A Guide to the Gili Islands

I knew the Gili Islands were going to be paradise before I’d even arrived. They’re the islands you see all over Instagram, with dreamy sunset shots on swings in the ocean and bright coloured fishing boats on the bluest water. I’d dreamed about visiting for years and last summer I finally had my chance.

The Gili Islands are three small islands just off the coast of Lombok in Indonesia. Each island is unique and has a different pace, so there is sure to be something to suit everyone. Gili Trawangan is the biggest and busiest, popular with backpackers, and boasts the best nightlife. Gili Meno is the quietest and perfect for a romantic getaway and Gili Air is the perfect medium.

The islands can be reached by boat. I travelled from Padangbai in Bali, taking around two hours but travelling from Lombok is much faster. I stayed on Gili Meno, welcoming the slower pace after a week in Bali, but found it easy to visit the other islands as several companies offered transfers.

When I arrived, I was instantly mesmerised by the islands. The crystal waters, white sand, baking sun and palm trees made me feel like I was living inside an Instagram post. It was total paradise. There are no motorised vehicles on the islands and the only ‘taxi service’ are horse-drawn carts. I avoided these as I wasn’t sure about how the horses were treated.

If you want more than to just lie on the beach drinking from a fresh coconut, the islands are small enough to circumnavigate by foot or by bicycle. There are so many beaut spots around the islands! Gili Trawangan is a great place to get your PADI qualification, but if you don’t fancy that challenge, there are several companies that offer snorkelling day trips where you can visit ‘Turtle Point’ where you can swim alongside these graceful animals and some eerily beautiful underwater statues. If you’re unsure about snorkelling, you don’t have to miss out on spending time with the turtles. On Gili Meno there is a small turtle sanctuary which cares for the babies before they’re re-released back into the ocean. My favourite thing to do on the islands was by far watching the sunset in the evening from the beaches.

Despite the islands being small, they aren’t short of great places to eat. My favourite by far was Mahamaya on Gili Meno - amazing cocktails, so many different options and DREAMY sunset views. On Gili Trawangan, Pearl Beach Lounge and Ko Ko Mo are firm favourites and Sharkbites on Gili Air does unreal burgers!

It’s impossible for me to overstate just how beautiful these islands are. Although getting here can be stressful (you know, being tiny islands on the other side of the world), it is more than worth it!