The Gili Islands. Which island is perfect for you?

Ellie Swain

Senior Contributor

Easily accessible from Bali, the Gili Islands are a popular stop-off for travellers in Indonesia. All three are fringed with caster sugar-white sand beaches, towering coconut palms, and sparkling blue waters. However, while the three islands have their similarities, each one has a distinct personality too. Do you love to dance on tables partying the night away? Do you dream of practising yoga by the lapping waves on the shore? Or maybe you’re looking for a peaceful couple’s retreat? Depending on your tastes, it’s likely you’ll prefer visiting one island to the others. Keep reading to discover the Gili island that’s perfect for you.

Gili Trawangan: The Party Island

Gili Trawangan is the largest, liveliest, and most visited of the Gili Islands. Unofficially, Gili T is known as the party island and as such it attracts young backpackers and holidaymakers seeking a trip of hedonism and excitement.

Expect plenty of late-night bars, cocktail shacks, and busy clubs lining the narrow streets of the island. You can even head out on a boozy boat trip under the beaming rays of the sun if it takes your fancy.

However, it’s not all about the parties on Gili T. There are also plenty of quality restaurants serving fresh seafood and mouth-watering Indonesian fare, as well as high-end resorts and clothing boutiques. In the day, visitors can also embark on a snorkelling trip around the islands to swim alongside sea turtles or can try their hand at scuba diving.

As the crystal-clear waters offer such sublime snorkelling conditions, Gili T is a popular island for travellers to learn their PADI open water course. Plus, there are plenty of postcard-perfect sand beaches to relax upon. Being the biggest island, the best way to explore is by hiring a bicycle and cycling around the dirt path roads.

With all there is to see and do, it’s easy enough to escape the all-night parties and thumping tunes. If you stay away from the main street, you should be able to avoid any noise at all.

If you’re looking to keep busy with lots of shopping, eating, and boozing it may be that Gili T is the ideal for you.

Where to stay: Away from the hustle and bustle of Gili T’s main strip sits the luxurious Pondok Santi Estate. Spacious, secluded, and serene, the resort offers 18 private bungalows and a tranquil swimming pool that lies among seven hectares of preened grounds.

Gili Meno: The Couple's Retreat

From the largest of the Gili Islands to the smallest – welcome to Gili Meno. Walkable in just an hour, Gili Meno is quieter and more mellow than its neighbours.

While there are some high-end resorts and hotels, the selection is limited, as are restaurant choices. And the nightlife? It’s pretty much non-existent.

Yes, options are narrow, but there’s something so charming and romantic about this tiny island. Gili Meno is known as the ‘honeymoon island’ as many couples are attracted to the quiet beaches and slow pace of life.

Wander around and you’ll likely discover a slice of sand all to yourself – you may feel like you’ve been washed up onto a paradise island.

While many of the bigger resorts and hotels serve delicious cuisine, venture inland of the island to find small local restaurants, otherwise known as ‘warung’. In most cases, the food is a lot more authentic and extremely tasty.

If you’re seeking secluded beaches, local restaurants, and some quality time spent with your other half or loved ones, then head to Gili Meno for peace and tranquillity.

Where to stay: United Colors of Gili offers seven elegant and beautiful one-bedroom bungalows decorated with exotic Indonesian furnishings. Each bungalow features an open garden bathroom, private jacuzzi, and an idyllic terrace surrounded by tropical gardens. There’s also a wood-decked swimming pool and sunbeds to while away those mornings with a good book.

Gili Air: The Chill-Out Spot

Gili Air fits between Gili T and Gili Air when it comes to liveliness with an in-between vibe. While Gili Air isn’t as busy or as party central as Gili T, it’s nowhere near as quiet as Gili Meno is either.

While there are a few nightlife options, don’t expect to spend the night boogying on top of tables like you could in Gili T.

There are lots of high-end resorts and restaurant options too, so you’ll have more choice on sleeping and eating opportunities than you would in Gili Meno, but less so than on Gili T, of course.

Today Gili Air is rivalling Bali’s Ubud as Indonesia’s prime spot for yogis. So, if the idea of practising your downward dog on a white sand beach or surrounded by leafy tropical gardens sounds good, Gili Air may be the island for you. There are tons of yoga centres and schools so whether you fancy a quick class or a 10-day retreat, you’ll be sorted.

Where to stay: The Amelya Hotel and Villa Gili Air offer spacious villa rooms and bungalows in charming and quiet surroundings with a verdant garden, refreshing swimming pool, and authentic Indonesian architecture. 

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