Lombok, Bali’s often forgotten neighbour, is probably best known for Mount Rijani and the Gili Islands. Now I don’t profess to be a mountain climber – considered the climb, the overnight CAMP and the around 16 hours of walking for all of maybe 10 minutes – and decided I probably never will be. So having dismissed that option, our holiday naturally focused around those three magic ingredients: sun, sea and sand.
We begun our trip on the island of Lombok itself, after making the easy 30 minute flight from Bali. I won’t elaborate now (i’ll leave that for a later post) but it is fair to say that the 1.5 hour journey from Praya International Airport to our hotel was not in any shape or form relaxing! We had chosen to stay in Senggigi, a popular tourist area, with a lovely shoreline that we were able to take advantage of from our hotel. However, due to our short stay we didn’t manage to explore any other areas which is a bit of a shame but if you are planning a longer trip then it is worth checking out my post on things to do in Lombok.
After our short stay in Senggigi we moved on to the infamous Gili Islands. Just off the coast of mainland Lombok these small, sandy islands offer that less-developed beach escape that many seek – myself included. Although you would be mistaken if you think the islands are deserted. We visited both Gili Air and Gili Trawangan, and while Gili Air is quieter overall, both have bustling “villages” or central areas with a multitude of bars and restaurants.
We begun our island escape on Gili Air and I have to say that this was our favourite of the two islands we visited. The small island can only be accessed via boat, which is surprisingly easy. We avoided the main harbour area in Bangsal and instead opted for a private speedboat crossing from Lombok which only took around 15 minutes. We only booked our speedboat the night before via our hotel, so there is no need to tie yourself down to a travel time in advance.
Once on Gili Air, walking, cycling and taking a horse-cart are the only options for transport. This is the same on all the Gili Islands and we found that the lack of motorised transport actually provides a welcome break from the usual traffic jams in both Bali and Lombok. Gili Air is also very small, and you can cycle/walk round the whole island in around 30 minutes, so everywhere is really accessible.
We stayed in Atoll Haven, a small collection of individual villas on the quieter side of the island. I couldn’t recommend these more and the owners are very welcoming and have some great advice on where to eat and things to do.
Our top things to do in Gili Air include:
- Get a Massage (we opted for Harmony Spa, based on a recommendation)
- Watch the Sunset at Mowies
- Get lunch at the Mexican Restaurant
- Go Scuba Diving (although we were disappointed to find that a lot of the reefs are dead)
- Grab some local food on the beach
From Gili Air we took the short boat ride across to the biggest of the Gili Islands, Gili Trawangan. There are two options when it comes to island hopping – you can either grab the public boat which goes once an hour, or one of the private speedboats which go more frequently from 9.00am. We had booked a subwing tour on Gili Trawangan so grabbed the public boat which leaves at 8.30am (before any of the private boats operate).
The main village area on this island is definitely much busier and livelier than Gili Air. If you travelling alone or are looking for nightlife then this is a great place to meet new people and have a few drinks in the evening. I would point out that this island definitely has more of that backpacker vibe that the Gili Islands were previously famous for.
Personally, I thought the main area just seemed a bit over-crowded. There were horse-carts travelling down the main street along with bikes and people and quite frankly there wasn’t enough room for everyone. This ended up making it feel all a bit too chaotic for me, so we ended up exploring the other areas on the island that were a short walk/bike away from the main street.
We found some great things to do while on the island. A few of my favourites include:
- Relaxing on the beach with a cocktail at Casa Vintage. This was definitely one of our favourite bars/restaurants. The drinks are good and the food is equally delicious (they do an amazing Oreo cheesecake!).
- Subwing-ing!! This is a must-do. We had a great time and there aren’t many places where you can jump into the sea and get pulled along in the water while looking at the reef below. At least I haven’t heard of many!
- Eating some local food at the busy night market. Okay, so rant about it being over-crowded aside I do love getting involved in the local culture and food of where we visit. As most of the restaurants serve westernised food, we opted to go “truly local” and grab some food at a recommended local spot on the edge of the night market. I have to say the food was delicious.
We had a great time on all three islands and although I wouldn’t describe the beach escape on the Gili Islands as ultimate luxury, the accommodation options are definitely expanding and there are some really great villa options for those looking for a more upmarket resting spot.
Have you been to Lombok and/or the Gili Islands? What were your favourites?