Travellers are drawn to the Gili Islands for many reasons, not to mention their delicious local food, breathtaking views and fascinating landmarks. Culture Trip narrows down the best attractions on Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air.
The Gili Islands welcome all kinds of travellers, from backpackers to jetsetting globetrotters, devout yogis and party animals. Despite being a small archipelago of just three islands, the ‘Maldives of Southeast Asia’ is large enough to have something for everyone to enjoy. Check out our list of 15 must-visit attractions in the Gili Islands, Indonesia.
All three Gilis have gorgeous ocean swings scattered around the coast, but the island’s first is still worth discovering. Datu swing at Hotel Ombak Sunset has a stunning view of the sea that gleams as it reflects the sunset’s bursts. In the background is the silhouette of Bali’s Mount Agung, perfectly framed to grant you the perfect photo. All this while you’re ankle-deep in the waters, soaking it in.
At Trawangan Night Market, eating is more than just filling your tummy – it’s a satisfying local experience for every sense. Watch vendors at this open-air market prepare mouthwatering fresh seafood, hear the sounds of sizzling meat, and pick up the aroma of a whole universe of spices. Refuel your energy with a hearty portion of fresh seafood with sambal and rice, just like the locals do. Conclude by sampling traditional desserts such as lupis and cerorot.
The renowned ‘turtle capital of the world’ owes much of its thriving sea turtle population to this conservation center in Gili Trawangan. Privately-owned, the center provides a safe environment to hatch turtle eggs and nurture newborns before releasing them into the ocean in a heartfelt process, where nature-loving tourists often join in.
Matching the beauty of Gili Trawangan’s beaches is this hill at the heart of the island. This picturesque vantage point allows you a sweeping view of the island in all its glory – coast, ocean, village, greenery and the famed sunset. On the way to the top, you’ll come across a Japanese machine gun bunker, a forgotten piece of Gili T’s history.
Among Gili’s many diving spots, Shark Point is especially popular among absolute beginners. Many travellers, upon completing their dive course at one of Gili’s dive schools, make first use of their certification to descend into this lively and colourful underwater spot. And yes, sharks live here, alongside ribbon eels, manta rays and more.
More seasoned divers may feel inclined to explore Deep Turbo’s sea caves, all the while keeping their senses alert in order to not miss the action from glorious stingrays and barracudas. The sandy bottom is covered in garden eels, while vibrant sea fans and bommies flourish overhead.
Located off the coast of Gili Meno, these sunken wrecks are alive with marine ecosystem. Lionfish, snappers, nudibranch and more flamboyant species love hanging out in this mystical spot, while corals shroud the coldness of the sunken ship. Bounty Wreck is suitable for all levels, but advanced divers can descend further into the deeper ridge for a whole other world of marine biodiversity.
When thinking about Gili Islands, idyllic white sand beaches may come to mind. But the islands have a landscape as diverse as the many tastes of travellers, including a blissful saltwater lake in Gili Meno. The lake is hemmed by lush jungle inhabited by thriving wildlife including monitor lizards and exotic migratory birds.
Gili Trawangan, also known as the ‘party island’ of the Gilis, reverberates with a ring of raves across the island. Jiggy Boat offers the distinguished leisure of partying into the sunset on a boat that goes around the Gili archipelago. A typical boat party involves setting sail in the afternoon, a swim stop in the ocean, free shot rounds until sunset, concluded with the after-party at Jiggy Bar.
Famed for its aqua yoga classes, H2O Yoga & Meditation Center offers a rounded wellness getaway, including zen-inducing accommodation, traditional massages and wholesome vegetarian delicacies served at the cafe. You can either drop in for one of the daily classes (choose between aqua yoga, traditional Hatha yoga, qi gong, bamboo sticks and more) or sign up for the full-on wellness retreat for a week.
Mainland Lombok is often called the ‘island of a thousand mosques’. While Gili Trawangan is fairly modernised if not straight-up Westernised, it’s heartwarming to find a piece of authentic local life just near the main strip. Baiturrahman mosque towers over the island with an exquisite minaret, and you can hear the melodious call of prayers five times a day. This mosque is open to visitors as long as you adhere to the dress code – cover your shoulders, chest and legs properly.
This family-friendly sports bar has something for everyone. The famed mini golf course is excellent for quality time with loved ones, and the kids will love the trampolines. Have fun with friends or make new ones at the basketball court, followed by downtime enjoying a wide selection of drinks at the bar.
Bar, South American, American, European, Indonesian, $$$
Amplifying the laid-back island vibe with uplifting reggae rhythms, many are drawn to this bar for the ambience and stay for the tunes. The island’s best musicians, reggae or otherwise, grace the stage with their talents, accompanying your dances and singalongs through the night. The selection of invigorating cocktails and beers are here to give you the energy to enjoy the time of your life. Thursday and Saturday nights are understood to be the best times to stop by, as that’s when the best music, events and promotions are on offer.
Gili’s usually calm waters are excellent ground for leisurely but fruitful sea kayaking, with good chances for spotting turtles and manta rays, among other exotic species. The professional team at Karma Kayak will guide you through everything and take you to the coolest spots off the island’s coast at your own pace. Karma Kayak is also loved as a guesthouse and restaurant, its strategic location puts the establishment right in front of the main snorkelling spot on the island.
This beach club is loved on many fronts. As a hotel, the chic and rustic white and turquoise design of its rooms has an iconic, Instagram appeal sought by many. The place is also popular as a restaurant that serves excellent brunch and cocktails you can devour while lounging on the poolside, ocean-facing beanbag chairs or daybeds. Another cherished attraction is the open air cinema at the beach.