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Gili Trawangan | © Matiinu Iman Ramadhan / Flickr
Gili Trawangan | © Matiinu Iman Ramadhan / Flickr

The Best Things to See and Do in the Gili Islands

Picture of Edira Putri
Updated: 5 September 2017

A prized tropical archipelago with idyllic beaches, pristine nature and a bustling but laid-back tourism scene, Gili Islands is one entry to add on your bucket list. Comprising three small islands—Gili Trawangan (or Gili T), Gili Air, and Gili Meno—the Gilis just take a few hours to go around but a lifetime to fully explore and enjoy. Read our guide to the best things to see and do in the Gili Islands.

Bike around the island

Gili Trawangan, the biggest of all the Gilis, takes less than two hours to circle with a bike—unless you stop at every corner to take pictures or be awed by the stunning view (which you most likely will). In Gili T, most people get around on bicycles, an ideal option that allows you to freely roam and explore every part of the island however you want.

Go diving (or learn how to)

The Gili Islands have numerous diving spots, each with its own features: colorful coral reefs at Gili Air Wall, sharks and stingrays at Shark Point, manta rays near Gili T, sea turtles at Gili Meno, and more. There are also plenty of diving courses that offer one-time lessons, whether you’re in to achieve pro status or just want a new fun experience under the water.

Hike the Hill Viewpoint

When thinking about the exotic Gili Islands, idyllic beaches with white sand and translucent water may come to mind. Maybe that’s why many tourists are surprised when discovering that Gili T has at its heart a picturesque hill, the highest point on the island overlooking the Gili Islands, the mountainous structure of Lombok, and even Bali from afar.

Chill at a seaside café

Most establishments on the Gili Islands have a laid-back bohemian vibe, enticing visitors to just sit, relax, and admire the view. Some cafés even have swings, hammocks, or bean bags by the sand—what else is there to do but enjoy it?

Happy last weekend of summer/ labour day weekend 🎉☀️👙 I am taking you back to the charming islands of Gilli off the coast of Bali. This photo was a candid shot taken as I was literally enjoying my coconut water on the swing staring out at the ocean. My friend captured this moment and I saw it later that night. Isn't it wonderful that a photo, especially an unplanned or unknown one, can capture a moment in time? Independent of Instagram, I love my photos. I'm really sad that my account required verification for me to get back into this morning and over an hour of trying I got it but sadly saw that many of my photos were deleted, some of my favourites. Hopefully this app can return to its original intention of sharing photos 🙏🏽🙏🏽. What's everyone up to this weekend? I'm resting up and hoping to catch a few last minute summer activities.

A post shared by Jessy MHSc, CPT, CET, CHN (@scrubs2sweats) on

Ride a horse

Things rarely get more exotic than this; you are in a small tropical archipelago hidden somewhere, tracing the pristine coastline on a back of a horse. You get to explore the island and see the view—it’s so much fun.

Try stand-up paddling

This water sport is not only fun to try, but it also enables you to explore the islands via the open sea! Stand-up paddling is relatively easier to master than surfing, making it popular among many tourists in the Gili Islands.

Go to a boat party

Gili T may not be the super-wild, unrestricted party island that it was in the 1990s, but its vividness and youthful vigor still satisfy most people. The island is alive until late at night, and there’s always a party somewhere. But if you want a unique and more remarkable experience, get on a party boat and do whatever it is you do at parties, only with an addition of the cool ocean breeze and the wonderful view.

Take a picture at one of those famed swings

You’ve probably seen it somewhere in a much-coveted Instagram feed—a stylish swing soaked in sea water, facing the vast sea and majestic sky. The swings in Gili T, owned by Ombak Sunset Hotel, are probably the most popular, available not only to hotel guests but also to other tourists. The Exile even has a sea swing and hammock side by side.

When on Gili T.. #gilitrawangan #ombaksunset #giliswing

A post shared by Christa Brooks (@_christabrooks) on

Visit the sea turtle conservation

There’s a reason the Gilis are dubbed as the turtle capital of the world. It’s not hard to rub shoulders with one while swimming or snorkeling. To help the wildlife flourish in this archipelago, you can visit and help turtle conservations in Gili T or Gili Meno. You can contribute by donating your money or even just a little bit of your time to help their initiative and daily tasks.

Watch the sunset

Many people spend months in the Gilis and still go outside in time to witness the awe-inspiring sunset every single day. The clear sky, ocean view, cool breeze, and mountainous backdrop of Lombok conspire to make every single sunset noteworthy to observe; when visiting, make sure you catch the sight at least once.