The Island of the Gods is a wonderful place to spend some time but even better, in some respects, are the magical islands near Bali that have SO much to offer.
Only 30 minutes by plane or 2 hours by ferry Lombok is roughly the same size as Bali but with much less development. A mere 50 miles across the sea from Bali is an island that has long-lived in the shadow of its popular neighbor but is quickly becoming a favourite destination.
With divine beaches, the majestic Mt.Rinjani and spectacular marine life to discover, Lombok has no shortage of attractions. There are massive surf breaks on the south coast, steep volcanic peaks to trek, lush rainforests and great snorkelling and diving, plus lots more.
We spent 8 days at the incredible Tugu Hotel a couple of Xmas holidays ago and it remains one of our favourite holidays and one of the best hotel experiences we have had!
Located just off the coast of North West Lombok the 3 Gili ( which means small) islands are renowned for their laid back atmosphere and great beachside cafes and bars. There are no cars or motorbikes so the vibe is quite peaceful and relaxed and there are numerous accommodation options available.
You can fly from Bali to Praya International airport and then get a car or taxi to Bangsai harbour which both take about an 90 minutes. Alternatively you can get a charter boat from Senggigi or a speed boat from Teluk Nare which is a 2-3 hour drivefrom the airport.
Many people also catch ferries and fast boats from Bali which takes roughly the same amount of time. However the crossing over the strait is notoriously rough and many accidents have occurred so we have chosen not to do this when visiting. It may sound a bit cheaper but I do not think it is worth the risk. Even though people have been rescued from sunken boats their luggage and belongings have all been lost.
The Gili’s are absolutely gorgeous and if you are looking for something more to do on your next trip to Bali ( or even your first) then it really is worth the effort. A combined stay with Lombok is ideal.
Affectionately known as Gili ‘T’ and often referred to as the ‘party island’. Gili Trawangan is renowned for its laid back party vibe as is a great place for beginners to learn to dive.
Home to a famous full moon party the island is popular with young people and backpackers although there are some fairly upmarket villa complexes now as well. There are no cars or scooters on the island so transport options are limited to Pushbikes, walking or the local Cimodos – horse drawn carts.
Of the three Gili’s, this is the island closest to Lombok. Traditionally, Gili Air was seen as the domain of families and couples wanting a quiet, off-the-beaten-path escape, while the rowdier hordes had their fun on Gili Trawangan. With Trawangan now upscaling more backpackers seem to be choosing Gili Air as their primary option but there are a few upmarket Villa complexes too. This island has more of a rural, established feeling than the other two, and it is no surprise that many of the local Gili Islanders seem to prefer living on Gili Air, which has a permanent population of about 1,800.
Nusa Lembongan is approximately 8 square km in size, and is one of three neighbouring islands off the south-east coast of Bali. The others being much larger Nusa Penida and tiny Nusa Ceningan . The three islands are separated from Bali by the Badung Strait and can be reached by fast boat from Sanur in only 30 minutes.
It is a much slower pace on these islands than Bali and they are still very authentic in many respects. There are no cars apart from the utes used by businesses so it is quiet and peaceful and just bloody beautiful.
Many areas around the island are good for diving and snorkeling, with abundant marine life and healthy coral. There are 3 popular surf breaks off the main beach and several white sand beaches away from the main centres which are rarely crowded. There is a flourishing and well established seaweed farming industry here, and many visitors find it interesting to learn about this. On top of that there are some decent dining options including an amazing fine dining French restaurant and Creperie and accommodation options from basic rooms to 5 star villas.
Nusa Ceningan is a tiny island between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida, which is easily reached via the suspension bridge on foot or by bicycle/motorbike. There is a notable surf break off Nusa Ceningan which attracts some surfers away from the more popular breaks on Nusa Lembongan. Otherwise the island offers some scenic roads and paths, and the westward views back over Nusa Lembongan to Bali are lovely. The estuarine channel between Lembongan and Ceningan is home to many seaweed farms.
Late addition – Nusa Penida !
There is another island that I have only visited on a day trip that is getting a LOT of Buzz and thats Nusa Penida. Largely unspoilt it can be visited by boat from Nusa Lembongan or by Ferry/fast boat from Bali for a longer stay. Lisa at The Hot Flashpacker has a lot of great information about Penida which you can read about HERE
If you’ve been to Bali a few times or even if its your first trip and you have a few spare days, make sure you book a side trip to at least one of these other islands. Its easy, cheap and worth every minute.
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