I have seen a lot of Asia, but I still have a lot to explore, it is one BIG continent, and MY FAVOURITE! Admittedly, I have a crazy obsession with Asian food. Luckily I live in the diversified city of Toronto so I have my go – to places for Pho, Thai, Vietnamese, Dumpling, Sushi, Dim Sum, and Chinese noodle restaurants in and outside of the city – oh man, I CAN’T STOP (slash don’t really want to….)
Anyways, now that we are all hungry, back to Indonesia, more specifically the chilled laid back islands!
All of the islands are really easy to get to from Bali with Blue Water Express. If you are short on time, my recommendation is to stay on Gili T for two nights, day trip to Gili Meno & Gili Air and then two days in Lombok. I stayed in Gili T for 3 nights and Lombok for two nights, below is my experience and recommendations.
Gili T, as it is coined, is by far one of the most unique islands on earth. On the East side and most of the perimeter everyone is travelling by bicycle in their bikinis, beach parties are a norm, and there is a large scuba community. In the centre, it is dominantly Muslim with the local Imam singing the call to prayer at 5AM and 5PM daily. The contrast is truly incredible and beautiful to witness, first hand.
Where to Stay?
There are SO many amazing Air B&B to stay at for a villa style place with your own or shared pool. I highly, highly recommend going with this option!
If you prefer to stay in a hotel, below are some options:
- Villa Ombak Hotel
- Island Beach Bungalow
- Aston Sunset Beach Resort
- Oceano Jumbuluwuk Resort
What to do?
Rent a bike – $5USD per day. You can bike the entire perimeter of the island in one hour, hitting some sand dunes, markets, and amazingly cute restaurants and beaches along the way. It is obviously HOT, so bring water! Everyone is in bathing suits on beach cruisers, just living that hippie, happy beach life. I love biking around an island and stopping off at places, always such a great experience!
Yoga – there are two sessions per day, including meditation and full vegan meals.
Party – There is no shortage of nightlife on the east end of the island that is full-blown every night of the week. You can literally be walking down the street and one minute it’s a quiet area, the next minute there is a full-on beach rave.
Cooking Classes – It is called ‘Sweet & Spicy’ and has daily sessions, they also have a recipe book on their website, if you want to try out your culinary skills before you go!
Scuba Diving – There is a huge dive community; there is Manta Dive or Blue Marlin. If you aren’t PADI certified you can do a quick intro course that takes 5 hours, or you can do a 3-day course to get certified. One of the main reasons to come to Gili Islands is to Scuba!
**Note: Scuba Diving dehydrates you; so do not drink the night before and drink PLENTY of water
Shop – on the main strip, there are SO MANY cute shops for bathing suits, covers, dresses, sandals, scarves, the list goes on! Oh my goodness, it is amazing!
Watch the Sunset – This is a given BUT there are so many incredible spots to watch the sunset, you can go to the West Side of the island, they have swings, and comfy bean bag chairs and just soak up the moment.
Where to Eat?
Night Market – it has every option you could possibly want and is very cheap
Pituq Café – Everything is vegan and amazing. Order the Jackfruit curry (an absolute must), and their smoothies are OUT OF THIS WORLD!
Diversia Restaurant & Lounge – more costly, delicious, cozy AF, right on the beach, order the seared tuna, octopus and Poke Salad!
Chill out and hang out?
Honestly, there is a cute beach bar every 20 meters, but definitely, grab a bike, and venture around the island because there are SO MANY cute ones! It only takes one hour to bike around the island.
Casa Vintage – everything decorated in white, toes in the sand, vintage clothing sale, great cheesecake (random, I know), no shortage of hammocks and SO CUTE! A little happy oasis and the ultimate chill beach vibe!
Sunset Bar – you can chill there all day into the Sunset
Malibu Beach Club – More upscale, but have really comfortable loungers and a pool
Pandawa Resort beach bar – the entire interior is made out of old panels, and it has quirky boat additions and chairs with sayings on it. Cute little place!
You will not miss the opportunity to sit under one of these colourful umbrellas because they are everywhere – DON’T WORRY YOU WILL GET YOUR INSTA PIC!
Now, this island, I did not get to see much of it because I was over the moon in love with our villa, plus it was the end of our trip, sometimes you just gotta hang with your friend and soak in the good times. BUT I have a list of things I really want to do upon my return and lots of recommendations nonetheless.
Our Hotel: Sempiak Villas
I DIED AND WENT TO HEAVEN. This is not the most luxurious property, however, it felt like a home away from home. The place makes you feel instantly relaxed, surrounded by lush mountains, the beach is breathtaking, and we had the most insane view from our villa. Every villa is different, some are in the jungle, and others have an ocean view. The hotel is made from all natural materials such as coconut wood and local stone, and most villas have panoramic views. I cannot tell you enough how relaxing this resort is, you feel like you can truly unwind, disconnect, be with nature, smell the ocean, it was without a doubt the best way to end our trip.
There is an onsite spa and a beachfront restaurant called Laut Bira Bar, which were both amazing. The beach was honestly my favourite I visited on my whole visit to Indonesia, and there was hardly anyone there!
If you don’t want to stay in a villa style, in the north there is also an Oberoi Lombok, for you SPG point collectors that also looks amazing. It is also close to the epic 3-day hike Mt Rinjani!
Things to do in Lombok
- Hike Mt Rinjani (3-day hike)
- Setangi Beach Lookout
- Pusuk Monkey Forest
- Mawun Beach
- Selong Belanak Beach
- Tanjung An
- Ekas Penninsula (Pink Beach)
- Cliffs of Tanjung Ringgit (near Pink Beach)
- Waterfalls: Tiu Teja, Tiu Kelep or Sendang Gile, Benang Kelambu
Quick tip about Mt Rinjani – I met lots of people that did this hike and all raved about it. However, if you plan to do it, you have to understand that sometimes the tour gets cancelled because the volcano is active and can erupt.
Lombok is a fairly untouched island and in the past was a harder island to get to than some of the others. However, they just built an international airport, so I have no doubt it will become more populated over the next few years, my recommendation? GO TO LOMBOK NOW!
Other islands on my bucket list in Indonesia:
- Raja Ampat – scuba diving paradise (need at last 100 dives), most diverse marine life on earth, no luxury hotels (all open air)
- Komodo Island – 4,000 dragons, rusty-red volcanic hills, savannah and forests, famous for scuba diving
- Borneo – Are you into Orangutans? Enough said.
What was your favourite part of the Gili Islands?