat from Padang Bai. It will also cost around 250.000. Both journeys will take about 2h30min and will probably not be a pleasant journey, particularly if you feel sick when at sea. Check availability from Padang Bai Port here.

Where to stay at the Gili Islands

A swimming pool in a hotel in the Gili Islands

What does not lack in the Gilis are options for hotels, resorts, bungalows and one or another hostel. For the low-budget travellers, it is possible to find accommodation for about 250.000 Rupiahs (US$20).

Where to sleep in Gili Air

For more options of accommodation in Gili Air, look here.

Where to sleep in Gili T

For more options of accommodation in Gili T, look here.

Where to sleep in Gili Meno

For more options of accommodation in Gili Meno, look here.

* This article was originally written in December 15, 2015 and updated on October 2023