Bali is one of the most popular holiday destinations in South-East Asia. But if you’re looking for a slightly more off-the-beaten-track place, away from Bali’s maddening crowds, you should visit the nearby Gili Islands.

Just 95 kilometres from Bali, the Gili Islands are a group of 3 tiny islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Situated near the northwest coast of Lombok, these islands are a fusion of crazy parties, adventures, beaches and scenic beauty.

The Gili Islands are definitely worth a visit, whether you plan to go island-hopping to all three islands, or just pick one island. Most visits are generally planned from Bali as an extended trip.

1. Public Ferry

Opt for this option only if you’re on a very tight budget.

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The public ferry costs only IDR 40,000 (Rs 190, or US$ 2.8) from Padang Bai to Lombok, but takes a long leap time of five hours. Plus, it’s then another slow public ferry of two hours from Lombok to Gili Islands, priced at IDR 10,000 (Rs 48, or US$ 0.70).

2. Fast Boats

Fast boats are the most common and convenient way to get to the Gili islands from Bali.

You can take a fast boat from 2 places in Bali:

Padang Bai

Most fast boats depart from Padang Bai, which is an hour away from Kuta (11 minutes from Denpasar airport). Shuttle buses are easily available from Kuta to Padang Bai. It’s a 1.5-hour journey from Padang Bai to Gili by the fast boat, and boats depart only in the morning, between 9 am and 9:30 am.

Tickets can be bought online from the fast boat brand names themselves, the most famous one being Blue Water Express. However, tour guides in Padang Bai offer a cheaper rate of IDR 450,000 (Rs 2,138, or US$ 31) compared to the usual fare of IDR 700,000 (Rs 3,325, or US$ 49) available online.

Amed

Amed is a village in East Bali that very few people know about. It is a three-hour drive from Denpasar. Travellers describe it as a hidden spot in Bali that’s definitely worth a visit.Amed to Gili Islands is just a 45-minute journey by fast boat. Fast boats by Pacha Express depart at 9 am and 4 pm every day, stopping at all three islands.

3. Private Air Charters

For those who have the budget and wish to experience some spectacular scenic beauty, Air Bali provides private helicopter charters which operate only on Fridays and Sundays.

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The 45-minute ride costs IDR 15.000.000 (Rs 71,496, or US$ 1,044) per person. The helicopter can accommodate 5 with a maximum of 23 kilos luggage per person.

Attractions On Gili Islands

Travellers usually classify the islands as the following: Gili Trawangan as the party island, Gili Meno as the honeymoon island, and Gili Air as the chill island. Here’s a list of the top attractions on all three islands.

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1. Swimming With Turtles

The Gili Islands are known as the ‘Turtle Capital of the World’. Various travel bloggers and tour guides testify that diving in the Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno seas can make one experience a nest of turtles within minutes, the most common ones being Green and Hawksbill.

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2. Eating & Shopping At Casa Vintage

Casa Vintage, in Gili Trawangan, is a concept store, rooftop bar, and restaurant – all rolled into one. The restaurant, offering everything from vegan and power-packed salads to mouth-watering desserts, and the bar has a selection of wines, cocktails and beers.

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The store consists of three rooms, each providing unique vintage designer clothing and accessories twith a local touch.

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This is a popular spot with locals and tourists alike, due to its open, beach-centric location. It’s the perfect evening place to watch the sunset with a few drinks by the beach and live acoustic music.

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How To Reach Casa Vintage:The store is next to Casa Beach, on Sunset Point

3. Sunset Horse-Riding

Water sports such as scuba diving and snorkelling are available at every beach resort in Gili, but Sunset Stable offers a horse-riding adventure to enjoy the sunset.

Located on Gili Trawangan, it rents out well-trained horses for beach and sea rides along with a guide, if needed. The staff also ensures that great pictures are captured during the ride.

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How To Reach Sunset Stable: It’s located near Ombak Sunset Hotel, West Nusa Tenggara
Cost: IDR 450,000 (Rs 2,140, or US$ 31) for an hour

4. Jiggy Boat Party

Gili Trawangan is full of beach bars and nightlife options, but this boat party is one of an unforgettable kind. Starting from Jiggy Bar, the yacht sails around all three Gili islands and halts at Lombok for an hour to capture scenic pictures of all three islands together.

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Later, the party kicks off with free shot rounds during sunset, culminating in an after-party at Jiggy Bar.  Indonesia’s top DJs spin their beats in the yacht, and food is available to buy.

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Cost: From US$ 19, or Rs 1,300 for girls and US$ 26, or Rs 1,800 for guys

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