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Gili Islands: Indonesia’s laid-back beach escape

Gili Islands: Indonesia’s laid-back beach escape

Just off the coast of Lombok are the three small, teardrop-shaped Gili Islands. Only reachable by boat from either Bali or Lombok, news of their turquoise seas, white sand, coral reefs, laid-back atmosphere and fab seafood is definitely out. Now well and truly on the Indonesian backpacker circuit, the islands attract a mix of visitors – mainly couples, solo travellers and a few families – but haven’t lost their relaxed charm. It’s a great place to kick back and relax for a few days with a touch of luxury without blowing the budget.

Gili Trawangan beach sunset

Sunset on Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan, the largest of the islands, is the easiest to get to and has the biggest range of accommodation, from hotel-style dorms to boutique resorts (we stayed at the gorgeous Scallywags Resort). The beach is widest towards the south of the island, and a sandy track leads along the shore, lined with hotels, bars, restaurants, travel agencies and shops. With no cars or motorbikes, transport around the island is by bike or you can hire one of the horse-drawn carts if your bag’s too much to haul in the heat. It’s an easy place to do nothing in, swim, laze, read a book and watch the sunset over a few Bintang beers.

Gili Air, Indonesia

Relaxing on the beaches of Gili Air

Or if you’re feeling more energetic, there are plenty of dive schools running PADI diving courses, or you can hire a snorkel and head out to the coral just off the beach, or take a boat trip round to the quieter eastern side of the island. The area is home to a sanctuary for turtles and you can also spot other exotic marine life, like parrot fish, barracuda, seahorses and cuttlefish, creating the most amazing diving experience. The smaller islands Gili Air and Gili Meno are even more low-key, with simple beach bungalows scattered along the edge of the sand. Local boats can take you from one island to the other if you fancy a day of lazing and sunbathing in a different spot.

Sunset on the boat back from Gili Air, Indonesia

The sun setting on the boat back from Gili Air

Gili Trawangan has bit of a reputation as a backpacker party spot and after hearing it described as an ‘Indonesian Ibiza’, I was expecting hoardes of drunken gap-yearers. There is a party scene on Trawangan, revolving around three bars with parties on alternate nights and a serious array of lurid coloured cocktails. But it’s not too in-your-face and you can easily escape it. If you’re looking for a slightly more sophisticated night out (or can’t stay awake til the parties start… I blame the humidity!), then you can take your pick from lantern-lit beach bars along the shore, choose a film to watch in a private ‘cinema’ TV cabin, or stuff yourselves at restaurants ranging from freshly caught seafood BBQs to Japanese and Mexican food.

Beach bar lanterns, Gili Trawangan

Beach bar lanterns

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Gili Islands: Indonesia’s laid-back beach escape – On the Luce travel blog


Monday 1st of June 2020

Really like the sun setting down in boat pic , can I download it.

Lucy Dodsworth

Wednesday 3rd of June 2020

Yes sure you're welcome! You can download a larger version from this page:


Tuesday 3rd of January 2012

Hi Lucy, Gorgeous photos!! I was just wondering what camera you use?

Lucy Dodsworth

Tuesday 3rd of January 2012

Thanks Sally! I use a Nikon D5000 and the Nikon 18-55 lens it came with. Its a great camera if you're new to DSLRs as its not too big and heavy and I've been really pleased with the results, especially at low light. Helps to have such a beautiful subject as Indonesia though!


Saturday 27th of August 2011

What a beautiful place. It all has a magical feel to it and your photos are beautiful!

Lucy Dodsworth

Saturday 27th of August 2011

Thanks! The light there is just gorgeous, it makes everything look so beautiful.

Al Jairo

Wednesday 3rd of August 2011

Awesome pictures Lucy! I really love the second of your pictures. The reflections, sky, rock, sun. Very beautiful combinations! I'm Indonesian, but I've never been there. I was planned to go to Lombok several times, but always failed :( Thanks for sharing Lucy, this is very interesting. Ah you should try to check my blog, you might be interested to re-visit Indonesia. I hope so :)

Lucy Dodsworth

Thursday 4th of August 2011

Thanks Al, I will check out your blog. Really loved Bali and Lombok but would definitely like to explore more of Indonesia. I got so many good photos as it's such a beautiful place!


Wednesday 3rd of August 2011

gorgeous pics im pretty jealous right now!

Lucy Dodsworth

Wednesday 3rd of August 2011

Thanks for checking our the site, I'd definitely recommend the Gili Islands if you get the chance, they're even more stunning in real life!